Today has been Earth Day. Not that you’d have noticed it unless you’d been looking. The media here in the UK have been strangely silent. Google made a token gesture in its graphic. A stylised animation of ‘Rufous Hummingbird’. He wished you a ‘Happy Earth Day’ if you could be bothered to click on him. There was also a hashtag #MyBeautifulEarth, where Google users could share photos.
All in all Earth Day ain’t exactly been headline news. No more has the revelation that David Cameron’s constituency office resorted to calling the police to sort out the Bishop of Oxford, who appeared at a pre-arranged time to present an open letter about food poverty. The news was reported by Aljazeera two days ago, but the British press have been oddly slow on the uptake. At the time of writing it seems the Independent is the only national newspaper to report the incident. It’s taken a bit of research to discover that it took place six days ago, on 16th April. But there. It wouldn’t do much for Mr Cameron’s new image as a Prime Minister who ‘does do God’ if news like that were to get out …
I don’t suppose his eco-warrior image was helped much either, when the head of the ‘greenest government ever’ was overheard throwing a tantrum about ‘green crap’ last autumn. The garbage you have to pretend to believe to get people to vote for you, huh?
I’m a city dweller. I love the city I’ve chosen to live in with a passion. But for the sake of my soul I need to escape from it from time to time. To find green space. Silence. Distant horizons. Places where the trees outnumber the buildings. Preferably by at least 100 to 1. Luce Irigaray says ‘people long to breathe in green open spaces’. The pollution of our air, she says is ‘a crime against humanity’. I can’t help but agree with her. All the more as I grow older. I look back and see what we’ve already done to this beautiful planet of ours. And I grieve. Not so much for my own loss, but for the way we’re robbing our children. Our grandchildren. All in the name of the great god mammon.
I’m fortunate. I live in a part of the city where there’s still green space. Allotments. A City Farm. Small areas of woodland. We had to fight developers off one of the allotments last year. There’s a campaign going on right now to stop buildings from going up on Terrace Wood. It seems no ‘undeveloped’ land is safe. All the more so since the government began to explore biodiversity offsetting. In essence, this is the slightly crazy notion that you can compensate for the loss of an ancient and well-established natural habitat by creating a totally different one somewhere else. No? It didn’t make sense to me either.
Despite any appearances to the contrary, I’m always willing to believe the best about anyone. Even our present government. Until they prove beyond doubt that there is no best to believe. Of all the reading and research I’ve done in the last 40+ days, this article by George Monbiot has come closest to undoing my belief. In a nutshell, developers are keen to build a motorway service station on Smithy Wood, an ancient site near Sheffield. They’re offering to plant 16 hectares of new woodland to replace it. ‘Well, that’s OK’, I hear you say. ‘They’ll never get away with it. After all, the government set up Natural England specifically to conserve places like this.’ If only. Its chairman, Andrew Sells, made his fortune from housebuilding. An industry with nothing to lose by biodiversity offsetting. And everything to gain. Its deputy chair? David Hill. Who also chairs Environment Bank, a private company set up to broker biodiversity offsetting agreements for both developers and landowners. Bye bye Smithy Wood.
We live in a brave, new world. The world of my nightmares. Everything has its price. A price derived solely from its economic usefulness. We, and the environment we live in, have become mere units of production after all. Intangibles such as beauty. Spirituality. Quality of life. Even clean air and the right to breathe it. All these have ceased to be part of the equation. Trampled underfoot in the onslaught of greed.
So am I going to sit down and shut up now? Go with the flow? Accept the status quo? Like hell I am. When I read that article this morning everything in me screamed NO. I may be spitting in a bucke, but I’ll keep on spitting as long and as loudly as I can. It’s an old chestnut I know, especially for those of us who’ve been saying this for years, but it still bears repeating
When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted;
when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late,
that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.
Let’s not give up just yet.
Happy Earth Day
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. You can find out more about them by visiting their website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.