Thursday, 29 January 2015

You say offsetting; I say upsetting… (12A)

I have written before about the derisory gesture, made by Gladman Developments, to assuage (or even compensate for – and no, this is not the time or place to discuss Eric Pickles’ continuing dilution of Section 106 powers: yet another brick in the wall…) our concerns about the wiping-out of hundreds of years of our cherished heritage, with an offer of “public open space” – meaning, really, of course, that they are going to take a large field, and transform it into a pond; a couple of swings; and some “lumps and bumps” (the miniaturization of ridge-and-furrow…?). “Honey, I shrunk the meads.” (Sorry, it’s the best I could do. Although there’s probably also a joke in here comparing pitch-and-putt courses to St Andrews, given the prevalence of windmills in such places.)

And, of course, this plan is just one of the modern ‘remedies’ (and, yes, I am writing this with my ‘sardonic’ face on) that make up ‘biodiversity offsetting’: as if planting a couple of new bushes… (“plant a tree instead of seventy-three”) – or even scooping up all the ickle bunnikins and the itsy-bitsy newties (which we’re not supposed to give a shit about in the race for progress) in a bulldozer’s craw, and dumping them… – a couple of miles away: where the habitat is completely different; the topography completely alien; there are no badger setts next door; or copses of trees; no ancient hedgerows; and, ooh, look, a completely unbridgeable stream, completely full of steaming sewage… (a synecdoche of this Government’s environmental policies and attitudes) – will somehow make things better.

According to the weasel words of the NPPF, paragraph 118:

Where an adverse effect on the site’s notified special interest features is likely, an exception should only be made where the benefits of the development, at this site, clearly outweigh… the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site…

…but that, to my simple mind, could mean anything. It’s no different to using the word ‘sustainable’ (i.e. in its barefaced capitalist sense), when what you really mean is ‘profitable’.

To put it another way: just imagine, if, one night, some huge unfriendly giant picks you from your bed – however gingerly (although I imagine more Roald Dahl-style) – and, instead of “gobbling up” this particular “human bean” – plonks you down, from a great height, into the middle of a Scottish glen; the top of a Lakeland fell; deep in the Sahara; or at the North Pole…. I don’t think it would have a great “outcome” (never mind “measurable”), do you? “Two rights don’t make a left.”

And, even if you somehow manage the long trek back home, and can then locate the site of your former glory, you will find that you didn’t actually have a home any longer. Any trace of it has been obliterated by someone plonking a ruddy big factory (for living?) in its place: spewing out all sorts of noxious rubbish; and anything natural has been thoroughly concreted over. All that is left as refuge is the little forgotten hedgehog house that used to hide in a far corner of your back garden, covered in several years’ leafmould, lying cracked, on its side. Even the tiny patch of ground where there is now substitute astroturf has been churned to hell – such giant-size make-up being slapped ingloriously over tonnes of wanton rubble (hence, no doubt, those phrenologic “lumps and bumps” Gladman seem so darned proud of).

Not nice – is it?

Well, now, “biodiversity offsetting” has a new, technical, sibling – “mitigation translocation” – which, I suppose, is meant to make us all feel better, all warm inside, in a sort of science-y, tech-y way; without, again, understanding its definition or implications. But, to me it’s really just the the same ugly child, rechristened: no different to renaming that thing rusting away in your shed a “horticultural excavation apparatus”. It doesn’t truly make it any more efficient – or even less rusty. (Go and get some oil out, now; and give the thing the love it deserves. No, not your other half… – the blummin’ spade.)

And, guess what – it doesn’t work! “The relocation of animals to make way for land development rarely succeeds and could be driving some species towards extinction….” What a complete and utter surprise. I am truly shocked. (Sorry, my mask slipped: revealing my increasingly habitual ‘bitterly-sarcastic-where-the-fuck-did-common-sense-disappear-to’ rictus grimace. In fact, I appear to have morphed into the bastardized lovechild of my hero George Monbiot, and Al Murray’s Pub Landlord. Apologies to both.)

As the “sixth mass extinction” accelerates down the ten-lane motorway of doom; and as the fog of self-defeating stupidity grows ever thicker; how many more defenceless creatures will we notch up on the crumbling bedpost of humanity? How many more triumphal tally stickers (yes, really) of thoughtlessly slaughtered trophies will we attach to the flanks of our machines of mess and mass destruction… before we realize it’s not just too late – we should have stopped being so bloody arrogant, as a species, centuries ago?

Never mind. At this rate, it won’t be long until we drive ourselves out of existence – a good thing for what’s left of Gaia, hopefully… – and Tysoe reverts to its Jurassic past. (Huzzah! Bring back the dinosaurs!) Sorry for that rude interruption. What I meant to say was… if Cameron wins in May, will the last person to leave the planet please turn out the lights?

No comments: