Miles King is a well informed ecologist who I read for self-improvement – God knows I need it. His latest blog asks some uncomfortable questions about intensive farming. As he says:
We certainly do need to continue to challenge the propaganda that Guy Smith, Robin Page et al put out, that somehow nature has disappeared from the farmed landscape due to other reasons – predators for example, or urban development.
No-one has yet managed to explain to me how 97% of wildflower meadows, or 75% of chalk downland, has disappeared in 70 years thanks to predators. And urban development still only covers 12% of England.
Whatever words we use, the facts are the same. Modern farming methods, together and individually, have caused nature to disappear from the farmed countryside.
The % of the UK which has been urbanised is even lower; based on government population figures it is under 10%, of which the reckoning is that anything up to 50% might be green space. The idea that urban development is the biggest threat to biodiversity in the UK is one that needs squashing. It has become politically convenient for the farming lobby and handy for the anti-immigration lot, but is not based in fact. Rather, wildlife here is under threat from intensive farming practices. According to HMG, 69% of the UK is used for agriculture (although we only produce 60% of the food we eat).
I’m no expert, but there are seemingly only four outcomes to this battle between food and fauna:
1. We carry on as is.
2. We import more food and farm less intensively.
3. We eat less (and much less meat) and farm less intensively.
4. We farm even more intensively.
An unfortunate consequence of Sterling devaluation and a policy vacuum is that the most likely scenario is the last one. Bad news for wildlife.