I’ve written here before (a couple of times) about the accelerating disaster befalling the world’s fish, as a combination of market-driven greed, vastly improved technology, short-termism and weak governance combine to allow a vast amount of over-fishing.
Earlier this month (via an article in the Financial Times) I picked up on the latest annual State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, published by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. The argument is summarised by the FT in one line: “too many countries have too many boats doing too good a job”. And while this is pretty much what it has said each year since 1994, this year the tone has changed. They’ve moved from palliative concern to something a little more strident, at least by the standards of international organisations.
What does a post-industrial relationship with the land look like? There are emerging clues
Walking recently to the top of Sugar Loaf, the hill that overlooks Abergavenny, brought my grandfather to mind. He died about 20 years ago, and had a lifetime’s love of walking, though living in Co. Durham he was more a creature of the the Lakes and (especially) the Dales. He wouldn’t have thought much of the walk (barely an hour from car to trig point) or that we drove to the car park, about half of the distance from the A40 to the top, or even of our comfortable modern walking boots: he once told a cousin of my mother’s, after a day hiking together, that it wasn’t a real walk unless you had blood in your boots. So far, this perhaps sounds like a set of nostalgic North(East)ern cliches, but wrapped inside it is a set of questions about the land and our relation to it which are coming back into our minds at the end of the long ascendancy of industrialism.
There’s another kerfuffle about getting rid of plastic bags, since one of the government’s waste advisers has suggested that government plans to ban plastic bags, or charge for them, are a diversion from more pressing environmental issues. While it is true that plastic bags represent only a small amount of waste, or of oil use, the reason reducing their use has become important is because they are symbolic of a different issue – respect for other species.
The question is not whether we are going to trash the planet. The question is whether we are going to trash ourselves as a species. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from last week’s publication by the United Nations Environment Program of GEO-4 (available online here, news article summary here). What’s interesting is that we’re now seeing cultural responses to our potential extinction.
I blogged a while ago on the future of land – picking up on David Miliband’s speech to mark the 75th anniversary of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England and their subsequent online debate. Checking back on something I noticed an interesting post responding to Miliband by Clive Bates in his Bacon Butty blog.
Bees are deserting their hives, according to a briefing from Sheila Moorcroft, Research Director at futures portal Shaping Tomorrow. Since bees account for 80% of plant pollination, their decline could represent a significant threat to the food supply chain. It’s hard to link to the original, so an abridged version of her Trend Alert is posted below.
Fred Pearce is a reporter (for New Scientist, among others) and When The Rivers Run Dry is a reporter’s book (he visits places) rather than a work of theory, but he’s been following the subject for long enough to have a strong understanding of the issues. This is close to essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the planet. There’s a summary of the argument below.