As you may have read, the UK government are planning to sell of a proportion of the UK’s public forrest in order to raise approximately £240m.
Ramble (no pun intended)
One only appreciates the value of something after being deprived of it – or experiencing the diometric opposite.
In 2000 after returning from 10 years in the US, mostly in California, I immediately appreciated the unique natural beauty of the British countryside. Although as a child my brother and I were fortunate to be taken for walks and other country activities almost every weekend, at that age and prior to living in the US, those trips were fun, but I never appreciated the surroundings as much as our parents did. That was probably related to age more than anything, after all, youngsters tend to dwell on other things during their formative years!
In the US, there are some superb national parks – in fact, national parks were conceived in the US. But on the whole, the country is trashy and to me, felt very 3rd world except at transport hubs. A mix of excess or wasteland. That is what happens when capitalism is taken to excess, with no mix of compassion or love of nature with the benefits this brings to humans and wildlife alike.
As an example, the King’s Canyon forest is dying due to the effects of pollution from Los Angeles. This is not discussed in public, but having visited, I can confess is was heart breaking. Anyway, that is not really what this page is about, however, I did want to emphasise how important it is for us to look after our natural world. We need each other!
Why private ownership is flawed
If you visit any of the (thankfully few) privately owned parks in the UK, they are dumbed down to such an extent that the immediate bond between ‘man’ and nature is removed. Signs, pathways, toilets, and sometimes, horror of horrors, burger stands blight the natural order of things.
If fees are charged, this filters out those who cannot afford to visit what is ‘gods’ land whilst also deterring youngsters from doing what comes naturally: Exploring, discovering, having fun, keeping fit, getting scratched and hurt (‘breaking a leg’) and learning to appreciate nature – simultaneously.
We were fortunate as children to spend our formative years with a garden that backed onto a forest. Along with my younger brother and local lads, I built tree houses (one, three stories high!), I dug a ‘nuclear shelter’ (trying to find the photo taken by my father) and we went on ‘imagination’ ventures where we would pretend to be on a mission or engaged in a military or sci fi skirmish – hiding behind trees, pretenting to shoot the bad guys. The usual stuff – no PSX or 360 required!
And that’s not including the weekly tree climbing, one of the best ways for an inquisitive youngster to build confidence, co-ordination and strength. (Back then, playing video games was a one hour session at home or in the arcade, in my case, quite a few hundred pounds were spent on Defender and Robotron – whilst standing up! But most of our time was outdoors exploring or building things.)
We were also taken on trips and walks in the various forrests around the country. The sweet fresh air that is unique to pine forrests is the ultimate high. You arrive home with red cheeks and a clear head. How many can say that about many of today’s activities?
Worse than selling off an industry
Some governments have been criticised for selling off certain British assets, such as automotive or engineering firms, but that is different. Often the suiter will bring in their own expertise and invest, creating a better product – as the BMW built Mini proves.
With the forests, there is no such concept. They take hundreds of years to evolve into complex ecosystems. Forests cannot simply be re-designed, made more efficient or monotised*.
*Except for the sale of timber – a sustainable and sensible practise.
Why is this happening?
I hoped to avoid being too controversial in this text else the cause may be harmed, but one has to question why the government is considering selling off forests, for approx £240m, small change really.
Something tells me this is about oil. The chances are that a small number of the forests rest above potential oil reserves and in order to deter any local opposition, the government are selling off a larger number of forests than may host oil in order to grab the whole lot in one go, with the excess forests a diversionary tactic. The other reason maybe that the government is aware that New Labours catastrophic health and safety laws have reduced the number of families and educators taking young people outdoors anyway, so if they do sell off the forests simply to raise cash as part of the larger national austerity plan, it won’t upset too many people. (A major misjudgement in view of the protests against the sell off so far.)
Fight back club
1. Sign this petition:
2. Write to Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for Environment) and the Prime Minister. Don’t send emails, they will be filtered. If you want to make a difference, yes, this will use trees (that are sustainable through forest management), then print and post a letter on recycled paper or even an old piece of paper or card that has been used before. The objective is to get the attention of the politicians, not be formal!
3. If you have yet to experience one of our forests, make a picnic, grab the kids / dog, fire up the satnav and head to any one of our public forests to enjoy a long days walk. You never know what you may see and discover, but one thing is assured, you will return home exhausted but re-freshed. And your kids are less likely to end up like this:
Update – 31 January 2013: We’ve won, again! Congrats to all!