Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ministers, Look After the Environment and Let Badgers Look After Themselves.

I don’t think I can ever remember a wetter, windier Christmas. It is always very much a downer once Christmas is over.  I look forward to it for weeks and weeks.  The build-up of Christmas is so exciting with the Christmas shopping, the making of mince pies, the making of the Christmas cake right back in October, and the putting up of the Christmas lights, the tree and the decorations and then once here it is gone in a flash.  Having all my family around me at the most enjoyable time of the year is truly the Christmas present I value above all others. 
Although, it seems only yesterday that we were shopping for presents such as, dolls, dolls houses, action men and tanks, each Christmas is a constant reminder that time stops for no one. Happiness and contentment are two of life’s biggest prizes and are always the true things to strive for. 
As I look out of my window, down the valley towards the river, which now is starting to resemble a massive lake I think back to years gone by when the flooding of river meadows was an annual occurrence.  The talk then was not of global warming it was simply winter floods.  These river meadows would all ice over and we could skate from one end of the valley to the other.  All that we needed was weather like we are experiencing now followed by hard, sharp day after day frosts.  The fun was immeasurable.  However, the fun of yesteryear seems to have been replaced by total and unmitigated misery.  As I sit here listening to the rain battering down on the roof of my house watching the continual run off of the rain down the fields into the valley below I cannot help but think it is the planning departments, the engineering and the infrastructure where the lessons of this misery lay.  Out here in the Cotswold countryside, a wet day, a wet week, a wet month is pretty much the same as it was when I was a kid.  But each time you turn on the television or listen to the radio I see and hear agonising hardship.  Peoples’ houses and businesses flooded out, houses peculiarly perched in lakes of water.
 However, while watching last evening’s news, I was absolutely astonished by the governments’ response to this mayhem in their intention to cut 1500 jobs in the Environmental Agency Department.  Could it be, with the saving of these jobs, it will give Mr Owen Paterson more millions to waste on this country’s futile badger cull?  I bow to superior minds and a much forward thinking government but in this instance it leaves me almost speechless.  The 1500 jobs that are due to be cut are just the jobs needed to keep drains clear, waterways clear, rivers clear, flood defences that are continually breached need to be maintained on a regular basis.  The government need to be employing more in the Environmental Agency, certainly not less.  Our rivers largely are in the worst state that they have been in since 1940.  All water course ways are in conditions of total neglect. Planning permissions being granted on flood plains that were never meant for development.  We unquestionably need more housing in this country, there is no argument there but with it must come better drainage, and a much more adequate rain water run-off system that has been totally lacking over the last thirty years. 
Global warming may be happening, it probably is, but the floods down in this valley I have seen many times before, long before global warming had ever been mentioned.
When our water companies were in the hands of the government the rivers and all water ways were looked after in a much superior fashion to what they are looked after today. As trees fell across rivers and brooks they were cleared but privatisation of all our major water companies have left our most vital resource in the hands of the stock market whose sole interest is the biggest annual dividend for the investor. This can be marvellous, I am sure, for an awful lot of businesses. I have nothing against capitalism per se, but when profits are put foremost on nature’s greatest gift, fresh water, something in whatever society has gone so painstakingly wrong. Many rivers that are fit to bursting in the winter months are brought down to, in some cases, a mere trickle in the summer months. Water extraction from our rivers is at an all-time high, and although we are the biggest beneficiary of that, nature is left very much impoverished.  It is yet another example of putting profits above our most delicate of nature’s eco systems. 
Short term, easy to get at policies is a criticism of not just this government, but of governments of the last thirty years.
My humble personal view on the whole of this wretched, miserable annual flooding fiasco is, it is as much man induced as it is natures’ so my advice to the Environmental Minister is, “look after the environment and let badgers look after themselves.”

The view from my kitchen window,

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