Environmental Reflections on 2013

As we approach a new year we are inevitably drawn towards reflection. Since beginning this site in February we have seen a huge number of issues come to the fore, many of which I have not been able to write about. This article will look briefly at some of the key news we have seen over the past 12 months.

We began the year in the UK with horse-meat-gate, weeks of trial, scrutinising the food chain and each player in that food chain trying to justify the status quo as it was. Have things changed? Well, consciousness of the issues as they were is much higher and certain measures have been put in place to ensure labelling is more transparent. However, rustling continues and slaughter houses continue to allow meat in to their care under dubious circumstances. There is still a lot to do here.

Ash die back continues to affect our woodland and forests and another ash problem has begun to take major effect in Europe – the Emerald ash borer beetle. It has already killed tens of millions of ash trees across North America costing the US economy more than $10 billion. The beetle continues to move west in Europe from its stronghold around Moscow.

We have seen a new life for the Common Agricultural Policy and much debate has taken place over issues from greening to modulation to hill farmer support and many other issues. Consultation was thorough but the reality of the situation we will only know when the new policy eventually comes in to effect.

We saw a ‘winter of Hell’ for British livestock farmers with deep snow on the ground for weeks on end and multiple livestock deaths, especially in the hills where farmers lost their whole livelihoods. Let’s hope for a better winter ahead in 2014.

Further falls in the international honeybee population have taken place with concerns for the future of pollination. Again, a good deal of work and research needs to be concentrated on in this area in 2014 and beyond.

Owen Paterson set out his plans for ‘biodiversity offsetting’, a scheme that I have made my feelings clear about on this blog. Not one landowner took part in the trial period although I suspect we have not seen the end of the idea.

The year seems to have been dominated however (from my point of view at least) by the badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Protests took place throughout the land and debate was heralded with both sides making their views very much understood. Again, we must wait, perhaps many years, to see who was right and whether the TB situation indeed comes under control. Personally I have my doubts and have always supported a multi-faceted approach to dealing with the problem.

So, those are a few very brief comments on some of the things that I have been talking about this year. I wish you all a very happy new year and will you to make it a year when we all do something, no matter how small, to rekindle our communities and improve chances for our environment, whether that be local or on a wider scale.

Ben

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