Liz Truss has not been long in the job as Secretary of State for DEFRA so one cannot yet really pass judgement on how she will fare in the role. I wish her the very best of luck in a role that is one of the most complex in government. She will have to balance the table between all sorts of groups from farmers and environmentalists to business lobbyists and energy companies. It may seem like ancient history now that climate change denier Paterson has gone for good but as the ousting of former Education Secretary Michael Gove seemed to overcast the (I think much more exciting) story of the change at DEFRA I thought it would be good to return to what was actually quite a significant card played by Cameron.
I cannot pretend that a smile crossed my face when I heard the news on the radio whilst driving back to Bristol from Essex that Paterson was being removed from office. It was a charade in the first place that a tea party fringe MP such as Paterson should be put in charge of DEFRA but evidently Cameron wanted to appease those members of his party on the far right and he succeeded in doing so. Unfortunately however, as a result he placed environmental policy at extreme risk of going backwards. Some of the ideas presented under Paterson were indeed absurd from an ecosystem perspective – biodiversity offsetting springs to mind as just one example as does the controversial issue of fracking. Paterson’s main focus seemed, throughout his term in office, to be on fighting against the so called ‘green blob’ that we have heard about so much since his sacking – in Paterson’s words ‘a mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and red tape’, but also the environmental lobbyists and activists; people like myself. Paterson saw himself as a crusader, forced against the wall by environmental lobbyists who were in the business of lobbying for the environment simply for themselves and themselves alone – absolute nonsense from my perspective. In my experience, the ‘green blob’ – if we are to use that rather demeaning phrase – act more selflessly than most, with the natural world at the heart of their decisions and actions. Members of ‘the blob’ are of course not completely selfless – they drive cars, they have central heating and buy products that have been sourced from the other side of the world – but crucially they are more conscious of the impact of their decisions than most. To be ‘green’ – a term I personally dislike – is to be a certain ‘type’ of person, to have a certain mind-set and to be an activist who believes that there is more to life than simple consumption of energy for simple gains and mindless pleasures.
If the ‘green blob’ did not exist biodiversity loss would be even more extensive than it is currently and we would face a world of ignorance regarding the aesthetic and ecological importance of our surroundings. Liz Truss has the benefit of following a predecessor whose own paranoia led to his downfall – she can learn from this. As Environment Secretary she has the responsibility of working with all sides and forging solutions that may not necessarily be the right thing for the lobbyists but are the right thing for the environment and the people who live and work in areas where environmental change has the most influence. Politicians are there to represent people yes, but the ‘green blob’ reminds us that people are not the only ones who need representing. Liz Truss will be remembered forever more in the land sector if she can take this on board and represent not only her constituents and her party but the environment itself. I am sceptical that this will happen but it’s a message that needs to be told.
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