ECOS 38 (1)

Ideological challenges to nature conservation are nothing new, but now they can take different guises in the context of Brexit and in the (perhaps wilful) distortion of rewilding.


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Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor's most recent work The Spirit of Rewilding was published in 2017. His 2011 edited volume, Rewilding, is available from BANC publications.

4 thoughts on “ECOS 38 (1): Hard Brexit – Soft Rewilding?

  1. Peter: once again you diminish a good argument by pursuing your idiosyncratic line on climate change. You say: “The global treaties on climate are often in his (Ridley’s) sights. Unfortunately, I think he is right on the topic of climate, and when the frost settles (as I believe the data shows it will), there is a risk that he and the interests he represents will claim the whole field, and progressive environmental reforms will be shouted down”. How much longer do we have to wait for your promised cooling to show up in the data? Why do you want to keep company with Ridley, James Delingpole and Scott Pruitt on this? But the rest of your article I like!

  2. It is indeed a huge shame that Guardianista-types have cottoned on to ‘re-wildling’ as something that will enhance their columns and after-dinner speeches. My own learning began in Findhorn (2005?) where I found many people who actually saw the world as I did. That was a revelation (although accompanied by an increasing wave of panic as I realised that the cafeteria was wholly vegetarian). Since then, I have been working in the world that Peter describes as “agri-environment schemes … grouse shoots and killing foxes to save lapwings …” (apols for partial quote). It has changed and grown my views and confidence in re-wilding. I remember Frans Vera, while at a meeting at Knepp Castle, insisting that to attempt re-wildling at a scale under 30,000 ha was not possible. I agreed at the time, but don’t now. There are some great examples of smaller scale and partial re-wildling that have brought considerable benefits – maybe we need another compendium?

  3. As an academic who has an interest in this debate, I’ve tried not to be one who ‘talked up the extremes’, instead attempt to articulate a more consensual position, most obviously in my book Quartz and Feldspar. Dartmoor: A British Landscape in Modern Times (2015). I discussed Peter’s work there and in the 2016 paperback revision I suggested ‘soft rewilding’ as a plausible aim. I’ve also tried to provide some historical perspective on the issue here:

  4. Please excuse the inordinate delay in my responses. Adrian – I had to look up idiosyncratic, as I was not sure, thinking it might be linked to idiotic! From the Greek, idios, meaning one’s own mind, hence individualistic, but the relief comes from….’The best minds are idiosyncratic and unpredictable as they follow the course of scientific discovery’

    Before proceeding on matters Ridley, Delingpole and Pruitt, I would like to clarify a couple of things. First, I am not the only idiosyncratic who is following where the science leads. I will name just three: Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at University of Alabama, Huntsville – one of two departments in the USA trusted to process the NASA satellite data on global temperatures (the other is a private group: Remote Sensing Systems), such that scientific requirements of plurality are met – John Christy, sometime member also of the IPCC; Professor Syun ichi Akasofu, former director of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Fairbanks; Professor W.Jackson Davis, co-author of the Kyoto Protocol, involved in setting up the UN climate convention at which he represented the Pacific Island States.

    There are many others, but I select these three because: 1) Christy was about to be interviewed by the BBC, and their leading science correspondent – Roger Harrabin, called me before hand, having read and admired my book ‘Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory’ – and asked what questions should he put. I replied – ‘for goodness sake, don’t ask ‘is global warming happening, or do humans contribute – of course it is and of course they do – the real question is HOW MUCH IS NATURAL and how much humn-induced?’ Christy’s reply was 75%….pretty much the same as my conclusion from the atmospheric science data. The interview is on record. By the Way – the 97% of scientists so often quoted as a consensus, were collated on the first two questions only. The real issue is the MAIN driving force, as this determines the effective of mitigation strategies – and my idiosyncratic argument that they look a lot worse fro the environment than what they attempt to cure. Akasofu was my source of confirmation that the Arctic is subject to ‘cyclic’ meltdowns – and that it was now in the middle of a predictable natural warm period. Davis I choose because we worked together on reforming the UN’s approach to marine science and pollution – at a time when I was directly employed to help them. As you can imagine he at first thought there was no way I could be right – but he had never looked at the DATA. He endorsed my book saying my questions had to be answered. A year later, I went with him to the top US climate laboratory and we met with their leading modellers. After that encounter, Davis was convinced I was right. The modellers also began to incorporate some of the things in my book – like solar magnetic cycles and UV-flux, and in 2012/13 released papers looking at what would happen to global temperatures if we entered another Maunder Minimum (low magnetics) as many solar scientists now think we will – they concluded there would be some cooling to 2060, before warming resumed. I still take issue with the resumption assumptions, but to argue the point I would need my own team of modellers. I have had such before (on nuclear accident modelling) but this time the MetOffice refused to play ball and release their models.

    Now to Ridley and Pruitt – I don’t follow Delingpole. Ridley is very astute – a doctoral level scientist. He has access to the same sources that I do. He also writes a column in the Times. And he recently addressed a full-house scientific meeting of the Royal Society – I recommend the you-tube version. He is influential. Pruitt recently defended his stance by saying that the human contribution to warming was uncertain – not that it did not exist, but that there was debate about the size of it. Pruitt is busy dismantling the EPA. Ridley has the ear of the UK government and many there who would like to dismantle environmental regulations – but he supports farm subsidies if they are environmentally focussed. He supports GMOs and nuclear power and thinks most environmental campaigns were scaremongering.

    I don’t ‘keep company’ with Ridley or Pruitt. I warned almost ten years ago, the ‘enemies’ of environmentalism unfortunately had the truth on their side where climate was concerned. Nobody listened – or rather, no ‘greens’ listened. I warned that if the truth came out, as with science it usually does, these enemies would have a very powerful weapon. That is now what is happening in the USA. I can happen here under a conservative government.

    And now fore the ‘promised cooling’. What I actually said was that ‘unless there is another big El Nino, cooling will be evident’. The very big Nino in 15/16 is now over and about 0.6C has been lost (Ninos represent heat leaving the planet, but the surface warms before the heat disperses – via the poles). The Sun is now bottom-lining on UV emissions – which will lead to a loosening of the polar jetstreams and gradual ocean cooling – with heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and torrential rain in places during the summers, and severe cold in winter. Whether I (and others) are right about this will be evident by 2020, the bottom of the current solar cycle, or maybe not until the next cycle 11 years later. Arctic sub–surface ocean temperatures have been cooling now for three years, but slow jetstreams have sent lots of warm Nino air up there.

    Most crucially, I ask in response: should a scientist go with his conclusions from data or with the authority of those above him? Should he or she self suppress findings for political motives (ie green campaigning) or the reputation of his organisation (BANC and ECOS)? Or to avoid the vitriol of some (not in ECOS but certainly a lot elsewhere)?

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