The thoughts behind the Renegade Ecologist
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root....Henry David Thoreau
"In many ways, nature conservation has become just another method of rent extraction by landowners who are trying to hide the fact that modern farmers’ fields are essentially deserts, devoid of wildlife, and the taxpayer must pay ‘rent’ if we want wild animals to occupy ‘their land’."
Such a tax would not only stimulate jobs and enterprise but put a value on all of our natural resources and force us to look after them. If it was implemented for agricultural land, where the lower value of perpetually designated wilderness or natural grazing land is reflected in its land value taxation, it would be the surest way to save the wildlife of the UK and for the least cost to the taxpayer”
This would mean hard to farm areas, steep banks, riverbanks, rocky outcrops and areas landowners want to designate a nature reserves, which must be legally binding, could be set aside for wildlife and as such attract no taxation. The result of this would be that unproductive and marginal land would become wildlife havens and receive long term protection for future generation to enjoy. But it would also take away land and monopolies from our plutocrats who own wealth with no obligation to the rest of society, these plutocrats fund both the red and blue (and Yellow) faction of the vested interest or ‘line my friends pocket’ parties that control the legislature in Britain.
This blog is dedicated to teaching those who love nature that there is a simple ‘magic bullet’ that can save the rare wildlife of this country at no cost to the taxpayer. This magic bullet will actually grow our economy and create jobs and help create a better society based on rewarding those who work hard while penalising idol people who make monopolies such as bankers and landowners.
The solution if adopted worldwide would alleviate poverty and starvation and make a significant contribution to preventing war and terrorism.
Follow me on twitter: @peetasmithViews are my own and don’t reflect the views of Wildwood Trust
Friday, 14 February 2020
More detailed studies in Germany have identified a 75% decline in flying insect numbers over a 26 year period.
As those who read this blog will know I am more interested in solutions to ecological issues and one of my pet hates is this futile dilemmas presented in mainstream media as fact. So listening to people once again wringing thier hands saying nothing can be done and if we do it will cost a fortune, poor people will suffer etc against those saying we must ban pesticides now, whatever the cost makes me quite agitated. Such futile dilemmas are indeed futile if we approach the problem without knowledge of the economics of land.
Reading the articles this week there have been impassioned calls to cause terror that our whole biosphere will collapse and we are sleepwalking into a ecological and human catastrophe. This could be true but so far humanity and policy makers have not made efforts to avoid such a unforeseen catastrophes.
The issue of is not just that insecticides are killing all our bugs, its issue like biomass in soils, food availability (weeds), seasonality of food availability, loss of complex boundary habitats, connective habitats, drainage etc, basically land in a wild condition is not available for insects to have homes and food.
What I find criminal is the lack of government research into such a vital topic, just some relatively low scale NGO research, surely this is something vital to the security of us all and thus something government bodies should have excellent research on. (for all the tin foil hat wearers perhaps they already do!!!)
The other issue forgotten by such media coverage is about how we actually stop this life threatening decline in the very fabric of our biosphere... As ever efficient use of land and pesticides is key. Legal instruments are useful but the best solution would be to increase the cost of using land and pesticides (and all harmful chemicals). A simple Land Value Tax and a simple Pesticide tax (externality taxes) would make all farmers and landowners think seriously about land and chemical use and therefore look to use less allowing more insects to thrive.
Such an economic solution would reward hard working farmers for thier ingenuity and skill and punish those push button agronomist advised agribusinesses pumping ever more chemicals into what little remains of our soils.
Such a system would improve economic activity and the health and welfare of people.
Having sustainable agriculture under a system of Land Value Taxation will take away the monopoly of land that allows people to profit from rents and capital value created by insecticide use, thus the new taxes will impose costs on land and chemical use would come out of rents received by landowners and capitalised into the ever increasing cost of land. Such costs would not come out of having to charge more for food, but the profits derived by those who have not earned it or deserve profits made from killing nature.
But if we increase taxes on Land and externalities we can relieve the poor of thier tax burdens of VAT and Income tax which will make poor people better off and improve the quality of their food, drinking water and environment. So no one has to suffer for improved environmental standards. The only losers will be monopolists, tax dodgers and bank shareholders (I for one will not lose any sleep at thier loss)
And maybe our children can suffer the mutterings of parents wiping the bugs off car windscreens on summer trips once again... and maybe our future generations will have a world that will both support them and delight them...
Friday, 25 October 2019
In this talk I explore what is nature, the history of its destruction and how economic justice will lead to its restoration, sucking carbon back into the ground, reducing carbon output and rewilding our world. All this with a vibrant environmentally friendly economy. Just by some simple changes to our tax system... But with profound effects that will change all our lives for the better. But make no illusions our economic system is designed to prevent such simple solutions to our problems for the greed of the few.
Friday, 20 September 2019
Protect, Restore and TAX – Tax land, natural resource use and pollution. Shift taxes from incomes and trade to Land Value Taxes and Green Taxes. Nature needs no funds, no $trillions of pointless projects that are economically inefficient, just make nature’s use (and abuse) expensive.
Tax carbon and we will have amazing efficient homes and transport. Tax land and we will have 40% rewilded as its economically pointless for agriculture our human use. Just as a plastic bag tax resulted in nearly 90% reduction in plastic bag use, or sugar tax cut sugar in drinks by 50% virtually overnight
so a tax on land and natural resources will have an immediate and systemic shift to achieve a planet that can survive and still provide prosperity for all. Every economic transaction will contain the abuse of nature and Land used so every transaction will force down the use of land and nature as companies and trade avoid the tax.
And land taxes and carbon taxes can not be avoided, dodged or offshored – there is no escape – environmental protection will be relentless and every bank, investment house, multinational corporation and government will turn their energies to using less land and natural resources in everything they do.
Friday, 28 June 2019
Two recent reports, George Monbiot’s #LandForTheMany and Chris Packham’s #peoplesmanifestoforwildlife sub report "Where there’s muck there’s brass: revealing the billions hidden in farmland tax shelters”, published today, have started highlighting the economics of land and wildlife destruction.
Miles King - has investigated some of the more obvious tax breaks that farmers get that are incentivising natures destruction in the People Need Nature Report - See here: https://anewnatureblog.com/2019/06/28/farmland-tax-breaks-revealed/
But the journey these leading figures in wildlife protection have gone down, and the many authors they have drawn together, is still not fully complete. Both reports have highlighted how we are destroying our planet because our current tax and subsidy systems gives incentives to people to kill our wildlife, pollute and use land and natural resources inefficiently.
My personal campaign for the last 20 years has been to highlight this and promote rewilding, understanding that if we cannot tackle these issues, we will continue to lose wildlife no matter what social movements happen, wildlife protection laws are enacted or how many landowners we can win over to rewild their land.
It’s really very simple, if we want to save our planet and rewild land we need to base our entire tax policy on taxing monopolies and externalities and have a tax policy that does not allow avoidance. Shifting taxation from incomes (earnings and trade) and put it on land values. Taxing pesticides, diesel etc (externalities) will all provide a positive incentive to use such resources less and much more efficiently. Taxing land values will reduce land use and allow rewilding. Our current corrupt system is based on inflating land values to benefit the tiny minority of landowners. This has been a political fight waged over hundreds of years, the basis of the Corn Laws and the Liberal movement of the late 19th century, it was behind the Parliament Act and the landowners and bankers win in the end because most people are unaware of the fundamental economic forces at play.
Such a tax shift will save our planet, rewild 40% to 50% of the world, abolish poverty, reduce crime and take away many of the incentives for war. It’s all about understanding the marginal economic choices of the people who control natural resources and land – be it a hill farmer or Donald Trump; people choose to destroy our planet and hurt others because they make money by doing so. Our current tax system pushes people to misuse land and natural resources in so many complex ways that no matter what laws we try to enact it cannot counteract that economic force of those trying to make money from nature’s destruction. If we have a tax system that forces people to use land and natural resources more efficiently then they will choose to damage the planet less, the free market will become our ally as people try to outcompete one another to provide goods and services that use less land, pollution and natural resources within them.
A land value tax collecting the full unimproved rental value of land will make landowners compete to provide food with less land, landowners will be begging to give poor quality land to rewilding charities, grouse moor owners will be falling over themselves to shoot on less land and give up the moors. But by reducing labour taxes we will have more farmers producing more food with less inputs, a true democracy in land is best achieved by fiscal measure and not laws.
If we continue to have policies that give subsidies to landowners, let them off scot free when they pollute, have a system of money creation that is used to fund ever increasing land values then we enshrine natural destruction and poverty, a bleak future for humanity. This is a battle that must be won and for those campaigning to protect our planet the fundamental economic forces must be understood otherwise we will continue to fail in our efforts.
One of my lectures on the subject:
Tuesday, 25 June 2019
Monday, 25 June 2018
The uncommon Frogs & Toads of Britain in danger
Latest research show sightings of toads have fallen by over 30% in the last 5 years & frog numbers have plummeted 17% in that time. Toad numbers have dropped nearly 70% over the last 30 years, as reported in the Guardian today. But this sort of reporting drives me up the wall as it recommending we build ponds in our gardens to reverse the loss. While it will make a tiny difference, and everyone should have a pond in their garden, it again shows our powerlessness in the face of the real calamity that is befalling wildlife in the UK. And what is far worse shows the timidity of NGO’s and our media in reporting what is happening to wildlife in the UK, that they will not even highlight the real causes of wildlife loss let alone challenge landowner vested interests and say what must be done if we are to reverse that wildlife calamity..... and Garden ponds have virtually nothing to do with it!
Now is the time to make a pond in your garden to help our froggy friends so go and plan your garden pond today BUT! if we really want to help nature in the UK we must address the core problems of inefficient land use and the tax breaks and subsidies we give to landowners who are destroying Britain's wild habitats. Allowing our water ways to meander, land to remain undrained and stopping subsidies to very poor farmland, that only produces a tiny fraction of the food we eat, is key if we are to reverse the last 100 years of wildlife destruction and extinction.
These press reports have asked us to build more ponds in our gardens but really it's just marketing aimed at driving up membership of NGO’s as gardens in the UK make up just over 1% of our land surface so cannot be the solution to the wildlife catastrophe that is happening around us. The inefficient use of land in the countryside and modern factory farming methods continue to be the real cause as to why we are wiping out all the places where many of our most threatened creatures live.
Behind every wildlife disaster, including the one happening to our frogs and toads in the UK are Government rules set in place that rewards people with tax breaks and subsidies for killing our wildlife. Much of our wildlife is clinging on to small pockets of suitable habitat when contrary to many people's beliefs it is not housing or roads that is killing our wildlife but what is happening to land in the countryside.
With Brexit comes a once in a lifetime opportunity to save the taxpayer billions in wasteful subsidies and tax breaks to those who use their land inefficiently and rob our wildlife of a home. Rewilding the UK offers us a chance to benefit our economy, create more jobs, make our food production more secure for our children and protect nature but we have to address the core issue of inefficient land use and the rewards that can be made from destroying wildlife.
Central to this is stopping the rewards on offer for the mere ownership of land and alternatively rewarding real hard working farmers. Redress the balance of those that earn from their labour in our countryside while charging more to those that abuse land for little food and less employment. The only way we can do this is to stop subsidies land use, shift taxes from VAT and employment taxes and put those same taxes onto land values, effectively making the town subsidise our countryside. We should not tax the hard working farmers who can produce food sustainably with less inputs and put those taxes and remove the tax breaks that fund intensive farming, that perpetuates the harm we do to our soils and wildlife through inefficient use of farm chemicals. And remember we are not talking about romantic visions of farming past - but just shifting the margin at which land use decisions are made in how we treat the land.
We can rewild about 10% of our total land surface currently farmed with no appreciable difference in food production and a massive saving to the taxpayer, and ensure frogs and toads are around for our children to discover for many generations to come… if we tax land values!
Thursday, 17 May 2018
To me the real crux of the issue is are we going to make people pay a price to when they destroying nature, thus when priced correctly pushes us to destroy less nature and turn us from abusers of nature to conserveres. Those who abuse nature less in their activities such as farming or manufacturing will then out compete the abusers. We internalise the destruction of nature into our economic choices (also keep the laws that protect nature as well)
Further to this is the idea of using nature as a means of rent seeking by those that ‘own’ it. Monbiot has not elaborated on this but is right that if we undervalue nature we will go on abusing it in the current framework and dominant economic illusions held by governments and corporations, and may use this as a justification of further destruction.
I have discussed this with some members of the Natural Capital Committee and they mostly are of a mind to funnel taxpayers cash to 'compensate' landowners and businesses for abusing nature less which is a travesty and only make us poorer and create a vastly unequal society of natural capital haves and have nots,. new landed barons to milk humanity's need for natural resources to live....
The simple solution is of course to transfer taxation off of incomes and trade and put it in the destruction of nature, best achieved by a Land Value Tax with surcharges for special natural value. So, destroying an ancient habitat become extremely expensive, prohibitively so. Land and natural resources become expensive to exploit and when not a 'true' economic benefit get left alone.
Taxation means we leave fossil fuels in the ground, we stop farming marginal habitat and it becomes wild again, we reduce the extraction of fresh water and it stops in rivers and wetland. Carbon will come out of the atmosphere and be sequestered back into the ground.
So get rid of subsidies for farmers and industry and tax the use of land & natural resources, proportionate to the damage their use causes. So special taxes and laws to prevent the destruction of high value habitats and dangerous pollution, and areas that provide specific ecosystem services such as flood prevention and carbon sequestration.
These taxes need to embody future destruction, and not at any ‘discount rate’, also land taxes should be yearly taxes so we properly value that destruction in the future and we do not undervalue the ecosystem we leave to future generations.
The idea of using nature as a means of rent seeking by those that ‘own’ it is an appalling idea and is the fundamental problem of ‘neo-classical’ economics and one we must fight with all our might!
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