The thoughts behind the Renegade Ecologist

From my 20 years as a nature conservationist I have learned the utter futility of trying to protect nature under our current economic system. But by making some small changes to our taxation system we could make a world fit for our children to inherit full of wildlife & prosperity for all.

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’."
Peter Smith

Land Value Tax, which is in my opinion the Holy Grail of legislative changes to protect wildlife, is the simplest expression of the Economic theories of Henry George. This theory goes that if we abolish all harmful taxes on our hard work and trade and instead charge a rent for the use of natural resources such as Land we will not waste them or allow private interests to exploit the rest of humanities access to them.

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: @peetasmith

Views are my own and don’t reflect the views of Wildwood Trust

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

How Wildlife Charities are Causing Child Poverty...


A lot of wildlife charities are mobilising their supporters to sign petitions against the new Tory plans to relax planning permissions on new developments. These new proposal are obviously just political payback to  David Cameron's Landowning Chums in the Countryside Landowners Association and house building political donors.

But I have a big problem with wildlife organisations getting on the anti-house building NIMBY bandwagon as the issue is far more complex and we end being part of a system that is responsible for horrendous squalor and social inequality.

It is a terrible thing to pit the many people paying large rents, or have taken out mortgages they cannot repay or the many families living in appalling squalor against those of us trying to save wildlife. The reality is that there could be a massive house building programme in the UK, which would have very little direct impact on wildlife. With the right mitigations measures,  such as the construction of wildlife corridors and associated wildlife reserves we could easily triple house building in this country and make a huge wildlife gain at the same time.

In the majority of cases houses built on farmers’ fields will actually increase biodiversity as even the tiny back gardens of modern houses hold within them far more wildlife than a modern arable field. English Nature, just before its demise conducted a study which concluded the same; much to the outrage of many a rampant NIMBY whose only interest in nature conservation was to protect the property value of their overpriced three bedroomed semi on the edge of a farmer’s field.

The real scandal is the terrible planning system, or should I say lack of planning system, that allows the massive profits derived from the granting of planning permission, to the tune of many billions of pounds, to go untaxed into the pockets of landowners and banks without any real effort at compensating for the environmental and social problems that are created through the development.

My view is that wildlife campaigners should be fighting for the unearned income, the portion of land value ascribed to the granting of planning permission for house building, to be used to mitigate the environmental affects and enhance wildlife. Far better the community is enhanced by this community derived wealth than for it to go untaxed into the offshore accounts held by members of the countryside landowners association and their bank owning chums.

When a new housing development is granted the landowner and to a lesser extent the developer and banks are set to make a huge unearned capital gain. Because of our awful taxation system a lot of this profit from the increase in value of the land will disappear offshore into tax havens never to be seen again above and beyond the huge legal tax loopholes granted to landowners in this position. I understand some of you will doubt this but it really is true, much of the land will be owned and be  passed between a series of companies and hidden behind blind trusts in the Cayman islands as will the profits of the development company that builds the houses and the profits of the banks that loan the money to the developer and then the new home owners.

Many of the new costs associated with that development such as drainage, schools, roads will be paid for by the average hardworking taxpayer. Also the existing infrastructure that made the land so valuable in the first place when planning permissions was granted will have been paid for by those that work hard and pay normal income taxes.

In my opinion, and that of some of the world’s leading economists, the most efficient way to solve this conundrum is the shifting of income tax to a Land Value Tax which would pay for all of our government expenditure and have more than enough left over to fund environmental mitigation of all new development. We could easily afford to build a vast network of National Parks and  wildlife reserves with connecting wildlife corridors on the most marginal economic land which would become cheap to acquire. Thus we would create a UK brimming full of wildlife, with happy families in good quality housing and have all kind of extra benefits such as lower crime and more people in decent jobs etc.

There is a downside for some of  the richest 2% of the UK’s citizens, as they would have to get off their backsides and do a proper days work if they wanted to earn a living instead of enjoying a free lunch at the rest of society’s expense.