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

Friday, 25 May 2012

Robert Burns and Independence -


Robert Burns and Independence. 

By Dr. Duncan  Pickard

Scots! Vha hae wi' Wallace bled


Those who are trying to persuade us to vote for Scottish ‘Independence’ are keen to imply that Robert Burns would have supported their cause.  It cannot have been simple coincidence that January 25th was chosen for the speech and press conference to declare the supposed benefits to the people of Scotland of a vote for 'Independence'. My reading of Burns has led me to conclude that he would not have been in favour of the 'Independence' we are asked to choose.    Burns' enthusiasm for freedom, liberty, independence and the end of tyranny was on behalf of individual people, not the county of Scotland.  The tyrants whom Burns wanted to be rid of were the landowners, who were the rulers of Scotland -not the English.  The poem "Scots! Vha hae wi' Wallace bled" had nothing to do with rousing the Scots of the late eighteenth century to fight for independence for their country. It was a call for his compatriots to fight for their freedom from the tyrannical oppression by Scottish landowners.


He tried to make the people aware of their Birthright in Land, and wanted the fundamental features of the English Constitution, laid down in 1688, to be established in Scotland.  He by no means wished to revive old national feuds.  Burns was a close friend of William Ogilvie, Professor of Humanity at the University of Aberdeen who wrote his Essay on the Right of Property in Land in 1781. Such were the powers of the landlord, that the essay had to be published anonymously.  At that time, it was a criminal offence to be found with a copy of ''The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine. In 1793 Thomas Muir was deported for supporting calls for the extension of the right to vote and Burns only narrowly escaped conviction. It is worth noting that, in 1793, Burns gave a copy of "De Lolme on the British Constitution" to the Subscription Library of Dumfries, with a plea '"that they take it as a creed of British Liberty, until they found a better." Burns' poem "The Twa Dogs", which was inspired by his friendship with Ogilvie, avoided overt disclosure  of his agreement with the sentiments expressed  in the Essay and refers to Ogilvie as Caesar and himself as Luath, to protect both their identities. Ogilvie's Essay was suppressed for many years and few were aware of its existence  until it was brought to public attention in 1891 by DC MacDonald.

Ogilvie's Essay is a well-reasoned  discourse on the fundamental birthright  which everyone has to a share in the earth's natural resources  which  were present  before  human  beings appeared  on  its surface.    He traced  the "oppression,  misery,  injustice and poverty of the majority" to the unjust acquisition of the 'Right of Property in Land' by a minority of the population.  The ability of those who owned  the land "to  produce Land Laws, preserved  their power to claim the rent resulting from the labour of others". Ogilvie's introduction  to his Essay states "With respect to property in land, that system which now prevails is derived from an age not deserving  to be extolled for its legislative wisdom and is in need of reformation and improvement" A statement  that is as true in 2012 as it was in l78L

The reformation and improvement which Ogilvie proposed was the Single Tax, whereby the annual rental value of all land would be collected by the government to pay for its necessary functions. He regarded it as inherently unjust to levy taxes on landless working people whilst leaving those who owned land to keep its unearned rental revenue.

Ogilvie was quite clear that individual people cannot enjoy genuine freedom and independence by their acquisition of political freedom.  They also have to be granted economic freedom and that cannot occur when their earnings, obtained as a result of their own labour, are taxed by the state which leaves the unearned rental value of land with those who have the unjust right to claim ownership of it.

Those who seek to use Robert Burns in their quest for 'Independence' for Scotland would be well advised to study the Words of the poet in detail and understand what he meant by freedom and independence.  Although everyone has heard of Robert Burns, not many are aware of his desire to improve the condition of poor, oppressed  people everywhere. He agreed with Ogilvie that any improvement could only come through land and tax reform. William Ogilvie should be a name familiar to all who have ambitions for economic prosperity and social justice. The simplistic belief that the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom will result in economic prosperity for all will only lead to disillusion and disappointment without land and tax reform. The aims of any government should be to maximise the people's standard of living whilst minimising  their cost  of living and minimising  the cost of doing business.  These aims are not compatible with a tax system which favours the ownership of landed property and discourages employment and enterprise:-

The Law did jail the man or woman,
Who stole the goose from the common,
But left the greater robber loose,
Who stole the common from the goose .
Let the Law be gone, natural Justice return
So that all who work can keep all they earn.

 (Adapted  from an anonymous song of the anti-enclosure movement) Straiton  Farm, Balmullo. 4.3. 12


Thursday, 3 May 2012

New film explores the relationship between Wildlife, Land, taxation and Law.

Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave talks about her new role as the guest director of this year's Brighton Festival. 

The event starts with Vanessa promoting her Son, Carlo Nero's, ground breaking New documentary film The Killing Fields which will be premiered at the festival.

The event will be held in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall Sunday 6th May, tickets £10.  Tickets can be booked from this website. http://brightonfestival.org/event/477/the_killing_fields/#


The Film explores the relationship between Wildlife, Land, taxation and Law. The film Documents how the introduction of Land Value Tax would give Value to Wildlife and ensure Its protection. The film is presented by Economist Fred Harrison and features Peter Smith CEO and Founder of the Wildwood Trust, Dr Duncan Pickard, Landowner and Farmer, and Polly Higgins, Environmental barrister, author & Campaigner.