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

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Solution to War, Poverty & Environmental Destruction - Putney Debates 2014

My impassioned speech about the causes & solution to war, poverty and environmental destruction in a Q&A at the 2014 Putney Debates as a member of an invited guest panel after the screening of the film by Carlo Nero called the Killing fields in which I featured which you can whatch here: http://youtu.be/TTiVS2lhMuY



The New Putney Debates aims to emulate the original putney debates wich saw soldiers and officers of Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, including civilian representation, hold discussions on the constitution and future of England. These historic events saw ordinary soldiers take on their generals to argue for greater democracy and provided a platform for 'common people' to make their voices heard. These debates, forced by the Levellers, paved the way for many of the civil liberties we value today.

The New Putney Debates can be viewed here:
http://thenewputneydebates.com/2014/10/18/the-crash-cuts/


The Killing Fields Film that was screened at the debate can be viewed below:


Monday, 20 October 2014

Bloody Immigrants! European Beavers & Polish Plumbers

The natural fear of immigrants is often displayed by many people, but that fear is manipulated by unscrupulous politicians for their own benefit. To understand why we must understand the deeper economic forces at play and reject guttural hostility to immigrants or the reintroduction of formally native animal species. This is demonstrated by Government efforts to trap the beavers in Devon or the pantomime of UKIP and Conservatives pretending to want to stop Polish plumbers and their ilk from entering the UK.


Government policy is determined to enact effective legislation to stop us returning the former native animals of the UK but perversely seem completely unable to implement effective legislation to stop foreign workers working in the UK. Why?
My thesis is that formally native animals when reintroduced will take 'rent' from 'rent seekers', those that hold land and natural resources and the Government acts on their behalf, not for those of us that want to see wildlife return to the UK. This is best shown by the DEFRA plans to trap the beavers living on the river otter in Devon, whose presence will help the riverbanks return to a wild state and harbour more wildlife, (also helping prevent flooding & help purify water) at a small cost of those that farm its river banks.
The failure of Government policy to halt illegal immigrants working and thier ways of tax avoidance are highlighted well in this blog post by Tax Researcher (and Wildwood Trust member) Richard Murphy:


http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/10/19/camerons-immigration-controls-are-a-joke-because-he-wont-control-uk-companies/


There is a failure in Government policy as this Government, though professing to want to halt immigration, will not actually enact any effective measures to stop illegal workers from working in the country.


I saw a really interesting interview a couple of years ago of the Mayor of Calais on local BBC South East who basically said the same thing - our failure to properly regulate work with work permits, and allow unregulated private limited companies as shells for illegal workers, was chiefly responsible for the flood of legal and illegal immigration and to stop this we could issue work permits at any time and enforce that just like the French.


But the issue is more than just regulation - who benefits from illegal workers? - not just unscrupulous employers of which I have first hand knowledge of employing hundreds of highly skilled foreign workers who formed their own companies and then skip the UK avoiding taxation and VAT. But more insidiously this is really just a battle between rent seekers and workers as the rent seekers who's income  is mostly derived from the possession of monopolies in the UK (chiefly land) as those assets and revenue are pushed up in value thanks to the influx of hard working foreigners, while at the same time lowering the cost of labour which means a double benefit to those rent seekers seeking to access the fruits of other peoples labour. 


So the solution is to shift taxes and Government fees from wages to monopolies, best achieved through Land Value Tax and other government taxes on resources rents, government sanctioned monopolies and pollution. Cameron et al, UKIP (and labour policy sadly) is on the side of the rent seekers; so will always say they want to control immigration but never do anything to stop it as it benefits the people who control those political parties and so will never do anything to increase the value of labour against the value of rent.

So the workers of the UK are always at a disadvantage, they cannot benefit from the animal immigration of formally native species like the beaver, which help prevent flooding, purify water and bring wildlife back to our riverbanks but will continue to have their environment eroded. But will also continue to suffer from  house prices increased to unaffordable levels and lower wages due to high levels of human immigration. This connection between high 'rents'(high house prices) and low wages is directly responsible for high unemployment and poverty and has been well observed by most economists, especially my personal economic hero Henry George. 




The solution to both animal and human immigrations is Land Value Taxation where those that benefit from the increased rents of monopoly pay it back to the community(who generated it anyway), so the benefits & costs of immigration, whether it be Polish plumbers or European beavers, are shared by all.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sir Richard Attenborough & his Beaver Obsession

Sir Richard Attenborough & his Beaver Obsession

Tributes pour in for this great man but it is fitting that just as his death marks and end of a venerated British Institution, his secret passion is flourishing and may be the best legacy of his life. Beavers are finally returning to Britain.

And the story of beavers in Britain looks like a script for a future film; this battle of cinematic proportions is breaking out as we speak to save these beavers form the dark forces of dominion and insidious privilege that Sir Richard so detested.

Many of Sir Richard’s most ardent admirers are today mourning his parting, but the many who understand his beaver obsession are preparing to do battle in the British countryside and stop the dark forces about to be unleashed upon the beavers in an attempt to remove them from the riverbanks of Devon’s river Otter.




Sir Richard, though not  immediately taken by the profound story of the beaver was fascinated by his mother’s and brother David’s (the famous conservationist and BBC wildlife presenter) captivation by the speech of Grey Owl they saw as children in the 1930’s, later so beautifully shown in the film Grey Owl, portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. Grey Owl brought to light the plight of the beaver and how whole ecosystems would collapse without the beaver to manage the water ways of Canada, just as they collapsed when we hunted the beaver to extinction in Britain and Europe.






“Not surprisingly, Dave's memories of Grey Owl's lecture are very different to my own. He was bowled over by the man's determination to save the beaver, by his profound knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Canadian wilderness and by his warnings of ecological disaster should the delicate balance between them be destroyed. The idea that mankind was endangering nature by recklessly despoiling and plundering its riches was unheard of at the time, but it is one that has remained part of Dave's own credo to this day.”

Sir Richard’s mother was equally taken by Grey Owl and after his death after he was exposed as Archie Balaney, and said this of him:

"His identity doesn't matter a damn," she, who never uttered an oath, said firmly. "The only important thing is what he came to tell us."

The great actor and directors life has demonstrated a hidden obsession with beavers and their positive virtues.

His London home he called the beaver lodge, where he lived from 1949 until October 2012, in Richmond Green in London (only leaving due to his failing health)

His production company, Beaver films, is renowned for some of the greatest cinematic works in the history of film.

Once Sir Richard’s career was established he sort out a retreat to write his films in solitude, again his obsession came to the fore when he purchased Rhubodach estate on the Isle of Bute. His office was known as the beavery, in the castle, famed because of the old Duke’s love of beaver, who built a ‘beavery’ in the grounds when her tried to reintroduce beavers.

Sir Richard’s greatest work was carried out in the beavery overlooking the real beavery, sadly devoid of beavers. But the island has seen the possible return of the beaver with the nearby Knappdale beaver reintroduction project. One beaver was found washed up and it may not be long before beavers once again surround the castle and its grounds and the nearby beavely hills.

Sir Richard’s life is a model of hard work and dedication to all that is best in humanity & the arts. We must try to live up to his example to continuously ‘beaver away’, never giving up, if we are to create a better world. The story of the beavers obsessed Sir Richard, just as it has obsessed so many conservationists including myself, we must never give up in our quest to rewild the countryside and bring back the functioning ecosystem that beaver, and other keystone animals, can bring about.

The one project Sir Richard never completed was his life-long ambition to make a film about his hero Thomas Paine, whom he called "one of the finest men that ever lived". He said in an interview that "I could understand him. He wrote in simple English. I found all his aspirations - the rights of women, the health service, universal education... Everything you can think of that we want is in Rights of Man or The Age of Reason or Common Sense”.

Not surprisingly Thomas Pain was an advocate of Land Value Tax, the collection of publicly created rent and its fundamental importance to abolishing poverty. This interestingly is the economic model I propose that would save all the wildlife of Britain and help foster the return of the beaver, although I do not know if Sir Richard ever made this connection between the economics of land, wildlife and the betterment of society.

Good bye Sir Richard, A life well lived & thank you for all your hard work.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

GDH - Gross Domestic Health & Dodgy Economics

Hooray GDP is up, headlines are plastered across the papers this weekend. The UK beats GDP growth of all the major G7 countries. Britain can be proud of the work of our great financial leaders have done restoring the wealth to our country. But what does GDP measure, well the answer is not a lot. And a lot of our growth is just the fallout of lending more money into the housing bubble (which will come back to haunt us very soon, robbing the poor & hard working to feed the rich & lazy)

As my Friend Fried Harrison points out in his thesis on 'ecocide' http://www.sharetherents.org/thesis/just-prices-riches-nature/

"Driving the destruction are land-use and tax policies that reward speculators who engage in urban sprawl. We wreck habitats (deforestation), dump waste into the oceans, and even the heavens are littered with waste from disintegrating satellites. The catalogue of disasters cannot be blamed on nature.
"People do not behave in such reckless ways within their private spaces (our homes). We tend to be tidy, economical, we conserve the products of our labour and we respect the rights of our neighbours. So what motivates the opposite forms of behaviour towards nature? Again, it boils down to the pursuit of (or the ripple effects from) the flow of rental income. Joseph Stiglitz observes that conventional indices fail to expose the full extent to which rent-seekers are wrecking the environment:“Sometimes the distortions of the rent seekers are subtle, not well captured in the diminution of GDP. This is because GDP doesn‟t adequately capture the costs to the environment….Industries like coal and oil want to keep it that way. They don‟t want the scarcity of natural resources or the damage to our environment to be priced, and they don‟t want our GDP metrics to be adjusted to reflect sustainability” (Stiglitz 2012: 98-99). If the services provided by nature and society were correctly priced, we would not waste them, and we would not shift onto others the costs of our actions (such as dumping waste into rivers or seas). "

If we really want statistics to measure the health of the UK a far better balanced scorecard of our nations health would be using stats such as modal and mot means and the variation within of factors such as:


  1. Infant mortality
  2. Average life span
  3. Educational attainment
  4. Disposable incomes
  5. crime

Also highlight depletion of natural resources and dilapidation of infrastructure and projections of the future of all these stats that would highlight excessive personal, private and state debt.

Such a measure of GDH will be some percentage points down this week, with a trend that has been dropping for some time. The dodgy economics that masquerade as public information must be changed if we are to protect people and the environment instead so lets have some headline on from The Office for National Statistics (ONS) on GDH & consign GDP to the dustbin of dodgy statistics.


Dodgy theories and discredited statistics which are used by agencies like the OECD camouflage the trends that determine the health of the economy -- and people's welfare. Prof. Mason Gaffney explains why we should treat GDP data with extreme caution, and he identifies holes in the numbers used by governments.



Sunday, 3 August 2014

"The Pricing of Everything" How can we really put a value on nature?

"The Pricing of Everything" by George Monbiot:



I loved Monbiot's latest lecture. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/jul/24/price-nature-neoliberal-capital-road-ruin

He evens mentions Land Value Tax, but did not explore its link with the protection of nature and properly valuing nature. But there is one thing I disagree with in that we can use a system of valuing nature in our economic system, that does not have the downsides he so rightly points out in the failings of the Neo Classical economic consensus that is so fundamentally flawed.

There is nothing wrong with ‘valuing nature’ the problem is not ‘valuing’ it properly, which Monbiot has been spot on. Efforts to value nature so far are complete rubbish, then even more importantly how does that value get internalised into our economy – again the neo-liberal ideas are pure rubbish in an economic sense.  But there is a way to value nature in a way that helps the economy and helps preserve nature. The simple solution is of course to transfer taxation off of incomes and trade and put it in the destruction of nature. 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 for the destruction of high value habitats and 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.

I attended a seminar organised last month by the New Economics Foundation and WWF and was appalled by the poor level of economic understanding and that organisation like WWF viewed ecosystem services as a fund raising exercise and had no comprehension of the problems outlined by Monbiot, myself, and the many proper green economists who have highlighted this over the years.

My view of how we value nature:


Monday, 21 July 2014

The Green Blob - Paterson's Hypocracy

Our former secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs has been making his true views know now that he has been sacked & is smarting from the negativity he received for his policies


“…I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of – to coin a phrase – the Green Blob.


By this I mean the 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 green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely.”
“Yes, I’ve annoyed these people, but they don’t represent the real countryside of farmers and workers, of birds and butterflies.
Like the nationalised industries and obstructive trade unions of the 1970s, the Green Blob has become a powerful self-serving caucus; it is the job of the elected politician to stand up to them. We must have the courage to tackle it head on, as Tony Abbott in Australia and Stephen Harper in Canada have done, or the economy and the environment will both continue to suffer.”

In some respects I agree with Paterson on the issue of undue influence by self-serving cabals who have aligned vested interests supporting certain ‘green’ policies that benefit themselves. In the Green movement there are a lot of individuals on the gravy train of government/lobbyists/industrial groups proposing policies that will not benefit the environment that much, just themselves. Such alliances of course work in all aspects of public and private life and at all levels whether a group of shop keepers getting subsidies from councillors or the ‘great green’ conspiracies of Biofuels and carbon caps and trading.

I am very worried about the idea of 'ecosystem services'; pricing natural resources to be used by monopolists as a way of robbing the poor and doing little for the environment. The idea is that society pays landowners and polluters not to destroy the land or pollute our environment as a rent every year. Unfortunately there are many in the green movement who have succumbed to this appalling thinking, instead of just making it harder and more expensive to destroy nature which is what they should be campaigning for. 

But by far the biggest and longest serving such cabal are the landowners who Mr Patterson represents and seams ironically unaware that all his actions seam to allow landowners to receive the unearned rents of land unfettered by any damaging activities that create that rental value on that land or cause other detrimental effects in the form of wildlife destruction, pollution and economic hardship to the poor in this country and farmers and the poor across the world.

The farming industry (read big landowners) continually lobby more effectively than any other part of society, getting away with causing the largest amount of damage to the environment and getting the greatest slice of government subsidies.

If we track back through the landowning cabal we see that all the spurious justifications of maintaining high land prices and high rents that form the unearned income, the biggest free lunch on the planet, go to a tiny proportion of landowners who receive this money free and do not pay for the damage done while generating their huge ill-gotten gains. This applies to all who own land, natural resources or the right to pollute.

It is a massive confiscation, a huge Robin Hood in reverse of robbing the poor (and our future generations) to give to the rich.

To solve the problem of cabals inadvertently lobbying government we must improve our political system making democracy – just that – one person one vote and have representation that is truly democratic, and to have liberties and responsibilities properly defined within that democracy.

Our present ‘democracy’ allows such vested interests to capitalise on cosy relationships. So what Patterson is really saying is ‘I do not want one group of lobbying monopolists affecting my group’s pre-eminence in lobbying, monopolising and subverting the economic and legal system that at presently benefits me and my kind’.

As ever the solution is Land Value Tax, externality and pigovian taxation as simply and directly as possible. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

An Animal Ark to Save us from Flooding

Peter Smith, CEO of the Wildwood Trust presents ideas and examples of rewilding projects that protect rivers and town from flooding. This lecture was to the Oxford Union's Nature Conservation Society in June 2014.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Could the Queen Spell Doom for the British Beavers, Pine Martens & Red Squirrels?



In what can only be described as a lacklustre Queen’s speech the venerable old Monarch spelt out some wonderful news for landowners & developers – clearing the way to allow them to benefit hugely from the granting of planning permissions and the sale of publicly owned land. Much of the increase in the land value, worth billions, to be siphoned off without tax to the offshore accounts of some of the UK’s wealthiest individuals.

Not only is the wealth and income of the 0.1%, who own most of the land in the UK, about to be increased, for no effort on their behalf, but changes in the way we subsidies landowners, through agricultural grants and tax breaks are to boosted, just as we continue to slash support for the poor and efforts to protect our wildlife. Capitalism for the poor and state controlled socialism for the rich!

But there is one thing going on in the UK that could help our wildlife and benefit people by cutting water bills and saving our towns from flooding. This activity will cost the tax payer nothing and only be of a small annoyance to landowners. And that is the return of beavers to our waterways. Mostly in Scotland but also in Devon, the signs of the beavers return are cropping up more and more.


So hidden within legislations announced by the Queen was a sneaky new announcement of ‘Species Control Orders’ that could be the legal instrument to kill off the beavers of the UK.

The new species control orders are to be issued to force the eradication of an invasive  plant or animal, once it has been identified as non-native (one not ordinarily present in Great Britain or listed as non-native in Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) and invasive (a serious threat to local biodiversity or economy), and where the operations required meet a “proportionality” test. Unfortunately for the formally native beaver DEFRA  legal eagles have defined the term ‘not ordinarily present’ to leave the beavers at risk and all the other animals we have driven to extinction in our recent past. But just to make sure efforts are now afoot to add beavers, otters and pine martens (just as they did for wild boar) to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act

At present landowners do not have to deal with beavers if found on their land & can refuse access to any DEFRA official looking to kill the beavers as owners or occupiers would now not have the right to refuse and to breach a species control order which would be now a criminal offence.

While I for one would like to see the control of species like Japanese knotweed, Signal Crayfish, The Ruddy duck, Parakeets and the Zebra mussel  and all the many destructive aliens introduced by gardeners and landowners over the years. I do not want to see such legislation hijacked by those wishing to ensure we cannot return wildlife that we have made extinct or enforce a vision of the countryside as monoculture factory farming and private shooting grounds for the rich at play, all subsidised by the taxpayer at the expense of the poor.

What’s the Solution To invasive Species?

The reason so many non-native species are thriving in the UK is, not only do we import them, but because we have created a habitat for them. So much of our land, riverbanks and woodland have been changed by our activity to a drastic degree. It is not without  interest that these alien invaders are mostly thriving in the riverbank and wetland habitats that would most benefit from the beavers return which as our most important keystone animal would return this habitat to a condition that generally  favours native species and not the ‘invaders’.

In some circumstances control orders can make a difference, but it is like a doctor treating the symptom without treating the cause, the problem will go on and on. So let’s treat the cause and let the beaver do their magic to the river banks and wetlands of Britain.

Pine Marten, Red & Grey Squirrels

Another example of our madness is red squirrels; non-native North American grey squirrels, introduced at the whim of some aristocratic thinking they look cute to his grounds,  have edged out our native red squirrels. But it has been noted by many naturalists that red squirrels are present in the same place pine martens exist. Pine Martens were wiped out in England by gamekeepers to keep them from their shooting estates, allowing our landowning elite to shoot that other alien invader, the pheasant, bred in their 10,000’s still today . It is rare for reds, pine martens and grey squirrels to co-exist, in fact the return of Pine Martens to central Ireland has spelt doom for the invasive greys and a leap in red squirrel numbers. This example highlights the need to get our ecology back in balance to stop invasive species, but also stop killing off our own species in the wonderfully termed ‘trophic cascade’ as is used by rewinders such as myself or George Monbiot.


Otter, Mink & Water Voles (& Beaver)

Another invasive species is the North American mink which has occupied many of our waterways, replacing our native otters that were hunted and poisoned to the edge of extinction. The mink have exploited our destroyed riverbanks to hunt the water vole to the verge of extinction seeing a catastrophic decline in over 90% of their population. Now that we are protecting otters and removed the worst of the poisons from our rivers otters are reoccupying England, and just like the pine marten when the otters return they quickly dispatch the North American Mink, otters, not predating on water voles, remove this alien menace, natures balance is partially restored and water voles are once again safe to make their home along our riverbanks. But even more importantly returning beavers to our rivers will create the complex riverbank habitat and wetlands where water voles will thrive irrespective of the presence of American Mink which can be seen where such relic habitat still exists where high water vole numbers and high mink numbers coexist.




Wild Boar and Oak Trees

The other animal, at risk from our murderous Government’s legislation to criminalise returning species  is wild boar, now occupying many woodlands in the south of the UK, escaped from farms over the last 40 years. Our boar have evolved over millions of years living in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with our woodlands. Boars are vital in spreading the genetic diversity of trees like oaks, without boar oaks will suffer a long death due to genetic impoverishment. But their relationship is far more subtle, such as in there spread of mycorrhizal fungal spores upon which our trees and woodland plants depend and physical turning over of woodland soils and  scratching of trees which create Micro habitats for a vast range of woodland species.



Wild Boar offer a lifeline to woodland habitats and the rare species they harbour and it is a depressing fact that after hundreds of years of loss of this diversity some humans seem unable to tolerate their return.  Now our woodlands are once again coming alive to their activity, government and private interests seam determined on the boar’s eradication.

Why the beaver must be saved

The beaver is the most important formally native animal to Britain that could create landscapes that protects out native plants and animals (and save us a fortune in water treatment and flood management costs). Yet the very legislation aimed at protecting us from alien invaders looks certain be used by a corrupt political and land management system to destroy the very animals that could help us.

Officials at DEFRA have stated this may not be the case, and I have huge sympathy to the our wildlife public servants, but these new draconian laws are dangerous and easily subverted by those eager to rid the countryside of wildlife and bend it to their own warped will as a playground for their historical fantasies of lethal subjugation of their ‘dominion’.

Tax Land Values & we will all turn into wise guardians of the land

To further the restoration of British wildlife and give it a fighting chance against these invasive aliens we need to create a system whereby it is in everyone’s best interest to protect wildlife, not through law but through making that choice in their best economic interest. This is best achieved through a tax shift. Stop taxing our hard work and trade and put taxes on land so as to make its use more efficient. Also taxes on natural resources and the damage we do to the environmental. Such a tax shift would cut unemployment and reduce poverty, but also turn even the most ardent wildlife hater into an ardent conservationist, willing or not as it would be in their best financial interest to become a wise guardian of the wild and a knowledgeable steward of the land.

The  landowners of Britain, in our current legal and economic system, have no choice but to continue in their influence on Government and maintain their stranglehold on the monopoly of land, they will do all they can to increase the rent of land and they will no doubt fight our wonderful and returning beavers who can mitigate to a small degree their rapacious theft of our riverbanks and wetlands.

Beavers need friends and quickly if they are not to be snuffed out before they have had a chance to give our children a wetland system worth having.

Save the Free Beaver of England

Join the fight by keeping in touch with the Save the Free Beaver of England Campaign’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/307063082782582/ 
Twitter Account: @CastorAnglicus https://twitter.com/CastorAnglicus

Further Reading:

Our BBC Countryfile appearance on some of these issues:
http://youtu.be/Cr4k8aB0vE4


Red squirrel finds pine marten a fearsome ally in its fight for survival:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/22/red-squirrel-pine-marten-survival


Wild Boar:
http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/forest/species/wildboar.html


Friday, 18 April 2014

Modern Economists re-learning the secret of a better society & environment


Pulling together the threads of 'Georgist Economics' and 'Green Economics'

I had a recent online discussion on 'economic rent' and it s role in 'Green economics'. Sparked by an interest in Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher, he was a ‘devote’ of Henry George and the same economic thought adopted by Joseph Stiglitz and many modern ‘green economists’. 

This has come into the news this week with a dream team of modern economists (Stiglitz, Krugman & Durlauf) debating the launch of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, by Thomas Piketty, who has captured the zeitgeist with his modern interpretation of the classical ideas of what constitutes capital and the role of inherited wealth suppressing economic freedom and equality and highlighting the role of 'economic rent' which has been so fastidiously 'airbrushed' from modern economic texts and political debate.




The economic thought is the same as that adopted by a host of our leading thinkers; Sun Yat Sen,  Abraham Lincoln, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and a list of luminaries too long to mention. But they were all powerless in the face of vested interests and a population unknowing of the workings of our economic system.

The issue of 'Rent Seeking' Stiglitz highlighted is not new knowledge, but suppressed knowledge. He was interviewed in the documentaries below. History's greatest economic thinkers have all said the same thing, but this is ignored or obfuscated, often deliberately, by powerful vested interests, institutions and politicians.

Some commentators have talked about this for millennia but the Physiocrats in France first put this into the prose of modern economics. If you care to read the book idolised by modern free-market economics 'The Wealth of Nations' by Adam Smith the book is riddled with examples and references to 'rent seekers', he branded those who pocketed the nation's rents as "The Public Enemy".

Dramatic Documentary covering these issues:

Treason Part 1: Casino Capitalism:


Adam Smith branded those who pocketed the nation's rents as "The Public Enemy". But today, governments celebrate the privatisation of the income that we all help to create. The result, reports Fred Harrison in Part 1 of  The Treason Trilogy, is a house of cards built on debt. He forecasts the next property boom/bust, and accuses politicians of betraying their duty of care to their people







Treason Part 2: The Crucible of Terror:

Capitalism is built on a Royal Act of sacrilege. The historic injustice created a statecraft of greed and the financial model on which modern nations are built. This legitimised the violent streak in capitalism. In Part 2 of The Treason Trilogy, Harrison explains that current policies will not defeat the War on Terror.



Treason Part 3: The Temple of Doom:

The green agenda has been hijacked. To inflate corporate profits, the last of the commons (oceans and heaven) are being privatised in a financial scam that will create the Land Barons of the 21st century. Planet Earth is being converted into a Temple of Doom. It will take a new social contract with nature to prevent the looming ecological disaster.






The problem is that so few people understand the implications of the private capture of monopoly, 'Economic Rent' and the harm land & natural resource monopoly does to society and that it locks in the inefficient use of natural resources and relative poverty into our economic system.

I have been banging on about this for some time myself. Unfortunately until people truly grasp these economic principles they will never understand the problems and thus the solution. Hence why many fellow conservationists think I am a raving loony. Until they grasp these ideas I might as well be speaking a different language.

This is something I discover about 10 years ago and read the works of Henry George. Although it took me years of learning to pull all the threads together, and the brilliance of some gifted teachers.

I discovered this through my own experience in buying land and getting land for nature reserves in my time with the Wildlife Trusts. As I delved into land economics to understand its principles I realised just how we have been hoodwinked and how stupid most of the policies of Nature Conservationist organisation have been; on the micro scale raising money to buy land and getting agri-environment subsidies to landowners, but this is counterproductive and creates massive perverse effects when you consider the consequences of these policies in ‘aggregate’. So on the ‘Macro’ scale this just increases the rent and value of land so less and less of it falls below the ‘margin of economic productivity’ and is therefore unavailable for wildlife use. ‘We’, by our own actions, are actively working against our best interests because we do not understand the ‘law of rent’ and how it affects land use and the protection of biodiversity. As many ‘conservationists ’especially the big landowning ones get this benefit they actively campaign for ever more subsidies and will not challenge the interests of landowners in general. But they create a monopoly of nature conservation and help destroy nature elsewhere' due to the unintended consequences of increasing the economic reasons for farming land. If we stop farming subsidies and introduce LVT, all of us ‘professional’ conservationists could just lock up our offices and go home in the knowledge that there will be far more biodiversity.

These principles also are the basis of many ‘green economists’ such as Molly Scott-Catto who is the Green Parties Economic Advisor. Who approach this from the use of natural resources and the ‘free ride’ owners of natural resource have in profiting from that ownership and the ‘free ride’ polluters get from their activities. Simply changing our taxation system to the collection of ‘economic rent’ would be half the battle; supplement this with ‘pigovian taxes’ on the economic externalities of natural resource use and this would transform our economy to one that protects us all, naturally pushing every human to use land and natural resources more efficiently.


After Reading Henry George – Progress & Poverty I also added these to my reading list:
The Corruption of Economics by Mason Gaffney , probably the world’s leading Land Economist (now in his 90’s)


Dr Duncan Pickard: ‘The Lie of the Land’ for a farmers view of the idiocy of our economic & subsidy system in relations to Economic rent and monopoly. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lie-Land-Duncan-Pickard/dp/0856832278


After I met Fred Harrison we became firm friends and made the ‘Killing Fields’ documentary with our mutual Friend Carlo Nero. 

We have then made some documentaries you can watch on the ‘Geophilos’ YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/geophilos  to help explain some of these economic concepts, as well as Fred’s own site : Share the Rents: http://www.sharetherents.org/

This is a lovey article by Jim Tarbell which helps encapsulate the issues:
Creating a New Economic Story, By Jim Tarbell

It is time to turn around centuries of human behaviour. Our economic story must be rewritten before the final chapter ends it all. We must have a new vision for a restoration economy of the future, if there is going to be a future for our children, grandchildren and all the world we know.

Wise thinkers have been working on this "great turning" for over a century. But it was not until the 1980s that sustainable economics became defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and environmental needs of present and future generations."

But a sustainable economy will only leave the planet and our culture at the level of degradation caused by thousands of years of the extraction economy. We need to create a restoration economy that restores our ecology, human community and economic vitality to levels of maximum potential.

Many visionaries have wrestled with this problem over the past 130 years. The ideas of three economists, Henry George, E. F. Schumacher and Herman Daly, have helped lay the groundwork for a Restoration Economy.

In the 1870s Henry George dedicated his first book "to those who, seeing the vice and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege, feel the possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment." He challenged the assumptions of the classical economists in the late 1800s. He saw land and natural systems as a birthright for all of humanity. He made economic justice a focal point of his concerns.

In reorienting economics to concentrate on the value of land and natural systems, he created a firestorm of dissent among established economists who worked feverishly to discredit his views. These mathematically-based professors, working in the finest academies of the British Empire, created a neo-classical economics that re-emphasized their self-centered economic man, the virtue of free trade and posited that natural capital could simply be replaced by manufactured capital.

In the mid-twentieth century E. F. Schumacher began to develop what has become known as humanistic or Buddhist economics, which puts human needs ahead of financial gain. He laid out his vision in his seminal book Small is Beautiful.  He challenged the neo-classical paradigm with thoughts like:

·         “The aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity.”
·         “Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non- violent, the elegant and beautiful."


Herman Daly, beginning in the latter decades of the twentieth century, helped create a new economic vision called ecological economics. This growing field of academicians challenges the neo-classical claim that land and natural systems can be replaced by manufactured capital. They concentrate on the finite scale of our planet and the inevitable depletion of our fossil fuel energy resources. They emphasize that quality is far more important than quantity. A restoration economy recognizes that economic activity exists within a larger sphere of natural systems, Natural systems are not just a component of the economic system. The restoration economy will be a partner with community, creativity and that which brings contentment to maximize a high quality of life. This new economic vision will nurture and strengthen both natural capital and human capital. It will utilize social capital to create economic institutions that promote economic democracy and fairness. It will invest our economic capital in an appropriate and efficient manner. In this framework nature is valued, community is strengthened and people are secure, comfortable and happy.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Beaver, Rewilding & Land Value Tax have the answer to the UK's Flooding Problem.

Interesting the solution to the problems of flooding is the same for many of the problems facing Britain in the economic, housing and environmental crisis: Tax land values. This is because marginal farmland which is only farmed because of enormous taxpayer subsidies, and produces little food, will come out of production and can revert to flood plain and naturally water absorbing wild land - saving us from the flooding

My press release on these issues of flooding:

Beaver & Rewilding have the answer to the UK's Flooding Problem.

_____________________________________________
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said:

“It took the death of school children in a catastrophic flood event to shock the Dutch authorities to really tackle flooding on the Rhine; one of their answers was to stop farming on flood plain and to create a giant natural wetland, managed by wild horses, to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”
_______________________________________________

 A beaver created wetlands absorbing floodwaters
 Beaver - make lovely wetland possible by digging into river banks and creating marshland and beaver pools






As rivers across the UK are bursting their banks, another media storm has broken over  who is responsible. Many farmers have come out attacking the lack of drainage and flood defences along rivers. But river scientists and ecological experts are pointing out that there is a deeper problem in our river catchments, which means putting in flood defence and dredging rivers could end up in catastrophic flooding further downstream, and a tragedy could unfold that could threaten human life.

Changes in farming and land use now means there is little flood plain left along our rivers, so there is nowhere for the water to go, this combined with a massive increase of drainage of farmland in river catchments means water now gushes off land into the rivers.

One of the best and cheapest answers is to reintroduce natural wetland species such as European beaver and wild horses to the UK and allow the natural restoration of nature's own flood defences like the initiatives currently run by the Wildwood Trust near Canterbury.

Peter Smith with a baby beaver, born at Wildwood Trust, destined to be part of a reintroduction later this year

The wetlands of Britain used to act as a giant sponge, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into our rivers, protecting us from catastrophic flooding.

In recent times we have spent an increasing amount of money to destroy our wetlands, to build and maintain a massive system of drains at the taxpayer's expense. The cruel irony is that 'flood defences' only make the problem worse further down the river. Planning has also encouraged the building of more and more housing on flood plains which then in turn need to be defended from inevitable flooding.

Successive Governments have channelled hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers' money every year into agricultural subsidies and 'drainage' works that are directly responsible for the catastrophic flooding seen over the last few weeks.

Wildwood’s  five point plan to save the taxpayer money and prevent catastrophic flooding in our towns & villages:

1. Rewild marginal farmland, uplands and floodplain. Just as many European countries have seen catastrophic flooding they have rewilded areas that act a giant sponges soaking up flood waters

2. Stop agricultural subsidy of marginal farmland so it can be returned to the wild & save the taxpayer Billions of pounds

3. Return Beavers and use natural wetland managers like wild horses to maintain our wetlands at no cost to taxpayers

4. Create natural wetland network in urban areas to act as flood stores

5. Shift taxes off of earned incomes and onto Land Values and natural resources to make it economically feasible to revert marginal farmland back to natural areas.


Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said:

“Along the Rhine in the  Netherlands and  Germany  they have already addressed this issue by  re-creating wetlands, while at the same time providing safety for homes and communities."

“It took the death of school children in a catastrophic flood event to shock the Dutch authorities to really tackle flooding on the Rhine; one of their answers was to stop farming on flood plain and to create a giant natural wetland, managed by wild horses, to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

One of Wildwood Trust's Wild Horses helping manage wetlands in Kent
“When will Britain wake up and see that we need to tackle the root cause of the flooding problem and stop the squabbling by selfish vested interest only interested in getting  the benefit of ever more taxpayers money or campaigning for flood waters to be rushed on further downstream to flood someone else’s house.”

"We have created a perverse system of agricultural subsidies and drainage systems that guarantee we will see flooding getting worse, and that system is using taxpayers’ money to destroy wildlife and the wild places that have been our natural flood defence system.”

“With no wetlands, trees or undeveloped flood plains to stop this water, it rushes off fields into drainage systems, maintained at the taxpayers’ expense, and is funnelled into rivers where it creates the devastating problems witnessed this winter.”

“We must stop wasting money on drainage schemes, agricultural subsidies and building in flood plains but rather spend, far less,  taxpayers money on re-establishing natural wetlands.”

“This can be achieved for a fraction of cost that taxpayers are already incurring, save us billions in the future and will create a carbon sink to help neutralise climate change and give our future generations a natural heritage to be proud of.”
This video shows the Belford Flood alleviation Scheme - which is spending large amounts of taxpayers money on an innovative scheme which is artificially creating beaver pools and beaver like structure, The question has to be asked why not let beavers do it for free!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Rewilding Britain & Sharing the Rents of Land

Copied from my local paper - a Profile of me... By Joe Bill. Photos: Ady Kerry

Wildwood Trust boss giving nature a second chance 


  Peter Smith looking to re-introduce British animals


 European Beaver in their living quarters at Wildwood nr Canterbury, Kent, 14th January 2013.

WHEN you think of the stereotypical nature enthusiast with a passion for protecting endangered species and safeguarding the natural environment, a former boxer, turned nightclub bouncer, charity chief and revolutionary economist, is unlikely to be the vision which springs to mind.

Yet Peter Smith is the unorthodox man at the helm of the Wildwood Trust - a charity dedicated to the conservation and re-introduction of British wildlife. It also runs what is rapidly becoming one of the country’s most popular wildlife parks.

The idea of the park is not only to educate, explained Mr Smith, but to take visitors back to a time when the UK was rich in animal species; from wolves to wild horses and from lynx to lizards.


 A wolf walks stealthily through the woods at Wildwood nr Canterbury, Kent, 14th January 2013. 


Set in Wealden Forest between Canterbury and Herne Bay, the Wildwood Trust began life as a small nature reserve almost 30 years ago, created by a former director of tree supplier English Woodlands, Terry Stnaford.

It then began gathering a small collection of animals, and, as Brambles, established a reputation for itself as a small scale zoo. But 1999, and following some sizeable investment, it became the Wildwood Discovery Centre.

It was not all plain sailing, however, and within three years, the business model was failing to break even and with the Support of local MP Sir Roger Gale the decision was taken to become a charity - and the Wildwood Trust was born.



 A dormouse asleep in the rescue and breeding programme facilities at Wildwood nr Canterbury, Kent, 14th January 2013. 

Kent businessman Ken West and Peter Smith, a conservation scientist with a proven track record of charity management, stepped forward to turn the park into a charity. Today it is one of the most vibrant in the county - welcoming a steady flow of visitors, school parties and establishing itself as a vocal exponent of the benefits of a flourishing British wildlife scene.


From some 30,000 visitors in 2002 it now attracts 130,000. “Ken West is a self made man and a very good businessman. He was a trustee of Kent Wildlife Trust and while I was working there we had this mad idea to take over Wildwood.

“My background is as a very successful charity manager. I had worked for a number of charities and turned them around. “At the Kent Wildlife trust, I helped to put the systems in place to quadruple their income, and at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust I helped to treble their income while I was there.” The Wildwood charity has since grown into a 40-acre site producing turnover that has risen from £160,000-per-year to £1.6million.

But building the park was never about money. Explains the 43-year-old: “It came out of a wish to do charitable things and to save wildlife, not to build a zoo. “We wanted to obtain the skills for managing re-introduction projects and large scale habitat restoration using animals like beavers and wild horses.” Mr Smith, who is about to become a father for the second time, was one of the key players in the successful project to re-introduce the European beaver to a piece of marshland known as Ham Fen, near Sandwich, during the 2000s. The beavers were placed there to help manage the land by keeping the waterways clear, coppicing trees and controlling vegetation, more than 100 years since they were hunted to the brink of extinction.

But, as Mr Smith explained, these projects cannot take place without the healthy running of the park. He said: “We derive our money from people visiting us. We have become very popular because we try to show off the animals in a nice way and we have some really good charitable objectives. “We do such good work that people like to be associated with it. They join as members and that is where we get our money. It’s our membership that is key, not our gate receipts.” And the membership is by no means expensive. For £7 a month, a family can gain limitless access to the park which normally costs just a few pence under £10 for a single adult entry.


When he first arrived, the self-proclaimed “nerd” set about acquiring old computers and re-building them into modern machines able to run a membership database “at no cost to the charity”. And it is this entrepreneurial streak that Mr Smith continues to follow, introducing the sponsorship, or adoption if you will, of certain Wildwood animals and installing a children’s education and fun centre.


He said: “Wildwood has grown from a solid understanding of business and the will to educate people and to get them involved in helping other wildlife organisations.” Under Mr Smith, the Wildwood Trust team has already outlined two prospective sites for new parks  to continue their battle to save British nature. “We have continued to grow steadily over the years. And the plan is to get more land and create more Wildwoods elsewhere,” he explains The ecologist was also one of the first to complete an the MSc conservation biology course at the University of Kent’s successful Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE).

He has amassed even more degrees since, achieving an MBA (Master of Business Administration) as well as an MA qualification in marketing, DICE is well known for the scientific research of its alumni into nature and conservation and the impact of humanity on the wild. Originally from Northumberland, Mr Smith moved to Kent to study at the DICE. His career path then kept him here. He said: “I wanted to work with wildlife and I initially studied biochemistry at university in Birmingham to learn about nature and how it works. I always thought I was going to have a scientific career and was fascinated by evolutionary biology. But when I got to the point of becoming a scientist, I didn’t want all the politics that came with it. “Science is an incredibly arcane world and incredibly nepotistic in some ways. And I just wanted to save nature.

“So when the conservation biology course at Canterbury opened, I jumped. It was a brand new science, there was no way to study nature conservation science in that detail anywhere else. That was the first place to do it so it was all very avant garde at the time.”

But his academic path was not easy as unfortunately his coal mining father had lost his job, he was left with a cash flow problems during his academic career. He said: “I went to the library and studied the ways I could possibly get money to go there (DICE). My parents weren't rich and my father was going through the miners’ strike and was made unemployed while I was at university. “So have also payed my way by becoming a bouncer. Fortunately my other talent was that I was actually an amateur boxer and I had a second degree black belt in taekwondo.” So he would spend his day researching how to save animals and nature while at night he was throwing drunken revellers out of the local student union bar. “But I was a good bouncer because I didn't beat people up and I wasn't malicious. I didn’t have an axe to grind, but I wouldn't say that for all the bouncers I worked with.”

Back in the current day and Wildwood is relentless in its green approach to sustainability. Mr Smith has introduced solar panels on to the main buildings to produce electricity and heat water for the showers and toilet blocks. And they have also erected a 20kw wind turbine on site to generate juice for the needs of the 50 permanent employees and the canteen. But it is the animals at the park that get the best treatment.

There are more than 200 animals, native to Britain, set in the ancient woodland park – many of which are critically endangered. “Look at the European bison,” he reflects. “They came so close to extinction. There were less than 100 left in the world. But just after the First World War a few scientists had the foresight to save that beautiful animal. It has walked the Earth for millions of years and played a very important function and we nearly snuffed it out. There are now 3,500 of them in nature reserves and we are honoured to have three males here.”

The park displays species that most will recognise as native to Britain such as the badger or the fox, but Mr Smith is keen to show the public exactly what would have been roaming our shores less than 1,000 years ago – with one very ferocious attraction due for arrival soon. “We have been working for a number of years to bring the European brown bear to Wildwood, and it looks like it is going to happen in the near future.”

The re-introduction programmes are a top priority with Mr Smith. He is backing a group of scientists looking to re-populate Scottish highlands with the lynx, for example. He explains: “There is no reason not introduce the lynx, because they are not a danger to humans. “They are a danger to sheep, but we shouldn’t be farming these upland areas.” Mr Smith explained there are areas in the Scottish forests where there are too many deer, partly because keepers are breeding them to be hunted as game and partly because there are now no natural carnivores left in Britain. He adds: “Lynx disperse deer. It’s not that they kill many; it’s just that they move them on. That makes the grazing pressure light enough for the re-growth of all those lovely Caledonian wooded habitats that we used to have. So re-introducing the lynx would be a good thing.” Admitting not everyone agrees with his theory, he firmly believes he has found the best way to the end the disappearance of the countryside.

He explains: “The biggest problem in nature conservation is land ownership. How can you get hold of land for nature conservation? You can’t, it costs a fortune. And the more money you raise for conservation, guess what happens, the price of the land goes up. “No matter how much money nature conservations earn, or how much money the Government sets aside for nature conservation, it isn’t saving wildlife.”

To halt the decline, Mr Smith said a classic economist philosophy worked out by the likes of pioneeering economists Adam Smith and Henry George, and even promoted by Winston Churchill, should be deployed. “We need a system where we have a land value tax,” he explains, “so we tax people’s land rather than their income; that would solve the problem easily and wouldn’t hurt the economy.

 “Taxing all of nature’s assets, like oil, coal and the ability to pollute will mean that hurting nature is expensive because it’s taxed. “It would mean we would not use the nature we don’t need to. People will develop industries to use less water, less land, less coal, less oil and it would work perfectly. “The way things are now there will be no land left. There is so much money to be made by owning land, everybody wants a piece of it and no one wants to leave it alone.”

Mr Smith also has an axe to grind with Government subsidising farmers to bring rough areas of land into food production while disregarding the impact on British wildlife. He said: “Farmers get paid billions of pounds a year in subsidies to use marginal land that is really of no economic worth. “I am talking about upland sheep farming, rocky areas, river valleys and flood plains that we shouldn’t be farming anyway. We actually spend more money to get food off of it, than its worth. It’s not like we are starving to death, so we don’t need the land. “If we bring about 30 per cent of the marginal land out of production, we could restore all of the nature we need and have beautiful habitats and eco-systems.” Having worked at the wildlife trusts of Scotland, Gloucestershire and Kent,

Mr Smith considers himself perfectly placed to give expert opinion on both wildlife and the state of the country’s nature conservation. He is a regular contributor to popular BBC programmes like Countryfile and Springwatch and is no stranger to providing expert comment on both local and national issues. He said: “Why do the BBC like me? It’s not because I am particularly interesting or tell good stories, it’s because I am utterly, 100 per cent, dedicated to protecting wildlife and humanity. And it is good to get the exposure for Wildwood.” While there is no denying

Mr Smith is extremely confident, he is not brash or overbearing - insisting that informing me his IQ is an impressive 180 is not showing off, merely underlining that he should be listened to. Peter states his intelligence is from the autistic spectrum and he believes his determined and unrelenting nature has driven him to research and discover the past and future of British wildlife in microscopic detail.

He said: “I have little emotional intelligence, so I am not very good at keeping people happy all the time, but I am good at what I do. “I don’t particularly want to be rebel, but I just don’t care about other people’s opinions. I like facts and figures. My life journey has been about how to protect nature and I have learned the skills needed to do so.”

His talks to visitors in the park, and their internet reviews, are proof enough that his enthusiasm is infectious, and as he will tell you, the numbers of people that keep coming back don’t lie. Mr Smith’s push to get the European beaver, the British red squirrel and Scottish wildcat show his determination to give native animals a second chance on these shores, while Wildwood’s captive breeding and release programme for the British water vole has been described as “species saving”.

But Mr Smith says there is no limits to what the Wildwood Trust can achieve. He added: “Nature needs animals to shape it. And if you don’t have animals shaping nature, the plants don’t grow in the right way and you have much less insects, birds, fungus, plants, flowers and bees. This is what is known as 'Rewilding'.

 “Everything depends on a complexity of nature. Britain needs big herbivores munching, beavers creating wetlands and wild horses managing grass areas - all sorts of complex, wild eco-systems.

 And that’s why we wanted to create Wildwood, because other wildlife trusts were a little too conservative for those grand visions. But I am not.”