The thoughts behind the Renegade Ecologist

From my 30 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, 25 July 2011

Trophic Level downgrading of planet Earth - part 2 II

Good comparison!
Crucial thing is to get across idea that it's capitalism - wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a few who get their welkath and power not buy woirking for it but just because they own the land and the other 'means of production' - that causes trouble, not the market economy in itself. The defenders of capitalism have been pushing the idea that the two are the same thing, but capitalism is a parasitic form of market economy. 

Rowan – you hit the nail on the head – Monopoly and the private extraction of a ‘fee’ for the use of mother nature’s bounty lies at the heart of our economic (and environmental) problems. Our Government must collect the ‘economic rents’ of the earth’s gifts to man and not allow it to fall into private hands for free. The free market of our economy is like natural selection, it cannot be stopped and it is foolish to try and work against it, we must work with it and help its processes and value its richness. When we try to control nature or the economy we get vested interests gaming the system for their own private advantage, to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense. Such is the problem with our economy and legal system, it has a continuous pressure to adjust the legal environment to enshrine monopoly and advantage.

The worst example of this is environmental protection legislation which uses the well-meaning wishes of the populace to limit environmental damage, but the laws are framed in such a way as to increase the monopoly of those private interests that hold the economic rent of the natural resources in question, such is the problem of ‘carbon-trading’ which allows big industry and the private ownership of those resources the ability to further enshrine their monopoly and ownership and exclude competition. When all is needed is a simple tax on oil, gas and Coal, at point of extraction or entry to the country, to help reduce consumption and stimulate the free market to explore environmental friendly solutions which are now economically feasible thanks to the carbon- tax. As this reduces other taxes it would actually enhance our economic performance on the world stage.

Taking this further we see this concept at the heart of environmental economics, and what the great classical economist like Adam Smith, Henry George and David Ricardo warned us about, yet it is all forgotten and  brushed under the carpet by modern economists, news media and politicians desperate not upset the very powerful vested interests who pull their strings and fund their activities.

The solution to both issues is ‘land value tax’ where by a yearly rental charge is levied on all land, and natural resources, equal to the ‘economic rent’. This would allow all other taxes on wages and trade to be abolished. This would put a huge tax on those seeking to destroy natural processes by changing land use or extracting minerals. It would share all of our planets wealth out equally on a national basis and would not allow anyone to dodge their taxes.

Unfortunately all the policies of western governments in the UK and USA have been doing exactly the opposite as they have been lobbied to allow the ‘economic rent’ of land and the wealth of the planet to be privatised and go untaxed, enshrining the perpetual advantage of our ‘idol rich’. All taxes are taken from the most productive in society, stifling their efforts, and the margin of production is so high we have huge under employment and masses of people disenfranchised from our planets wealth and opportunities that can be created by that access.

The profits from the destruction of wildlife and natural processes goes untaxed and unfettered into the hands of the wealthy elite, while the efforts of conservationists and the hardworking majority of the population are penalised by at least 50% marginal tax rates.

It’s a big stitch up and many politicians are very aware of the process, but are powerless to prevent it as the careers of those who dare oppose this are destroyed and the general population are to dim to figure it out.

I have filmed a documentary film on this process and we aim to release the film at a screening in October.

Some further viewing – or go to

Professor Michael Hudson – on Economic Rent

My good friend – Fred Harrison on its role with international development:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Trophic Level downgrading of planet Earth

One thing evolutionary theory has to teach us of human ecology  is we are expanding Man’s ecological niche and any  occupier of the niches we expand into will be wiped out – hence our need to wipe out badgers… (see recent Government announcement to allow farmers to wipe out badgers in the South West of the UK) It is in our nature to focus on competition and eliminate it.

This is as true in human economics as it is in human ecology –modern 'neo-classical' free market economics is about the ability of the few to eliminate all competition and allow monopoly of trade and monopoly of ownership without taxation or any legal influence of other humans or other species.  Politicians are nobbled, laws bent and taxes dodged by the few so they can control more of the economy and reduced its ownership and ‘trophic levels’ as human ecology encompasses more of the trophic levels of the ecology of the planet.

As the neo-classicist monopolists expand so there will be less ‘trophic levels’ in nature and in our economy. Most large carnivores will disappear just as we will see the gradual elimination of upper working class, the middle class and upper middle class. The logical extension of this is we end up with many poor and a few super rich and that the planet ends up, with just humans, pests, pets and crops.

Our job as ecologists and conservationists is to ensure the free market of ecology can play out its rich game in as much diversity as possible(not be monolithic communists with rigid five year plans for our little nature reserves), and this should also be the objective of our politicians to ensure rich diversity in our economy, with dynamically changing ownership and control of  trade and ownership of natural resources, as it passes between those most able to make use of it and from generation to generation.

I have long been fascinated by the analogies between economic and ecological processes. 

How do we stop the Insect Apocalypse?

There have been a number of articles this week on the insect apocalypse, with some studies showing an 80% drop in insect numbers since the l...