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

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Getting a Job in Wildlife Conservation

I gave a lecture on careers advice to my old Academic Institute to PhD Students this week. At the lecture I was presented with an article that I wrote over 20 years ago on finding employment after my Masters course there (see below):

Video of Lecture:

obviously the 'in-joke' will be lost on most

My Job Hunting Statistics 6 months after leaving DICE in 1994 ( UK in Recession a bit like today)

Speculative applications                                214
Job applications                                             357
Job interviews                                                5
PhD applications                                           67
PhD interviews                                               8
Jobs or PhDs offered                                      0

(Or Working for Free: The Perils of Being a Volunteer)
By Peter Smith

Since leaving the DICE family nest I've tried in vain to get that ·"job in international conservation" or start my meteoric rise to become the next Charles Darwin. So I decided to offer my services free of charge while supported by our much burdened tax payers. Firstly, I did some work for the Northumbrian Centre for Ecology, but identifying leaf hoppers is not to my taste. As I'm interested in conservation genetics, these silly little protein machines which surround the genome hold little interest for me. 

But there is another side to conservation which is probably the most important and that's raising money and campaigning, which I am interested in. So I sent my C.V. to every conservation organisation in the country. Along with a number of dubious offers of voluntary work filling envelopes or sitting around in a field banging fence poles into the ground, I received an offer from Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) to compile the "Head On Collision (Scotland)" report. Guess what! I had to be interviewed for this. So eventually, off to Edinburgh I went... Talk about being dropped in at the deep end, Christ I thought . I was back at DICE trying to organise my dissertation!!! Not only was I not paid but I had to do all the fund raising myself to pay for publishing, travel, and administration costs. But this was nothing compared to the horror that was awaiting me at the scenic and beautiful headquarters of SWT. Yes folks, NO DESK!

Can you imagine the pain and humiliation of working in an office of high flying conservation professionals with the indignity of not having your own desk. Thankfully all the boxing training I did at Canterbury was not in vain for now I descended into a pit of neo-social darwinistic experimentation and fought tooth and claw with my fellow volunteers to secure my desk space. I was of course triumphant and after many battles the best desk and computer were mine. I have the most efficient Nth dimensional hyper volume, I am the Alpha male, Silverback Smith rides again, and nobody can say "Nuaulu" to me and get away with it! Now I'm working on getting my boss' job and he knows it! Distant glances across the computer strewn office, the worried looks on our secretaries' faces, a still calm atmosphere punctuated only by the tapety-tap of keyboards, all show the underlining tension, a new dominance battle is about to commence, and I'm not the one with beads of sweat appearing on my forehead, In fact, I'm sure we're being observed by a number of behavioural anthropologists and a BBC wildlife camera team, is that the distant voice of Sir David I hear ...

"Here, situated in the most exclusive suburbs of Scotland's capital, nestling in its palatial grounds, lies Cramond House, headquarters of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In this most idyllic of offices there is a titanic struggle, leviathans of the most competitive of all professions are locked in mortal combat. We see before us a system analogous to a troupe of baboons on the high African plains. There is the dominant male, surveying his territory (tall, semi-bearded figure, feverishly typing, looks around office). 
A vicious looking challenger whom we have named Peeta circles the troop leader's position (large bear-like Geordie looks menacingly at said bearded conservation professional), enviously watching. The fixed stare of this young usurper scrutinises his adversary, the gaze only broken by quick glances at the copy of Machiavelli he holds close to his chest. The pretender, awaiting his opportunity to break into a torrent of mindless violence and destruction, usurping the old order and entering a new age under the iron fist of his rule, his domination. ..

As the months draw on, and I am into my second major temperate forest's worth of rejection letters, there has been a new development, an interview in the next office for a job! Can it be, yours truly getting an actual paid job. Can the alpha male of the volunteers make it to the next stage and enter the domain of the conservation professional? The saga continues ... 

Well, my fellow DICE alumni, let me take you back to when we all first met. Young and naive at that little reception, and old Uncle Swingland standing on a chair giving us his little speech about all DICE students getting jobs. Of course he was right, but he neglected one little bit off that sentence: most of us won't get paid, and the ones who do get paid will be saying "is that extra mozzarella sir!"
As yet another year of competitors - whoops I mean fellow DICE graduates - begin to make themselves felt on the Job Market, let us take succour in the knowledge that every tuppence ha'penny academic establishment is churning out thousands of suckers - I mean Conservation MSc graduates. 

But as biologists we know the importance of natural selection, so in this vein may I suggest what the DICE Alumni Association should be about: 'Jobs for the boys', or as they call it now 'effective networking'. The sad truth of course is that I'm loving it here at SWT, and get along with everybody in the office. So DICE has given me a number of opportunities, and I hope the rest of the DICE alumni are enjoying their career advancement as much as I am. Send me a xmas card and happy job hunting, we will all get there in the end.

Scottish Wildlife Trust, Cramond House, Kirk Cramond,
Cramond Glebe Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH4 6NS.

"Everyone who does this course gets a job in
international conservation"
Prof. Ian R Swingland, October 1993,
standing on a chair at the DICE M.Sc.
Conservation Biology welcoming party.

"The young chicks may be eaten by flying predators
such as rabbits"
Dr. Massimo F-andolfi, October 1993, on the
ecology of the ground-nesting Montague's
Harrier (either he meant 'raptors' or they have
some pretty ferocious rabbits in Italy!).

"Mating usually occurs after the cow shit"
Dr. Massimo Pandolfi, October 1993, on the
breeding biology of the Montague's Harrier
(we think he meant 'courtship'?).

"Hunter-gatherers live by hunting and gathering"
Dr. Roy Ellen, February 1994, Lecture 3 in the
Human Ecology course.

Dr. Roy Ellen, February 1994, throughout the
Human Ecology course.

"If you are small there is more of you"
Melissa McDonald (M. Sc. student 94/95)
explaining biodiversity indices.

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