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, 9 May 2015

Vote for theft from our children & the planet.

I run a zoo, the Wildwood Trust, not a normal zoo to be sure, but a zoo. We do great work in education, conservation and promote rewilding. Nearly all the people I know support the work we do however rabidly anti zoo  they are & I was rabidly anti zoo until I wanted to reintroduce beavers - then I need one. So wildwood Trust was born to help conservationists with rewilding projects. Many of our animals are rescued and we try very hard to give them the best of care.

On social media a commentator posed me the Question that the  Green Party & Labour Party would ban zoos  and this would somehow lessen my distress at the election outcome.

My response:

Animals should only be in captivity if they are well looked after and serve a legitimate purpose for conservation & education. And there is nothing wrong with good regulation of zoos (as a Zoo manager & Green party supporter myself) Sure there are people who would ban them and they have a right to hold that view. But I never got in this business to be the next Barnum & would be happy to see more stringent regulation.
As for the election - my faith in people has been once again sorely tested - these Tory Dominionists will enact legislation that will diminish biodiversity & most of that is because of the the economic processes of giving kickbacks and tax dodges to their rich land owning supporters. The fundamental lie in the Tory party is that they support wealth for those that work. They do not and mostly support wealth for those that do not work to create it, through promoting monopoly income for those that hold unproductive assets (mostly land) or gamble in the financial industry. The support the Tories give to rentiers (those that make money from monopoly by renting things they 'own') utterly dwarfs the amount of money we spend on welfare for the unemployed;  these monopolies, rob our economy of jobs, wealth & make the lives of us all more difficult and give a perverse incentive to destroy our natural environment. 
These monopolies destabilise the very fabric of our society promoting crime and despair and the fear that lies at the heart of so many of their voters. They are not pro business - they are pro theft; from us, our children & the planet. The endless tax breaks to keep house prices high is a monumental theft from our children destroying their lives, as is our destruction of the natural environment. How can we get those that voted Tory last thursday to take on board that responsibility (and the Blair Brown years was little better)? How can we establish a rule of law that stops the colossal theft we are perpetrating on the young people of today, from our children and our wildlife?
The solution as ever is to Tax rent seeking and environmental destruction and take away the massive burden of taxes and economic rent that blight the lives of British 'hard working families' , Share the rents and protect nature is an anathema to the Tory leadership and why they are unfit to represent this country.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Will Land Value Tax destroy that Birdie in My Garden?

A commentator on this blog was very worried that LVT will destroy gardens and the wildlife that lives there. This is an interesting question - my response is below:

There are many gardens that are rubbish for wildlife so we have to be able to distinguish between the two and incentivise biodiversity in gardens and areas of land that are designated as gardens and recreation spaces within cities. Our current system does not do this and this would not change under a 'pure' LVT system - the incentives would not change.

LVT does value nature as land that no one can pay the LVT on will go back to nature as we only need so much land. At present all the economic incentives push us to use every bit of land we have however inefficiently and destroy the wild on it to pursue whatever use, however uneconomic, or useless to society.

LVT is a very efficient, and 'holistic'  system but is not perfect which is why we should have externality taxes (taxes on things that damage the environment, society or people) and planning laws. So to achieve more wildlife in gardens you could simply have a scheme which monitored the biodiversity of a garden - say an assessment the landowner must pay for from the local Wildlife Trust, and if obtained allowed a rebate on your LVT. This would also be for landowners across the UK for farmland etc. This could be incorporated in the periodic Land Value Assessment as well. But LVT kind of does this automatically on farmland as explained above as land which is difficult to farm all comes out of production and 'rewilds'.

BUT we could do that today!  a wildlife rebate on Council tax for the same ecological benefit!

LVT is based on the value of the rental value of land and permitted use, houses with gardens are more expensive but only a little bit more so the tax would only be a bit higher on gardens.   - you would still need planning permission & the pressures for development are really unchanged as the uplift in rental value accrue to the present owner if developed or to us all, through tax, in a LVT system. The pressure is the same.

So if you did get planning permission to build a house in your garden the rental value would shoot up - say the rental value of a garden in london is £500 per year but a house may be £20,000 per year for the same area of land

I agree in our terrible state of ecology gardens are useful for wildlife, also LVT would get rid of brownfield site which are often very 'good' for wildlife in our ecologically depauperate landscape. But it is still very poor for biodiversity and the view that clinging on to a tiny proportion of a very poor ecological habitat to stop a programme that could create massive increases in complex biodiversity and promote renewal and maximisation of utility of the buildings we have (more people happy using less land) and promote energy efficiency and the use of less environmentally damaging inputs would be ecological madness (you have to think in the total not the tiny!, the aggregate & not what is in front of our eyes!). Also I very much doubt LVT would get rid of that many 'gardens' except in inner cities and even then it would promote inner city eco grids for good biodiversity.

LVT would make land much cheaper and allow for local government to designate and acquire land for nature corridors and grids within cities, landowners would be less inclined to cling to the privilege of land title like grim death wich is the big problem with such programmes as implementing eco grids and urban rewilded water systems for flood prevention & storage.  Local authorities could invest in useful eco grids as the uplift in land value surrounding such eco grids (and the ecosystem services they give such as flood mitigation and recreation) would pay for the purchase and upkeep though the LVT of the surrounding areas that benfit.

The benefits of gardens and parks accrue to the landowners and neighbours in the value of their properties as it is a nicer area and devalues the properties if too developed so there is and exchange going on. LVT would socialize this exchange  and the local authority is not incentivised to build on parks as the total take would be unchanged by building on nice gardens that lower overall rental values etc.

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