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, 31 October 2015

Leave it to Beaver - How Rewilding Stops Flooding

Video & Blurb from my Recent lecture at Flood Expo 2015


Peter Smith - Rewilding Expert: Speaking at The Flood Expo 2015
Beavers, wild horses and even wolves can cut the costs of flood defence and all this can be achieved by saving the taxpayer a fortune


Peter is an ecologist and founder and Chief Executive of the Wildwood Trust and has been for the past 13 years. Wildwood Trust was created to champion practical `re-wilding` projects using animal like Beavers and wild horses in ecological restoration projects. On top of running the charity Peter leads a successful consultancy specialising in mitigating and restoring wetland habitat for water voles. Peter also acts as a consultant to `rewilding` schemes, giving advice to Government agencies and leading wildlife charities.

Peter is a regular commentator on wildlife matters in the media and has developed and taken part in a number of popular wildlife television series and is often seen as a guest on BBC`s Countryfile and Springwatch programmes.

Peter has increasingly developed an interest in economics and how economic policy is at the root of issues such as wildlife loss and flooding.

The issue of flooding are very complex, more than what present debates encompass. We have to look at climate and land use change. Changes in agriculture (and built up areas) but mostly agriculture have changed the way water moves through catchments. The best statistical analysis has yet to demonstrate any change in waterfall in the last 100 years in the UK (there are statistically significant changes in the last 30 years or so). But land use changes have been chiefly responsible for the increased risk of both peak and low flows in our water courses.

The fundamental issue is to use the lands ability to hold and store water efficiently to buffer peak and low flows and how it is absorbed into aquifers both in our situation today and if climate change does bring about significant changes in rainfall peaks.

This will be most efficiently achieved through rewilding of upland catchments and key flood plains using a model based on the best knowledge of both fluvial geomorphology and economics to determine where best to designate land for absorbing peak rainfall and allowing flood storage, especially before water reaches towns and cities in high risk areas.

Economics will tell us where land is poorly used but we need fiscal economic mechanisms to make this process efficient. This will be best achieved through fiscal measures such as the removal of agricultural subsidies for poor quality farmland and the tax shift to land value taxes which is proposed by leading economists.

Also to efficiently allow such a compensation and mitigation systems to work a 'Land Value Tax' should replace business rates and other taxes' this means economically important areas will increase in value, thanks to flood prevention and mitigation, allowing an increased tax take which can then fund mitigation work while at the same time reducing the taxes on poor quality land that is used for flood stores or is better able to absorb rainfall.

Land Value taxes and other pigovian taxes such as a fee charged on all water abstraction (so called tax and dividend systems) will allow an economically efficient & fair system to allow access to water cheaply for all but make water use efficient by internalising costs in overuse, farming, goods and services of its limited supply. Such a system would also fund the work of the Environment Agency without the need of over-stressing the taxpayer!

Land Value & pigovian tax shifts (e.g. taxes on CO2 commissions) will limit and mitigate climate change in themselves as they will put costs on CO2 emissions & allow wild land restoration & other extensive land use systems to sequester carbon back into soils. Removal of subsidies so land below the margin of production comes out of wasteful economic use to form rewilded catchments and restored flood plains can massively increase the lands ability to sequester carbon. My work indicates this could equal the total CO2 emissions of the UK.

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