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, 25 June 2016

BREXIT: Why Land Value Tax can kill Fascists & Save the Planet….

Or….. J'accuse....! Why the Guardian columnists have created BREXIT and the rise of the new fascists of the west & the calamity of environmental destruction…..

Brexit has caused outrage among the established commentators of the Gruaniad today and they are all missing the point and only have themselves to blame. A bold and unfair accusation, but hear me out & I shall explain why I accuse some of the best educated and most thoughtful social commentators on politics and the environment. I voted Remain but I also have serious reservations about Europe and now want the Left, Liberal and caring Conservatives to own up to their mistakes and fix them fast. If we do not the ugly rise of fascism and environmental collapse is a real possibility.

In this blog I liken my message to the Guardian columnists like the pleas of Tolstoy to Tsarist Russia, Michael Fl├╝rscheim to the German Imperium or Churchill and Lloyd-George to the British Empire. Only a Land Value Tax can save us from the populous turning to extremism or the elites turning to conflict and war.

After reading the Guardian Columns by Damian Carrington & Poly Toynbee today I am writing this blog to say I accuse! I accuse you both of being at the centre of why this country voted for Brexit and that your ill-informed opinions are creating the very thing you campaign against, the rise of the far right, growing social inequality, environmental destruction & the propensity to wage war on the world for resources and power.

UK's out vote is a 'red alert' for the environment, Damian Carrington:

Dismal, lifeless, spineless – Jeremy Corbyn let us down again, Polly Toynbee:

The problem with leaders, whether it is a politician our guardian columnist is they want be seen to be a ‘leader’ and be responsible for solutions, enacted by rule & law, when what we really need to do is implant policies that create the incentives, the very legal and economic topology, for everyone to be rewarded for being a caring neighbour, hardworking risk taker and steward of our natural heritage. Actions that destroy the environment, rob people of jobs and stop us looking after others should be not rewarded economically but penalised.

But our legal system and culture cannot change the fact that we, under our current economic rules, are disadvantaged when we do charitable work, our wages are cut when we welcome asylum seekers and immigrants, and can become instant millionaire if we get a right to exploit natural resources or planning permission to build a house on land we own.  The incentives are all wrong and none of the political establishment are ready to tackle the vested interests that are benefiting from this system or acknowledge the poor who are suffering because of it.

If I discuss this with my working class family members they are outraged because they too see me as a Guardian reading middle class lefty. To them the Guardian readers are the very manifestation of hypocrisy and privilege, wanting lower wages for their plumbers and nannies, while at the same time wanting their houses to rise in value or the speculative gains from in Buy to let property?

There silly solutions of taxing workers to provide social services to counteract the effects of immigration are treated with scepticism by the working classes and rightly so.

As best explained by Leo Tolstoy, perhaps even a more fervent exponent of Land Value Tax than myself:
“I sit on a man's back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.”
Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)
Tolstoy understood that land value tax had the solution to the rising tensions in pre-revolutionary Russian and pleaded with the nobility and the Tsar’s chief advisors to implement this policy in a letter to Prince L. D. Urusov he pleaded:

“If the new Tsar [Nicholas II] would ask me what I would advise him to do, I would say to him: use your autocratic power to abolish the land property in Russia and to introduce the Land Value Tax system; and then give up your power and [grant] the people a liberal constitution.”

Tolstoy said in another letter which foretold the calamity of revolution and the rise of extremists:
“People do not argue with the teachings of Henry George, they simply do not know it. ... He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.”
“Of all indispensable alterations of the forms of social life there is in the life of the world one which is most ripe. ... The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to a degree of perfection that under the existing state organisation and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any better, more just, practical and peaceful solution.”
“Quite difficult matters can be explained even to a slow-witted man, if only he has not already adopted a wrong opinion about them; but the simplest things cannot be made clear even to a very intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, and knows indubitably, the truth of the matter under consideration.”
“The only thing now that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the Land Value Taxation system of Henry George. The land is common to all; all have the same right to it. Solving the land question means the solving of all social questions.... Possession of land by people who do not use it is immoral — just like the possession of slaves.”

Yes the working classes do not want handouts, they do not want welfare, what they want is that their labour is valued and the cost of living is affordable. This is the fundamental message we are getting from Brexit campaigners across Europe and the rise of Donald Trump in the states.  But because our political & social leadership has failed us so badly, the frightened working classes are running into the arms of demagogues like Trump, Farage, Le Pen and Geert Wilders, just as they ran into the clutches of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini when social tensions rose to fever pitch when wages stagnated and a financial system based on banking/high land prices collapsed.

So to, our environment and wildlife do not want endless government grants funding cushy jobs or grants to pay for ‘signs or wildlife art installations. What our wildlife and environment need more than any European Habitats Directive, Water Frameworks Directive, Carbon Trading scheme or a host of other bureaucratic nonsense is to be not abused. What our wildlife and environment needs is to have their habitats left alone, to stop polluting the land and air? What our environment needs is a way for us to all stop benefiting from its abuse. 

The only logical way to do this is to make charges and put taxes on the use and abuse of land and the natural environment, this will do more than any complicated directive or law as we will not incentivise people to circumvent these policies and laws, it will push everyone into finding new ways to increase the efficiency of land use, leave land for nature, it will incentivise business and people to pollute less and find new ways to protect the environment as they will financially benefit  from doing so.

Our political establishment – both left and right tell us of the benefits of immigration, rejoice in economic growth and welcome the ever increasing costs of housing. Yet they all rob the poor and funnel money into the pockets of the wealthy and privileged irrespective of their political affiliations.
Thankfully the solution to what caused people to vote for leaving Europe and rejecting immigration is the same solution to the problems of social inclusion, jobs, economic success & environmental protection is all the same: LAND VALUE TAX!

The tax shift to reclaim economic rents as our tax base, taking taxes off of those who work and aspire to work will fulfil both the stated objectives of all our main political parties, but they are too afraid of the vested interests who are farming our economy of the economic rent of monopoly and the killings to be made destroying our environment and misusing land.

To enhance social inclusion Land Value Taxes will drastically reduce housing and welfare costs. This will allow us to take taxes off productive businesses and jobs causing an explosion in the value of labour, increasing both jobs & wages. This positive cycle will decrease the costs of housing, welfare, crime and the distress shown when we welcome asylum seekers and immigrants to our island home.

The swivel eyed loons lead by George Galloway, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have captured the fundamental truth that no one wishes to mention, immigration really does push down wages for the poorest, but what is more it forces up living costs mostly through housing. Letting these demagogues capture public support is an extreme betrayal of our established politics. The stupidity and lazy intellectual opinions of our elites could lead us to the calamity of a rise of fascism and an acceleration of environmental collapse.

The centre ground are quick to tell us immigration does improve our economy & I agree it does, but who receives the benefits of that economic growth. The recipients of this free handout are landowners, landlords and those that employ people for less wages.

So if you are a progressive socially minded person who welcomes helping others and protecting our environment you better start advocating Land Value Taxes & the elites need to own up to their selfish motivation protecting their privilege….

Saturday, 4 June 2016

#voterbeaver – a plague on both Britain & Europe

#voterbeaver – a plague on both Britain & Europe

An amusing internet meme is trending on Twitter after a vandalised sign was  rewritten to spell ‘Vote Beaver’ instead of ‘Vote Leave’. This caused those of us in the rewilding movement a great deal of fun and I myself have been guilty of spreading this meme.

But the European argument is much more serious and the vote later this month could spell doom for the humble British beaver. The powers that be across the land in nature conservation are readying documents to give the free beavers of Britain full legal protection, this is vital if their number is to multiply and spread, breathing life back into our rivers, protecting us from flooding and delivering us from the blight of poisoned rivers, poisoned by agricultural pollution. Legally protected beavers will restore desiccated and destroyed wetlands, drained and scalped into a wildlife deserts by our stupid laws, taxation systems and subsidies to landowners.

Europe has given us some very good legislation, especially the habitats directive which has done more to protect wildlife in Britain than any legislation devised by our timid Houses of Parliament. The benefits of Europe to people can be easily seen in legislation to protect workers’ rights and our environment.

But at the heart of Europe lies the deep evil and that evil is based around five issues:

  1. A taxation system based on taxing the productive economy through higher taxes on incomes and high taxes on trade through a value-added tax. This tax system, with its complications, is how the poor are made poorer. This tax system allows those with land and ownership of natural resources to exploit them inefficiently. Landowners and rentiers of all kinds can sit and milk the productive hard-working people of Europe and the profits to be gained from destroying our natural environment.
  2. A monetary system that allows private banks to create money as debt which in turn leads to the creation of money to fund property speculation and inefficient use of natural resources
  3. Land subsidies, mostly in the form of agricultural subsidies which are directly responsible for the destruction of vast swathes of our wild land.  Making landowners push into production the most marginal of land. This policy has seen the destruction of wildlife across Europe as we have driven our wild areas to extinction. Britain has been uniquely bad in this respect compared to our continental cousins and Brexit does not promise a reprieve.
  4. Stupid laws, these are often not the laws that are ridiculed in our tabloid press, not the bendy bananas!  but the laws that really do subvert society and make all of our lives worse. Examples of these silly laws that introduce things like palm oil as a biofuel where we destroy the last equatorial forests and the homes of orang-utans in a perverted environmental law aimed at reducing fossil fuel use, when it does nothing of the sort. Legislation on carbon trading is again a grotesque perversion in using a so-called environmental law to create a system that will allow the European corporate elites to suck the wealth out of the poor when achieving nothing to combat global warming and reducing harmful polluting emissions.
  5. Immigration: immigration and the free movement of people is a noble gesture but in the UK without adequate housing the perversity of immigration forces the wages of the poorest people down and their living costs up through high rents and house prices. The rich benefit and the poor suffer but none in our timid labour party will admit that and put in place the changes needed that will allow us to receive the benefits of immigration. I believe it is a noble goal to integrate the people of this world, but if we are to achieve it we need an economic system that allows the increased economic activity of our multicultural world not to rob the poorest and the hardest working and that can only be achieved by taking away the benefits to the elites through higher rents for land and other forms of monopoly and having a taxation system that does not penalised workers but gives them back the benefits of sharing our land with people from the rest of Europe and the world. This can only be achieved through a tax shift to land value taxes, providing council housing to all in need and taxing away other monopolies and redistribute such taxes equally to all, so everyone can share and enjoy the benefits of welcoming new people to our country.

So my real problem is I feel like Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, I am forced to say a “plague on both your houses”. Our choice in the forthcoming referendum on the membership of the European Union is a Hobson’s choice.

What do we have to vote for, a Europe whose rules and regulations enforce an economic system that will systematically rob the poor and our environment? But has thrown us some scraps of legislation that protect the poorest and environment better than what our so-called parliament has ever been able to give us.

Independence could give us the chance to reclaim our government and deliver economic and environmental justice to bring in land value taxes and pollution taxes and to get rid of the harmful taxes that are levied upon us and thus stimulate a revolution for the poor and our environment. Such a change would see Britain wild again, the increased wealth of our poor letting them enjoy the growing natural resources that will reclaim our land and banish the dead hand of the rent seekers and landowners whose heinous grip blights our lives.

But independence will be unlikely to give us that and a dangerous group of brexit campaigners are more likely to enact legislation that will damage our economy and our ecology and lead us on a path to poverty and environmental destruction.

When we look at the benefits of European membership in legislation and political system, it has attempted to give us laws that have protected the poor and have kept us on the road to peace and prosperity, but ultimately it has been subverted so that it has given the benefits to a corporate, banking and landowning European elite.

I want to have a referendum that lets me vote to protect the weakest, to give assistance to the most vulnerable, to educate, to protect people in need and to create a vibrant economy that will provide the resources to achieve this. I want to vote to rewild Europe and to rewild Britain with 40% of our land surface given to wildlife and not to be destroyed by inefficient farming or landowners shaving the land bare so they can shoot game birds or indulge other passions of dominion. But those in both the Leave and Remain camps will not give me that opportunity.

So I am torn on which way to vote this month, to risk the possible loss of legal protection for the wonderful beavers of Britain, and enable a mad bunch of misguided racists, proto-fascists and right-wingers to gain control of our Government. Or to continue to tie our hands to an economic system that enshrines poverty and environmental loss whatever laws are passed to protect it.

So what advice do I have to give to the voters of the UK? To spoil my ballot by having VOTE BEAVER scrawled across it or to choose between the lesser of the two evils?

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