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

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Price on Nature - can save us from environmental collapse & poverty, if done right

George Monbiot wrote another piece on his fears and distaste for the economic process promoted by some economists to calculate the economic value of nature and ecosystem services.  I have seen many criticisms of his approach from those that think he is an idealist and we must calculate a value of nature to help decision making so we can at least save some. I personally say a plague on both your houses as you are wrong and both right, but totally missing the point!

The UK government wants to put a price on nature – but that will destroy it

To me the real crux of the issue is are we going to make people pay a price to when they destroying nature, thus when priced correctly pushes us to destroy less nature and turn us from abusers of nature to conserveres. Those who abuse nature less in their activities such as farming or manufacturing will then out compete the abusers. We internalise the destruction of nature into our economic choices (also keep the laws that protect nature as well)

Further to this is the idea of using nature as a means of rent seeking by those that ‘own’ it. Monbiot has not elaborated on this but is right that if we undervalue nature we will go on abusing it in the current framework and dominant economic illusions held by governments and corporations, and may use this as a justification of further destruction.

I have discussed this with some members of the  Natural Capital Committee and they mostly are of a mind to funnel taxpayers cash to 'compensate' landowners and businesses for abusing nature less which is a travesty and only make us poorer and create a vastly unequal society of natural capital haves and have nots,. new landed barons to milk humanity's need for natural resources to live....

The simple solution is of course to transfer taxation off of incomes and trade and put it in the destruction of nature, best achieved by a Land Value Tax with surcharges for special natural value. So, destroying an ancient habitat become extremely expensive, prohibitively so. Land and natural resources become expensive to exploit and when not a 'true' economic benefit get left alone.

Taxation means we leave fossil fuels in the ground, we stop farming marginal habitat and it becomes wild again, we reduce the extraction of fresh water and it stops in rivers and wetland. Carbon will come out of the atmosphere and be sequestered back into the ground.

So get rid of subsidies for farmers and industry and tax the use of land & natural resources, proportionate to the damage their use causes. So special taxes and laws to prevent the destruction of high value habitats and dangerous pollution, and areas that provide specific ecosystem services such as flood prevention and carbon sequestration.

These taxes need to embody future destruction, and not at any ‘discount rate’, also land taxes should be yearly taxes so we properly value that destruction in the future and we do not undervalue the ecosystem we leave to future generations.

The idea of using nature as a means of rent seeking by those that ‘own’ it is an appalling idea and is the fundamental problem of ‘neo-classical’ economics and one we must fight with all our might!

Some of my thoughts on the value of nature

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