The thoughts behind the Renegade Ecologist

From my 20 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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"Once we let it go" Rewilding Promo

I give an  impassioned speech on what will happen once we let nature go from its bonds and make rewilding a reality in the UK

A beautifully filmed short promo film shot at Wildwood Trust, Kent.  Producer: Luke Sutton, D.O.P Vatalii Ciobanu, Camera Op. Jack Cuckson, Edited by Jessica Harms. Watch this space for the fully edited feature coming soon...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

WAR On ISIS & Syria! Let's solve it with a Land Value Tax Not Bombs!

As the UK government is setting us on a path of war tomorrow I thought I would explore how the Syrian war started. Many commentators have speculated how a natural resource disaster may be at its roots.

But what is the solution to natural resource disasters, climate change and war? 

Many have documented how a drought, high temperatures and very poor regulation of water & grazing rights has led to Syrian desertification, crop failure and the displacement of 1.5Million syrians from relative wealth as farmers to poor urban dwellers and thus formed the social impulse to cause the civil war.

Background Stories on this :
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2871076/overgrazing_and_desertification_in_the_syrian_steppe_are_the_root_causes_of_war.html

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/syrias-climate-conflict/

The intervention of those seeking to profit from the crisis by getting their hands on the spoils such as Saudi Arabia, France, USA, Russia & now the UK have a keen eye on Oil and natural resources just as we did with Libya, like vultures around the carcass we will pick it clean, given the chance. They have funnelled billions to there chosen proxies in the civil conflict and when that is not working then send in their own forces. This web of murderous self interest is at the root of many such conflicts and it is easy to get side tracked by the dishonesty and duplicity of all the countries indulging in this. I cannot express my contempt at Mr Cameron, like Blair before him, duping the public once again into war.

My heart is broken by what has befallen the Syrian people and I have wept for the victims. But my anger must really be reserved for the stupidity of all of us at preventing war. The anti war movement needs a concrete objective, a remedy, that will remove the causes of warfare such as environmental destruction, loss of lively hood and remove the incentive of those that seek to profit from war. Only a Land Value Tax as a policy objective can fulfill these objectives so why do anti war, anti poverty  & environmental campaigners not band together to promote this as a policy?

Land Value Tax is the solution to both macro and micro issues in preventing climate change and mitigating environmental scarcity such as water (at the heart of the syrian issue) so a tax and dividend system to share scarcity equally removes the perverse incentive to exploit. This goes for land (a land Value tax), water use (abstraction tax), carbon tax etc and other natural resources & 'green' taxes. This solves scarcity but also suppresses the use of the fossil fuels and land changes(oxidation of soils) that are causing climate change in the first place.

This solution will suppress those seeking to push our foreign policy to war by removing the perverse incentive to fight over natural resources rents as they will be impossible to monopolise by one group, country or corporation under such as system.

So what the Syrian people really need is a Land Value Tax & not bombs on their heads

My thoughts on War:


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Leave it to Beaver - How Rewilding Stops Flooding

Video & Blurb from my Recent lecture at Flood Expo 2015


LEAVE IT TO BEAVER -NATURE`S ROLE IN FLOOD DEFENSE

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



ABOUT PETER SMITH - WILDLIFE FLOOD EXPERT

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.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Creating Wildwood & how can we Rewild Britain

In this lecture I explain the History of why Wildwood Trust was formed and our mission to Rewild Britain. I try to explain the complex issues that will challenge us as we try to rewild Britain and make a space for nature.

At the heart of the problem lies  a broken economic system that gives perverse incentives to abuse nature and use land inefficiently. The corruption of economics over the last century & the propagation of discredited economic principles is directly responsible.

Reversing this economic stupidity could lead to a rewilded world where there is wildlife, jobs and wealth for all in a system that  captures economic rents for public revenue. This will enable us to internalise the damage we do to others and nature in a new economic & wildlife renaissance.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Rewilding: A Revolutionary Act in a Countryside of Deceit...

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act, and so it is with the rise of the rewilding movement, which has shown the truth behind the silent spring that is befalling our countryside and that farming and landowners and the legal and economic systems that they derive so much privilege from are directly responsible for that wildlife loss.

But the Orwellian double think is used by the landowners in claiming to be guardians of the countryside, protecting its wildlife. When of course they are mostly responsible for our countrysides blatant rape. Our Landowners have not only claimed the land as theirs by theft and murder for centuries and in more recent times subverted the legal system & our government to dole out vast taxpayer subsidies and favourable tax treatment in their pursuit of that rape, wiping out so much in their pursuit of personal profit.

From the pen of the National Union of Farmers Ministry of Truth  this week comes:
Destruction is Conservation.....
Flood prevention is Flooding....
Theft is Property...


Their carefully crafted doublethink in the guise of a press releases has the temerity to say that they are guardians of wildlife for allowing one or two little bits of wildlife to remain (as long as there is another subsidy from the taxpayer for doing so) and that the rewilding movement threatens the countryside and existing wildlife.

Destruction is Conservation.....

 NFU Scotland Vice President Andrew McCornick who said in the Farmers Guardian:
“New species will also affect Scotland’s existing biodiversity and ecosystems. I genuinely believe that Scotland’s biodiversity is in good health, and farmers are at the heart of delivering that,”.

This amazing doublethink is truly cognitive dissonance at its highest that this Landowner thinks they are

a) contributing to Biodiversity - when they have utterly destroyed biodiversity at a frightening rate all helped by huge taxpayer handouts.

b) that existing wildlife will be threatened by rewilding, when it will return in abundance

This is the most amazing lie trying to make out they are protecting wildlife from rewilding which is plain daft, but any lie is good when trying to lie to keep your privilege.

I notice at the bottom of the article for 'premium' users only is a handy calculator to quickly calculate what taxpayer handouts are on offer!

Mr McCornick went on to say in the Scotsman:
 “Recent history has taught us that any species introduction can have an impact on the many benefits that the Scottish countryside currently delivers.
Benfits to whom, the barren hills, the deer stalkers and the uneconomic farmers. But nor our wildlife, the taxpayers or the poverty created by those taxes on people's hard work and enterprise.

Flood prevention is Flooding....

Rewilding is also being blamed for recent flash flood in Alyth in Perthshire. This is an interesting view as beavers do cause local floods the 'simple minded' conclude they will cause bigger floods. On a very small level it is true, but those tiny floods stop the big floods in villages and town and prevent loss of life, this logic is lost on some of our 'Country' Community, again just sophistry protecting privilege and fearful of real wildlife.

The Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) have been trying to point the finger at the Tayside beavers for causing the floods instead of the barren uplands shedding water in rivers canalised to carry such torrents of water ever quicker down stream into the homes of the people of Alyth or even someday to Perth.

Alex Stoddart, director of SACS, said  “We have been told by residents that there are clear beaver marks.SACS is concerned by reports from local residents and members affected by the flooding, that beaver lodge material may have been an exacerbating factor.

“Beavers... now play an increasing, but largely unknown role in local flood and water catchment management. "

The wonderful Scottish Wild Beaver Group leapt to the beavers’ defence, refuting claims that material from dams upstream of the town were brought down by the floodwater.

Paul Ramsay, who owns the Bamff estate where some beavers live, said it was a “ridiculous exaggeration” to blame the animals.

Of course the are many learnered studies showing the important role beavers play in flood defences - to find out more watch my lecture on the subject from last year:



Theft is Property...

This is the real lie at the heart of our problems of our countryside & economy. Land was not created by individuals only the improvements they make upon it. That should be their property not the land that captures through rent and value the work of everyone else and the income received by destroying nature and misusing natural resources. When the farmer benefits society they should be rewarded through selling food, caring for the land's future productivity and providing services to others. When they take from us by their monopoly of land, taxpayer handouts, destroying the future productivity, polluting and robbing us and our children of nature... then they should pay.

Of course we all pay in higher food costs, the productive farmer is just a conduit in which that cost is passed on, but that is fine as in such as system there will be more wealth to support the needy and we will have more money to buy food but the true cost of making that food will make us choose foods that have been produced in a way that protects our environment and our future. So leass manufactured poor quality food and more whole foods.

So the truly productive landowner and farmer will benefit from his work and ingenuity in creating the food for our table and the feckless landowner and reckless farmer who destroys as he creates will suffer and so it should be.

2 minutes of hate....

So I have had my 2 minutes of hate at the National Farmers Union of Scotland, all well and good but what are the real solutions to the Scottish Countryside, our society and the wildlife that can thrive and benefit.

People are people and we should not demonise any group but find the root problems and remedies, we also need to distinguish between farmers and landowners, even when they are one and the same. But most land managers respond to cultural and economic pressure. The culture of landownership being one of dominion upon land without proper responsibility & the economic topography of grants and taxation systems reflecting that dominion are the real problem. Land owners should both morally and economically pay for what the take (monopoly access to land and environmental externalities) and receive reward for the benefits they bring; food and certain land management practices such as paths and hedge maintenance by road and the benefits to wildlife they bring etc. The legal status of land ownership should be trusteeship and not 'ownership'. This will drive culture and economics to use land wisely and efficiently and allow land of no economic benefit to be rewilded. This would be a massive cultural shift attacking the very substance of privilege in our society over the last 1000 years and resisted fiercely, but it is what is needed if we are to ever rewild our land and hold land as a common treasury for all people, future generations and wildlife.

When landowners compensate all of us for the damage they have done to wildlife and watersheds then they can have compensation for loss of production - that's fair is it not? This sounds mad but is easily achievable through using land rent and externalities as a basis of our system of taxation and reducing taxation on earned income that provides jobs and steers us to a vibrant and environmentally friendly economy.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Beavers in Britian

A history of Beaver in Britain , a lecture by me at a small rewilding Britain Conference. This contains my knowledge of the history of beaver, the history of beaver extinction, the many efforts of people over the last 100 years who tried to reintroduce beavers and the problems they faced. The many benefits to our water quality, flood risks & and wildlife that beaver could bring. Dispelling some of the myths about the augments against beaver reintroduction. The Lecture was given at Wildwood Trust at a Conference on Rewilding Britain by the conservation organisation 'A Focus on Nature' http://www.afocusonnature.org/

What is Rewilding & What are we doing about it

A short Film made in 2012 by Charlie Tanner highlighting the work of Wildwood Trust in its charitable work to rewild Britain. This is an excellent introduction to Rewilding and Charlie captured it well for this video she made for her MSc project, Charlie has volunteered and Worked for the Trust and filmed many of its animals. In an in depth interview with me, she learns of the efforts of the Trust to rewild our countryside and reintroduce animals like the lynx, beaver and Wild horse.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Why the Pope Should Promote the Taxation of Nature's Destruction & Not Just its Love

The Pope has come out with a wonderful statement about why we should love nature and George Monbiot writes an excellent article in the Guardian today looking into this and sophistry around why people destroy nature for perceived personal gain, ignoring the damage we are doing.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/16/pope-encyclical-value-of-living-world?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it#comment-53954061


This is a perfect Example of the 'Tragedy of the Privates' as I like to call it, why individuals making individual decisions alway make the choice to do things that destroy nature and abuse land for short term finacial gain, and the perverse incentives the system of private ownership of nature's gifts to us ensure's their abuse & destruction.

The economic forces pushing us to destroy nature and land is pervasive throughout the world and forms the very basis of our financial, banking & political systems. Its contumacious virtues extolled in our corporate media and enshrined in legal systems and pushed to ever greater heights of absurdity by trade treaties such as the The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP.

But the issue, as Monbiot alludes, should not be about how to make people value nature more than their bank accounts, as many will never do that, it is for the green movement to push policies that align people's bank balances with saving nature. To this end land use and environmental damage needs to become the basis of our taxation system and not productive work that causes little damage to others and our environment. Land Value Taxes, monopoly taxes and externality taxes like a carbon tax could all achieve a titanic shift in how we use nature and allow its restoration in an economy that protects peoples wealth and wellbeing and shares all efficiently and equitably. Land Value Taxes will instantly allow us to rewild our marginal land and see the complex ecology return and provide us with a secure future for our children by combating the calamitous consequences of climate change and the loss of our biodiversity and the ecosystem services we depend on.

This will also have the effect of increasing the value of labour and doing more to reduce poverty, than any other form of income redistribution as well explained by many economists such as Stiglitz or classical economists like Henry George, Adam Smith or even briefly by Karl Marx. This is because it makes the earth, and its destruction, a treasury for all and allows no elite to monopolise it, sucking the wealth out of the rest of humanity. The green movement needs to recognise this more than the need to stimulate wonder and mystical enchantment in the intrinsic value of our natural world and revel in its gestalt, which often has little effect apart from making people feel warm and fuzzy. Such an economic system would turn us all into rabid 'greenies' irrespective of wonder or love - but we have to ask the question why the green movement cannot push these policies: I blogged on this issue some time ago - Zen & the art of Land Value Tax: http://renegadeecologist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/zen-and-art-of-land-value-tax.html For an indepth analysis of the Pope's encyclical read this excellent article on Progress.org by Fred Foldvery: http://www.progress.org/the-pope-on-climate-change?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly+Progressorg&utm_content=Weekly+Progressorg+CID_9b5e66bc89df0f9b1f88cadd807be4bf&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=The+Pope+on+Climate+Change

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.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wilder Scotland - what are the real issues?

Click on the link below to hear (very poor skype audio) of an interview I did yesterday on the Lynx reintroduction and the complex issues that surround it with the very talented Shelley Milne. Poor Shelley got a lot more than she thought as I bombarded her some some of the deep economic issue that provide a context to the problems that surround lynx reintroduction and rewilding in general. As ever the real solution is to Tax land Values.....

REWILDING INTERVIEW: PETER SMITH, WILDWOOD TRUST.
APRIL 24, 2015

This morning, I was privileged to undertake a skype interview, with Mr Peter Smith, Scientist, Conservationist and CEO of the Wildwood Trust, a Kent based Charitable Organisation, which has been instrumental in many captive breeding and wildlife reintroduction projects including the Konig Horse, Beaver and Wild Boar.

His passion for the subjects of rewilding and land reform is clearly evident and he raises some very interesting points which create a greater economic and political context into this complex subject. In order to ensure his perspective remains contextually intact, I would like to share with you his perspective, as he sheds light on some of the challenges these projects face and providing deeper insight on the potential release of wild lynx in the UK

WilderScotland Blog

Link to Audio of my interview:

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Battle for Wildlife: The Flood 1, 'Sea Walls'

The battle between landowners and wildlife has raged on many 'battlefields' across the world. I hope to comment on examples in the coming years.

I made this video some time ago but just got around to publishing it exploring two issues very important to the Thames Estuary - the first part explains some of the issues of coastal sea walls and how landowners have sought to profit from the increase value of the land from such public infrastructure.

Of course the uplift in value of the the land behind a sea wall is captured by the landowner and not the taxpayer who funded the sea wall. This is grossly unfair on taxpayers across the country as money is funnelled from all taxpayers into the pockets of landowners who often pay no tax on that huge uplift in the value of their land. Simply charging a Land Value Tax would capture this unearned uplift in the value of the land and repay the taxpayer for its construction.

But in many situations the sea wall is not needed to protect people's lives and jobs  but the perverse incentive to build sea walls will mean landowners will lobby for them very hard. That incentive means we loose so much of our coastal habitat such as Salt Marsh which is the habitat we have lost the most in the Uk over the last 100 years. When these perverse economic incentives exist there is little wonder then that is where we see wildlife and nature lose out the most. A land value tax will remove the perverse incentive to destroy wildlife in many situations, not just coastal sea defences and help us restore nature back to our country. At the same time we will save the taxpayer a packet on schemes that are uneconomic and not needed.

In part two I will explore how rewilding our coastal salt marshes could save London from flooding and the taxpayer the cost of an expensive new Thames Barrier.....

Peter Smith, CEO of the Wildwood Trust argues that we need a better way to fund coastal flood defences. The taxpayer pays millions every year, not for protecting homes, but just for the benefit of a few farmers and land spectaculars. This process has decimated coastal wildlife and in many cases proved of little public benefit. The people who have made a fortune should repay this increase in the rental value of their land back to the taxpayers who funded the flood defences. This would help ensure we only invest in flood defences where we need it and stop the destruction of some of the UK's most threatened wildlife habitats. The public collection of the nations rents will mean everyone contributes their fair share, making the use of natural resources more efficient helping our endangered wildlife to return.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-mQ9_H-vEk

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Economically Necessary Beaver...

My talk last week at the Necessary Beaver Conference on Scotland

Beavers and Ecosystem Services & a plan for Scotland’s Ecological Renaissance, with the help of Robert Burns…..?

The study of ecology and economics has resulted in a growing interest in the economics of nature which has been shown in sharp relief by the arrival of the Tay beavers. Peter Smith will take you on a quick journey into the emerging world of environmental economics and ecosystem services– where many of the benefits go unrecognised and much of the cash costs cause fear and opposition to the return of wildlife

Beavers make a big difference to our rivers and this means there are winners and losers. There are many obvious and subtle benefits to beavers living in our water ways once again: wildlife, water quality and the buffering of floods & droughts, carbon sequestration are the most obvious, . But how can we measure these benefits, what are the leading scientists and economists thinking when it comes to putting monetary value on these benefits

A proper compensation strategy, based in land values & taxation, could be the Solution to the whole problem of protecting nature and stimulating human progress, by getting to the very economic roots of the problem– we can see how simple economic steps, such as Land Value Tax & Green taxes, can efficiently and effectively internalise the costs and benefits of Scotland’s Ecological Renaissance by following the forgotten advice of Scotland’s Greatest minds including, Adam Smith, William Ogilvie & even Robert Burns himself!


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

GETTING AHEAD IN CONSERVATION
(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.

"Nuaulu"
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.