This is what happens when people who think they know about “the environment” start making rules about production processes about which they actually know very little.
I was talking to a client today concerning an un-necessary problem in recycling construction waste to farm land. He said, “Am I growing old or is it it getting more common that I meet more people who cause difficulties for no good reason?”
As a matter of experience, I am left in little doubt that, after Brexit, every arm of government and the establishment will not interfere with innovative activity, legal or otherwise, in areas such as electronics, automation, the web, etc, including the City. They have neither the knowledge, nor the resources to regulate these areas and, therefore, such areas will continue to become progressively illegal and lacking in any sort of ethics other than “honour amongst thieves”. However, the ordinary activities of life including farming will become more and more regulated. The historian, Jane Marshal, was right;
“It is in the history of the world that whenever an empire collapses and for whatever reason, those left in government in the centre pass more and more regulations (or whatever they call them at the time) in the belief that they can stop the decline. What always happens is that they stifle innovation and inhibit entrepreneurial activity and accelerate the rate of decline. That is what is happening here (the EU and especially the UK) and now.”
Not to vote really should be a punishable offence. However, what will the elected politicians do for farming?
The more cynical might notice that, during the run up to an election, a large number of organisations and individuals become suddenly vocal in putting their case and asking for cash, pointing out that such additions would earn votes. Those wishing to be elected make promises which those with any intelligence take with a very small pinch of salt and then vote, not for their approved candidate but against those they like least.
For over 200 years, farming has become more and more efficient, employing less and less labour and has become a smaller and smaller proportion of the voting electorate.
The truth is that farming needs to forget the politicians (all of them) which will forget farming and, instead, get on with cutting costs (recycle wastes instead of buying mineral fertilisers), growing higher value crops and adding value to their production. However, that is still not enough, farming has to market itself and its products better. Much better and much more actively. Doing all of this will employ more labour which will, in due course, make it politically more influential.
That is a quote from “The Yellow Book” by Robert Holden. Spot on in our society where government seeks to write regulations to cover all eventualities. Now, you do not have to be very bright to understand that is impossible and what happens is the stifling of innovation and inhibition of entrepreneurial activity which, in turn, pays taxes to fund government. For “government”, read elected and, most certainly, civil service.
Logically, this observation applies to the waste industry, to the health service, welfare services, health and safety. The answer is simple. A new environmental protection Act might only have one sentence; “Thou shalt not pollute”.
Wet roads in summer are bad enough but how much worse in winter. Suppose we could avoid icy roads?
I have been a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for longer than I care to admit and in this month’s issue of the journal “Focus”, there is a feature article on constructing roads to absorb energy from the sun and feed it back later, maybe months later. While the energy cost of constructing these roads is not small, the energy savings and the multiple advantages of not having iced roads in winter are clearly worth some thought and investigation. By the way, some of these roads already exist and they do work.
Why leave the discussion at this point without going into detail? Well, we really do have to start being a bit more innovative and bit less hide-bound by restrictive regulation and regulators. We need to strat voting for longer term thinking in the governments we elect.
As Dolly Parton said, “If you want the rainbow, you have got to put up with the rain”.
The science: In the last century, global population quadrupled. There is one way of looking at the wealth of that population and that is to label those who have cash surplus to survival and to spend on goods made elsewhere as the “consumer class”. That class was around 1.8 billion in 2010. Estimates vary but to be 5 billion by 2030 is probably not an exaggeration.
The bad news:This will need very rapidly expanding use of resources, some of which are already limited.
The good news: Technology keeps finding new materials, improving efficiency of use and we are beginning to think about circular technology. (See future issues on this blog.)
Bill Butterworth 4 April 2016
P.S. Try the book, “Reversing global warming for profit”, by Bill Butterworth, published by MX Publishing, available from all good bookshops or on line at Amazon.
There is an opportunity in the uplands to help flood control lower down.
Few in the UK can be unaware of the flooding in many parts but dramatically in the North West. What follows are discussions of why and who to blame, mixed with theories which are often held passionately as the silver bullet to cure it in future. The truth is that the solutions are complex and a belief in a single solution indicates a lack of understanding of the natural environment.
No doubt, the dredging of water escape routes, of the building of “sacrifice” areas, building of new extra drains, and all the other construction possibilities are part of the defence for future urban protection. The holding of water in the uplands in order to give slower release is the subject of what follows here.
Firstly, the farming of the area is the key to the management of the uplands, not the cause of lowland problems. More specifically, if any change is not economic for the farmers involved, then either the taxpayers come up with the cash, or it will not happen at all. So, finding a development which slows run-off and is financially attractive for farming to produce food is the only acceptable way forward that has a chance of working. There is a way to do this and it has already been done.
We already know that high organic matter soils hold water better. To put figures on it; sand will hold its own weight of water, clay twice its own weight but composts will hold 5 to 16 times their own weight. We also know that bare soil (without an established crop on it) erodes easily. So, enabling farmers to develop high organic matter soils and grow crops with a minimum of bare soil will improve matters in the lowlands. We already know much about composting urban wastes and about forestry and other crops which can reduce erosion. Composting wastes can be very profitable but there is always an assumption that compost from wastes will be spread on food-producing land. There is always a lot of paperwork, some of which may be a bit counter-productive. Suppose a group of farmers were to get together with the Environment Agency and develop an area plan to maximise the volume and type of “wastes” which could be composted and spread and, instead of lots of individual applications to spread, a Code of Practice for food and forestry land?
The Antarctic – the coldest place on earth. there is no doubt that global warming is ocurring but we still use energy.
Bad experience with shale.
Safe technology and regulation.
Government invests £30 million in testing practical procedures and performance.
“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favour; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything until they have had actual experience of it.”
NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI The Prince and The Discourses 1513 – Chapter 6
We know that some of the practices involved in shale exploration and production in the USA and some other places was environmentally wrong and some had serious long term consequences. We know we do not want that here in the UK. We know that all burning of hydrocarbon fuels is producing global warming at probably higher rates that we like to admit and that the consequences are likely to be serious. Most reasonable people believe that and would like to try to avoid it. We also know a few other things relevant to the shale discussion.
Some hydrocarbon fuels are worse polluters when used than others; brown coal is killing China, diesel produces significant particulates, petrol produces much Carbon dioxide per mile and so on. All do have real disadvantages. Shale gas is a relatively clean-burn fuel; it does produce Carbon dioxide but not much else.
The risks in shale exploration and production are widely aired and much discussed. (See this blog 27 January 15.)
Some of the technology for safe shale extraction is known and proven. (See this blog 4 December 14.)
Some of the technology is less well established but still potentially safe. (See this blog 5 December 14)
We live in the most inspected, the most monitored, the most regulated society the world has ever known.
The government has earmarked £30 million for research to trial, monitor and test exploration and production of shale. A small handful of universities are already spending that cash.
Machiavelli was right. Innovation and change always have detractors. However, GB has always been a trail blazer and we do now have the opportunity to lead in safe shale. Logically, as our population in the UK is expanding by something of the order of 250,000 per year, we do have to have more energy and we do need to start building its supply right now. This a matter of leadership; do we in the UK want to develop energy security and care for our own people or not?