Sunday, October 29, 2006

Countering Global Warming

There is undoubtedly an emerging problem with the climate changing. This may have severe consequences for us. One might take a risk and say the combination of general warming combined with the melting ice flows stopping the Gulf Stream will cancel one another out but it would be rather naive to think that such a benign scenario will actually come to pass. Given this, there is some onus on us to do something. If we can lower British emissions significantly we can act as a beacon to others and encourage much greater polluters such as the Chinese to improve.

How to do this is undoubtedly tricky. I agree with the George Osborne when he talks about switching the burden of taxation to discourage things which are bad such as burning fuel uneconomically and encouraging things which are good such as saving and income. I worry when Gordon Brown and David Milliband start talking about green taxes as they seem intent just on finding ways to raise yet more money to waste on their hopeless initatives and spin.

We need to think what being more green means in Rogate and Milland. The vast majority of us have cars and use them a lot. Being green should not mean not having cars (though do we really need at least two per family ?), being forced to use highly polluting buses, or having to drive at low speeds. It may mean running our cars on different fuels, fitting solar panels to our roofs and planting more trees (or even buying up a few acres of the Amazon if trees can be retained there for less money than it would take us to plant them here). There are lots of good things we can do to improve our treatment of the environment for the sake of our grandchildren without making our own lives intolerable. Lets hope politicans let us do this rather than mandating backwards, state centric solutions.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Supporting local producers

Its naive to think that we can return to relying on local production in the same way as our grandparents and great grandparents did but its good if we can move a little way away from mass produced Asda and Tesco packaged food - good for us, good for the local economy and good for the environment.

We have enjoyed picking our own fruit at Durleigh Marsh Farm this summer and we got a whole locally reared lamb this week which has the merit of being both cheaper and better tasting than supermarket lamb. It also takes up less space in the freezer than you might think. We also find the flour from Singleton Open Air Museum much better and cheaper than supermarket flour when baking wholemeal bread.

Lets hope than many more farmers can prosper by disintermediating the supermarkets and selling directly to us. National and local government need to ensure that Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Health & Safety Executive regulations are reduced to make buying locally produced food less expensive, thereby ensuring that more people can enjoy it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The joy of harvesting

Last week I went to a wood (with the landowner's permission) and cut some holly which I hope may last until Christmas. The weather this year, whilst difficult for water companies, has produced fantastic berries and the holly looks better than it has looked for many years.

Too many people in our country never experience the pleasures of picking fruit or growing food for their own tables. There is something quite special and immensely satisfying about it. Maybe some of our current societal difficulties stem from many never having been asked to husband any crops - it inculcates a certain type of responsibility which one doesn't get from buying food in shrink wrapped plastic in a supermarket.


I went to the opening meet of the Clinkard Meon Valley Beagles today (hunting within the terms of the much despised Hunting Act of course). It was good to see the hounds go out and the dedication of the masters and whippers-in - preserving something of our heritage in the midst of difficulties ranging from official antipathy, busy roads and too much local development - all of which make rural pursuits much more difficult than they once were.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good local services

We took our children to the Taro leisure centre play zone today. It was very well kept with charming staff and our children had fun playing with other children in the ball pit and on the in-door climing frame. A great way to entertain children while relaxing and an example of a good local resource. I'm not sure that such things need to be provided by the public rather than the private sector but its certainly nice to have them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Enough space to live in

I took two large sacks of garden cuttings to Midhurst tip today to be recycled. Midhurst tip is useful but I'm struck with the contrast with the French tip I sometimes use in Ernee in the Mayenne. There you drive up a ramp with your car and can, with the assistance of gravity, throw your recycling / rubbish down into the correct lorry sized skip. By contrast, you have to climb up steep steel stairs at Midurst dragging a heavy load behind you. You then need to find the energy to lift at shoulder height and tip into the lorry sized skip without loosing your sack - something of an art.

I thought about why we didn't have the French system here as it is infinitely superior and makes recycling a pleasure rather than an effortful chore. The only answer I can come up with is a lack of space. The area of the Midhurst tip is about a fifth of the one in Ernee (the towns are a comparable size) and much more space would be needed for a French style tip.

It brings home just how short of space we are even in this part of Sussex, probably the most rural part of the South East. We all feel constantly constrained by sheer weight of people now living here and it is much worse elsewhere in the South East. The roads are too crowded, the towns are too crowded and increasingly the countryside is too crowded. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. Some would say the solution is simply to build more houses and give up on preserving countryside in the South East. Unfortunately this will do nothing more than lower everyone's quality of life still further as well as destroying those green fields that still make England much more pleasant than much of the rest of the world.

Instead we need to have a conscious strategy of reducing the population in the South East by saying no to any new commercial development on greenfield land, thereby forcing the more entrepeneurial parts of our society to set up operations in less developed parts of the country such as Wales or run down former industrial areas such as the east of County Durham. In this way prosperity would be spread and our quality of life would improve. 100 years ago our national population was about 38 million ( and we have now just passed 60 million. That's more than 50% more crowded - and much of the growth is in the South East.

GDP growth stats don't capture the loss of happiness caused by overcrowding, in fact they don't measure wellbeing well at all. If we want to create a more content and happy nation we need to take urgent action to reduce population growth and to provide incentives to British citizens to distribute themselves more evenly around the UK, not simply try for ever more economic growth in the South East because the Treasury says so.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's preserve conkers

Yesterday I went to one of the local playgrounds we are lucky enough to have as one of my children is particularly fond of swings at the moment. While we were there he, unprompted, discovered some conkers which had fallen out of their shells and sat gleaming on the grass. He collected several and put them in his pushchair deriving huge pleasure from the exercise.

I'm glad that our councils haven't been so crass as to cordon off our trees for fear that conkers might hit someone on the head. The reality is that the risk of their being successfully sued for a meaningful sum of money is negligible (see the worthwhile Better Regulation Task Force report Better Routes to Redress - - for some detailed analysis of this).

Even were the risk of being successfully sued to be greater than it actually is, do we wish to create a society where government tells people that they can't do the things their ancestors have done for countless generations because of some potential risk ? Do we wish our children to grow up so cosseted in cotton wool that they have had no worthwhile experiences and are singularly ill equipped to deal with the difficult venture called adult life ? I don’t think so. We need to both preserve our freedoms and ensure that our children are resilient in the face of adversity if we wish to have a society worth living in. Conversely, if we teach our young that they never need tackle a falling conker or acorn we will get the future we deserve.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Preserving beautiful woodland

I went for a walk in Garbett's Wood today (, A beautiful spot just to the south of Rogate village. As I arrived I found fly tippers had littered the gate leading from the wood to the lane with bricks, concrete and, most bizarrely, a painted plaster cast rabbit. It's a great shame that people see fit to despoil what others make an effort to keep beautiful.

What is the solution ? How do we go about inculcating respect for the environment ? Not sure I know the answer but I don't want it to be 24 hour CCTV survellance of woodlands. Can we not provide some carrots to encourage people and businesses to dispose of waste properly combined with serious penalties for those who do not ? I can't be right that it is currently cheaper to pay fines and fly tip than to dispose of waste at authorised waste recycling / disposal centres.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hospitals and control freakery

I recently visited St Richard's to find a big banner proclaiming "smoking is banned". I didn't think anything of it as smoking on wards has been banned for some time to the best of my knowledge. On reading the small print I was shocked to find that not only was in banned in the hospital buildings but also in the grounds and in vehicles.

As it happens my reasons were going were pleasant but many people visit hospitals in dire circumstances to visit a desperately ill friend or relative. To be told that, in moment's of intense stress and distress you cannot pop outside and have a cigarette strikes me as very wrong. As for the legality of telling someone they can't smoke in their own car, I question it.

I would like to record that my reaction was to light up a good Havana (I am a non smoker) immediately outside the administration offices but sadly I didn't have any with me. Surely these health and safety fascists should be told where to get off (Mariana's trench would seem a good place to start). How many relatives will be unable to relieve intense anguish and how many patients will die because surgeon's weren't allowed a quick smoke before going in to undertake a difficult operation ? Further, in a cash strapped NHS, how much time and money is being wasted on this initiative ? Smoking may be bad for many people’s health but surely we should be entitled to make up our own minds.