Back to our Roots

Mark Twain said ‘’Buy land, they are not making it anymore’’. Certainly if you seek a guaranteed investment for your children or your children’s children, there can be no more secure investment than land purchase and planting it with trees, properly, can only increase its value.

The invention of modern silviculture by John Evelyn in the 17th century led to the invention of sustainable development. Land management in early economics was intrinsically linked to sustainability at a time when much development was far more sustainable than the boundaries of modern sustainable development permit now. Hanns Carl von Carlowitz would be surprised and certainly dismayed by the twisting of a basic concept to suit the vast array of interests of industry, government and society we see today.

Sustainable development is now subject to questioning because it has been allowed to be disseminated to ensure growth and energy consumption are not impeded at all.

The very thought that we should be starting to look at levelling off economic growth is too scary for most people and defies embedded economic and political ideals, which should really be put to bed now. Let’s leap frog backwards over Adam Smith and back to John Evelyn. This is where the future now lies.

The selfishness of an economic ‘gold rush’ mentality perpetuated by lacking minds in city thinktanks, who are simply too lazy to look beyond case studies in non renewable resource rich countries, listened to by short term politicians subject to a completely polarised lobbying system and then given credence by accountants in local and central government means that forestry and land management as a long term sustainable industry is simply ignored. Worse, the core of the industry is even ‘shut up’ in a manner which would impress the most despotic of dictators.

The selling of public forest estate, the sales of county council land and farms, the merging of the forestry commission to help fudge short term accounts as in Wales is not just selling off the family jewels but selling a sustainable future and the richest resources of government and the people it serves.

The continuing economic crisis is surely an apt time to start to invest into forestry; which has been kept alive by the Forestry Commission and private forestry companies. All relevant forestry voices are shouting the need for large scale afforestation. This is not simply to provide a habitat for wildlife or release the proven benefits of forests for people, but because it is the answer to sustainable development.

As we see the demand for timber rise, the greed and selfishness of the more short sighted financiers wins through to convince the government to fell trees to satisfy subsidised and peripheral pseudo sustainable initiatives. Allowing good quality trees to be processed for large scale biomass energy is a monumental waste and the stripping of an asset before it has even been realised.

Forestry sits there as an economic solution, which can fill a vast void created by ignoring its potential for so long and allowing for continued growth well beyond the life spans of all of us alive at present. Urban forestry has just as much worth – an educational and research resource, with health and biodiversity benefits surrounding the majority of the population.

The NGOs do not have the answers, for too long they have been part of the problem and now join the rest of the hyenas in trying tear apart the corpse of forestry and other land management to suit their desire for power. They have a role, we will need our ancient woodlands, and other natural and cultural heritage well protected. It is they who can shape the laws and determine the boundaries. But the corpse they are trying to feed on is not yet dead, it is still alive and kicking and could eventually grow very powerful as a city based economy continues to slide downwards and the need for sustainable resources increases.

Landscaping, horticulture and agriculture are in the same category, also at the frontier of sustainable development but shoved aside by hapless TV celebrities, gardening media and incumbent associations. Practitioners are stripped bare by a lack of real regulations and hindered by useless ones. Their inventions and ideas are regularly stolen and sold back to them, having been stamped with a logo, rewritten in patronising language – a PR campaign to make land management practitioners look stupid to the average layman and potential client.

But it is land management practitioners who people want and need if they marooned anywhere, including their own home. What good is a banker or politician in managing land to its maximum potential and value? None and we know only too well the uselessness of celebrities courtesy of ITV and the Australian jungle.

All land management practitioners have an opportunity to promote themselves and their industry. They hold the key to realising sustainable development for all other industries. The internet allows the chance to shout down those who have fed off the skills and knowledge contained within the industry to the point where it has almost been bled dry by useless, selfish suits whose only skill is manipulating PR or losing our money and diverting attention away from real issues.

It is time to go on the offensive. It is time for a collective voice from the practitioner base and the suppliers who supply it.

 It is time to use the label of sustainable, as we in land management are the only industry that can really lay claim to it.

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