Slide: Realism Part II — ‘sustainability’
At the recent Oxford Farming Conference, Secretary of State at Defra, Michael Gove, made this speech. He didn’t once mention the phrase ‘food security’, as I pointed out in this blogpost.
Perhaps this is why; He said: There is no inherent tension between productive farming and care for the natural environment. This is an astonishing statement.
Agriculture is not a ‘natural’ activity; spread your gaze across any UK rural scene, such as this one in Malham, and you’ll see a human-created landscape:
Leave land well alone in the UK and, within 300 hundred years or so, much of it will be woodland and then forest.
Really? Is it possible the ‘natural world’ here in the UK (as elsewhere) has already hit tipping points through the sheer scale of human activity over the last few hundred years? That would mean a different, perhaps non-forested ‘natural world’ would evolve.
There is an inherent tension between agriculture, however productive, and the natural world. A scaling back of imports (70% in 1939, but only 40% today) and the 30% higher population has meant agriculture has intensified. The alternative?
Only by acknowledging the inherent tension which Michael Gove asserts doesn’t exist can we begin to make sensible trade-offs between farming and the ‘natural world’.