If Britain becomes Little by Germaine Greer

Over the coming days and weeks The Clearing will be publishing Lie of the Land, a series of responses to the Referendum exploring what leaving the EU could mean for conservation, wildlife and our relationship with the land. Please add your voice by posting comments below or submitting a longer contribution – either in images or words – to The Clearing editors.


We can only make a difference if we act on the basis of regions rather than nations – other European nations have banned neo-nicotinoids; Britain was hanging back, mainly because our farmers have way too much influence, and now I suspect British farmers will continue to be able to produce crops more cheaply than European farmers can, because they may use agrichemicals that European farmers cannot. And our bees will continue to go mad and die.

Before the referendum in June nothing was said by either campaign about farm subsidies. If the Brexit battle bus is to be believed, and all the money supposedly saved is destined for the NHS, then the tax payer will have to fund the subsidies. Mind you I wouldn’t mind stripping Tate and Lyle of their £600,000,000. We could try to be cheerful, and hope that the end of uneconomic farming on marginal lands will be a win for wilderness, but we all know that wilderness without careful management is just scrub.

Buglife’s CEO Matt Shardlow is very sad, and for the most important reason: forty years of hard work meant to make another century of Blut und Eisen impossible, has been neutralised and we are back at nationalistic loggerheads again. Writing in his blog some months before Brexit, Shardlow posted:

“Britain has some special and unique wildlife, but it is mostly constituted of species that have wider distributions. Many British species migrate, spending part of their lives in warmer climes, before they, or (as is the case of most migrant insects) their descendants, return to the UK . . . In the long view our fauna and flora is European and its health depends on how well it is looked after throughout Europe . . . Many of the most important drivers of damage to wildlife are also trans-national, including; nitrate deposition from air pollution; unsustainable sea fisheries (most of the catch is invertebrates, scampi, cockles, mussels, etc.) and climate change.”

Maybe we need a conference with our European counterparts to arrive at our own consensus and our own agreements. We already have examples of successful supranational treaties, and we might be able to arrive at ways of beefing them up. If we could pull together a conference, it might be a good idea to do it under the aegis of the RSPB, Britain’s richest and most popular conservation charity with the most to lose if Britain becomes Little.

Germaine Greer was born in Melbourne and educated in Australia and at Cambridge University. Her first book, The Female Eunuch (1969), took the world by storm and remains one of the most influential texts of the feminist movement. She has had a distinguished academic career in Britain and the USA. Since 2001 she has been involved in rehabilitating sixty hectares of subtropical rainforest in south-east Queensland; in 2011 she set up Friends of Gondwana Rainforest, a UK charity, to help in financing that and similar projects.

Bea Forshall was born in South West France, where she spent most of her childhood. In 2003 she moved to Catalonia and in 2005 back to Britain. She studied Illustration at Falmouth College of Art. Ever since she was a child, Bea has been interested in wildlife. Her work now revolves around animals and conservation.

Read more Lie of the Land articles.

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