Caroline Lucas

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The well known Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, is stepping down as an MP at the next election.  She's going to become a death doula.  This daunting but hugely worthwhile role might just be easier than trying to survive Green Party politics and the House of Commons.

Lucas gave a talk in April at the 2024 Lancaster Environment Lecture at Lancaster University ["Another England is Possible"], and a version of this appeared in last week's New Statesman.  ["In search of the green and pleasant land: the English revere the natural world – so why do we allow its destruction?"].  I recommend both a listen and a read, but there is little for our comfort in them.

Her prime focus is on land; its ownership, the lack of stewardship, and what we have done to it over a long period.  Or, rather, I suppose, what we (the people) have allowed large landowners, farmers and other organisations to do to it, as we individually have little agency here.  As I write this contractors acting for my local council are cutting down village wild flowers in their prime despite the Council's 'No Mow May' policy.

We (the people) means MPs and government, and civil servants.  Just think of all that raw sewage going into watercourses and onto beaches with the blessing of regulators.  Lucas' arguments about deprivations are hard to rebut – not that I'd want to – and she begins her New Statesman article with the depressing litany that we ought all to regard as a badge of shame.

"Half of England’s ancient woodland has gone in the last century, due to conifer plantations, overgrazing and the spread of invasive species. We’ve also “lost” – or, let’s be honest, destroyed – 80 per cent of our heathland, 85 per cent of our salt marshes and 97 per cent of our wild-flower meadows. With them, we’ve driven to extinction hundreds of plant and animal species. Development for housing, transport, mineral extraction and other industries has eaten up enormous chunks of the countryside, while industrial agriculture and increases in traffic have diminished much of what remains. As a result, there are 40 million fewer wild birds than there were 50 years ago.  In my lifetime alone, the total biodiversity in England has been slashed by half, ..."

Land ownership is key for Lucas.  She says that half of England is owned by less than 1 per cent of its population. That is "around 25,000 landowners, typically corporations and members of the aristocracy" (and the National Trust and the MoD let's not forget).  She says that the actual figure is probably worse as the Land Registry, covers only around 88 per cent of land with ownership of the missing 12 per cent being so opaque that "even MPs can’t obtain it".  She has policies for dealing with all this including the right to roam responsibly, and a land value tax which I'm particularly sympathetic to.

She is certainly right to emphasise how little schools do to educate young people about the natural world despite the efforts of national and local NGOs.  I think, however, she put too much faith in the new Natural History GCSE to remedy any of this when she says that "Young people will gain the skills of the naturalist, learning how to observe, record, monitor, name and understand".  Well, up to a point.  A few might, but not everyone or probably even (this is an optional GCSE) the majority.  That is, if the DfE ever gets round to actually making a reality of it.

Anyway, do give it a read / listen; there's sone good poetry – Cowper & Clare – and her message about the intertwined nature of humans and nature – if only we'd heed it – is right.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • I love the line, "In search of the green and pleasant land: the English revere the natural world – so why do we allow its destruction?" This is true for most of the developed (and probably less-developed) world. It reminds me of American writer Henry Thoreau who, for two years, went daily to his beloved Walden Pond and wrote about simpler living (and even for the mid 1800s lived a consumer lifestyle). But then went home each night to his nice house. Unlike John Muir who lived much of his life trying to live as he preached with the Wilderness Ideal. We allow the destruction of our natural world because it is too inconvenient to change our consumer-materialistic worldview.