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Forests: – “They don’t know the value of what they are destroying”

by markjohnston on 9 February, 2011

The difficulty I have with the rush to the Big Society, is that decisions about our heritage are being made for reasons of dogma and not based on the merits of each case. ‘Big Society Good, Big Government Bad’ may be a starting point (not necessarily one I would choose), but the juggernaut’s progress to privatisation or ‘community ownership’ needs careful steering when dealing with systems that have come under public management for complicated reasons.

The simplistic view that combines the Big Society dogma with ‘the market knows best’ presents a danger that we make irreversible changes to society because we have a majority and not because it is right.

The problem is that we have a tendency to simplify; to jump to the conclusion that opposition to our plans is political (if the opposition objects, it must be worth doing) or from special interest groups that we disdainfully assume have not thought the arguments through from the right perspective (our own, that is). Faced with a mound of emails we categorise them all as from people who “don’t understand what we are actually doing” and cast them aside unread. We ignore the fact that it is not easy to put a complex argument forward in terms of sound bites. We scramble to put up enough of a defence to get the right spin instead of considering seriously whether we really have understood the true significance of what we are proposing

Forests are a community asset, an anchor for biodiversity, for the food chain of flora and fauna that sustains us, and are part of the bio-system that conditions the very air that surrounds us. The market may be about the law of the jungle (“may the best man win!”) but forests do not respond well to a  system that functions with or without civil society: the market has a tendency to polarise, increase inequalities and put a price on everything, not necessarily in line with its value. The market favours short termism against continuity and we subject ancient woodland to it at our peril.


DEFRA: Consultation: Future of the public forest estate

38 Degrees: Save our forests: sign the petition now

Porritt:  Forest Sell-Off: New Wrapping Same Poisonous Proposal

Porritt:  Environmental NGOs betray England’s Forests

The Woodland Trust:  Petition

Monbiot: Forest Chumps

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