HomeScienceEnvironmentEnvironmental destruction is part of Liz Truss’s plan | George Monbiot

Environmental destruction is part of Liz Truss’s plan | George Monbiot

TThe ecological destruction that Liz Truss plans to unleash on this land is not collateral damage. It is not a by-product of its economic program. It is a sign of true faith, a sign that she follows her ideology to the letter. In front of fundamental to this doctrine – neoliberalism – is the belief that everything on Earth can and should be changed into something else.

The founder of neoliberalism is Friedrich Hayek. His downright insane tract The Constitution of Liberty almost enjoys… biblical status among his disciples. Margaret Thatcher was arguably the book’s most famous advocate, and Truss now carries the flame. It opposes the protection of the living world. Instead of trying to protect the soil – the delicate ecosystem of which 99% of our calories be produced – Hayek says it makes sense to gain as much value as it can produce, exhaust it “once and for all”, and then leave the country. The soil’s role is to create a “temporary contribution to our income”, which we can then invest in other money-making schemes. For “there is nothing in the conservation of natural resources as such that makes it a more desirable investment object than man-made equipment”.

Our destiny, according to this belief system, is to turn nature into money. Pointing out that the ecological collapse this causes will destroy every aspect of our lives, including our economy, neoliberals answer that resources are in fact infinite: minerals will continue to be found, ecosystems will renew themselves. This summer, as the drought that now threatens our rivers and water resources began, John Redwood MP stated: “The water regulators and companies want us to use less water in the coming years. Why? water it is ultimate renewable resource, available in abundance on our planet. They need to continue deploying the capacity so we can use what we want.”

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This mindset denies not only environmental crises, but also material reality. If money – and that’s all they know – can be conjured into existence, why not everything else?

It is within this framework that we must understand what Truss is proposing. She wants to overturn our planning controls and create ‘investment zones’ in which companies and oligarchs can… build what they want. The policy is justified by trickle-down economics: Let the homebuilders do their best, and some of the homes they build may be affordable for the poor. But the industry uses endless tricks to avoid building affordable homes, and it carefully manages the supply, sitting on its land benches to keep prices high. There are much better ways to get the housing we need. A team of us suggested some in our report to the PvdA, Country for many. But the defense ring built around property by the billionaire press scares almost everyone away.

Truss’s proposals, on the other hand, solve nothing, while it does allow barely regulated urban sprawl through some of England’s most beautiful countryside. According to the Adam Smith Institute, one of the lobby groups for dark money who has shaped her thinking and provided some of her key advisors, these zones are a step towards dismantling the planning system rural.

She is also rushing through parliament with a bill that delete 570 environmental laws inherited from the EU. The speed of this program ensures that, even if she plans to replace them with laws of equal strength, there will be a gap in the regulations where everything is allowed. All experience suggests that she will not replace them with laws of equal strength, but will introduce weaker ones or no laws at all.

It was Truss who made me vegan. In 2015, while she was environmental secretary, I came across a shocking case of river pollution: a dairy farm had piped from one of its slurry lagoons into a river, reducing a beautiful ecosystem to a stinking sewer. I reported it to the Environment Agency, but they refused to take any action. After I expressed my surprise in the Guardian, two separate whistleblowers from the Environment Agency contacted me. They told me, under government pressure, that they had been instructed to ignore all such incidents. If the government was not willing to regulate the industry, I decided, I was not willing to eat his products.

truss volunteered her department for huge budget cuts. Against the advice of experts, she insisted on letting farmers dredge the watercourses that pass through their land, without… supervision or regulation. An environmental agency report show how such dredging destroys the ecology of streams and rivers, while increase the risk of flooding downstream, has been removed from government websites. She was the worst environmental secretary we’ve ever had, which is quite an achievement when you think of her predecessors.

Now her government plans to dump the only real benefit of Brexit. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which pays farmers to keep land in “agricultural condition”, is one of the most destructive policy instruments on Earth, a massive perverse incentive to destroy wildlife habitats. This would be replaced in the UK by the payment of public money for public goods, such as the protection and restoration of habitats. But much to the delight of the National Farmers’ Union and the abhor the good peasants that it does not represent, the government will return to the regressive practice of paying people to own land. It is another transfer of money to the rich and another incentive for destruction.

Truss has the ban on fracking reversed in England, although even the founder of the UK’s first fracking company says: it’s a waste of time here. Don’t mind the geology, it’s the principle. Truss gave the energy letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg, or Re-Smog as environmentalists call him. He has said to his staff, “We must… every cubic inch of gas from the North Sea”: a policy that, if repeated around the world, will cause us to collapse Earth’s systems.

We should see the Truss government as an experiment: what happens when neoliberal ultras, schooled by the dark-money think tanks, get everything they want? Result: The economy falls off a cliff, while the fabric of the nation is torn apart. Conclusion: we should never allow such people near the government again.

Finally, the large conservation groups are stirring. The RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust, with a combined membership of almost 8 million, are now talking about mobilization. It was time: for far too long they have not used their power as successive governments have ravaged the country. But in combating it, we must stop interpreting Truss’s vandalism as an accidental outcome of other policies. It’s the policy.

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