Whilst researching the FMP, I have tried to genuinely go with my research. If I discovered something new, I should respond to it, evaluate it and take some action. So that’s how I came to rethink my experience as a Lib Dem district councillor, ten years ago.
As my objective is to tell stories about the climate emergency, much of my research was in this area. I read several books which addressed how we might think about engaging with the crisis. Books like We Are The Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer and Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein. These books take a more holistic view of the climate crisis and discuss the nature of the human relationship with the Earth. Both these authors took a similar view: the climate crisis is not just too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Rather, there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because humans have destroyed the means of regulating it. This is no climate sceptic position. This calls for much more radical changes than simply bringing down carbon dioxide levels. Both these authors call for rewilding, regenerative agriculture, the embracing of indigenous wisdom and a host of other changes that would return humanity to a stable and respectful relationship with the planet.
One of the maxims discussed, is that “life creates the conditions for life”. Life at all levels; microscopic, invertebrate and top end predators is all valuable and should be treasured and nurtured.
In searching for locations to depict these stories, I came across Swanscombe Marshes in Kent. This is a post-industrial site that has reverted to nature. It is incredibly rich in wildlife, having been left undisturbed for many years. I travelled there on Sunday and it is indeed lush and full of birdlife. The remnants of it’s industrial past were there but nature had overcome.
Sadly, there is a plan to destroy this richness and spend £3.5 billion building a theme park on this site. Locals are totally opposed as they love the wildness and are horrified by the prospect of the construction and day-to-day traffic that this development would bring.
I thought back to my days on Mid Sussex District Council’s planning committee. There, as elsewhere in the country, the presumption is to build on “brownfield”, previously used land, rather than farmland or woodland. But Swanscombe demolishes this distinction. It is far richer in life than farmland. It is exactly the rewilding project that so many commentators are calling for. The decision is not between greenfield or brownfield. It is between life and destroying life.