Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tim Farron and the floods: Drowning in ignorance!


Liberal leader Tim Farron:More Sheep Please!

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats appears an amenable soul. Self deprecating and always offering a smile. A devout Christian who nevertheless voted for the Syria bombing campaign-how would Jesus have voted!- Tim 'Nice but Dim' might have trouble separating his 'Prince of Peace' from his 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' but when it comes to getting a handle on the cause and effect of the recent Cumbrian floods, he appears to have even less of a grasp on reality.

His comments that the decline in upland sheep farming has contributed to flooding in places like Glenridding, Cockermouth, Appleby and Carlisle is so far from the truth you would have say that his eco compass requires a sharp tap and resetting. It's hard to understand how Farron could  fail to equate the intensive grazing of the fells by sheep with the inundation of the Cumbrian villages? Before intensive sheep farming took hold in the last century, tree cover extended far up the fellsides. Typically, birch, rowan, holly, hazel, Scots pine, sessile oak and aspen served a valuable ecological service by binding the soil, reducing water run off and preventing the worst excessive of seasonal cloud bursts.
On top of this of course, the woodland was a rich habitat for all manner of wildlife. From mammals to rare bird species, lizards to insects. Rare plants and shrubs were protected within a this arboreal environment and the woodland provided a renewable source of fuel and building materials for the indigenous populations.

How things have changed and a thousand times not for the better! Despite the glib 'Countryfile' view of farmers as 'creating the countryside we know and love', in truth, the countryside they have created is a sheep cropped, manicured desert. 'Sheepwrecked' as George Monbiot puts it. The fellsides in Cumbria-as in Wales and Scotland-have been grazed to the bone by these desertmaking ruminants who will eat any vegetation which breaks the surface. Trees, shrubs, wildflowers, herbs....nothing stands a chance, hence the bare closely cropped fields allows heavy rainfall to run off and overwhelm the watercourses which in turn delivers an uncontrollable volume of water into the rivers below.

By this stage the rivers themselves do not have the capacity to take up water in the volume it is pouring down from the hillsides  and consequentially bursts over the river banks with predictable consequences. Unfortunately, despite only contributing a miserly amount to the nation's GDP, farmers and the agribusiness corporations enjoy an unprecedented amount of government influence. Politicians like Tim Farron simply buy into the great con. Sheep farmers bravely battling against the odds for little reward. Selflessly creating a pastoral rural heaven by dint of their farming practices.

The irony is that our recent governments-both Labour and Conservative- have operated a neo liberal market economy where Laissez faire rules apply. 'Lame Duck' industries like coal, shipbuilding, car manufacture and heavy industry have been allowed to go to the wall, yet farming remains outside the free market rules of supply and demand and sheepfarming in particular, exists as a subsidized industry where farmers are paid to over produce and the product is sold to consumers at an inflated price. Have you seen the price of lamb in a supermarket or butcher's shop!!!

Pooley Bridge...gone! What we need now is even barer hillsides to allow the rain to run off even faster!
 
Floods that we have seen in Somerset, Cumbria and here in Wales will continue as long as politicians like Farron buy into the 'farmers as heroes' myth. By continuing to subsidize ecologically disastrous farming practices which have negatively impacted on the upland ecosystems and refusing to consider positive ideas like 'rewilding' the countryside, promoting agricultural diversity, alternative business ventures and actually paying farmers not to farm, but to plant native trees instead, then you can put your money on the fact that in future, 'a hard rain's gonna fall!

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