Karl told us about this...... / by Jonathan Thomson

We have just returned from 2 weeks in Transylvania, Romania. We were struck by the overall health of the environment - a level of fecundity that once we had and now can only imagine. Both flora and fauna in abundance - bears, lynx, deer, wolves, foxes, wild boar, birds in huge numbers (bursting clouds of sparrows & nesting storks), myriad invertebrates and wildflower meadows that made us stop, look and listen. Often as we walked these meadows, we said to each other - remember this, this is very special. 


Being back in southern England has brought into focus how impoverished our terrestrial environment is / has become. Yesterday I walked set aside strips, which border arable fields in south-west Wiltshire - at times I knelt and parted the sward, to more forensically inspect the level of biodiversity. What I found was silence, inactivity and an overall lack of biodiversity. The flora often dominated by fast growing, NPK hungry nettles. The most recent (2016) State of Nature report ranked the UK 29th lowest out of 218 countries, in terms of biodiversity - we are one the most nature-depleted countries on the planet (ref, Wilding, Tree). Romania acted as a potent contrast. 

In 1862 Karl Marx warned of the inherent problems with industrial agriculture (ref; vol 1, Capital) - then it was known as British high farming. 100 years later Rachel Carson (ref; Silent Spring) warned us again of the risks of this approach to food production and agriculture in general. And where are we now - arable fields in the UK are doused with up to 28 chemical applications (ref; Goulson) each year - year after year. As a result we have lost (too) much of our flora and fauna. The fecund meadows of Transylvania remain, for now, chemical-less! 

Recent German research concluded that they have lost 75% of their invertebrates. On the back of this research, a supermarket chain removed all foods from the aisles, which require invertebrate pollination. Row upon empty row of food items, which we take for granted. 

High-tech, modern agri-business (British high farming, invented here) has painted our terrestrial environment into a very tight, impoverished corner and through CAP subsidies, we have unwittingly bank-rolled this destruction. Do our UK farmers farm anymore? Or do they subjugate, dominate, exploit and ultimately work antipathetically with nature.

I sense we are beginning to live on the edge of a perilous knife.....

On a very personal note it was wonderful to see Romanian dairy cows into their 17th lactation - still productive and happy. We slaughter ours after 3, 4 or 5 lactations - they are so knackered from the intensity of the farming regime.