ALL CHANGE FOR FARMING AND THE REST OF US PART 1
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH - COAL, OIL AND GAS
Our civilization is founded on coal, oil and gas more completely than one realises until one stops to think about it. The machines that keep us alive, and the machines that make the machines are all directly or indirectly dependant upon coal, oil and gas.
The house you live in, the car you drive, the bus, train or bike you ride, the roads, the device you read this on, your clothes, everything you eat and drink relies upon the use past and present of coal, oil and gas. Even, my jar of locally sourced honey,
possibly the greenest of products on my shelf, is sold in a glass jar with a metal lid, both requiring resources and energy to preserve the wonderful product within.
Be under no illusion that doing away totally with these three things in the short or even medium term is advocating the total dismantling of society as we know it along with its freedoms. I cannot help but feel that many a good cause can hide an evil below it and the call for imminent abolition of fossil fuels and their extraction is one.
What I am wary of are those that invoke guilt, fear, impending doom and pessimism as motivations for unrealistic change. At the risk of sounding like James Callaghan in the 70’s I say, “Emergency, what emergency?” Change is possible but I choose redemption, optimism and hope. I choose life without fear. The ironic thing is that it is a change of coal, oil and gas supplies or price quickly at short notice that creates man made emergencies for nations to tackle. This does provide a key reason why we should carefully free ourselves from gas, oil and coal and allow their continued extraction.
Key to this is timespan of change and recognizing that the fossil fuel industries need to be active participants in the solution. Failure to recognize it risks the total catastrophic collapse of key products, systems and structures that underpin the current industrialized societies throughout the world.
The industrial revolution was able to happen due to the agricultural revolution that happened before it freeing the population from food production in the countryside to obtaining raw materials and manufacturing largely in towns and cities that grew larger than they had ever been before.
Farming is at the forefront of decarbonization. The reasons are more than environmental, they are economical. We are heralding an economic change that will require new measures, such as carbon trading, and reduced consumption rather than a fixed image of growth as success. If we get this right, as with the Industrial Revolution, Britain can lead the way and become an example for others to follow. If we get it wrong, we merely, as we do currently, risk exporting our carbon usage and through imports live on the benefits of other countries environmental, social and welfare sins. Worse than that, if we get it badly wrong we will loose our current position of privilege and become a third world nation.
The timespan of change must NOT be too quick. For example, the development of new car engines and fuels usually takes 10 years from development to being available to the consumer. This is, in part recognized by the current timetable of change to electric cars in the UK. We saw such a change with the light-bulb changing from higher wattage technology that was over a hundred years old, to energy efficient LED’s over a few years. This change has an ongoing benefit in lower energy usage and was made possible by clear legislation with a deadline, not by a knee-jerk policy trying to appease a noisy protester. Legislation on electric kettles to be adjustable thermostatically controlled (as mine is saving about £40 a year in electric). But these are small wins and collective planned change is required.
However, my biggest fear is how change is managed in Agriculture. We are seeing the largest change in the funding of farming and its proposed environmental structure in 50 years. We see a clear deadline of five years. But the direction is wooly and without leadership. Indeed, it carries high risk for farmers, food processors, distributors and retailers as both government and their pathetic opposition appear mostly ignorant of how everything works and ties together. The latest example of this failure is seen as for the second time in three years chicken and pork producers are looking at a potential loss of CO2 in a matter of days, with the risk of a serious hiatus in slaughtering ability. Intelligence, planning and foresight are needed like it was used in Churchill’s wartime coalition government.
In the next six posts “All Change For Farming and the rest of us” I will look at:
The past adaptability and success of UK Agriculture
The impact of change.
As farmers to review their view of change.
Explore how you can understand change.
Discuss how you can plan for ongoing change in farming.
Finally a personal view on the current changes, the fear of a routing of farmers, and my view of what measures and protection I would like to see.
To parody Sam Cooke, “a change is going to come” but it won’t be “a long time coming”.