Three things have struck me over this past week. The proposal to make the waters around Lindisfarne a Highly Protected Marine Area, a quote from Jeremy Clarkson and a delicious pat of Organically produced butter. All these things have a connection in my mind. Let me explain.
There is currently a proposal to make the waters around Holy Island a protected area. This is in the interests of sustaining the environment and protecting wildlife so, on the face of it, is very hard to dispute its merits. It would however have a severe consequence for the fishermen of Lindisfarne depriving this small local group of people of their fishing grounds. Such situations are not uncommon in fishing and I usually result in fishermen migrating their activity to the next available site. However, in this case those sites are already effectively taken, and the fishermen concerned are not of a scale that would make a longer migration of activity an economically viable alternative. The problem, as I see it, is that the fishermen and their activity are viewed as separate from the environment and nature, whereby they are in fact part of the environment that has worked alongside nature for generations using their knowledge and abilities to keep their activity sustainable . By sustainable I mean environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
Lets turn to Jeremy Clarkson and his farm with its Diddly Squat Farm Shop. It matters not whether we like or loathe him, he has to be respected for being brave enough to put his money into a farm and seek to make it pay whilst at the same time managing and improving the environment in common with many British farmers. On his land the ability to avoid losing cash requires considerable effort to diversify activities whether it be crops, environmental payments or his shop and restaurant. This has raised some objections which Jeremy Clarkson was quoted as saying: "...Its split pretty evenly between those that have a house number...we bring business to the area and jobs to their kids. If they've got a house name they tend not to like us, because they tend to have moved here from London quite recently and don't want crowds of people coming to the farm shop." Yet no doubt I am sure those objectors enjoy the hedgerows, stone walls and fields that surround their countryside whilst conveniently disregarding the fact this landscape does not look after itself and is very hard to get to pay for itself. To maintain farmland and the countryside it requires people and finances, that is social and economic sustainability. Granted this is a balancing act, but denying local people opportunity and jobs is not progress. The countryside needs to be economically and socially sustainable.
Finally my organic butter. Now it has to be considered that organic butter should be highly "green" and environmentally friendly. Being organic, the use if chemicals and drugs whether on the livestock or their grass and fodder, will have been kept to a minimum. In principle organic production uses less resources, which in an ideal world would be a cost saving. The reason I bought this butter is that it was reduced from £3.20 to £1.31. There was plenty of this unsold butter at the shop reduced due to it being close to its use by date. My usual non-organic butter is about £2. I could not justify spending an extra £1.20 on butter for its organic credentials. Being green has to be economically sustainable for the consumer as well as the producer and the dairy farmer. The sad fact is that any dairy farming, organic or otherwise, is on marginal returns that make it difficult to warrant reinvestment in capital.
Too often we talk of environmental sustainability, but we forget people are part of that environment and this must be balanced with social, financial and economic sustainability.