On HS2 and destruction of the British countryside

I don't usually write political posts on my nature journal/blog but I have just seen a post about the HS2 project taking control of the Calvert Jubilee nature reserve in Buckinghamshire. I cried. A large part of the nature reserve will be bulldozed to make way for a new fast rail link between London and the north of England. And by the 'north of England' I mean about half way up the body of mainland Britain, on the western side of England, to Manchester. It is going to destroy large swathes of British countryside, including ancient woodland that cannot be replaced. There was little to no attempt to find ways around these important places. Don't get me started on the wildlife that will be lost. I have heard some horrific stories so far of badger setts being destroyed and badgers and foxes running away onto busy roads in an attempt to save their lives.

badger sketch in watercolourIt is a project that is hugely over budget and will drain Britain's physical and financial resources with no guarantee of an economic benefit. I know the economic argument. As a small business I know only too well how important it is. But there is no evidence that this rail link will bring any benefit to anyone other than those who are building it. And today there is a rumour that the rail link from Birmingham to Leeds won't go ahead anyway. One thing that the Covid pandemic has shown is that more people are able to work from home or work more locally. How much do we really need extra rail capacity on a faster line? And is it worth the sacrifice of irreplaceable land?

Right now the government is spending huge amounts on Covid and we are being threatened with future tax rises. Would it not make more sense to shelve the rail link and save everyone having to pay more tax than is necessary? Billions of pounds are being thrown at this rail link. Tens of billions! Initial cost estimates? Just under £16 billion at the low end of the estimate. Current estimate? As of 2019 between £80- 90 billion. A leaked report this year mentioned £106 billion.

brambles in the scottish borders

Today I cried for the Earth. Considering all we have been through in recent months - fires, floods, disease, etc - you would think that humanity would be taking a long, hard look at its behaviour. We've seen how quickly the air quality improves, how quickly the seas improve and how quickly wildlife adapts. Many of us have also seen how unfulfilled we are. Yet people in power are grasping hard to keep hold of the old world.

peacock butterfly in scottish borders

This is not just about the fluffy bunnies and hugging trees. This is about the importance every species has within the ecosystem. Remove one element and the others suffer. Remove multiple elements and we are all in trouble.

woodland in scottish borders

Sadly, there is not much that can be done about HS2 now. The two sides of the issue have been to court. It seems to be going ahead. Habitats and species will be lost. But this won't be the only battle we will have in the coming years. Developers are choosing to ignore brown field sites in favour of green field. In some places planning processes that gave people some decision making ability over their own environment, and some protection to wildlife, have been watered down to allow building on almost any site. But the bottom line is that we have to be prepared to fight for our land. Without the protestors that stood in place to try and protect the trees and the plants and the animals, the developers would have moved in long ago. It has to be about balance - people AND nature. We need housing and development, yes, but we need our landscape, ecosystem and wildlife too. Without nature in all its forms the world will be a much poorer place - but more importantly it will put humanity's survival on the edge too.