By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 21st June 2017
The less you care, the better you will do. This has long been the promise of conservative politics on both sides of the Atlantic. People who couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the consequences of their actions are elevated to the highest levels of government. Their role is to trash what lesser mortals value.
This describes the position of almost everyone in Trump’s cabinet. In the UK, I feel it applies, among others, to Jeremy Hunt at the department of health, Boris Johnson at the foreign office, Priti Patel at international development and now Michael Gove at the environment department. The worst possible candidates are given the most sensitive portfolios.
Gove has attacked the two main pillars of protection for wildlife and ecosystems in this country, the European habitats and birds directives. As education secretary, he sought to erase climate change from the geography curriculum. Now, at a time of great environmental hazard, as the Brexit talks commence, he has been granted an opportunity to make his dream – and our nightmare – of destroying public protections come true.
Let me give you an example of how dangerous this appointment – and the government’s wider agenda – could be. A plant disease called Xylella fastidiosa, that originated in South America, is leaping across the European continent. It has now reached Italy, the Balearic Islands, Germany and France. As well as crops, it threatens many of our forest trees, including oak, elm, ash, cherry, sycamore and plane. Urban trees seem to be especially susceptible, perhaps because of the stresses they suffer: in American cities, some streets have had to be clear-felled. There is no known cure.
Xylella has ripped through olive groves in Italy and vineyards and fruit farms in the Americas. It is impossible to say how many species it might affect, how much damage it might do and whether it would thrive in our climate. But we should hope we never find out.
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