Yesterday afternoon, we enjoyed the glorious weather while planting some new hedges around our soft fruit and nut trees. Spring is well and truly underway! The hedges will eventually replace the existing electric fence, and also provide food and shelter for nesting birds and insects.
Farmers are under massive pressure to squeeze every last ounce of value out of their land. Over the last decades this has often resulted in the wholesale removal of hedges and trees, and with them a staggering loss of biodiversity. The State of Nature report published in 2016 warned that one in ten UK species are under direct threat of extinction.
Our government’s attitude is reflected in the official description ‘non productive outlay’, used to describe costs related to planting trees and hedges. Land ‘lost’ to vegetation is no longer eligible for routine subsidies. Ironic then, that a report by The Economics of Eco-Systems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative estimates that if current trends are not reversed, biodiversity loss will cost around 7% of global GDP by the year 2050, far in excess of the economic crash of 2008 and beyond. The RSPB also report that in the UK alone, ‘environment-related jobs’ are worth £18.6 billion to the national economy. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a radical full system rethink is decades overdue.
In the meantime, from our small slice of heaven in County Down we will continue to do what we can. Seeing the blossom in the spring and the berries in the autumn, and the bird count increase and the soil come alive again with worms and insects will be reward enough for now.