Germain Greer the Perils of Centrally Planning Ecosystems

Blog, Environment, David Seymour

From the Telegraph, Germain Greer of feminist fame has a detailed, insightful, and sadly ironic account of her attempt 20 years ago to plant a plot of land in accordance with the eco-trends of the day. She discovers what F.A. Hayek could have told her in his Fatal Conceit, that we attempt to plan more systems more complex than our own minds at our peril:

My wood was a mistake, but I can’t undo it. The trees I planted 20 years ago are now almost certainly protected (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). Wood violets have spread where the leaf mould is altering the pH. Snowdrops, celandines, hound’s tongue and alkanet have naturalised. Only an occasional bee orchid reminds me of what should have been.

Her experience is a microcosm of the broader British policy of subsidising forests that haven’t worked out, and she concludes in support of privatizing forests, so that they might be managed by an ecosystem of human owners with complexity and nuances more fitting to the complexity of the natural ecosystem:

Thetford Forest is one of the six properties that late last year the Government was proposing to sell, along with Bedgebury Pinetum, Westonbirt Arboretum, Cannock Forest, Dalby Forest and Sherwood Pines Forest Park. None of these is a woodland, let alone an ancient woodland. All are of the same age as Thetford and all are facing the same difficulties in paying their way.
The rationale of the campaign against the sale that resulted in the signing of a mendaciously worded petition by half a million people must remain one of the riddles of recent history. People who should have known better continue to refer to the projected sale as a vile and disgusting plot, when it was actually a last-ditch attempt to get out of an impossible situation.
The best outcome for the long term would be that Britain’s pine plantations be clear-felled and the land restored to its original biodiversity, but of that there is as little chance as there is of my being allowed to knock down my weeny wood.

UPDATE: There also appears to be quite an irony that protesters now oppose the felling of the woods even though they are a man made incursion in nature.