A cli­mate for change?

The burn­ing Ama­zon rain­for­est has dis­tress­ing par­al­lels for Nor­folk, says Chris Dady

EDP Norfolk - - EYE ON THE COUNTY - Chris Dady chair­man, Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Eng­land Nor­folk cprenor­folk.org.uk

It has been very dis­tress­ing to see im­ages of the Ama­zon rain­for­est be­ing de­stroyed by fires – of­ten il­le­gally lit – to clear land for agri­cul­ture. Al­though at a much higher level this year, this is a long-run­ning tragedy, brought about sim­ply by the way we value land and mea­sure eco­nomic suc­cess.

The Ama­zon rain­for­est has in­cal­cu­la­ble value for the planet, be­ing vi­tally im­por­tant for our global at­mos­phere and cli­mate. It is home to a num­ber of tribal com­mu­ni­ties and has enor­mously rich re­sources of fauna and flora.

Many medicines, in­clud­ing sev­eral can­cer-fight­ing ones, have their ori­gins in rain­for­est plants. But in terms of mone­tary value it is worth very lit­tle to Brazil’s econ­omy, so ex­ploita­tion from tim­ber, min­ing and agri­cul­ture pro­vides the hard cash that sup­ports the de­sired eco­nomic growth, at least in the short term.

If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it is a sce­nario also faced by Nor­folk. A piece of land next to a com­mu­nity, pro­vid­ing ameni­ties, flood alle­vi­a­tion, with car­bon-stor­ing soils and trees, and form­ing a key part of the land­scape, will be val­ued at a pit­tance com­pared to its value if that same land re­ceives plan­ning con­sent for a hous­ing es­tate. So, like the rain­for­est, it be­comes a tar­get for uses which de­liver the high­est cash re­turns.

In our crowded island ev­ery piece of land is pre­cious, and we need to start valu­ing un­de­vel­oped land in the same way we think about fam­ily heir­looms. That value can be far greater than any mone­tary price.

If we adopt this ap­proach, de­ci­sions about land use can bet­ter in­cor­po­rate sus­tain­able value to com­mu­ni­ties, cli­mate alle­vi­a­tion and land­scape. Once we de­velop land it is un­likely ever to be re­cov­ered, so de­ci­sions can­not be taken lightly.

This ap­proach would mean land could be more highly val­ued for uses such as grow­ing food, sup­port­ing wildlife and al­low­ing ac­cess than be­ing de­vel­oped for hous­ing or in­dus­try. The op­po­site could be true for a site with good trans­port links near to schools, ser­vices and jobs.

Green land run­ning into a town cen­tre, with foot­paths and cy­cle­ways, link­ing the ur­ban area to the sur­round­ing coun­try­side, would be more valu­able if left un­de­vel­oped, com­pared to the short-term cash that would be raised on sale for devel­op­ment. Where af­ford­able homes were re­quired, the value of the land for that type of devel­op­ment would be po­ten­tially higher than in its ex­ist­ing use, with the price set at a level which al­lowed such a devel­op­ment to hap­pen.

Such an ap­proach would help pro­tect the coun­try­side, vi­tally im­por­tant for our health and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and would be a pos­i­tive and pain­less step to help­ing deal with cli­mate change, bring­ing ad­van­tages at the same time. Fac­tors such as the im­por­tance of land act­ing as a car­bon sink could be prop­erly taken into ac­count.

It would not stop sites be­ing iden­ti­fied for devel­op­ment, but would en­sure de­ci­sions were taken on a sound foot­ing, once a much wider set of fac­tors had been con­sid­ered. It would speed the de­liv­ery of af­ford­able ecofriendl­y homes, the area where our hous­ing sup­ply is so lack­ing.

We can only hope that Brazil, along with the rest of the world, can find a way to un­der­stand the true value of the rain­for­est, and like­wise, we can start to mea­sure the true value of Nor­folk.

This value should be ap­pre­ci­ated at least equally in mone­tary terms in our mea­sure­ment of fu­ture growth. Only when we do this can we en­sure the well­be­ing of our­selves, our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, Nor­folk and our planet.

ABOVE: The Ama­zon on fire

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