With a fiscal insertion that is, frankly, eye-watering and involves sums of money it is beyond my tiny, maths-spastic, brain to comprehend, the Premier League has recently been awarded £5.2Bn in TV rights for the next 3 seasons. Like me, you probably find it difficult to comprehend just how much money that is, but as I guideline I just did a quick land search – you can buy around 100 hectares of mixed woodland for £500,000. Now by my rough maths you could therefore buy an area of woodland around twice the size of Yorkshire. I think. Honestly though, I wouldn’t trust my maths.
I’m preaching to the converted here, I know, but if you were to somehow gauge the amount of time spent and enjoyment gained by people experiencing the natural environment, it would far outstrip that gained from a season ticket to your standard Premier League team, even if that team happened to be the 03/04 Arsenal, replete with Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira. Indeed, nowadays I’d much sooner shell out a few quid to watch a bunch of ecologists attempt to kick a ball around (or engage in any kind of competitive sport for that matter) than sell all my worldly possessions to watch the Gunners capitulate to their standard last minute defeat as they surrender a 2-0 lead at home to Leicester. Given the ecologists I know, I can guarantee it would be a much more entertaining game, though for quite different reasons.
It’s that, well, green space is always just there, isn’t it? Unfortunately that’s the view far too many members of the public hold, as I’m sure we are all well aware. But just imagine for a second that there has been an almighty balls-up at the bank (yeah, just imagine that) and that £5.2Bn has accidentally been redistributed to a handful of environmental charities. Now we’ve got it, what the hell are we going to do with it? So here are my top 5 suggestions for spending our fortuitous winnings:
1. Rewild the uplands
Monbiot pushes this in Feral but it’s been a notion at the forefront of British conservation a lot longer than that. Wales and Scotland have many upland areas that have marginal viability farming. Many highland areas of Scotland are run purely for game (with detrimental human impacts on raptors and anything else that might possibly interfere with the production of more game) Compulsory purchase of Highland estates from some of the non-resident oligarchs that have scooped them up in recent years would allow a large scale rewilding effort with the reintroduction of charismatic megafauna and the possible re-establishment of the Caledonian forest.
2. Plant up more woodland
Following on from the above, imagine being able to re-establish the Great North Wood or extending the New Forest?
3. Re-meander rivers, allow to flood
If we could purchase large areas of riverine land, we could breakdown the restrictive man-made banks on our rivers where possible and allow flood plains, backwaters and meanders to re-establish. This would not only encourage wildlife but also have great benefits for the population of the Somerset Levels (much greater than knee-jerk dredging).
4. Start buying up golf courses. Just because. I flew in to Heathrow last month and was astonished by the amount of green-space given over to golfers.
5. Evacuate the Isle of Man and leave them as an experiment in rewilding (OK, I’m not entirely sure we could really afford to do this. I’m not sure what property currently runs to in the IoM. I’m pretty sure that, unlike everything else on the island, it is not a good 10 years behind the mainland). Maybe the Wallabies will take over.
What do you think – overly ambitious? Not ambitious enough? There were plenty I could have added (I wasn’t sure whether you can actually ‘buy’ areas of the ocean) but I’ve aimed for brevity for once. I know, I know, it’s all pie in the sky stuff, but I think it’s an important exercise to consider – if we don’t consider what our ultimate, dream outcomes are, then how can we move towards them?
This picks up from a thought I had recently while watching UKIP: The first 100 days – what would the first 100 days of the government of Spike look like? Thinking about it, there would probably be about the same level of rioting, I’m not sure people are ready to discuss population control quite yet. Maybe I’ll write that one up next month…