SELFISH litterbugs should face the prospect of £1,000 fines, say campaigners.
With tourists trashing beaches and beauty spots around the country in the wake of the lockdown easing, InYourArea and Clean Up Britain joined forces to launch a nationwide anti-littering campaign called Don’t Trash Our Future.
Spearheaded by a number of famous faces including JLS singer JB Gill, the campaign encourages people to organise local clean-ups, push for higher fines and put pressure on councils to enforce penalties.
The campaign calls for volunteers to organise neighbourhood clean-ups in August and September tackling “grot spots” from parks and beaches to scrubland or messy roadsides.
Supporters are also being asked to sign a petiton calling for the maximum fixed penalty fine for dropping litter in the UK to be raised to £1,000.
Councils are called on to play their part too. Research by Clean Up Britain found the vast majority of local authorities in the UK were not using their enforcement powers enough – with 72% of councils in England and Wales either not enforcing the law at all, or not enforcing it effectively.
Those questioned said littering had got worse since lockdown began to ease and made them miserable, angry, sad or depressed. And the vast majority (97%) thought councils should enforce the law properly.
Don’t Trash Our Future has been backed by a number of high-profile names including JLS singer-turned-farmer JB Gill, a passionate advocate for farming and the environment who has made numerous appearances on Springwatch and Countryfile.
He said: “It’s great to see that people recognise that litter is a public health concern and a major problem.”
The campaign has also received the backing of broadcaster and animal rights campaigner Clare Balding and her partner Alice Arnold, along with TV presenter Gabby Logan and her husband, former Scottish international rugby star Kenny.
Journalist and television presenter Jeremy Paxman is Clean Up Britain’s patron. He said: “It depresses people because mucky surroundings make them feel worthless. It’s expensive – councils across the UK spend over a billion pounds a year trying to clean it up.”
ENVIRONMENTAL campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham has lost his Court of Appeal challenge over the legality of the HS2 high-speed rail scheme.
He had argued there were failings in the way the government decided to give the project the go-ahead but judges have refused permission for a judicial review into the cabinet’s decision to give the multibillion pound project the “green signal” in February.
Expressing his disappointment in a 10-minute video to his 434,000 Twitter followers, Packham said: “Today is a dark day for us, our wildlife, our environment and our planet. And darker still for our government.”
But he added: “Winning is not giving up – and we’re not giving up.”
Environmentalists say the high-speed rail project is leading to irreversible destruction of ancient habitats and woodlands.
Packham said the case for HS2 should be revisited despite Friday’s ruling. He argues the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on public finances and the need for a green recovery has undone the business and environmental case for the line.
“Obviously we are deeply disappointed by today’s ruling. But the fact is, we are a world away from the place we were when we issued the original claim for judicial review,” he said.
“People now see that a scheme for a railway which will tear up the countryside so that we can shave a few minutes off a journey time, makes no sense in the contemporary workplace.”
HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. A spokesman for HS2 Ltd told the BBC it took its commitment to the environment “extremely seriously” and there was “safeguarding in place to protect wildlife and other natural assets”.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said the project was “crucial to rebuilding our economy from coronavirus”.
PAINFUL at times to read and depressingly prescient, Paul Kingsnorth’s 2008 portrait of England in decline is even more disturbingly relevant a decade after its original publication.
Written with wit and charm rather than as an aggressive polemic, Kingsnorth’s personal journey around the country was effectively a manifesto against the homogenising forces of globalisation and a top-heavy state.
Following in the footsteps of Orwell and Chesterton, the former deputy editor of The Ecologist embarked on a quest to establish the nature of the ‘real England’ in the 21st century – and discovered a nation in disarray and under siege.
But this wasn’t merely a sentimental or nostalgic harking after yesteryear. In many ways Kingsnorth was as stark and hard-hitting in his portrait of the plight of the little man as Orwell – and at times he finds it hard to contain his anger.
“I am angry at what is being done to my country, angry at what is being lost and what is being deliberately erased,” he writes.
UNDER THREAT: the archetypal English village [PICTURE: Annie Spratt, Unsplash]
Kingsnorth takes his cue from words written a quarter of a century earlier by Richard Mabey in The Common Ground (1980): “Time and again we have seen how most of the naturally rich areas that remain on the farm are now confined to land that is agriculturally marginal.”
But Kingsnorth’s premise is that Mabey’s pronouncement on agriculture can be more broadly applied to our modern lifestyles, where the richest and most interesting remnants of English culture are now only to be found at the margins, away from the shopping malls and busy motorways.
His meander around the country picks up various threads which reflect a litany of loss: of closed pubs, specialist shops and second-hand bookshops on one hand and the destruction of wildflower meadows, chalk grasslands and ancient woodlands on the other – together with the flora and fauna which they supported.
LITANY OF LOSS: England’s disappearing wildlife [PICTURE: Ryan Jacques, Unsplash]
The “battle against the bland”, as the book is subtitled, is the battle against the apparently unstoppable spread of a manufactured corporate landscape, where individuality gives way to conformity, uniformity and mediocrity.
This is a world of identikit high streets, privately owned shopping malls and private security companies, where so-called progress destroys traditions, livelihoods and any sense of community.
“We are not a society which appreciates value,” he writes. “We appreciate instant gratification, primary colours, simple answers. We appreciate celebrities and shopping and media scandals and premium rate phone lines.”
Here lies the rub, because amid the bewildering distractions of technological advances, investment opportunities and a plethora of consumer choice, we are in danger of losing our way entirely, he argues: “We are losing sight of who we are and where we have come from. And we don’t care. Or do we?”
BRAVE NEW WORLD: inside a shopping mall [PICTURE: Victor Xok, Unsplash]
At the time it was published, the book was not unremittingly bleak and did contain various suggestions for steering a path to a more optimistic future, despite the dire warnings of local pubs being turned into theme bars or pricey flats and rural villages becoming commuter dormitories or dead collectives of second homes for the wealthy.
Yet many of those warnings seem even more disturbing today after a decade of social networking, of the transformation of city centres and old docksides into high-rise offices and unaffordable penthouse flats.
The gentrification of whole boroughs of London is complete, grubby cafes and other community meeting spots being swept away by stainless steel and smoked glass.
“The small and the local, the traditional and the distinctive were being stamped out by the powerful, the placeless and the very, very profitable,” Kingsnorth recalled in a Guardian article in 2015 – and not just in England, of course, but around the world, from Delhi to Sydney.
Yes, there have always been those determined to resist the Tescoisation of the land, but the author also believes this is not a straightforward issue in political terms, but about the individual against the ‘crushing, dehumanising machine’.
Back in 2008 the urgency of this book lay in its unequivocal message about the need for us to stop being complacent and do something before it’s too late.
SKY’S THE LIMIT: Toronto’s financial district [PICTURE: Matthew Henry, Unsplash]
So is it too late? The onslaught on the whole cultural fabric of England’s local communities has continued unabated. The pubs and dairy farms have continued to close, the skyscrapers, motorways and luxury flats are still being built.
“The population is expected to exceed 70 million within 15 years, all in the name of growth and with no end in sight. Global capitalism is eating the soul of the nation,” wrote Kingsnorth in 2015.
Back in 2008 he lamented how consumerism specialises in creating a fake reality where new ‘needs’ are created by the brand marketing gurus and can be met, at a price, to help us fend off old age, pain, heartache, loneliness.
“We become narcissistic, self-absorbed, atomised. All that is real seems unreal; all that is false seems sublime. Everything is controlled – including us.”
It is a dystopia worthy of Huxley; ten years on and the unfolding tragedy seems to be even more vivid and terrifying. With Donald Trump as American president and Brexit looming, is England able to reclaim any of its lost character? The gulf between the haves and have-nots is even wider than it was in 2008. We live in any age of suicide bombs and apocalyptic warnings about climate change and mass extinction.
But Kingsnorth still believes if there’s any antidote to the ideology of mass consumption and growing disconnect between human beings, it lies in the essence of the place itself: the woods, fields, streets, towns and beaches.
“We can be surrounded by plastic or be part of something real. We can be Citizens of Nowhere or we can know our place – know it and be prepared to stand up for it, because we understand how much it matters.”
That was his rallying call in 2008 and despite all the changes during the intervening years, it still makes a great deal of sense. All is not lost – not quite. And perhaps the growing resonance of that message in a world gone mad is that it’s never too late to stand against the tide – if we really want to.
Real England: The Battle Against The Bland by Paul KIngsnorth was published in paperback in June 2009 by Portobello Books at £8.99
IDENTITY CRISIS: can England rediscover its soul? [PICTURE: Steve Harvey, Unsplash]