I've fallen out of love with Green co-leader Jamie Shaw. It didn't take long. Our political honeymoon lasted less than a day.
He declared "free market capitalism dead". I get that he doesn't like free markets. He's a Green. He's a politician. He wants to boss us around. People being free to choose is anathema to him.
Countries previously starving have grown rich in a generation through free market capitalism.
We have more free trade than ever. There's more private property. Profit and loss rules and consumers are king. Politicians and bureaucrats are increasingly marginalised. They don't have the power and control they once had.
They don't like it but that doesn't make the free market dead. It's alive and well and feeding the world.
They live on the backs of farmers, miners, loggers and fishermen. They don't reject their taxpayer dollars as coming from dirty fuels.
And now my former pin-up boy wants to run the country on a learner plate.
The Greens had a point, a long time ago, that the world needed to look after its natural resources better. The problem they have now is that the world has done so, and learned how to have the best of both worlds through advances in technology. The world can feed its exploding population on a third of the land previously used for farm production because of modern agricultural practices. The reality is that the world is greener, richer, better fed and more resilient as Matt Ridley has pointed out in a recent article in the Times.
Nitrates have increased the yields of farms. They are the biggest single reason why the world now needs about one-third as much land to grow the same quantity of food as it did in 1960. Now imagine a world in which we did not use gas to make synthetic nitrates: to feed seven billion people we would need an extra Australia, and we would have to get it from what’s left of the rainforests, the wetlands and the uplands.
My point is that the single best thing we have done to save this planet is to intensify the way we farm the acres we currently use, so that we need fewer acres. It’s called “sustainable intensification”, “decoupling” or “land sparing” and it is the big new idea in ecology — the central point in a recently published “eco-modernist manifesto”. It’s not just true in food production, it is true in the growing of textiles and energy too: shifting to fossil fuels unquestionably saved the forests of Europe, which would have been chopped down to create fuel.
Many countries, including Britain but also Bangladesh and China, are now seeing a steady increase in forest cover decade after decade. The size of wildlife populations in Europe has shot up in recent years, according to a recent study, Wildlife Comeback in Europe, by various conservation groups such as the Zoological Society of London . The humpback whale population has rebounded spectacularly as have polar bears, walruses, fur seals and many penguin species. Why? Because we substituted manufactured products for the resources we used to get from these creatures. We decoupled from nature, we sustainably intensified — and we increased natural capital.
And where natural capital is still in ever more trouble, it is because humankind has not yet decoupled from nature and still relies on wild ecosystems for firewood, bushmeat and revenue.
Humpback whales were very rare by the 1950s. Now they are back almost to pre-exploitation levels of 75,000 individuals. Antarctic fur seals (valued mainly for their pelts) were all but wiped out except for a tiny population on South Georgia in 1900. Today there are four million all around the sub-Antarctic. Walruses were wiped out in many parts of the Arctic. Today they have recolonised many areas and number 130,000 in the Bering Sea and adjacent areas alone. These vast increases in natural capital are the result of “sustainable intensification” — substituting petroleum products for animal products — at least as much as any other cause. The world uses far more energy; but it gets far less of it from blubber.
The problem is the relentless good news on the state of the environment is killing the Greens.