• Beacons

    There’s another gale blowing tonight, the wind working itself up over the wasteground outside where a friend used to catch slowworms and newts in an effort to fulfill a government-sanctioned one-man environmental mitigation scheme. He’d later release them on the downs on the other side of town where kestrels hovered with their knowing eye of what it was he had inside his buckets. As habitat relocations go, it could have been worse. In the countryside around Combe Haven the effort at relocating badgers has been pretty appalling with adult mammals seen wandering the valley confused and disorientated, out uncharacteristically by day and easy prey for the roadside statistics.

    And tonight there’s another eviction, of humans this time, as the last of the tree camps on route of the new road scheme gets the attention of the County Council funded hit squad. Last night, with the weather particularly bad, a Chief Inspector requested that hot food be allowed through the cordon though this was refused by the eviction crew along with a request for Ibuprofin. And this after the camp got through the recent coldsnap; almost unbelievably with many of the treehouses still unheated.

    At times like this there’s a sense that nothing can be taken for granted, not least any sense that we are being steered in any benevolent direction from those on high in government. But vilification hardly helps. The government has merely let slip the leash from all the county councillors with their long nursed pet schemes waiting in the wings for just such unlikely opportunities as this. It’s no particular surprise then that some at East Sussex County Council should feel particularly aggrieved; there seems a kind of truculent inability from those operating at a local level to grasp the arguments concerning the need for a national sustainable transport policy. And it’s arguably down to more than just the fact that in East Sussex at least we’re blessed with a Tory county council.

    There’s a kind of outdated pigheadedness, a sense that here nothing much has moved on from the Seventies when six lane motorways stormed their way across the Shires and politicians everywhere bowed down or raised a cheer for this new order where the countryside was sentiment, success was marked in miles per hour and we were all steadily sold out to a future of verges and cuttings, displacement and loss of something that can never be expressed through manacled mantras of efficiency or industry and which remains articulated only by a roar of tyres that we need not hear if we only buy into the models that are conveyed from factories where excellence is still an open road, a fantasy of freedom as the lanes clog up and everyone’s in service to idols of rubber and chrome even as the sidelined children gasp for air and the climate overhead is racked with grief or caught up in its own potential morbid fever and the cars there rising, locking us in, inevitable as a small town opinion, where the future’s an estate etched out without imagination and roads are the vanguard and it's inevitable, inevitable as the chemical air freshener catching the throat as it swings from the windscreen mirror, inevitable as the smell of cigars and valeteers and the sweet toxic whiff of rubberized fittings and synthetic seats.

    Measured against it? The will to survive, the will of people who are prepared to imagine something better than a slide to old anachronisms. Measured against it runs the clear knowledge of government commissioned research, runs the aspiration we can help forge something different, that we can build a world that values what is green as well as a roof above our heads. Far from the rhetoric, high above such diatribes as this, the knowledge sits that the two hundred roads schemes now planned in this country (and the signal that sends to so many other countries embarking on a new modernity) are not inevitable at all. They are the product of a throwback state, that does even its own institutions a disservice, that is at once entrenched in the hole it has dug for itself in its economic stance and seems unwilling to yield while someone somewhere makes a stack of money.

    That’s why people are enduring the elements and cordons out on nights like this – they hold the hope for a better force across this country, they speak and act for all our freedoms, they are informed with the sense that England has the chance of something genuinely pragmatic, if not wholly inspirational. In the apparent absence of that better world they are building it up, one camp at a time: beacons in a way for all our futures.



The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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