Category Archives: Environmental politics

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom by Derek Wall

p. 186-7 “Elinor Ostrum, and indeed Vincent, viewed ecological matters as fundamental to their political economy from the early days of both of their respective careers. Vincent and Elinor had observed how democratic structures had been used to manage real-life environmental problems, such as the dilemma of how to share grazing land or water basins. Yet Hardin [of Tragedy of the Commons] ac=dvocated largely top-down, and potentially authoritarian, solutions to these environmental problems… Elinor Ostrum, to her credit, worked very hard to challenge it. Bu doing so she has helped to promote environmental sustainability and the rights of collective resources owners – from indigenous people to peasant farmers to free/open source software designers.

The reality is that there is a spectrum, or kaleidoscope, of property rights. When we move beyond the idea of the binary of state and private property, the alternative is not simply the commons. The notion of commons, both as a resource and a property right, is an advance over the binary. Commons, rather than being unowned non-property, have been identified as collectively managed resources. Yet Elinor Ostrom’s work points to a conception of property beyond the commons. Items can be owned in a variety of ways and, as more sophisticated legal theorists have long understood, even privately owned items contain a bundle of rights. The insights gained from John R Commons that property systems are diverse further opens up a new economic and legal understanding. This enhances concepts such as usufruct, the right to access a resource on the condition that it is maintained and not degraded, which are essential to creating more environmentally sustainable systems of governance. ..

The norms and rules of usufruct are the norms and rules of sustainability. An economics of social sharing, whilst not investigated by the Ostroms, fits well with their research. With the social sharing of physical goods it is possible to cut the knot of prosperity versus environment dilemma, and have access to more physical goods than we need, while reducing other use of resources. Neither usufrust nor social sharing automatically solve sustainability problems, but they are useful tools that make them easier to face. More fundamentally, the Ostroms’ concern with self-governance suggests that grassroots popular design can be promoted as a means of dealing with a range of ecological problems, including climate change.

Elinor Ostrom’s approach to sustainability, therefore, cannot be reduced to a calculation of costs, or governmental regulation, or any other panaceas. Social-ecological systems are complex, and purely cost considerations, or centrally imposed regulatory measures are inadequate to their maintenance. The seven-generation rule is helpful in understanding her perspective … however, she did not believe a normative commitment to sustainability was sufficient, but that practical policies had to be worked out. Policies that were developed democratically were more likely to be effective, and people needed to see practical gains from such policies.

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from The Poverty of Capitalism by John Hilary

p. 17 “Studies of the functional distribution of income between capital and labour have shown how comprehensively the working class has been excluded from the benefits of growth in the era of corporate globalisation.Far from keeping pace with growth, in three quarters of all countries for which data were available the share of national income going to wages declined between 1985 and 2006. The most precipitous fall occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the share of income going to wages decreased by 13 percentage points in just 10 years, while dramatic declines were also experienced in Asia (10pc), the industrialised north (9 pc) and sub-Saharan Africa. … Wage levels for full-time male earners in the USA are well known to have stagnated in real terms over the past 40 years, even while per capita GDP more than doubled … yet when increases in unemployment are taken into account in addition to inflation, the median wage for all working-age men in the USA actually declined by 28pc between 1969 and 2009.”

p. 37 “Shortly after Germany’s newly revised Atomic Energy Act had passed into law, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which operated two of Germany’s oldest nuclear power plants, gave notice of its intention to sue the German government as a result of the decision not to extend their operating life. According to Vattenfall, the reduced book value of the two plants required the company to register an impairment loss in its 2011 accounts of just under 1.2 billion euro, including provision for dismantling the plants, and as a foreign investor it claimed the right to pursue the government for #compensation under the terms of the multilateral Energy Charter Treaty, which Germany ratified in 1997. That treaty was ostensibly designed to protect foreign investors in the energy sector from political risks such as discrimination and expropriation, in keeping with many other bilateral and multilateral treaties introduced in the 1990s. … the treaty had handed investors unprecedented power to challenge the authority of sovereign states and their democratic structures. … Vattenfall’s suit … was formally registered in May 2012 at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement and Investment Disputes (ICSID) … it had already been successful in a prior claim brought under the terms of the same Energy Charter Treat three years earlier. The case had centred on the city of Hamburg’s environmental regulations for the River Elbe, where Vattenfall had been granted a permit to construct its new Moorburg coal0fired power plant on condition that it meet the water quality standards required of industry along the river. Vattenfall argued that these requirements made their investment ‘unviable and sued the German government… for 1.4 billion euros plus costs and interest. The case was settled between the two partied in early 2011, and although the details of the settlement were kept secret, insiders remarked that Vattenfall could consider the outcome a ‘complete success’. The company was granted a new permit to continue its construction of the Moorburg power plant, duly revised in favour to include less demanding environmental conditions.”

P. 42 “By means of intense bullying and brinkmanship in the shadow of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, a new round of international trade negotiations was launched at the WTO’s ministerial conference held in Doha in November 2001. .. the US managed to engineer the inclusion of the four Singapore issues (investment, government procurement, competition policy and trade facilitation) in the Doha round’s work programme at the 11th hour a coup widely credited to the personal persistence of the EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who would four years later be appointed Director-General of the WTO itself. “… this led to the collapse of the Doha Round in 2003.

p. 47 Bilateral Investment Treaties commonly identify the forum (or forums) in which international arbitration is to take place, as well as the procedural rules to be followed… BITs commonly grant foreign investors the choice between bringing claims first before national courts or going directly to international arbitration – an innovation which breaches the customary rule that local remedies must be exhausted before foreign investors have recourse to international forums. Secondly, investors can disguise or switch their home country so as to take advantage of these powers, as in the infamous case of the failed water privatisation in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where Bechtel subsidiary Aguas del Tunari was able to take advantage of the Netherlands-Bolivia BIT by virtue of having inserted Dutch holding companies into its ownership structure…. an ICSID tribunal in 2004granted the ‘Lithuania’ company Tokios Tokeles permission to bring a claim against Ukraine under the Lithuania-Ukraine BIT even though … the company was 99pc owned by Ukrainians”.

p. 54 “the annulment of a number of high profile ICSID awards in recent years has further undermined the legitimacy of the investment arbitration system. In June 2010, an ICSID review panel overturned an earlier award of $128 million against Argentina in favour of California-based company Sempra Energy, on the grounds that the original ICSID tribunal had failed to deal properly with Argentina’s ‘necessity’ defence in taking the emergency measures it did in the financial crisis of 2001…. In 2007, Bolivia became the first country to withdraw from ICSID, followed by Ecuador in 2009 and Venezuela in 2012; by the beginning of 2013, Argentina had also indicated its intention to leave. In April 2011, the Australian government announced that it would no longer include provisions for investor-state dispute settlement in future bilateral or regional trade agreements; one motivating factor behind the decision may have been the UNCITRAL claim brought against the state by US tobacco company Philip Morris, under the terms of the Australia-Hong Kong BIT, for lossess “potentially amounting to billions of dollars” as a result of Australia’s decision to require all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging’.”

p. 56 “the growing rejection of investor-state dispute settlemennt is consonant with states’ increasing confidence in re-establishing control over foreign investment by the means of new regulations. In 2000, fully 98 pc of all investment policy measures introduced at the national level served to liberalise the investment regime in host countries, while just 2pc introduced new regulations or restrictions on investors. In 2010… 32% of measures introduced new regulations on inward investment…. This rebalancing was most apparent in the the extractive industries, where 93pc of regulatory changes introduced in 2010 were restrictive, … in the agricultural sector … 62 pc of regulations introduced during 2010 were restrictive. .. business has responded by calling on the G20 to create an international framework agreement on investment that would guarantee transnational capital open access and protection in cross-border activities, including the permanent right to investor-state dispute settlement. … the B20 business lobby still identifies the WTO as its preferred forum for international rules and standards on investments.”

p101 “Intensified competition at the international level has played a role in undermining the prospect of positive outcomes in the garment sector, particularly as a result of the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement in 2005. The MFA was originally designed in the early 1970s as a protectionist shield for clothing manufacturers in the global North in the face of competition from new producers in the SOuth, especially China and India… a further consequence was companies … were forced to look to new production bases in a broader range of countries if they wished to take advantage of the increasing opportunities to supply Western consumers… the full effects of the MFa phase out… leading to significant job losses as factories closed in export bases such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. In the Dominican Republic, one in three factories closed and 70,000 jobs were lost in the garment sector between 2004 and 2007, while South Africa saw the value of its garment exports to the EU and USA crash by 75 pc over the same period…. within the first year alone, Kenya recorded job losses in the garment sector of almost 10 pc, Lesotho of 26 pc and Swaziland a catastrophic 43pc. Women were particularly affected … in Mauritius, 88 of the country’s 292 garment factories closed between 2004-2009, with a loss of over 17,000 jobs … the unemployment rate for women soared to 16.5pc… IN Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, the differential between women’s and men’s wage widened in the immediate post-MFA period, surging to a 55pc gender gap in the case of Sri Lanka. Even while total employment in the garments sector increased in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Pakistan after 2004, working conditions were found to have declined for women in all four countries.”

p. 106 ” aggressive cost-cutting by brand buyers has been a dramatic decline over the past two decades in the unit price of clothes leaving the factory floor. The factory price for cotton knit shirts, for instance, was driven down by over 20 pc in Mexico, El Salvador, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey and Bangladesh during 1994-2004, by over 30pc in Haiti, Guatemala, Domitian Republic and Egypt, and by over 50pc in Honduras and Nicaragua. … as sales began to be hit by financial crisis and recession from 2008 onwards, Western retailers embarked on their own discount campaigns in an attempt to offset declines in consumer spending… in Bangladesh, according to the country’s Export Promotion Bureau, the average price for woven and knitted garments fell another 3 pc between 2010 and 2011 as a result of this downwards pressure from retailers, while production costs increased by around 10oc. … to consumers in the West, this meant ever cheaper clothing over a sustained 20-year period, defying inflation and gibing rise to a throw-away fashion culture unknown to previous generations.In the USA, the price of women’s clothing fell by over 17 pc between 1992 and 2010, compared to a 55pc rise in the consumer price index as a whole. The UK clothing sector experienced significant price deflation in the first decade of the 21st century, as supermarket tripled their share of the clothes market and other ‘value’ retailers such as Primark burst on to the scene, leading to a 23 pc fall in the retail price of clothing and footwear in the 10 years to 2008 (and a 38pc fall in the case of women’s clothes. Brands and retailers at all points of the spectrum have seen vastly increased profits … Gap for instance posted sales of around $14.5 billion in both 2002 and 2010, but saw its profits increase two and a half times from $478 million to $1.2 billion in the same period. Nike’s profits more than tripled from $663 million in 2002 to $2.1 billion in 2011, with its profit margin increasing in the same period from 6.7pc to 10.2 pc. .. Primark … increased sales from £654 million in 2002 to £3 billion in 2011, and profits from £72 million to £309 million. The world’s largest fashion retailer Inditex… quadrupled its profits from 438 million euros in 2002 to 1.9 billion euros in 2011.”
read more »

Books Environmental politics History

From the East Anglian fens to the fragile wilds of Chernobyl

Tim Dee’s Four Fields is a title reflecting a bit of a conceit – it might equally be called “interesting natural things I’ve seen around the world”. It ranges widely from the fens of East Anglia to the horrors of nature distorted around Chernobyl, with a digression to a near-abandoned tobacco farm in South Africa to follow a honeyguide, to the American prairie and site of Custer’s last stand.

But it was the accounts of the fens I found most fascinating, possibly for their combination of history and ecology. Dee reports on the draining of Whittlesey Moor, the last fen mere to be so treated, in 1851. An iron column, 22 feet high was driven into the peat until it rested on the clay, it’s top level with the peat. “The water was pumped from Whittlesey in a matter of days. Locals strapped planks to their feet to walk on the mud and gather the fish that were dwoning in air. Eels and others were taken by the ton… the lake gave up a censer and an incense boat, which the last Abbot of Ramsey had lost in its watery flight from the Dissolution Commissioners of Henry VIII. The skeleton of a gramps (a dolphin of some species, possibly a killer whale) was also found, a leftover from more marine times. The water birds … went with its water. Previously, eight punt-gunners had made a living shooting its ducks. Three thousand wildfowl had been taken from the decoy on Holmes Fen in one week. Eight bitters or buttercups had been shot on Whittlesey in one day.” And on the column, Dee says … “its crown is now 12 feet clear of the earth, an iron-green stick in the birch-crowded day.” (p. 28) – a result of the peat soil shrinking.

Yet the earlier, pre-drained, fenland had been immensely productive, a part-wild, part-farmed place. “there were always people in every field and on every fen… reeds and sedges scythe for teaching; duck and fish tapped for food; peat dug for fuel; litter … off marsh plants for coarse hay. … Reeds grew in the wetter part of the fen. After winter frosts stripped them of their flags, old stems of four years or more were cut for roofing and younger stems were mixed with litter for fodder… Coopers sought the bullrushes on the fen, their long round stems were dried and placed between barrel staves where, on contact with fewer or whatever else was in the barrels, the stems would swell and keep the joints watertight. … Osiers from willows on the fen were cut for baskets, eel traps and foggot binds; thicker branches made good scythe handles. To keep the stick swollen and the fastening firm between harvests, scythe would be stored under the fen water, like moon-slivers of rusting silver.”
read more »

Environmental politics History Politics

Definitely worth reading: The Village (Marinaleda) Against the World

The Village Against the World is an affectionate, but not hagiographic account of the development of Marinaleda, with a strong focus on its leader Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, a farming community in Andalusia, southern Spain that over three decades transformed itself from being a landless, poverty=stricken peasant community with 60% unemployment, population 2,700 to being a land-owning, communally run community with its own farm, processing plant, bar and much more. One of its achievements is a community that is to be eventually of 350 homes; the Andalusian regional government provides the building materials, the villagers build the homes themselves and pay 15
euros/month mortgage

Hancox is realistic about its special nature “for centuries, Andalusian day labourers have settled in … tidily-sized pueblos, rather than in big cities or isolated cottages … and this has forged a unique spirit, an ultra-local micro=patriotism,… a thriving collective personality develops of its own volition, independent of
trends outside”.

But this is no ordinary pueblo – it’s as politically sophisticated as they come. Hancox tells the story of how the village went on hunger strike to demand land, since earlier occupations had come to nothing, sometimes violently, since police can’t beat up someone for not eating. Topping it was a letter from the villages’ children, some of whom had joined the hunger strike, apparently entirely on their own initiative, to the young crown prince of Spain. Political genius.

But … “Before the land seizures, before the collective farm, before economic democracy, before virtually free housing, before the assassination attempts, before the supermarket raids, before utopia, came organisation… in 1976 the field workers’ union, the Sindicato de Oberos del Campo was founded and soon after the Mirinaleda chapter formed … a union for day labourers, focusing on direct action, with a broadly anarchist philosophy. … at that time Spanish law prohibited voting in union elections until you had worked for the same employer for more than six months, ruling out 98% of the 500,000 Andalusian field workers, severing an entire class from labour organisation.” (p. 73)

What they acquired was part of an aristocrat holding of 23,000 hectares of land … were planted with labour-light dry crops like cornand sunflowers. “The Marinaleda proposal was to sow crops that created substantially more work, like tobacco, cotton or sugar beet, and to create secondary industries for processing them. This, they argues, would instantly lead to a 30 per cent reduction in unemployment in central Andalusia.” (p. 79)

“It was land reform from below, not above, delivered by direct action, and always pacifist ; their rule was to leave when evicted (although this did not prevent countless lawsuits for trespassing, roadblocks and other related incidents.) They fell into a routine whereby the Guardia Civil would evict them every day at the same time, around 5 or 6 pm, when they would go peacefully and walk back to the village. They following morning they would walk the 10 miles back again, flags held high. In the summer of 1985, in the blistering heat,
they made the same journey every day for a month – taking only Sunday off.” (p. 97)

“In 1991 they were finally granted El Humoso’s 1,200 hectares, the Duke of Infantado was quietly paid off by the regional government… In Sanchez Gordillo’s reading … it was the first time in 5,000 years
that the Andalusian farm labourers had been given the land that was rightfully theirs.”

Well worth a read … an extract.

Books Environmental politics Science

Looking back four billion years, with a very foggy picture…

(A shorter version was first published on Blogcritics)

The early evolution of life on Earth is a subject I’ve always found fascinating, but it’s a couple of decades since I last revisited the subject in any depth, and having read Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History by Donald E Canfield I now know that pretty well everything I’ve ever read or been taught on the subject was wrong. The idea that gradually algae spread around the earth, pumping out oxygen in a steady-growing stream, well it simply isn’t true.

It’s not surprising my teachers were so wrong, for as I read in Oxygen, a big breakthrough in understanding early life on Earth came in only 1999, when a colleague and friend of the author, James Farquahar, found some highly unexpected results on a study of sulfur isotopes, in Archaen rocks aged from 2.3-2.4 billion years ago. That led to the conclusion that at this time there’d been interaction between UV light and sulfur dioxide gas from volcanoes. Today, that’s absorbed by ozone, of course from oxygen. Further studies on the form some molybdenum takes in rocks of this age from some parts of the world, however, show that in some places there was free oxygen – what’s come to be known as a “whiff” of oxygen.

What was happening was that by around 2.5 billion years ago, the production of oxygen by photosynthesis more or less balanced the consumption of it by volcanic gases. Sometimes the balance shifted one way, so the oxygen disappeared, sometimes the cyanobacteria were beating the volcanoes.

It was between 2.3 and 2.4 billion years ago that “the great oxidation event” (GOE) changed that. Quite what caused it is still up for grabs. Canfield has a favourite, not evolution of cyanobacteria but a less active mantle, as it gradually cooled, cutting the production of reducing gases. Seems entirely plausible to this interested amateur.

But the GOE wasn’t entirely even – it was Canfield suggests concentrated in the atmosphere, the oceans remaining anoxic and rich in sulfide, with more sulfur being weathered from the land through oxidative weathering of sulfides. This is now known as the “Canfield Ocean” – yes after the author, we’re in seriously expert hands here.

Related to that is the likelihood that for much of the Earth’s “middle ages” atmospheric oxygen levels were much lower than today’s. (Any time machine travellers would need to take oxygen cylinders.) The author’s theory is just 10% of today’s levels, others suggest 40-50%.
read more »

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from George Monbiot’s Feral

“The name, coined by fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly, … shifting Baseline Syndrome’. The people of every generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal. When fish or other animals or plants are depleted, scientists or campaigners might call for them to be restored to the numbers that existed in their youth; their own ecological baseline. But they often appear unaware that what they considered normal when they we children was in fact a state of extreme deprivation.” p 69

P74 “It is all about soil disturbance with birch. It’s designed to chase retreating glaciers and ice sheets by seeding into their exposed soils before the coarse grass gets a foot in the door. It is also good at recolonizing burnt sites and places where the conifers have been felled. You just need to prepare the site with a tractor or rotavator. Or you could use pigs or wild boor to break up the bracken and disturb the soil. If we are serious about getting forests back in the uplands as quickly as possible, this has to be the way to go.”

P82 “In the catchment of the River Wye, for example, the authorities spent large amounts of public money until the late 1990s on the pointless task of dragging what they called timber blockages out of the tributaries. These great nests of branches took hundreds of years to accumulate. They were the prime habitat for a wide range of species, including the young of the salmon for which the river is renowned. … before someone realised that the policy resulted in nothing but harm.”

P83 “Beavers radically change the behaviour of a river. They slow it down. They reduce scouring and erosion. They ap much of the load it carried, ensuring that the water runs more clearly. They create small wetlands and boggy areas… Far from spreading disease… They could reduce it, as their dams filter out the sediments containing faecal bacteria.”

P84 “One of the most fascinating discoveries of modern ecology is an abundance of trophic cascades. … When the animals at the top of the food chain – the top predators – change the numbers not just of their prey, but also of species with which they have no direct connection. Their impacts cascade down through the food chain,in some cases radically changing the ecosystem, the landscape, and even the chemical composition of the soil and the atmosphere.

The best know example is the dramatic change that followed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Seventy years after they had been exterminated, wolves were released into the park in 1995. When they arrived, many of the stream sides and riversides were almost bare, closely cropped by a high population of red deer (which in North America, confusingly, are called elk). But as soon as he wolves arrived, this began to change. It altered their prey’s behaviour. They deer avoided the places – particularly the valleys and gorges – where they could be caught most easily. In some places, trees on the riverbanks, until the constantly suppressed by browsing, quintupled in height in just six years. The trees shaded and cooled the water and provided cover for fish and other animals, changing the wildlife community which lived there. More seedlings and saplings survived. The bare valleys began reverting to aspen, willow and cottonwood forest. One apparent result is the number of songbirds increased… The regrowth … Allowed populations of both beans and bison to expand .. The beavers … Created niches for otters, muskrats, fish, frogs and reptiles. … by hunting coyotes, the wolves allow the populations of smaller mammals, such as rabbits and mice, to rise. Scavenging animals such as bald eagles and ravens feed on the remains of the deer the wolves kill. The return of the wolves appears to have increased the numbers of bears. They eat both the carrion abandoned by the wolves and the berries growing on the shrubs that have sprung back as the deer declined.”

P120 “Not all reintroductions succeed. Dr Hetherington offers this handy tip for avoiding disappointment, don’t do what the Italians did in Gran Paradiso. Only released two lynx. Both male.”

 

P165 “I am told by a senior civil servant that an insurance company recently investigated the possibility of buying and reforesting Pumlumon – the largest mountain in the Cambrians – on whose slopes both the Severn and the Wye arise. It had worked out this would be cheaper than paying out for carpets in Gloucester. It abandoned the plan because of likely political difficulties.”

 

P192 “Some 150 years ago, just 30 percent of the Kocevje region, 95 per cent of which is now forested, was covered by trees. Much of the forest was preserved by the Princes of Auersperg as hunting estates. They were so obsessed by hunting, as princes often seem to be, that they and the other great lords of the Hapsburg monarchy in Slovenia and Croatia drew up a official declaration of friendship with the bear, signed and stamped with their gat seals, in which they agreed to sustain its numbers so they could continue to pursue it. The role the bears played in this negotiation was unrecorded.”

 

P198 “The impacts of the American genocides might have been felt throughout the northern hemisphere. … Recovering forests drew so much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere – about 10 parts per million – that they could have helped trigger the cooling between the 16th and 17th centuries known as the Little Ice Age.  …. Native American civilisation may have begun with a similar impact. The biologist Felisa Smith proposes that the extermination of the American megafauna by Mesolithic hunters may have been responsible for another mini ice age, the Younger Dryas, which began 12,800 years ago and lasted for 1,300 years … The wild herbivores of the Americas were, like sheep and cattle, magnificently flatulent. Smith calculates they produced around 10 million tonnes a year of methane.”

P244: “The Scania herring of the western Baltic … Became extinct inthe Middle Ages as a result of improved netting technologies. Significant ecological change may go back even further. The excavations at Bouldnor Cliff, on the Isle of Wight … Suggest that the Mesolithic people who lived there 8,100 years ago could have been running a oat yard. The woodworking techniques they used were previously believed to have arisen on Britain only 2,000 years later, in the Neolithic. … This suggests a fishing capacity gather and more sophisticated than previously imagined. Whenever a new fishery opens, the largest animals tend to be caught first. Who knows what monsters might have been extracted then? Ours is a dwarf and remnant fauna, and as its size and abundance decline, so do our expectations.”

P.246 “The world’s continental shelves are being trawled, destroying their sessile life forms – the trees of the sea – at 150 times the rate at which forests are being cleared on land. … Every year half the global continental shelf is trawled. … It is impossible for the delicate animals destroyed when nets, beams, rakes and chains were first dragged over the to re-establish themselves. … Until recently, much of the seabed was protected by the fact it was rocky, and would damage nets dragged over it…. But the rockhopper equipment developed in the 1980s and now used widely has made almost every hidden corner accessible…. Trawlers turn over boulders of up to 25 tonnes, either flushing out or smashing the fish and crustacean s they harbour, destroying the habitat as effectively as a bulldozer in the rainforest.”

P. 248 “In 2002′ at two world summits, governments promised to protect at least 10 per cent of the world’s seas by 2012. In 2003 the World Parks Congress called for at least 20 or 30 per cent of every habitat at sea to become a strict reserve by the same date. … A the time of writing less than 2 per cent of the world’s seas has any form of protection, and only in some places is fishing wholly excluded.

In 2004″,the British government’s official advisers, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, proposed that 30 per cent of the United Kingdom’s waters should become reserves in which no fishing or any other kind of extraction happened. In 2009 an environmental coalition launched a petition for the same measure … Which gathered 500,000 signatures… A the time or writing we have managed to protect a spectacular 0.01 per cent of our territorial waters, five of our 48,000 square kilometres. This takes the form of three pocket handkerchiefs: around Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran and Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. The are plenty of other nominally protected areas but they are no better defended from industrial fishing than our national parks are defended from farming…

When fishing stops, the results are remarkable. On average, in 114 marine reserves studied around the world, some of which have been I existence for only a few years, the total weight of animals and plants had quadrupled since they were established…. bigger fish produce more eggs, and the quality of the eggs improves as the parent mature, so the offspring are more likely to survive… The suppressed life of the sea awaits only the chance to reemerge.”