I did like it. This is a profile of Jake Fiennes. Yes, that family. Joseph is his twin brother, Ralph his oldest brother. There’s also Sophie, Martha and Magnus. There’s also a cousin who is a polar explorer.
But this piece wasn’t about a famous family. It was about Jake, a self-taught naturalist behind a movement in British environmental farming. Basically, he’s been restoring sterile, toxic farmland, rebuilding habitat for birds and critters, increasing crop output.
Some information in the article disturbed me. Seems there is a pretty powerful arm of the European Union, which Britain is leaving, called the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Basically, this consortium is responsible for “perverse incentives and environmental impact”. In other words, its practices, which are forced on Union members, have been responsible for the decimation of farmland birds. “More than half have disappeared in the past fifty years,” according to the 2019 “State of Nature” report issued by dozens of British nature organizations.
Where the conversation got interesting was when I mentioned that Brexit was actually providing a chance for British farming to re-prioritize land uses. I worried for the rest of Europe. What was the CAP doing to Germany, France, Estonia?
The husband, during his 4 years in Hessen, Germany on a US Army base, paid attention to what German farmers were doing, which was exactly what Jake Fiennes is doing on his experimental plots. When I mentioned the farming tactics that British farmers had to accept if they wanted CAP money—pesticides, insecticides, heavy machinery, destruction of hedgerows, filling wetlands—I was highly suspicious that German farmers were doing the same thing now.
In the 1970’s, German land was farmed pretty much as it had been for centuries. That place is old! 50 years later, with multiple international corporations wielding power far greater than your basic 200-year-old government, and career bureaucrats eager to keep their comfy seats, I’m thinking European countries are seeing the same damage. CAP is inefficient, soaking up 70% of the EU budget, failing to provide an even playing field for new EU members, and rewarding big farms over smaller ones.
I really don’t know what the benefits of the European Union have been, except to make acquiring currency to travel in Europe a lot easier. But it seems that Britain was not alone in demanding reforms.
The husband was of the opinion that German farmers would have spurned CAP methods. Germany has yet not declared for the reformers or the anti-reformers, which includes France and Spain, among others.
I tried to point out that 50 years is a long time. No more rotary dial phones. No more VCRs. Things are probably different in Germany now. In the end, we agreed after much vigorous discussion, that DowDupont (US), Syngenta (Swiss), Bayer AG (German) BASF (German) were ultimately responsible for acceptance of heavy-handed agricultural techniques by government, and by farmers who want to stay in business. It’s interesting that Germany’s got two labs on this ticket.
This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Today I saw a male varied thrush at my bird bath. I entered the data on my eBird phone app. There’s one bird saved.
Today’s blog accompaniment film: A Place in the Sun, 1951, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift.