Sunday, March 23, 2008

The dilemma of Sunk Island

Sunk Island is neither an island nor is it sunken. See Sunk Island . It is a 600 acre area of land south-east of Hull reclaimed from the River Humber more than 200 years ago. A row about its future exemplifies current tensions between food security and environmental concerns.

Farmers there are angry that the prime agricultural land there could be surrendered to the Humber as part of the Department for the Environment's policy of managed realignment. Tenant farmer Geoff Buckie said, 'It is madness that they want to do away with such high-quality land apparently to create more wildlife habitat. They seem to care more about wildlife - at a time when English farming desperately needs to grow more food.'

I don't know enough about the specific case to comment about it, although I can see where the local farmers are coming from. However, in the rush to jump on the food security bandwagon, we must be careful not to start treating the environment as a luxury good again. Climate change deniers are looking increasingly intellectually isolated and a relatively small rise in sea levels could make low lying areas prohibitively expensive to defend.


Alfred the Ordinary said...

Properly managed land, balancing environmental and food production needs must be the answer. The problem, of course, is that the line between the two is subjective and no two people will quite agree on the boundary.

Near my home, reed beds are being maintained not far from well cultivated fields. Our food production and the maintenance of the endangered reed bunting population are both being cared for by concerned individuals.

Wyn Grant said...

A thoughtful comment and the sorts of arrangements you describe are win-win ones. More broadly, what is needed is more extensive use of integrated crop management/conservation agriculture.