Future Land: An interview with Rebecca Hosking, regenerative farmer, writer and consultant.
This is a very thoughtful article and joins the rising numbers of farmers/land managers who are moving to some form of nature friendly farming. This movement is growing and embraces both the larger commercial farms -see Wild East in the East Anglia region, to the restoration of land as described by James Rebanks in English Pastoral . If the proposed ELMS farm subsidy changes take root these and many more farmers will be ahead. However, the majority of land managers do not have the luxury to make radical changes. The changes which are underway represent a spectrum. At one end are the dedicated and passionate re-wilders; at the others end are more modest efforts to simply tweak the system and hope this will not damage the bottom line. All are welcome. However, the real change is yet to come and the farm subsidy details will lay out how far these necessary changes can be undertaken economically. Meanwhile this is discussed in a book published by Eventispress (www.eventispress.com), -' How to Value a Skylark'
Adding to Merenia's comment. I'm being very negative here but for a very positive reason. Also, although I am going to be critical of Rebecca's conclusions, any animosity is not my intent. I perceive that like many other conservationists, Rebecca has another income stream. She, and others like her, can afford views, that to a practical person seeking to survive by exploiting a natural resource, i.e. the land, seem to ignore practical considerations. They and I realise that, as soon as man interferes with the land, it makes changes to that which existed before. Examples are a drastic change when taking over land where there is climax vegetation and many species or a minor change where long term ancient grasslands are intensively grazed and fertilised.
Man sees some of these changes as beneficial to nature because some species and diversity of species will increase as the new changed conditions suit a particular species.
My point being, is that man is another species that changes the landscape to the benefit of some species and to the detriment of others. Think how beavers drastically change the environment when they take over a river. The newly flooded landscape suits some species but destroys others that live in dryer conditions.
Once conservationists accept that whatever man does is going to affect many species and the environment. It then causes those who realise that man is part of nature and subject to extinction, just like the previous 99.9% of species that previously existed on earth, to understand that to ensure survival of our species we had better fit into the environment rather than just exploit it.
With that criteria in mind, one soon realises that the problem of fitting in with the environment becomes greater as the numbers of our species increases. This observation is demonstrated by many examples. The numbers of puffins has decreased because either by global warming or man's over fishing, their sand eel food source has declined. Similarly, the population of this country has created such a demand for food that our soils have been overworked to such an extent that even greedy exploiters are realising that their income is dwindling because the source of their food is decreasing.
It's the bottom line folks; our rapidly increasing population is destroying OUR environment.
Note the word our. We will not destroy the planet. Nature copes with changes caused by shifting continents, changes in the levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, global warming etc. by creating species that are adaptable. Others which cannot adapt become extinct.
Now here is the political bit, which many will find objectionable. If you read the United Nations agenda 21, now upgraded to Agenda 30, and then research and find out how that these agendas came about, you come to understand that there is a small group of people who want to reduce the world population. What I find immoral, even horrific, is the way that they propose to do this.
Most people, particularly environmentalists do not see the bigger picture. They conduct their lives in a way that does not cause much harm to the environment. I am just as guilty as those who I am criticising here. I've got my wild flower meadow and grow crops to care for the soil; but the bottom line is that, if the hordes living in the cities were to try and emulate me, there just is not the useable land for them to do that. What I am asking any environmentalist reading this, is to grasp the bigger picture. Accept that we need to reduce the world's population, not by the drastic an inhumane methods advocated by the globalist elite, but by gradual reduction of the world's population . I could go on; but I've written enough to give any reader food for thought. The bottom line as I see it is that any environmentalists who wishes to make real change must grasp the nettle of the bigger problem.
“You find that the farmers who do change are ones that are really up against the wall, who are going to lose everything if they don't change. Or the other way around: they're incredibly wealthy landowners that can afford to change.”
For me this represents most people who work intensively with no time for reflection, as well as being an unhealthy view of change. Change is constant and we should recognise that and be constantly looking to embrace it otherwise our hand is forced. I was encouraged by Neil Heseltine at the launch of National Parks in 100 Seconds film saying we need to experiment all the time, if it works out good, if not try again.
A thought-provoking article, brave and well articulated. Agree, regenerative agriculture is a big part of the answer to many of our issues around scare resource management (soil; water), the biodiversity and the climate crises. Not sure about the 'agriwilding' language: the 'wilding' aspect may still scare lots of more conservative landowners and their politically powerful allies in some of the national farmer representative organisations. 'Agroecology' has been used for many years as a collective term for what you are dong - see e.g. https://www.soilassociation.org/causes-campaigns/a-ten-year-transition-to-agroecology/what-is-agroecology from the soil association. Having said that, I like your 8-point plan/manifesto - important points for all to remember. Keep up the good work.
“The conservationists and the rewilders are quite anti-agriculture because they just see us as destroying biodiversity and pushing our own will onto the land, whereas rewilding is the complete opposite; almost this narrative that humans are really bad for the environment and biodiversity,” she says.
“Whereas Tim and I were of the opinion that, well, hang on, humans can be a force for good. For many cultures around the world, we aren’t so destructive; it's our Western culture that has made us this destructive force. Surely we need to have a model where we can be beneficial agents within the landscape.”
I think the above statement is unfair and setting up a false dichotomy that rewilders and conservationists are anti human intervention and agriculture. Many rewilders would agree that humans can be a force for good in the environment. Many rewilders and conservations embrace indigenous knowledge. Making generalisations and pitting one group against another doesn’t further the common cause - ie to care for the earth sustainably - in fact it distracts from the important work. If we undoubtedly capable humans are to work for the good of the planet and all on it then we first need to avoid simplistic categorisations and generalisations.
Very interesting article/interview and more power to the elbows of both of you. It is the intersection or interplay between our culture, thoughts and language and our natural environment that interests me most here. The idea that humankind is somehow outside of, or not part of, the natural world seems to be an almost underlying and pernicious assumption these days, but it has not always been so, and is not so still for many people in many parts of the world. I think this common worldview is largely the result of industrialisation and the supremacy of science (The very same science that mysteriously but evidently allows us to communicate - virtually? - here today through these machines), perhaps what we could term now as the technological age or revolution.
The perspective of 'man' being outside of nature and how our language reinforces this view struck me once very pertinently at a discussion I was once at with the author Jay Griffiths (An excellent writer with many interesting things to say and experiences to relate). One of the people present kept on referring to 'indigenous' people, as though he wasn't indigenous himself. It really frustrated me and I had to ask him from which planet did he think he originated from if not of the earth.
There is a suggestion that if we are more mindful of being a part of the world (or the earth if you prefer) it would temper our more destructive, damaging, and irresponsible behaviours, to treat the world as we would want to treat our own mother in a manner of thinking. It is a suggestion that I am inclined to agree with and consider healthy.
(A St. Cyres alumni ;-)
A brilliant article, thank you Rebecca for sharing your thinking and Sophie for the thoughtful questions. I worked in Indonesian Borneo for several years in my 20s and have kept going back while my career is now UK based. I’ve learnt so much from Indonesians who farm and fish resources collectively as well as from commoners in England. Being rooted not just too but within the land. But what we think of as traditional is not necessarily sustainable either here or in Indonesia. Rebecca has a caring and constructive way of considering these challenges.