The fate of the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands

***Thoughts  of a Medway Green Party member***

We have the power to decide their fate.  That in itself is perhaps too much power. What happens to the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands, or, more correctly, in the hands of those who decide for us – the local Council. The local Council have the power to make decisions for those who have no power in the political process at all – the wildlife themselves. They can, if they wish, decide to obliterate the homes of other species, and contribute to that species dying out, as they have nowhere to live anymore, or, at least, they lack the capacity to move to another site 30 miles away.

Notwithstanding that national processes might get in the way, being as the Lodge Hill site has been designated as having special scientific interest (even that suggests that these birds, and the site that they make their home is deemed of consequence only if we find it interesting enough).

We tend to look for concrete arguments to reject the development, and there are plenty, but somehow they don’t go quite far enough to express what is really at stake. Perhaps what is really at stake can only be expressed by poets, though Chris Sams went some way to doing it in his excellent article here.

Thus we currently have the RSPB  arguing, quite rightly, that a decision to go ahead with the development would be in conflict with the government’s “flagship” National Planning Policy Framework.  This policy, the RSPB points out, contains “important tests” to ensure that special places are only damaged where there really is no alternative, and the need for development clearly outweighs the impact on the SSSI and on the national network of SSSIs”.  This argument is well made as Medway Council have, indeed, identified alternative sites for the development, though it is unclear where these sites are.

However, this only goes some way to deflecting the problem, without dealing with the crux of the issue. The phrase “clearly outweighs” is vague; “clearly outweighs” in whose opinion and on what basis? The phrase “no alternative” can also be called into question.  In this context it is more likely to mean “no alternative site for us to concrete over”, rather than “no alternative way to live”.  We can definitely assume that it represents no alternative to the mindset that places us above nature, a mindset that always puts our wants and supposed needs first.  This often follows even if the interpretation of those needs is constructed on questionable grounds, such as the need to encourage entrepreneurs to the area (trickle-down economics) or to encourage economic growth.

And, perhaps, I will become cloying here (apologies) but it is in an effort to express a sense of loss which I think underlies some of the political battles to conserve our natural environment; a sense which I guess is expressed between the lines in the State of Nature report, a report which demonstrated that 60% of UK species are in decline; a sense of loss which is difficult to demonstrate in political battles that focus on concrete arguments, and can perhaps be better encouraged and expressed through wonderful photos, art, poetry and music.

When the world becomes silent apart from the noise of cars and power tools, pop songs in shopping malls and the chatter of other people; when the birdsong that greets us each morning, and as dusk falls – an experience which allows us to contemplate that we share this world with other forms of life; that the world has other priorities as well as our own; that it is bigger and more important than we are; when this experience of nature becomes a distant memory, preserved only on audio-recordings, or in books, and videos, will it be a better world? We do, at least, know that it is likely to be too late to change our minds.

Thanks for listening, Carrie



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