Benedict Brogan, Political Editor Daily Mail, asks the question "Just what is Miliband up to?", in his blog of 12th February. As someone caught in the connections of Miliband, Stern, Brown, sustainable development and a few other things as well, the question intrigued me. Brogan seems to be implying that Miliband "harbours persistent doubts about the pm-to-be".
So it was straight off to Environment Minister David Miliband’s DEFRA blog. After a few seconds pondering where to go, familiarity struck. There on the left of his blog was a little section headed "Worth a visit". Only six links and the top one was "What is a sustainable community?" For those that don’t know the number of people who have written more in DEFRAs consultations and reports than myself this century is probably less than the number of fingers of a couple of leaves of Dave’s favourite botanical specimen.
I turned up at a conference a couple of years ago and after the formalities the lads from DEFRA asked my why I hadn’t responded to a consultation paper on sustainable development. Well I had to go on one, my little rant how everything I had done on economic growth had been virtually ignored the last time. I have this thing about DEFRA wanting ‘blue sky thinking’ but prefixing nearly every question or inserting somewhere high and stable levels of economic growth and the need for etc, in some form or another. Now the Treasury was well represented as well. If anyone wants to know who was there, just Google, Roger Thomas Sustainable Development.
Well Miliband tempted me, I clicked his in your face, worth a look top link, What is a sustainable community? I was ready for the usual flawed Defra presentation. The page opened and I read and read. Yes economic was hardly mentioned, even when it was it had words like viable, support, prosperity, integrating or development around or near it. It wasn’t shouting like some lunatic as the basic meaning for the totality of existence, high and stable levels of economic growth every other line. I’d given up with DEFRA and sustainable development. Every time they wrote "high and stable levels of economic growth" I’d write "why", to which the reply would always be "because we need high and stable levels of economic growth".
I could write a book on ‘why’, but in fact I am and that’s going to be part of it. If we have a theoretical economy of £1000 billion per annum, and environmental degradation costs £200 billion of it. If by a change in attitude and action we reduce that to £100 billion. Then the theoretical economy is only £900 billion. The economy has deceased, quality of life could go up, the environment is improved, so why always always always say we need high and stable levels of economic growth.
Miliband had directed me to a vision without the bloody stupid meaningless phrase "high and stable levels of economic growth".
Well Benedict wants the answer to what doubts Miliband has of Brown. To judge like for like, and on a level playing field Gordon Brown should be assessed on his most famous speech on the environment. At the World Bank 20th April 2006.
I gave up counting, Gordon Brown has a type of Tourettes Syndrome, it doesn’t matter what he says, he has an obsession with adding economic growth. At one point after outlining the threat of climate change, he gleefully sees that preventing it could contribute to economic growth
OK we could be looking at 5 billion people dying, 40% of the world’s species of animals and plants becoming extinct and Gordon Brown sees it as an opportunity of increasing economic growth. Horse, cart; chicken, egg; armpits, crocodiles, drain swamp: whatever.
Perhaps there is a difference in views, a cleavage in policy. There were mutterings around Davos of a ‘new development model’. Is Gordon Brown going to try and fix today's and tomorrow's challenges with yesterday’s model, which never really worked properly then.
Half a dozen of us stood talking. Someone from the Treasury asked me how I got into ecology and what influenced me. I said I was always into the natural world, I was completely hooked on Jacques Cousteau as a child, so much I got myself to read so I could read his books. All six of us had read the same book at the same age.