The Conservative government in Great Britain - technically Conservative-Liberal coalition, has responded to environmental concerns like those raised at last year's Durban Conference on Climate Change, by committing to eliminating peat from all commercially available gardening products. They have a phased plan, no more peat will be used :-
- in public parks and gardens throughout Britain by 2015
- in the gardens of people's homes by 2020
- in all commercial plant growing by 2030
Opposition has been fierce, but then opposition to the opposition has been even fiercer.
Gardener and broadcaster Bob Flowerdew said that he would defy the government and carry on using peat. He then received so much mail chastising him for this stance, that he feels as though he has become an outcast, as well he might and in fact should be.
Mr. Flowerdew points out that Britain will lose out to growers in the Netherlands and Italy, who have no such peat ban.
My first comment is that the 'rights' of gardeners to carry on using peat when the importance of peat to human and planetary health is of overwhelming importance, are spectacularly irrelevant.
Secondly, Britain is sometimes the first amongst its European partners to take a step that others then follow. Take for example the changed laws on veal production. These came into force in 1997 in Britain, at the beginning of Tony Blair's new Labour government, but the majority of work on this had been done under the outgoing Tory rule. My point here is that these progressive measures sometimes happen irrespective of the political party in power.
Another example was the Equal Pay Act of 1970, which came into force under a Tory government, but was put in place and legislated by the outgoing Labour one.
Both of these progressive pieces of legislation that concern rights and freedoms, were later adopted by most of Europe and in the case of the Equal Pay Act, also by North America.
Let me re-state what you and I know only too well. Peat is vital to the health of the planet. It sequesters carbon, thus reducing the effect of allowing it into the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Peat is laid down slowly, at a rate of approximately a centimetre per year, so the concept of 'harvesting' is ridiculous. What is taken doesn't grow back before the next cycle. It is simply ripped out, or as environmentalists more accurately describe the process, 'mined'.
Britain has demonstrated the political will to save peatlands, and they have a road map, but what they need now is what the Burns Bog Conservation Society does day in, day out - someone who will shout loudly and clearly about why this is so important.
Now if only we had a branch there!