I’m just back from a very interesting/successful two days in Suffolk with Tom Langton – the first spent around the site of the proposed Sizewell C reactor, the second interviewing Tom himself: in the morning we talked about the badger cull (Tom, an ecologist specialising in epidemiology, has some very forthright things to say about the badger cull, which he says is basically built around an error in interpreting data); in the afternoon we talked about amphibians and ponds (Tom was a founder of Froglife, and is an expert on Great Crested Newts).
In between I met up with the charismatic John Burton at the offices of the World Land Trust (interviews have been promised with John and his team and will be finalised asap!), and wandered around Tom’s land – twenty-five incredibly beautiful organic acres of rural Suffolk, where he and his partner Cath have dug out nineteen ponds, planted hundreds of trees, and allowed the return of flower-rich grassland.
It’s genuinely astonishing driving through miles of intensively managed farmland to turn down a long farm track and find this oasis. The land is still in the process of returning to the state Tom wants, but Turtle Doves breed here, butterflies abound, and those ponds are heaving with Great Crested Newts and other amphibians. Underneath corrugated sheets lurk Slow Worms and bees nest under the eaves of the house along with bats and a pair of Jackdaws.
It’s the kind of place you’d never want to leave, the result of many, many years of hard work – and from this island of biodiversity (surrounded by chemical-spraying farmers and a goddam pheasant shoot) Tom works on a pile of Judicial reviews, sends streams of letters advising campaigners and activists, and – on behalf of wildlife everywhere – fights back!
It’ll take a while to edit up the conversations, but they will be well worth hearing when I do!
Yes, admittedly there are the existing Sizewell A and B reactors already in situ (the construction of which involved the destruction of very rare shingle habitat with its specialised flora including Sea Kale, Yellow-horned Poppy, Sea Holly, and Sea Pea – the beach in the photo above is a shadow of its former self), but EDF Energy would now like to build Sizewell C – a massive ‘latest generation’ reactor which would take at least twelve years to build, ‘need’ a major road with a 7 metre embankment, a campus for 2400 construction workers, a 570 space car park, the removal of a woodland (with important bat colonies), bolstered sea defences (with unknown effects on shingle deposition), cut the end off an SSSI, and potentially risk the internationally important biodiversity of Minsmere (with its array of legally protected fauna and flora).
This tiny corner of Suffolk should have the highest legal protection available. It’s a mosaic of habitats that are increasingly rare, habitats wildlife needs. But here comes a company, supported by our politicians, who don’t see things that way at all. There’s a prevailing attitude in this country that seems to say that conservation and wildlife and beautiful places can be constrained within boundaries, can be made isolated, turned into islands without ill effect and that we (the human race) can do pretty much whatever we want outside those tiny specks of ‘protected’ land. We can do better than treat our environment and the precious flora and fauna it contains – and ourselves too – like this…
We need energy, I hear you say. Yes, we do – but do we genuinely need Terrawatts more energy and if we do, of what type? We may like the convenience of electricity on tap, but it’s killing the planet. How about we properly invest in energy-saving technology and learn to switch the lights off when we leave the room instead. And don’t we need renewable energy rather than nuclear anyway (which is only low-carbon and ‘green’ if you leave out the massive infrastructure requirements, the mining for rare metals needed in the reactor, and the cancer-causing waste that lasts for millenia)?
Yes, but look at the promotional image above and realise how beautiful the plant will be, sitting there all neat and tidy on the edge of the sea with no traffic or cars or trucks or people or litter or waste or lights or noise or anything detrimental whatsoever…Seriously? Seriously, are you being fricking serious?
All questions I got to ask (well, maybe not the last one) after being invited over to Suffolk by ecologist Tom Langton, to talk with him, Rachel Fulcher (Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth (FoE), former local councillor and campaigner Joan Girling, and Adam Rowland, senior site manager at Minsmere.
I’ve recorded about an hour of conversation which I’m suspecting will best be presented as a two-parter – one with Tom, Rachel, and Joan, the other with Adam (we spoke sat on Whin Hill literally just minutes after a female Marsh Harrier drifted RIGHT overhead – talk about signals from above, eh).
It’s going to be worth hearing because chances are a) you won’t know much about this bloody awful proposed development, and b) you need to.
As a final thought, I’m genuinely privileged to get to do the work I do, talking with people who care, people who are taking on huge odds, people just like you and me who have decided to fight back. I always say that these podcasts aren’t about me, I’m a platform, a conduit if you like. And that’s the truth. These amazing people are worth hearing, so please give them a listen.