Factory, power station, housing estate, recreationally facility, storage area a great day out, our countryside has to be many things. Is modern Britain putting too much strain on our open spaces?
Before industrialisation most of the population lived in the country. Towns and cities were unhealthy cramped places with no work. But the industrial revolution changed that. Suddenly it was towns with jobs; workers abandoned the countryside for an urban lifestyle. Towns soon became overcrowded and rank with disease. The Victorian love of technology, overcame these problems, making it possible to live side by side. The countryside emptied of people, turned into the peaceful idyll, we romanticise about today.
This industrial legacy holds implications for us today. In the Victorian era people would think nothing of several families living in one small house. Today this has been replaced by houses containing 2 adults and 2.4 children. Not since before the industrial revolution has housing been so empty of people.
Our desire for bigger living spaces, coupled with our expanding population, puts pressure on our finite land resources. Eight times more people live in the UK, than at the time of the industrial revolution. The only place we can get more land to accommodate those numbers, is the open countryside.
We continue to move out of our towns and cities to live. The desire to live in the country is great, but is no longer a source of employment. Earning a living means, we daily do battle with the transport system to get to work.
Food security, highlighted by two world wars, forced food production to become more efficient, it become a top priority. When peace came wartime food production methods continued. Where these weren’t enough, new technology in the form of agrichemicals and plant breeding stepped in. We had turned our countryside into a factory floor.
This factory now has to produce food, at a price governed in the most part by the consumer and international markets. Should it fail to produce satisfactory goods, or at a price that is unacceptable, overseas suppliers are ready willing and able to step in. That is until their own populations start to starve because of climate change and then who will they supply first?
More financial pressures, the influx of decease such as the Schmallenberg virus, changing weather patterns, gives the custodians of our land, the farmers, an uncertain future. Many are only just surviving. Why should we care? Because farming created our landscape, without it we would live in a wild wood. Our view of a bucolic countryside is based on the likes of “Cider with Rosie”, “The Darling buds of May” and our favourite “Worzel Gummidge”. The harsh realities are that unless someone is paid to do something, it won’t get done. Unless we offer our farmers a method of feeding their families, why should they maintain the countryside for us?
Our countryside is under threat, a well worn cliché, we hear all the time. We think it is important, we all try to protect, the open spaces around us. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build houses or wind farms. What we must do is preserve open spaces for us and our children and our children’s children.
Comments RSS Feed