Great Britain
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Green? Our beaches are brown and our wildlife is dying – how can we lecture the world?

WALKING on my local beach this week has been a rather, er, crunchier business than usual.

It didn’t smell too good, either.

The vast sands stretching ten miles from Saltburn to the mouth of the River Tees were littered with thousands, perhaps millions, of dead crabs and lobsters.

One or two of these creatures were still alive, barely. And locals were putting them back in the sea, hoping they might survive.

Also washed up, heartbreakingly, were dead dolphins. It was a scene of aquatic carnage on a scale nobody up here had seen before.

But what caused it?

We sometimes get a few dead crabs washed up after a storm — but there hadn’t been a storm.

Nobody is sure exactly why it happened but you can bet your ­bottom dollar that somewhere along the line it was down to us.

It ­usually is.

The Environment Agency is now investigating to see if the animals were killed by pollution. That’s ­certainly a possibility.

Instead, it could be seismic tests off the North Sea coast.

New bird-mincing machines, known commonly as wind turbines, are being planted in the sea not far from the mouth of the Tees.

Cables are being laid. And we know there have been ships carrying out these tests recently.

The noise they make can easily kill creatures on the ocean floor.

I called our Marine Management Organisation — an arm of the Government — to find out more.

But despite my calls, and emails, nobody has responded.

The dead crab business has come at a tricky time for Boris and Co. He is about to host the COP26 eco-summit.

He will be urging world leaders to adopt strict new measures restricting carbon emissions.

He will be painting himself a very pretty shade of green, then.

But while he is grandstanding for the cameras and we are being urged to fork out for expensive heat pumps and electric cars, the Government, big corporations and agriculture are still wreaking havoc on our environment.

On a daily basis.

Take sewage in our rivers and off our beaches, for example.

Did you know that untreated ­sewage – basically human s**t – was discharged into our rivers and our streams about 400,000 times last year alone?

In other words, every day of the year there are more than 1,000 instances of water companies letting filth into our rivers. A staggeringly depressing figure.

The Government wanted to do nothing about this. It was wholly OPPOSED to demands to force the water companies, legally, to reduce their disgusting discharges.

While Boris is grandstanding for the camera, the Government, big corporations and agriculture are still wreaking havoc on our environment.

Only a backbench rebellion and the actions of campaigners such as the singer Feargal Sharkey, inset below, forced the Environment Secretary George “Useless” Eustice to do a U-turn.

There will now be legislation to ensure the companies have a legal duty to reduce discharges.

Well, that’s a step forward. But it would be better if the water ­companies themselves were taken into public ownership.

Then at least we could hold the Government to account, directly.

For decades, with the decline of heavy industry, the water quality of our rivers was improving. Now it’s getting worse.

The sewage is also badly affecting our beaches. In 2020 the European Environment Agency carried out a survey of water quality at beaches across 31 European countries.

Go on, take a guess which ­country came bottom of the table.

Yup, it was the UK.

Only 17.2 per cent of our beaches were rated as having excellent water quality — compared to almost 90 per cent in Finland and Spain. That shows you something is going badly wrong.

The problem is that many of our sewerage systems were built in ­Victorian times and are now damaged or simply not up to the job any more.

It needs public investment. And public ownership.

But it’s not just the water companies who are poisoning our rivers.

Many have been rendered close to lifeless because of the run-off from farmland. Pesticides and fertilisers ­leaching into our rivers. Yum!

Only 14 per cent of our rivers now have good-quality water.

In 2018 the Government intro-duced penalties for farmers who flout environmental rules regarding run-off into rivers.

Do you know how many farmers have been fined over the past three years? Yep, that’s right — none. Not one.

This is despite the Environment Agency reporting 243 violations — probably only a tiny ­fraction of the real number.

In other words, the farmers are allowed to do what the hell they like and get away with it.

But then that’s always been the case. If there is one organisation that our Government truly fears, then it is the National Union of Farmers.

Useless Eustice and the rest would do anything rather than get on the wrong side of THEM.

But it’s not just the rivers that our farmers have been poisoning. It’s the land, too.

Pesticides and intensive farming are directly responsible for the calamitous decline in some of our favourite birds over the past few decades. The tree sparrow, the skylark, the turtle dove are among a large array of species that have seen their numbers plummet.

And it’s not only the birds, of course. Modern farming practices have also driven some of our favourite wild animals to the brink of extinction.

The UK’s population of hedge-hogs, for example, has halved since the beginning of the century.

BARREN MOONSCAPES

The ­reason? Loss of habitat and too few insects to eat — killed by all those pesticides.

The thing is, we get ourselves very worked up – and rightly – about the plight of tigers, elephants and white rhinos.

But we seem not to give a ­monkey’s about our own species which are disappearing in front of our eyes.

Meanwhile, what is happening in our national parks, and our areas of supposedly outstanding natural beauty? Many upland areas — the North York Moors, parts of Northumberland and the Yorkshire Dales — have become barren moonscapes, with the decline of many species. All to provide a risk-free home for the grouse.

The people who profit are the rich landowners and the Hooray Henrys who go shooting.

Eight per cent of our countryside runs for the benefit of just 40,000 people. A new report by the RSPB ­reckons gamekeepers are ­shooting more and more of our most beautiful birds of prey — the hen harrier, the golden eagle, the ­buzzard. All to protect the grouse.

What is Useless Eustice doing about this? Absolutely nothing. The rich landowners get off scot-free.

If Boris really wants to convince people he is green, then he ought to take a very long look at what is happening, every day, in his own back yard.

Never mind lecturing the rest of us. Never mind showing off in front of world leaders.

The British environment is in ­crisis. It is time he did something about it.

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