Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.
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Blagdon estate has hosted parts of two surface coal mines, at Brenkley and Shotton, for several years. We are proud to have done so mainly because of the jobs provided and the income to the local economy. But environmentally, too, these projects have been very positive. Managed by the Banks Group, the landscapes around these mines are surprisingly rich in wildlife, such as hares, lapwings, skylarks and wild flowers, including bee orchids in 2018. After restoration, the land has become a patchwork of good wildlife habitats thanks to sensitive restoration. They helped us to win the Bledisloe award for estate management from the Royal Agricultural Society of England.
I have always been careful to declare my interest in coal mining whenever relevant. I am keen to persuade fellow Northumbrians that surface coal mining elsewhere in the county, where I do not have an interest, can be good for the economy and the environment, and has a positive impact on emissions, because it substitutes for imported coal. I therefore recently wrote to James Brokenshire, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, in support of the scheme to open a new surface mine at Highthorn in Northumberland. This is what I said:
“I am writing to you about a decision on a planning matter in Northumberland that I believe is vital for the county and the nation. As you will know, the Banks Group applied for planning permission to mine coal at Highthorn; this was approved by Northumberland county council; the government called it in and appointed an inspector, who ruled in favour of the scheme. You predecessor then rejected the inspector’s recommendation, but the court has now overturned his decision.
My Spectator article on a surge in medical and environmental pseudoscience:
‘The whole aim of practical politics,’ wrote H.L. Mencken, ‘is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’ Newspapers, politicians and pressure groups have been moving smoothly for decades from one forecast apocalypse to another (nuclear power, acid rain, the ozone layer, mad cow disease, nanotechnology, genetically modified crops, the millennium bug…) without waiting to be proved right or wrong.
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