Sad to witness that work began today on demolishing the big roundabout as you drive into Keighley from Skipton. The reason for my sorrow was the sight of a great many trees cut down, flat to the ground, their stumps white and raw. Like the roundabouts in Skipton, and probably many other places, this one was packed with trees and home to a great deal of wildlife, including rabbits and many birds. No doubt its insect population, come the spring, would have numbered millions.
The council states that, “where possible, new native trees will be planted along the roadside and verge areas. As this vital highway scheme involves the widening of the road, some trees will have to be removed in order to implement the scheme. [The council has] worked hard to ensure that each of the trees that need to be removed will be replaced with trees either within the scheme or nearby. Landscaped areas affected by the construction works will be replanted. The existing embankment at the cricket ground will be cleared and replaced with shrubs and trees.”
To which I say, yeah, right – like for like? Really? What of the animals and insects the felled trees and dug-up land were home to? When you destroy a tree you aren’t just destroying a tree. There is no like for like. They make a teeny-weeny reference to compulsory purchase orders, too – after all, it’s not just trees and other non-human life that have to be bulldozed out of the way’: people and businesses are often treated with contempt and disregard, although the plans include easier access for vehicles to multinational junk food purveyors KFC and McDonald’s.
All hail the roads. Blessed be the road makers.
All this when we have just learned a third of insects globally have gone forever. If the projection comes true that all insect life will be gone by 2100 – and, along with them, all human and much other life, starved to death – then the absence of insects will doom us before our climate sabotage can do the job.
The roundabout is being destroyed along with a lot of established road, grass verges and buildings to extend a dual carriageway. The work will cause chaos and traffic tailbacks well into 2021, probably 2022 and, if local government past performance is anything to go by, maybe even longer. It’s called essential change to address the rise in traffic on the roads. I know, I know – I drive but hey, my car is a hybrid at least. Just blindly catering to more and more petrol vehicles horrifies me.
With political will and daring – entirely lacking among politicians – we could move quickly to all-electric cars being made affordable to the masses, and easy to keep charged. Like, right now, where are the charging units at every garage forecourt, supermarket, pub car park and hotel? They don’t exist. There are thousands. These aren’t enough. Where are the plans to adapt kerbs to include chargers, so those of us living in flats or terraced houses on narrow streets can charge electric cars without cables trailing on pavements to trip people up?
But of course an end to petrol cars wouldn’t save roundabouts rich in trees, animal and insect life. There are many reasons for the demise of insects, all human causes, mind. They include the use of insecticides in gardens and agriculture, and destruction of habitats. You know, like roundabouts few humans actually set foot on. That’s why the ones round where I live are popular with rabbits and birds. Drive into my town at 3am and you can see hundreds of rabbits on the roundabouts, busy re-enacting the less violent, more discursive scenes from Watership Down and holding more productive and sane Parliaments than our own.
I wonder where the Keighley rabbits fled to? That is, if they had the chance to flee and weren’t entombed to die or killed outright. Of course we need roads. We need the ones we already have maintained properly, our pavements too – and that doesn’t happen. Ask anyone, like me, who ever has to push a wheelchair or pram along the street. Every time I take my mum out (in Keighley), I fear launching her into space even directly outside her sheltered housing, where you think keeping roads and paths free from holes and cracks would be prioritised for the elderly and disabled living there. But no. While Brexshit consumes common sense, practicality and everything in its path, and the Tories leech money from local authorities like the vampires they are, we can only expect the full Third World road and pavements experience to continue unaddressed for years to come. Get used to the holes. They’ll be rebranded as ‘characterful’.
It should be a requirement that any roadworks destroying wildlife and insect homes, burying soil under concrete, be accompanied by the re-greening (best terminology I can come up with) of adjacent wasteland. Keighley, for example, has plenty of rubble sites and crumbling empty buildings. Its shabbiness isn’t chic. The fact that it’s so miserable-looking a town and a hopeless a place to live is why a majority of its electorate voted to leave the EU. They were conditioned, as most poor leaver areas are, to want more of the same, thinking they were socking it to the elite, who, unperturbed in their ivory towers, marvelled at their own good fortune and the incapacity of more than half the British electorate to join the dots coherently and intelligently.
Were people to engage their brains instead of rinsing them daily with BBC ‘news’ and Daily Mail fairy stories written by professional haters, then surely we might see the revolution this country needs in order to stem the rot. By the way, don’t expect Corbyn to lead the charge if, by some miracle, he gets into Number 10. Right now he’s too busy thinking he can use Brexshit, the biggest right-wing project ever, to usher in his own vision of a socialist revolution based on ideas that are over 100 years old. His approach, summated as a grand love-in with Theresa May, the increasingly unhinged despot, to achieve their shared goal, is a gross betrayal of his own party’s majority membership and a betrayal of his own commitment to listen and channel their views into policy and action. Yes, I am angry and I’m not alone in feeling the burn.
The shit never ends. While Brazilians have voted in a dictator to destroy the world’s biggest lungs – the Amazon – our own nation just keeps on polluting, destroying environments for life, felling trees and generally fucking up. And that’s without even mentioning the Emperor of Stupid until now, Donald Trump, busy in the US wiping out environmental protections and doing all he can to destroy North American flora and fauna. He even managed to do a bit of this in Scotland, to build a golf club.
We can’t breathe or eat money. First they came for the rabbits? No, actually they came for everything – all that is irreplaceable bulldozed away for profits and this nebulous thing they call ‘progress’. We are certainly progressing – moving ever faster to a very nasty end for all of us. Rabbits, insects and trees won’t be the only casualties in my part of the world. But hey, at least we will be able to drive from A to B with a little less stress and a tiny bit faster. For now. That’s what matters, right?
Andrew’s latest book, myfibromyalgia: one man’s experience of living with chronic illness, is out now in all Amazon store territories the world over. The ebook is £5.99 and the paperback £8.99. UK Amazon link.