THE BLOG

Economy, Environment and What Nobody Will Say

15/01/2014 10:17 GMT | Updated 16/03/2014 09:59 GMT

When Mr Osborne announced the need to bring the UK's financial deficit under control for the sake of future generations, it was a principle few could disagree with. Of course, the strategy of his endeavours have been the foundation of much public discourse, the bones of which depend on where one lies on the social and political spectrum. But we can, at least, all agree that it would be poor form to off load our National debt to Generation Z without at least trying something.

And I suppose it could work. In decades from now, a grateful population could be basking in the warm glow of fiscal sunshine where savings and pensions manifest positive thoughts and not an onerous subject matter that compels campaigners to take to the street.

The reality, however, is that the whole thing is very short-sighted. In fact, it's positively myopic. So focused have Governments become to rid the land of debt, they're actually impacting the very land itself.

Fracking. Green belt development. Ancient woodland destruction. Abuse of floodplains - frankly, the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to the current environmental mismanagement of the UK. As every day passes, we edge one step further from the principles encapsulated by Danny Boyce's spectacular Olympic vision of a 'green and pleasant land'.

Or course the next generation shouldn't be saddled with our debt. But nor should they be saddled with the remains of our abused and inadequate environmental policies resulting from the 'management' of this debt. Building our way out of debt costs habitat and landscape. Dispossessing folk in favour of railways, roads and runways ruins communities and quality of life. And the effects of fracking are subject to huge debate and we simply have no idea how the land, water and air quality will be effected over a long term.

The question is why governments always seem to proceed unabated without giving any serious thought to environmental repercussions? Why do they sprinkle the UK with small green gestures when what's needed is a strong and robust strategy? We are a small island, after all. Our space is finite. Our resources aren't endless.

The truth is that our current rate of expansion, debt simply can't be reduced without an environmental trade off. Debt can't be paid off without money. And money cannot be made without building or selling something to satisfy the needs of our ever demanding and ever expanding population.

Which really only leaves one option. Slow the expansion.

Slow the expansion? Control birth-rate? What - play God? Is that not breaching our human rights? Is that not to denigrate the very essence of life itself?

Or is the most obvious and logical way to effectively manage economy AND environment for future generations?

As I sit here today and read about fracking, a burdened NHS, a pension crisis and the need for 50,000 new homes every year, I think such a discussion has to be an inevitability. There are 15 million more people expected to be living in the UK by 2050. And with them, comes the inevitable infrastructure. That's a 24% increase...and we can barely cope now.

If we're really serious about the next generation, and it's not all rhetoric and bluster, then we'll need a Government to really get their head out of the sand and face up to a simple truth; all roads lead back to too many people on a piece of land that's too small. And we'll need that Government to take that truth to the masses who will inevitably love and loathe the proposed solutions in equal measure.

If you think the National debate about the debt crisis has been vitriolic, then just wait until we reach the population tipping point. It will make the brouhaha surrounding George Osborne's strategy look like a quarrel at a kids party.

But, if we really care about our legacy for the next generation, it's a debate that needs to happen.