This place, this magical building bursting with life, is in danger.
And so is the wonderful botanic garden and conservation heavyweight that contains it. That’s right. Our government is cutting its funding of Kew Gardens, endangering the history, collections and research that make it one of, if not the most important botanic gardens in the world.
I can’t believe I’ve only just heard about this stupidity. The government is making cuts left right and centre, which has resulted in a smaller workforce dealing with the same amount of work that they, and their old colleagues, were doing before that. The implication here is insulting – that government workers and civil servants weren’t pulling their weight beforehand. The vast number of hours the remaining workforce have clocked in overtime demonstrates that this just wasn’t true. What a surprise.
Cutting Kew’s funding has had similar effects – but these won’t just negatively affect such unimportant areas as the NHS, the criminal justice system and the legal system (I hope you can hear the exhausted sarcasm here), these cuts affect the E N V I R O N M E N T. The current government hasn’t done nearly enough to protect the environment in the first place, but apparently they think they’ve been far too generous.
Kew needs funding. It’s not a theme park, its not a trashy attraction in the centre of London with a metric tonne of touristy crap to buy. It’s quiet, sensible, beautiful and important. What does that mean? That is isn’t going to make enough money from ticket sales to operate without a subsidy, that’s what.
I’m not trying to claim that Kew is a tiny victim that needs to be protected. It’s world renowned, has partnerships with huge corporations and an annual footfall of over a million. But a botanic garden and massive research centre has employees, it has costs, and when every square inch of a place isn’t built to make a profit, that means it isn’t going to make much profit. That’s the fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism, that everything worthwhile will make money. Frankly, the opposite is true, but I’ll get sidetracked if I say any more on that subject.
Kew’s sponsorship was fulfilled, and cut, by DEFRA, who I actually have some experience working with. They [were?] a very creative government agency who a few years ago subsidised the creation of a website called Our Land, that encourages UK tourists to spend their holidays in eco-friendly places in protected destinations like the Cotswolds, the South Downs, the Cairngorms and the New Forest. The idea was that tourism was the only way to keep these areas profitable, and so by promoting tourism they were protecting the areas. The website is gone now but you can still find places in the UK on the parent website, Responsible Travel.
Very clever, and exactly what is happening in the rainforest with organisation like the Rainforest Alliance. There was some disagreement within DEFRA about cutting Kew’s funding, and I’m sure they were under pressure to make cuts because of all this austerity b******t, so hopefully the people who actually care about the environment are still there. Or maybe I just want to like them because working for Our Land was what financially allowed me to volunteer with Crees.
I wanted to make a post talking about how magical the Palm House is, how it was hotter and more humid than the real rainforest and made me feel like I was in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. Those things are true, but when I read about the threats and cuts being made, I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut. Enjoying natural beauty is great, but when we can, we have a responsibility to preserve and protect the things that please us.
On the 8th of July, there will be a Parliamentary Rally asking the government to reverse the cuts, and to cancel proposed new cuts too. You could go along and support it, you could tweet, send a letter to your MP, tell all your friends, or just generally spread the word. Our planet is in crisis, we are destroying the environment. Kew’s research can and will help us save it – help save them so they can do their job.
Update: I went to the Parliamentary Rally. Read about it here.