On the 31st of October, members of XR York processed to the council’s general meeting with giant, leaf-like lanterns previously used as part of a twilight display at Askham Bog. Ecologist and researcher Andreas Heinemeyer spoke on behalf of Extinction Rebellion York at the meeting. His address follows below.
- XR welcomes the Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in March this year.
- However, we need to also realise that we are, in fact, facing an Ecological Emergency!
- I therefore welcome the opportunity to speak at this council meeting for XR in relation to protecting a local, regional and national ecological treasure, Askham Bog.
- Speaking as an academic peatland expert, I have the greatest respect for Sir David Attenborough’s support to safe Askham Bog from any potential (and this is crucial!) damage from nearby development.
- We need to finally understand that rare ecological gems cannot be recreated once lost and that the route to degradation and loss can be unexpectedly and surprisingly quick. But once it is on that downhill path, it is most likely to be lost forever.
- Askham Bog is one of those rare ecological gems of regional importance, representing one of very few remaining Yorkshire fens. Not only is it an important carbon store, it also harbours biodiversity of national importance, for example, the Royal Fern.
- XR strongly opposes any potential threat from such development as the risks and potential damage to the underpinning integrity of its hydrological functioning is just too high and potentially irreversible once damage has been done.
- XR welcomes and seeks to support the Council’s rejection of plans for the proposed nearby housing development. The exceptional sensitivity of this peatland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) might not be clear to a developer working to put profit first. Clearly, we need to stand united in protecting our life support systems, which include peatlands near and far, be it the melting peatlands in the Arctic or the threatened habitat of Askham Bog.
- XR remains unconvinced that the developers have provided any adequate information regarding no possible damage to the site’s hydrology. In fact, ideally the area around Askham Bog would be turned into a protected Nature Reserve providing a buffer zone and allow the bog to grow, to capture carbon, store water and harbour rare biodiversity.
- Finally, whilst Askham Bog provides recreational and spiritual benefits to many people, there is a clear risk of nearby housing development easily resulting in “too many” becoming a real threat via disturbance and waste issues. Effective ecological protection requires also protecting a buffer zone, this cannot include a housing development interfering with soil structure and its hydrological functioning. Ecological tipping points are difficult to predict, but the underpinning key processes determining this risk are clearly identifiable. Allocating this site to development is such a clear risk factor, which needs to be prevented at all cost; this site needs to be protected and preserved. XR will remain a strong supporter of actions to achieve this goal.
Find out more about Askham Bog and how you can get involved in conservation efforts at https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/askham-bog-nature-reserve.