The past few weeks have seen the charity The Woodland Trust finally break cover and come out in opposition to Hs2. This is due to the fact they’re very much a single-issue campaign who really can’t see the woods for the trees. Forget the wider issues of climate change, they’re all about woodland, and Hs2 will cut though some ancient woodland which simply can’t be avoided except at huge cost. For the WT, cost doesn’t come into it. In their view ancient woodland should be protected at any cost. But then, when it’s not your money you’re spending, that’s easy to say!
When I’ve challenged the WT on their opposition to HS2 they’ve come over all pained and said that they don’t object to HS2 ‘in principle’ – only in practise! Frankly, this hypocritical stance doesn’t fool anyone. They want to see HS2 delayed, or cancelled, as their latest campaign makes clear. According to them “Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called ‘green'”.
Notice the use of the word “destroys”? There’s a lot of emotive hyperbole in their writing about HS2. They also describe it as “smashing” through ancient woodland. If you believed their rhetoric you could be forgiven for thinking HS2 was more like Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes sweeping across the country rather than engineering companies that are building something and have to adhere to strict environmental standards that are legally enforceable.
There’s also another problem. Exactly how much is HS2 allegedly “destroying”, and how? You won’t get any firm answers from the WT, they’re extremely coy when it comes to detail, as this tweet demonstrates.
What exactly does “facing damage” mean when it’s at home? It’s meaningless. Emotive, but meaningless. Look at this statement from their latest petition against HS2.
“It’s a terrible situation – we could lose many of our greatest national assets for no reason at all”
“Many”? really? Let’s try and get some perspective here and I’m using the Woodland Trusts own figures to supply it.
The WT estimate that there’s 450,000 hectares of ancient woodland across the UK.
That’s 450,000 hectares out of a grand total of 3.19 million hectares of woodland across the UK. OK, so how much ancient woodland is HS2 going to affect? The Woodland Trust’s own figure is 40.2 hectares but they don’t define what ‘affected’ is. We don’t know what percentage of that is cut down, or what HS2 might come near and supposedly “damage” in passing. It’s all very nebulous and the WT refuse to come clean over what any of this actually means in practise. So, here’s the numbers crunched. If there’s 450,000ha of ancient woodland and only 40.2ha is affected by HS2, that’s just 0.008%. Now, what was that the WT said, oh yes “lose many of our greatest national assets” 0.008% is “many”? Someone’s not being honest with people here…
There’s also one very large elephant in the room that the WT point-blank refuse to see. If we’re serious about cutting carbon emissions from transport the only way we can do that is by vastly increasing our rail capacity to cope with the modal shift needed to get lorries and cars off our roads. That means building HS2 (which the WT oppose). If we don’t do that, it won’t just be ancient woodland affected by climate change, it will be all 3.19 million hectares of UK woodland. The WT really can’t see the woods for the trees. The sad truth is that – like many single-issue campaigns – the WT’s blinkered approach is part of the problem, not part of the solution.