Countryside campaigners often talk about the phenomenon of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – where the damage done to the countryside arises from thousands of small-peer planning and land use decisions rather than any one ‘big bang’ impact.
For me, there’s a very strong analogy here with civil liberties. Over the last 15 years, a whole raft of new measures have been introduced which have chipped away at the body of civil liberties in the UK, particularly in the area of people’s rights to protest. And because these measures don’t necessarily make the headlines, people don’t necessarily see what’s happening, and I suspect that’s why so many campaigning NGOs haven’t yet woken up to the cumulative impact on civil rights over the last few years.
While I was Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, I felt it would have been good to have opened up a debate about this, but there was zero enthusiasm for such an idea amongst government departments! However, that started a bee buzzing in my bonnet – which I’ve only now been able to quieten down!
Together with Bethan Harris (a former Masters student at Forum for the Future) and my co-author on ‘The Greenest Government Ever’ report for Friends of the Earth (see other sub page), we started researching what had been happening over the last 10 years in terms of people’s rights to protest, and what the implications of this are for environmental NGOs and other campaigning organisations.
“Green Liberties” our co-authored report reveals a highly disturbing picture.