I was on the way to Paris on Eurostar recently, travelling across Northern France.
In contrast to England, Northern France is a prairie of huge fields – where are the hedges?
This may seem a strange question to pose, but the ecology of Northern French agriculture is a bleak mono culture of large fields with no hedges. What are the consequences? Well there is an impact on the carbon footprint but also on the lack of ecological diversity. Fields fed with fertiliser do not encourage ecological diversity, such fields without hedgerows are even worse.
But France is the country of le terroir, of respect for the qualities of the land itself isn’t it? Well no , north of Paris that’s not the case. So how has this come to pass? Well it illustrates the contradiction at the heart of the European Union. On the one hand high environmental goals are imposed on a top down basis and on the other, the impact of instruments such as the Common Agricultural Programme can be very different, they can support behaviours contradictory to those environmental goals.
Maybe there should be a bit more focus on the micro rather than the macro. Hedges have a positive impact on micro climate as well as macro climate. They aren’t sexy in big picture terms but they are important. Maybe climate regulation should focus a bit more on enabling micro measures which make a difference, and maybe we should re-examine what the aims of the CAP should be so that ecology and environment are important factors, and set aside isn’t the answer here.
Just to declare an interest, I own some farmland in Wiltshire. which I manage. I have hedgerows around my land which have been there for at least 150 years. Hedgerows are an important part of the structure of that land. Climate change is difficult for us all to address. More hedges on prairie fields in Europe and elsewhere would be a good small step.