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Q&A with Michael Gove at the Conservative Environment Network launch: full text

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Conservative instinct” is at the heart of environmental stewardship, the education secretary Michael Gove said in a speech at Westminster last week – the full text of which can be found here. Gove also answered some questions from the floor and his answers are below.

Planning policy and the environment

I think there are two things we need to bear in mind. First, we need to recognise that thanks to breakthroughs in technology, it’s easier to build in a sustainable way… [inaudible]. But I think it is important that we recognise that when communities grow, they should grow organically, and it’s important that communities should have a say in shaping their local neighbourhood plan so that, wherever possible, we build in a way that is sympathetic to that which already exists.

One of those people whom I think captures this best and understands it instinctively is someone who, while he is totally above party politics, is a natural conservative environmentalist. And that’s the Prince of Wales. He’s been very, very keen to ensure that people who live in the countryside can have access to affordable housing.

That means there does need to be building, but wherever possible we should use natural stone, wherever possible we should do it in a way where, as I say, the footprint is as light as possible, and wherever possible we should do it in a way that takes account of the sensitivities and the ambitions of people who already live there. There needn’t be any conflict between making sure that communities are sustainable, and development, and in fact in order to ensure rural communities are sustainable, we do need develop affordable homes.

Peter Ainsworth, former Conservative MP: Why do you think it is that so many Tories think that the environment is a left-wing issue?

I think it’s partly because some aspects of the environmental debate have been captured by people who want to use the genuine dangers that the environment faces as a way of providing a new rationalise for greater state power and centralisation. I think it’s been the case that in the past, there have been people on the left who have been looking for a risk to identify and when they identify that risk, they say the only way to deal with it is more state power and more centralised state power.

I think conservatives whenever they’ve seen the left gathering around a cause which would lead to more centralised state power, have thought, “Oh well, if the left are colonising their territory, perhaps it’s not going to clear up.” And I think that’s been, as I hope you appreciate from what I say, a big mistake.

And I think it’s important that while we argue furiously about the means, and make clear that we believe that some of the means which are being proposed by people… [inaudiable] …that we are absolutely clear about the end, and the ends that you and I believe in are impeccably conservative and I think actually represent what the overwhelming majority of people in this country, indeed across the world, want to see, which is natural beauty respected and observed and enhanced, and investment in making sure that our children grow up in a world which is going to be safer and richer in every sense for them.

That’s what we think about instinctively when we’re thinking about economic policy, [and] when we’re thinking about education policy. It’s what should apply in environmental policy as well. Just as Zac [Goldsmith, Conservative MP] said, in areas that the left have said, “This is our policy” – they might have said it in childcare or education in the past – we’ve been energetic and said, “Actually no, we have practical solutions that meet the needs of the majority now.”

I think we should do that in the environment, and that means being hard-headed but also aware of values that go beyond simply the commercial.

Geoffrey Lean, the Telegraph: The thing you’re perhaps most identified with, rightly or wrongly, is a wish to lessen the teaching of climate change in schools. Could you give us your views?

One of the things that sometimes occurs in coalition politics is that the smaller party understandably seeks to draw attention to itself by saying, “We’re in favour of apple pie, cream and custard, and it’s the meanies in the bigger party that are trying to take it away.” Zac knows, because he was present at the creation, that the School Food Plan was something that I initiated.

Subsequently, for entirely understandable reasons, [people] have said, “Gove doesn’t want our children to have nutritious food.” If I had wanted that, I wouldn’t have asked Henry [Dimbleby] and John [Vincent] to conduct that report and I wouldn’t have engaged in the long and detailed discussions about how we could make it work with that.

In the same way with climate change, I think it’s important that children understand the science that underpins climate change, and that’s why it’s always in the curriculum that we’ve been drawing up, and I think it’s critically important – both in science and in geography – that the impact of changing climate on our physical environment, but also on economic and other facts in our lives, has to be appreciated.

I think it’s important, too, that we recognise that climate change has had an impact on societies in the past as well. I read – I haven’t finished it yet; it’s a fantastic book but very long – a book by a man called Geoffrey Parker, who’s a historian, which deals with climate change during the 17th century. It makes the point that climate change is something which you need to prepare for by having appropriate measures to mitigate, and that’s really important.

But it’s also the case, as we know and as George Osborne pointed out just last week, that man and his activities clearly have an influence on the climate, and in making sure we take appropriate steps to deal with it, we need to be guided by the science and we need to make sure that we’re hard headed but realistic.

Nicholas Watt, the Guardian: Just picking up on your answer to Peter’s question, Michael Liebrich has a very interesting chapter in this book in which he talks about the best way of promoting clean energy and renewables is not through massive regulation or massive subsidies. What I’m interested in is how do you think you can make that case, given that one of your ministerial colleagues gave that sort of view a rather negative view when he talked about getting rid of the “green crap” from energy bills?

I wasn’t in whichever room it may have been when that phrase was allegedly uttered. I’ve learnt that unless you’ve seen the evidence, it’s better not to offer a view about a phenomenon which remains deeply contested, as in who said what to whom at what time.

But one thing that I would say is again, in practical terms, if only more attention had been given to the work that Charles Hendry has done, that Greg [Barker] is doing, and that the team at DECC [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] have carried through. By definition, there are tough practical questions where good people can disagree about what the appropriate solution is.

But my own view is that Greg has very skilfully articulated the point, that human ingenuity being set a test and being invited to demonstrate entrepreneurialism, creativity… [inaudible] …in dealing with it is the best way to foster the sorts of technological breakthroughs that will enable us both to enjoy sustainable growth and to sustain natural beauty.

In almost any area of policy, I think it is far, far better to create structures which unleash human creativity and foster innovation, rather than seeking to level down those to regulators. That’s what I’ve found in education policy; it’s what Greg is proving in the energy policy as well.

Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth: If you think that this space has been occupied by the left, particularly on climate change, is there anything you could do quickly [and] differently to show that the right and the centre can reoccupy it?

It seems to me unarguable that man has an impact on the climate. It seems to me unarguable that climate change can have a devastating and damaging impact on societies and economies that are even less developed. And therefore it seems to me unarguable that we should seek first to lessen the impact that man might have on the climate, and secondly invest appropriately in measures to mitigate and protect individuals and societies from the impact of climate change.

But beyond that, it’s not that it’s above my pay grade; beyond that it’s about my level of knowledge and technical expertise. I have a bias, which is towards as I said trusting people like Greg who I know are passionate about this issue, but also genuine free marketeers, because that ticks both my boxes. But when it comes to deciding exactly which specific policies one should implement, then I would draw back.

One of the things that Greg and I are doing – I shan’t announce it now – is an initiative which shows how DECC and the DfE [Department for Education] together can make a small but I hope helpful step in dealing with this problem in a practical way, and Greg will say more about that in due course.

Further reading:

Michael Gove’s speech at the Conservative Environment Network launch: full text

Michael Gove: ‘conservative instinct’ helps safeguard the environment

Schwarzenegger, Bloomberg and senior conservatives rally for the environment

Conservatism and conservation: why Tories are born to be green

Coalition’s green fatigue is a ‘betrayal of conservatism itself’

Environment

Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage

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water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

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Environment

Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism

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When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.

After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.

How was it started?

It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.

How to go about it?

So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.

If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.

What can be learned?

Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .

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