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National Trust trusting in green dogma

2 May 2014

4:06 PM

2 May 2014

4:06 PM

Strange happenings at a place that many people think of as one of Britain’s National Treasures: the National Trust. As we point out in our leading article this week, the Trust and their director-general, Dame Helen Ghosh, seem to have done a 360 on fracking.

Last year, Dame Helen had an ‘open mind’ when it came to fracking. But in an interview with the Guardian this week, Dame Helen revealed that she has turned her back on shale. She explained that the decision was made because: ‘We don’t believe anyone understands the environmental impacts, and because we as far as possible would want to avoid anything that encourages the continued use of fossil fuels.’ On its website, the trust reinforces this viewpoint, writing that they have ‘presumption against’ shale ‘because natural gas is a fossil gas’. 

It’s not a straight ‘No’ to fracking, though; Dame Helen does go on to say that:

‘At some imaginary point in future, if all those [environmental] concerns were in some way met, it’s possible, but at the moment the answer would absolutely be no.’

But, you have to admit, it doesn’t sound as if she’s going to be changing her tune any time soon. It is slightly odd, though. Even the IPCC has accepted that ‘the shale gas revolution… can be very consistent with low-carbon development’, particularly as a ‘bridge’ energy source until someone can invent a productive form of green energy.

The whole point of the National Trust is, as our leader puts it, to ‘guard the aesthetic integrity of the landscapes it has bought’ or, as the National Trust put it, to ‘save our nation’s heritage and open spaces’. So it is at least encouraging, and logical, that the National Trust isn’t (yet) embracing the wind turbines which cover so much of this country. But it is slightly bizarre that the trust accepts solar panels, which, although closer to the ground, aren’t much more attractive than windfarms and produce electricity when we least need it, in mid-summer. It’s difficult to argue, even if you are Dame Helen Ghosh, that covering National Trust land in solar panels is the same as ‘saving open spaces’.

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