Owen Paterson: Enlightenment Man


Owen Paterson is Enlightenment Man in the modern day. OP believes that the environment needs to be improved and repeats this at every opportunity. He also promotes individualism and the public benefits derived from private profit-making. This is his central ethical magnetic pole. He is a neo-conservative, beyond neo-liberal.

Paterson is a natural quote machine. Witness last week’s Today interview, on the day Nature Check was published:

The environment is such a huge, vast, all-encompassing tableau”

“Otters have come back, thanks to water privatisation.”

“Last week I visited a fantastic private nature reserve.”

“These are very active campaigning groups – they have very subjective views [on the Government] which are unfair.”

“We have a long term programme to leave the environment better than before.”

on green belt: “we cannot freeze the country in aspic.”

on biodiversity offsetting: “if an environmental asset needs to be removed, it will be improved elsewhere.”

It’s clear – OP is about Improving the environment, being Objective not Subjective, Progress is all, the Private realm delivers far better than the state.

Paterson reeks of the enlightenment, when men threw off the shackles of superstition and religious hegemony, while transferring the notion of man’s dominion over nature from a religious to a rational basis. He is clearly revulsed by nature – talking of Mycobacterium bovis (cause of bovine TB) as this “disgusting bacterium”, and his portrayal of those opposing genetically modified Golden Rice as “wicked.”

Paterson genuinely believes that the human race can and must overcome everything that nature can throw at us, through Nietzschean force of Will, or through technological supremacy. Nature must be subdued.

He is not alone – look at the RSPB’s TV adverts – we must make new homes for nature (sponsored by Rightmove). It won’t be too long before we see evicted badgers searching on the righmove website  – select “rural or urban”, “one entrance or two”, “inside outside a cull zone”. 

George Monbiot argues nature can look after itself and doesn’t need our help. There is a broad continuum between GM, RSPB and OP –

OP – wildlife must be managed to avoid it going bad/disgusting/wicked

RSPB – Build new homes for Nature

GM – Let Nature Decide.

Where do you Stand?

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in agriculture, badgers, biodiversity offsetting, Charities campaigning, conservation, deregulation, enlightenment, environmental policy, ethics, George Monbiot, management, neoliberalism, Owen Paterson and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Owen Paterson: Enlightenment Man

  1. TheMushyPea says:

    I see what you are saying but I think this is a slight mis-interpretation of the enlightenment philosophy and also the more modern re-wilding philosophy. Re-wilding is also about improving the environment (from its current denuded state) through the process of ‘letting go’. While it does generally believe that nature can take care of itself, it requires the pieces to be in place – i.e. large areas of land to be left more or less alone and the native species (plants and animals) to be present. It is not quite simply saying that nature can take care of itself, and certainly not in the context of our horribly impoverished and micro-managed landscape.

    With regard to the enlightenment philosophy, I would argue that this was more about discovery and understanding. Improvement came next and in the context of a much larger world. I suspect that the enlightenment heroes of past would be horrified by Mr. Patersons anti-science attitude, and his disregard for the complex of biodiversity.

    • milesking10 says:

      Thanks Mushy Pea (though I suspect that is not your real name).

      The Enlightenment covered a whole multitude of Sins and Virtues, including the “improvement” of the land – Jethro Tull perfected the horse-drawn seed drill in 1701. Turnip Townsend was born in 1674.

      I was referring specifically to George’s views, not re-wilding per se. Though I think there are as many versions of re-wilding as their are advocates for it.

  2. David Dunlop says:

    Maybe you mean Utilitarian, Miles, in the classic sense of Jeremy Bentham?

  3. milesking10 says:

    Thanks Dave. Yes that certainly chimes with Opatz’s view of the environment.

  4. Pingback: Owen Paterson embraces Re-wilding. | a new nature blog

  5. Pingback: Ecomodernism takes us back to an old future | a new nature blog

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