(Part 3): TROUBLE UP'T GREEN ECO-MILL: BRADFORD'S ECO-PETERLOO...
Some general thoughts on ecology, nature reserves, developmentalism, revolutionary ecology and Bradford Urban Wildlife Group
"Mendelssohn treats beauty as entomologists treat butterflies. He catches the poor animal, he pins it down, and as its legitimate colours drop away, their it lies, a lifeless corpse under the pin. This is aesthetics!" (Goethe)
Above: Above: Three Blind Mice - Sustrans, Bradford Council, Friends of Bradford Beck. The fourth blind mouse is missing: Bradford Urban Wildlife Group
Once upon a time 'naturalists' in UK plc had somewhat disreputable reputations often regarded as eccentric, even mad (e.g. Lady Glanville who gave her name to the Glanville Fritillary) or, if not that, were possessed of subversive, even dangerous scientific inclinations like John Ray, a republican partisan, destined for the gibbet, though luckily was saved from such an ending. A little later in the 19th century, a naturalist's fieldwork involved incessant conflict with landowners represented by the ubiquitous figure of the brutal gamekeeper resulting in many brusque exchanges. By enlarge however a form of nature conservatism - a bucolic fantasy about a lost and beautiful "green and pleasant land"- (words ironically penned by that wild, wondrous revolutionary, William Blake) increasingly became the underlying belief of those who described themselves as naturalists throughout the latter half of the 19th century / early 20th century right up to the 1960s. Their specialist organisations, subdivided into flora, fauna and invertebrates, overwhelmingly middle class and higher (e.g. appealing to sections of the financial elite), had a stultifying conformism stamped all over them.
Post the late 1960s along with the birth of eco awareness, things really seemed to change and it looked as though the days of the conservative naturalist were numbered. Alas it was not to be. Certainly the disposition of naturalist organisations evolved from finding and observing, and sadly, collecting species to measures around conservation as nature became palpably more threatened by runaway urbanism and, hovering in the distance, ominous climate change. You would think such a major break implied big changes were in the offing. Indeed, briefly it did look that way only to find that the burgeoning naturalist organisations (all now eco oriented) weren't becoming more challenging. On the contrary, as the decades rolled by, submission kicked-in as these groups endlessly parleyed with the powers that be. In many ways they became a sub-division of a now discredited parliamentarism even when not remotely belonging to some party political organisation. Moreover, by the 1990s, naïve ecos had somehow convinced themselves they were pushing at an open door, as bit by bit, all 'conflict talk' was cut out, parleying becoming more like a variant of political wheeler dealing. Spontaneous, angry responses became passé, vulgar, even chav-like, essentially a stance to be shunned, even outlawed. Commitment and passion had become outré for the only expression regarded as acceptable was the duplicity of the advertisers' smile – all gleaming white teeth – endlessly and harmoniously repeated. Or, at least that was the illusion sold to gullible punters.
Some timely but unorthodox comments on nature reserves
The nature reserve mentality has held sway for a long time; well over a century and a half the more it was becoming obvious that nature was increasingly threatened by the developmental agenda at the very dead centre of capital accumulation and expansion. Despite the creation of natural parks especially in the USA in the late 19th century it was decades later before any really coherent take on ecology took shape in America, initially spear headed by the later editions of the anarcho, ultra-leftist journal, Contemporary Issues. Given media profile by Rachel Carson through the publication of her book Silent Spring in the 1950s the real impulse came slightly earlier under the auspices of anarchist Murray Bookchin who later founded the Institute of Social Ecology armed with a perspective involving a totality of social revolutionary transformation. Northern Europe responded more slowly but respond they finally did though most of this recognition took place just after the potentially revolutionary explosions of the late 1960s.
In the UK on a more immediate practical and alas more mundane level, it become obvious to many that the nature reserve was little more than a placebo and one destined to fail (e.g. the need to keep topping up the supply of reintroduced Large Copper butterflies situated within the green agricultural desert of a tiny Wood Walton Fen in Cambridgeshire). The pressing need then became to create corridors that connect up so wild life does not perish from becoming too inbred and isolated. Unfortunately, corridors only belong to theory, for the most part, and not in practise. Why? Because it is a huge paradigm shift and the creation of corridors comes into direct conflict with land ownership, both 'public' and private; a conflict striking at the heart of capitalism. The creation of corridors requires a new notion of what it is to be an eco and that we each must play our very hands on part in the making of these corridors. Corridors means personally getting your hands dirty beginning with the weeds, or lack of them, around your own doorstep. This is bound to result in immediate conflict once venturing further onto that bit of scrubland at the bottom of your street, more especially once you then go further to investigate edgelands, these temperate cornucopias of biodiversity, generally thought of as eyesores and in need of neatening (i.e. destroyed), which is code for being brought into harmony with the surrounding aridity. Councils are particularly good at imposing this soul destroying, dodderers set piece, upon nature and if you threaten this bureaucratic nature dead life you come up full force against the law.
As we said in a letter to Bradford's arsewipe of a local paper the Telegraph & Argus sometime in Spring 2013, knowing it would never be published: "In its infinite wisdom Bradford Council has unilaterally declared war on the latest ecological thinking that stands opposed to the creation of nature reserves and in its stead insists that wildlife corridors are the answer to the holocaust of the species now taking place. This policy now tops the official eco agenda, even if generally only lip service is paid to it. It also tends to reverse the de haut en bas philosophy of how nature 'reserves' are created and logically requires the participation of the common people in a way that has never occurred before in modern times and links up with the still highly emotive issue of the enclosing of the common lands most eloquently expressed by the peasant poet John Clare. What is new about modern enclosure is that it is done in the name of Health and Safety. It is behind this screen that the extermination of nature will take place and as we already know Bradford Council shamelessly employs Health and Safety laws to justify wholesale destruction. In our own interests we are to be guarded from nature and ourselves. This has always been a formula for tyranny."
A little later and we sent a letter to Green party top bosses in London (May 3rd, 2013) pointing out what arseholes the local Bradford Green party was. Like the T & A newspaper, the local Green party had also refused to reply to us. The letter wasn't nasty or even combative in tone but it was probing as the following extract suggests: "Since the onset of the intractable economic crisis of 2007, edgelands have come to constitute even more of an offence and all out war declared on them. They come to constitute everything that is wrong, their remediation a step toward putting things right and done with a bloody-minded fury for it to be reckoned a proxy war upon banksters. Everywhere it is war upon 'corrupt' nature which can be anything from an unauthorised buddleia bush to an overhanging branch in a ritzy street in London's Kensington which damn nearly results in the tree being cut down in all but name - (certainly a significant part of the tree's ecology will have been destroyed). And all, of course, covered by Health and Safety 'laws' at the same as the Health and Safety Executive is to scale down its right to intervene in workplaces. It is doom all-round, both for nature and people. There is a word for this: madness."
Bradford's local Green party concentrates almost exclusively on holding the balance of power in a hung council obsessed with party politicking and was quite prepared without complaint to see a beautiful avenue of trees in the elegant Victorian suburb of Saltaire clear felled. They are that obsequious as punching above their weight, the party is only concerned with point scoring electoral advantage..... We wrote a few letters to them which they blanked as did their bosses (Nathalie Bennett and Derek Wall) in London.The latter in Off the Wall occasionally writes in the Communist party Morning Star and, to judge from some of his comments, no doubt is acquainted with the situationists and most likely is fearful of our reputation. Our friend Ed Sherman on 18th December 2012 complained to the official planning review about the destruction of a Lower Aire Valley site along Otley Rd containing perhaps the biggest Common Blue population in Bradford (50 plus on the wing at one time) plus a possible badger's set. This was all in line with the "ecologically worthless" diktat decided upon by the Aire Rivers Valley's Trust. (The letter was CC'd to the local Green party. Again there was no reply). Sherman's letter also pointed out that Wickes building merchants were about to commit another ecological crime saying, "Moreover we mustn't forget that Wickes has recently been widely criticised by Friends of the Earth, The World Wildlife Fund, and Greenpeace for selling illegally sourced timber from Indonesia which Wickes claimed was taken from New Zealand and for certain the company will not want to be embarrassed by another ecological faux pas." Moreover, Bradford Green party wasn't even interested in enforcing the obligatory 10% set aside where nature is concernedand Wickes was let off the hook. Yippee: Eliminate every living thing in sight!!!
Furthermore, it wasn't just a matter of traditional nature reserves versus liminal edgelands. Something far worse was waiting in the wings. Despite the logic inherent in corridors the nature reserve mentality did not go away but was set to morph into something huge, distorted and grotesque somewhat spearheading the changed conceptions of officially sponsored park-like terrains acceptable to the neo-liberal urban epoch of shopping malls and variegated, even exotic landscape design surrounding the abodes of the super-rich which has become the accepted model for all neo-housing and urbanism much lower down the social scale. The horrific impact of the post Olympics, Queen Elizabeth Park in east London's Stratford has pushed this conquest of space much farther down the road towards an abyss. (See RAP web Town Planning for Insects).
The really important thing about Nature reserves today and the bottom line as to why they are so favoured, is because they are recognised by authority especially developers and top dog council officials. The 300 pages plus planning document on Bradford's recent Canal Road Corridor proposals is inevitably written in the language of bureaucratic twaddle and gobbledy-gook. Interestingly it only mentions nature in relation to a few tiny nature reserves (among which is the stone dead Shitley Stn Meadow), otherwise, nature apart from horticulture and lawning, does not exist or has no right to exist. Worse still, this notion then becomes ubiquitous taken up by every goon in the pay of the planners.Thus even security stooges on zero hours contracts with "ENFORCER" written on the backs of the hi-viz jackets tell you in a bullying manner if you ever so slightly trespass on what they regard as their terrain looking for interesting flora and fauna etc., that "Nature is over there in the official reserve and not here"!!!!!!! In short, the 'nature reserve' has played right into the hands of a increasingly totalitarian urban developmental project whereby every secret corner, every nook and cranny is taken out and obliterated.
As we pointed out in Part 1 of Bradford's Eco-Peterloo, sadly this baneful trajectory, this horrific distortion, was founded on a profoundly truthful recognition sometime around the mid 20th century and came with the realisation that the days of collecting wildlife, of simple recording and mere spotting of wildlife creatures, rare plants etc., had lost all raison d'etre when it wasn't downright predatory. Nature was in peril everywhere trashed endlessly by ever-increasing patterns of alienated consumption and the stimulation of false needs by advertising. A greater, much more interventionist hands on approach was needed. And there's the rub. Nature had to transfer to the political realm but there its many protagonists came unstuck, even farcical, for this transfer is also a formidable task. It demanded of its protagonists they become acquainted with a much greater grasp of revolutionary theory and practise among which uppermost must be the profound critiques of post second world war urbanism best outlined by Henri Lefebvre, the early psychogeographers and the situationists though there are others of considerable merit. Instead these fledgling wildlife conservationists utterly unaware of these developments took the easy way out becoming nature bureaucrats taking on all the devious wiles and manipulations of typical politicians aping the latter's appalling practices. A necessary critique of the state, of political economy in general was anathema as they opted for deal making carried out through behind closed-door machinations with local councils and / or private companies together with the banking sector. Effectively, this deal making and lobbying outlawed all other activity especially a simple, hands on, DIY, autonomous eco-conscious, sensitive, rank 'n' file activity. Even worse – crowning it all - nature was to have no autonomous existence either. Henceforth nature was going to have to do as it was told...or else! Come the noughties and all protest was to be vanquished in a country where affiliation to various wildlife groups far outnumbers membership of all political parties combined. Moreover, though the UK is home to the largest number of nature conservation groups than anywhere in the world it means sweet fuck all simply because they are so spineless and submissive.
Unfortunately there's a problem with our side to, the first subversive analysis of post second world war urbanism missed out on a critique of the 'tamed nature' that went with it. It proved to be a glaring omission and a gap that we are now trying to fill, and vis-à-vis the basic calamity in Briggate (and the subject of these webs) was the substitute, pastiche nature of the linear park designed by Sustrans architect MacQuillan. This was the essential factor in the slaughter of real wild life, which was to follow.
Although Henri Lefebvre and the early situationists were most likely hostile to the park and lawn designer nature surrounding the early execrable Villa Radieuse in France they so rightly detested and lucidly tried to subvert, no intervention ever took place against this substitute, faux excuse for nature. If they had done so, if say the lawns had been peppered with comment, if say the insect-repellent herbage had been decimated, if say all this had been accompanied by a clued-in leaflet scattered over this living dead terrain, imagine what a profound impact this intervention would have had on future generations? What we had instead was glancing comment without much of an edge. Thus one of Constant's marquette's (with drawings), involved a plan for a technologically equipped, free-floating space for free-floating people – a kind of ephemeral city on legs – beneath which would be a landscape of wild nature. This was probably as far as any acknowledgement went among the situationists during the 1960s in relation to encouraging nature regain its raw, autonomous edge whereby the planet becomes a nature un-reserve for liberated un-reserved, autonomous people. By the time the importance of nature and climate change was recognised the situationists as a group had disbanded, though many an individual influenced by their profound analysis and praxis meant eco critique was thus considerably deepened and if you like, "recovered through transfer" (Marx). Hence this tract.
As for today, if it was merely submission without general consequences for us all then we could ignore so-called wildlife groups. Unfortunately it doesn't work out like that. Seeing the mantra of "working with" the developmental agenda is pivotal to these nature conservation groups all sense of who they are and what they stand for has been quickly lost sight of and the intense socially schizophrenic character of these greenwash eco groups becomes clear: though aware of the horrors that await us due to climate change, in practice they embrace the perspective of the climate change deniers, the big shots at the heart of the developers mission. Hence initially well-intentioned ecos begin to support outright destruction giving to the destructive act a seemingly sustainable, ecological edge, which in practise becomes an orgy of Orwellian eco-speak that is truly frightening. In the vast majority of incidences the leaders of these sustainababble so-called eco organisations aren't bribed via the contents of some clandestine brown paper envelope but do so because they think it is right, making them even bigger buffoons than we initially thought! Indeed climbing into bed with the enemy, reminds us of the 1950s-60s critical urbanist's Ian Nairn's edgy observation that, "friendship corrupts more than money."
Below: Photos from those not-so-long-ago good old days when conservation groups weren't afraid to confront a rapacious neo-liberal, developmental agenda.........
Above: 1996 and Butterfly Conservation along with other people, occupied Selar Farm in south Wales to try and prevent open cast mining on an important Marsh Fritillary site.
Below: 1996 and a nascent Buglife took part in the Newbury Bypass protest to try stop the destruction of the rare Desmoulins Whorl Snail.
Despite the actions of brave people, the courts and developers resorted to their typical solution: translocation, translocation and yet more translocation. And typically both would fail.........
Bradford Urban Wildlife Group (BUWG) morphs into Bradford Suburban Deadlife Group
Although all conservation groups are deeply set against protest some are worse than others. At least the birders of the RSPB go in occasionally for half-hearted opposition even, at times, prepared to instigate desultory direct action. However the model on which a spuriously rank 'n' file organisation like Bradford Urban Wildlife Group is based is Butterfly Conservation, a model so supine it almost beggars belief. Most notably the latter collaborated whole heartedly in the mass holocaust of the Dingy Skipper on the Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northumberland spoil heaps courtesy of ghastly makeovers in the early noughties never since apologising or even acknowledging that the butterfly has been destroyed en masse. We, who pointed out this simple devastating fact were blanked everywhere. Indeed our films which put the matter straight were censored, air-brushed out of existence in a manner reminiscent of Stalinism, as plain glaringly obvious facts were dismissed as vindictive propaganda. Going on for ten years or more later the CEO of Yorks Butterfly Conservation, Howard Frost could proclaim that the birds foot trefoil (food plant of the Dingy Skipper) was slowly taking hold of the bare shale heralding a rosy future for the butterfly. Instantly you knew the colliery spoil heap he was imaging was a convenient fictive construct as most have been destroyed having long ago succumbing to the lifeless green sward makeovers of the estate agents aesthetic, that horticulturised outlook and necessary adjunct of one housing bubble ponzi scheme after another. True the butterfly is beginning to expand its range after its brutal decimation at the hands of the developmental agenda but this is mainly to do with – against all the odds - the amazing involuntarily spread of its foodplant.
For nature pressure groups like BUWG an overall mode of submission has come to mean they compensate by seeking out never-ending media exposure, which finally becomes the only raison d'etre for their existence. Eco-life as permanent up-beat representation when in reality nature has become a permanent beat-up reality, its representation bereft of all truth. Like a long lost after-glow, nature lives on as representation as it is catastrophically destroyed on the ground, in the air and in the rivers. On the ever permanent TV / Internet screen invading us like never before, a teeming nature is endlessly promoted through the lies spewed out in programmes like The Urban Jungle, The Big Wildlife Revival, Ultimate Swarms etc, (the latter like some sub Icteric add-on minus generalised subversion). Gone, all Gone! Gone too are the days of a bellicose Cyril Haxby and the Bradford Naturalists of the 1950s. Haxby was a man who constantly and ferociously mouthed-off against the newly formed Forestry Commission which took out huge areas of moorland hillside. Haxby was also a guy who had the singular honour of getting himself banned from Leeds City Stn; moreover somebody ever ready for a spell in the pub after non too polite meetings ready to cuss things out to the nth degree. Whilst we cannot glamourise individuals like Haxby – they were also very limited and reductive - we can at least acknowledge their forthright, pre PR (and no doubt pre PC) behaviour.
Since those far off days, women have tended to play a much more leading role in naturalist organisations the ideology of a gender biased, nature-nurturing feminism having been expounded some time ago especially in Carolyn Merchant's seminal The Death of Nature. Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. Indeed it could even be said that such an ideology has been well and truly broken on the wheel of experience since the book first appeared in the late 1970s and what happened on the Briggate site is a sad indictment of the illusion that women per se are naturally more responsive to nature conservation and that "eco feminist perspectives" are an essential expression of womanhood. However such a response would be well overstated. The problem is that nature sensitive, initially well-intentioned women succumbed to the miserable, gradualist perspective expounded by the dull, bureaucratic nature conservationist organisations equipped with a perspective daily becoming more sclerotic and more often than not fronted by a male bureaucracy and leadership with a corporatist, developmental agenda and one that needs to be subverted. However, more, much more has to be done. Leadership in general must be overthrown via a passionate, liberating individual / collective stab at autonomy enmeshed with ongoing action and permanent exhilarating discussion and women must be central to such an uprising. Re-staffing the same structures with mere gender change is pointless; the existing worn out and useless organisations must be abandoned. No more leaders and led!
Perhaps here it's worth making further historical comments regarding the desperate need for a more fully fronted feminist rebellion, one that really cuts to the chase. Early 1970s feminism was predominately social democratic cum modishly sub-Bolshevik oriented, significantly buttressed by a then fashionable Maoism, though along with all such confusionism there were some excellent exceptions notably Shulamith Firestone in America and Annie Le Brun in France, the latter coming out with such memorable comments like the following, "The historical misfortune of feminity was to have been limited to the perspective of roles. True feminist revolt is in deserting these roles." Wow! By the late 1970s, a sex-positive feminism broke away from an often-stultifying feminist moralism characteristic of the previous years. In turn, this too was to quickly give way to a surface, simplistic Sex and the City disposition, which intensified, the more economic neo-liberalism won out on every level and as such has been well summed up in Nina Power's One Dimensional Woman and Female Chauvinist Pigs by the American, Ariel Levy, both books broadly deal with "a woman's right to shoes" as the quintessential essence of an 'independent' seemingly liberated, raunch feminism.
However what we are dealing with here is a certain, very specific, nuancing of neo-liberal womanhood, one very far removed from raunch feminism. As previously mentioned, broadly the central thesis of Carolyn Merchant's The Death of Nature. Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution revolves around the notion that women are more sensitive to nature because more nurturing as against traditional male brutality which had the unfortunate side effect that a necessary critique of macho behaviour also got translocated on to nature as brambles, nettles and the like acquired the status of "bully plants", etc. As an untested hypothesis this maybe looked fine at the time though in practise decades later, it has turned into anything but.
It could be said of the neo-liberal epoch beginning with a vengeance in the late 1970s that women gradually became the subject of capital compensating for the fact on a gender level they still remained socially subordinate to the male species, especially regarding wage / power differentials. But why subject? Perhaps for a simple reason related to everyday mundane consumption patterns, women becoming the cornerstone of a finance oriented capitalism floating free on ever more calamitous fictive values with the home as its centre; the home as asset bubble decked-out with increasingly aesthetic, especially customised commodities etc; the home as carport; the home as end piece of the well-manicured garden of hanging baskets etc. In short, neo-liberal feminism has marked progress in domestication and not real liberation from capitalism with its stultifying patriarchical mores.
In reality though this home oriented consumerism could only be the aspirant dream realisation for the expanding suburban middle classes and increasingly, post the great crash of 2007-8, can no longer be the goal for the majority pushed into a race to the bottom. And women at the bottom of the pile are today really at the end of their tether. Nonetheless it was from more privileged backgrounds that the majority of 'nature sensitive' women came from, those who were to become the backbone and usually small time organisers of the new nature 'conservationist' organisations. They inevitable projected their social prejudices on these organisations: stuff shirt, prissy, aesthetic, law abiding, very respectful of authority and inevitably in proper marriages, hooked-up with usually petty careerist, paltry, insipid males conjuring up misty reminders of a late 1940s-50s Keep Britain Tidy perspective quintessentially in keeping with that of a quondam, Tory party, Town Women's Guild. Moreover they tend to look down on women at the bottom of the gender pile.
The bottom line is: they are the wrong women to deal with wild nature because they aren't in their everyday lives, wild themselves. Who among them has cut up untidy, shouted the odds, taken a walk on the wild side and got the sack? Who among them can be pilloried as dole scroungers who drink and like some Mary Jane? Who among them has been in jail or borstal? Who among them has ever been on the game? Who among them holds stroppy ideas about society in general or has ever gone on a demonstration never mind participating in riots? Where are the honky-tonk women within the ranks of nature organisations? Where among them are the tough mums that male hooligans – often getting out of their prams in the wrong way - forever remain scared of? On the contrary these women - these real life, pulsating women – were (and are) very much the butt of seemingly 'nature sensitive' suburban contempt. Not knowing real women little do these suburbanites realise the object of their contempt are far more holistically eco than they ever dare imagine, yet we regular encounter these fine gals in our local wilding experiments and often they tend to be appreciative of our communal wilding efforts.
In the Introduction (Part 1) to Bradford's Eco-Peterloo we pointed out that it was the utilities companies that got the blame for destruction. This needs to be nuanced because there's something else, something far more important to consider: it's also not really the fault of the utilities management, rather it seems their workers are to blame for the carnival of destruction! Again, it would appear, these workers are constantly climbing out of their prams indulging in bouts of rampant vandalism as they blithely cut down trees or smash up heritage features and management who - try as they might – simply cannot control them. Who believes this crap? Well, in Bradford, it's the suburban, 'sensitive' petite bourgeois women in leadership eco roles who spout this cretinous stuff having literally no knowledge of manual work situations and the grim reality that workers (men and women) today are more programmed than ever before in history; having to obey and obey every diktat from on high, handed down to them even to the most infinitesimal stupid detail. In reality today, it's management that runs amok, or rather those who are, at least, able to cover up - in connivance with the real big boys above them – every blunder they amply make.
Behind this entire attitude is a still running sore deep prejudice against the worker emanating from the neo-liberal feminists especially those of a certain age usually occupying leadership positions in eco organisations. Often from typical Tory suburban backgrounds they remember the days when in the 1970s / early 80s wildcat strikes were rampant throughout the UK. Seeing nothing subversive in such activity even when involving women like the Ford machinists, indeed getting no kick out of, no promesse de bonheur, out of this backdrop to everybody's life at the time, they rapidly identified with Maggie Thatcher, the beast whom in indecent haste they began to worship as a kind of religious saviour, prelude to a kind of modern privatised rapture for the chosen few among which they needed to be included. To this day, the long shadow of this identification remains, having in the mean time, somewhat morphed in the process. Thus the real enemy of a future ecological paradise are the nasty, dumb-fuck wokkers, those women and men, often on zero hours contracts, who don't adequately pick up all the litter and other leftovers product of consumer packaging. These 'workers', these specimens are all none people - out-of-control robots - beneath contempt. Moreover, as night follows day, it wasn't so much the utility companies who made a mess of things rather it was THEIR WORKERS WHO ARE TO BLAME FOR ECOCIDE IN BRIGGATE. Sustrans, Ursula, the town and country planning aesthetes in general are therefore squeaky clean. No case to answer!
Followed by a lot of further telling details.....
Though Bradford Urban Wildlife Group regularly meet in Shipley library, not one member was aware of the largely unexamined, teeming wildlife just a couple of hundred yards away and one destined to be destroyed. And why was that? Because the place was a dirty mess, a sight rather than a site that easily outranked the SSSI locality that goes by the name of Trench Meadows in Shipley Glen more than a mile away but such is the group's estrangement from nature,they preferred instead its shadow substitute TV spectacle and / or occasional visits to local 'nature' honey pots. To us it was all so obvious, and though scores of people elsewhere supported our opposition, none on the ground in Bradford were prepared to give us any immediate practical help.
In the Caroline Merchant mould, a certain Ms Susan Stead is the absolutist leader of BUWG in an organisation that brooks no argument, or real debate, never mind thoughtful, open-minded, dialectical discussion. In fact it's structured as if a party whip is in control and unclean thoughts must be permanently expunged and even though among its members there are a few individuals from the lower orders, they can only ever exist within the organisation as faithful step and fetch its. From the early to the mid 1990s onward Ms Stead firmly believed in the butterfly nature reserve of Shipley Station Meadow within the triangle formed by the coming together of three railway lines and initially opened a few years previously by that arch reactionary, climate change denier, David Bellamy. She looked on this media nature superstar with something like awe; a colossus who was really changing the parlous state of nature everywhere. Within a few years this oasis was cruelly taken apart as three quarters of the land was given over to a grotesque park 'n' ride scheme for the benefit of rail commuters. Needless to say the brutal truth dawned quickly enough: that useless heap of mobile metal, the car, was / is far more important than any insect. And despite greenwash illusions to the contrary this attitude today is truer than ever, one embraced by most greens seeing in today's car a sensitive combination of technology and art especially as the age of the supposedly clean fuel electric car appears on the horizon. The response of a bogus rank 'n' file group like BUGW was from its inception to go along with the developmental project merely attempting to modify at the edges its most brutal aspects, and often not even that. Almost from the very start they hideously went along with the empty headed notion that a meagre plot of land – a shadow of nature – might prosper. What should have been done is obvious: the newly formed group should have closed down the farcical Shipley Station Meadow but with the help of a belligerent fanfare accompanied by a strongly worded leaflet. It would have hit the PR machine square in the face becoming a benchmark of ecological activism that would have made waves endlessly disturbing the powers that be contemplating further such acts. Instead this baneful compromise, this fateful submission strengthened the destructive agenda of developmentalism.
Such naivety almost defies belief yet it's all too common out there whereby it's celebrities who change the world and not the collective action of 'the people' which, of course, includes even a small group of individuals acting on their righteous beliefs. Immediately this transcendental meadow, this dismal plot of land became ordained as a butterfly Mecca where the Ab mariscolare of the Common Blue would be tenderly nurtured, and in consequence given time, a nursery for the rest of Bradford. Therefore any small colony that was discovered within a mile or so of Shipley Stn was necessarily attributed to the meadow's conservation success the butterflies having ventured out to pastures green everywhere. This of course was ridiculous but more seriously it proved how little so-called eco conservationists investigated sites even on their own doorsteps. If they had they would rapidly have realised there were small Common Blue sites everywhere throughout Bradford though mostly on so-called ugly / brilliant corners, those edgelands related to Bradford's industrial past, scarred and abandoned, mucky, unpretty, even shrouded in shades of desperation, therefore bad, even sinister and especially significant in the up and down terrain - that rocky, turbulent outcrop - which makes Bradford so unusual, even remarkable and which so fascinated John Ruskin.
The ideology of the Butterfly Meadow remained intact precisely because there was no searching out of things strange and unknown. Reification had become absolute, so innovation firstly, on the level of changes in perception was out of the question. Therefore, according to this ideology there was no question that the small Common Blue colony we found in the late 1990s in Windhill Quarry on Wrose Brow, which hovers in the distance over the station, was inevitably an offshoot of the meadow. The backdrop to such a mistaken, even quasi-mystical concept is a belief in nature reserves, those cordoned off areas guaranteed to save nature everywhere. Of course this defies all more rational explanations at the same time as it points to that very simple lack of practical looking and observing in the age of programmed consumerism where one must only look in certain ways and direction usually related to shopping. Instead keep attention fixated on "the honey-pots" those areas designated as wildlife reservations no matter how small. Nothing else really matters...
Alas, from roughly 2004 onwards that tiny piece of nothingness, the Butterfly Meadow, was going from bad to worse, even though often acting as a glamourised frontispiece for Yorkshire wildlife trusts and Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation. Susan Stead knew in her hearts of hearts that the meadow was failing yet refused to face the fact. Yet nobody dared tell her or else facts bounced off her tin ear and were therefore disregarded. Ideology became everything: this was a nature reserve par excellence. Full stop; nothing wrong with the hallowed ground. But the nagging doubts would not go away. It was crazy; the meadow was dead, dead, dead.
Yet, in response Susan Stead believed in an even more messianic way that all the Common Blues in the extended vicinity of Shipley Stn came from the small meadow, as the mariscolare's range seemed to increase. According to her analysis, they were flying everywhere around the station alighting on the bramble florets in the adjacent Big Field during the day returning in the evening to the protective carapace of the meadow; and their satisfied with an abundance of nectar sources and joire-de-vivre, they bred like bunnies. This was ideology bordering on the nonsensical as by 2010 the Common Blues had completely died out here and the only butterflies that tarried across this by now, artificial meadow were those breeding elsewhere in the station's environs. Why? Because we had made certain – gradually and clandestinely – and for a number of years that we planted many, many trefoil plants followed up with extensive seeding here, there and everywhere. Success took time but even within a couple of years or so fairly extensive patches of birds foot trefoil began to spread especially so in the vacated space of ballast where once the old signal cabin stood and, more importantly, the huge area at the back of the Ilkley platform as well as on the dummy end, old platform at the bottom of Station St.
"Lackeying the varying tide" in Bill Shakes' words Ms Stead really didn't know where she was / is and / or what's she doing moving in all directions at once, desperate to remain in the limelight. Nervously keen to impress authority, forever looking up to the hierarchy in poorly disguised wonderment she imitated them as much as possible disparaging workers and menials as the root of all anti-eco evil. And we weren't to be excluded from this scenario. In this stew, management's enlightened efforts were always screwed up by Bolshie workers never doing what they are told and always holding the boss to ransom.
Thus a thoroughly horticulturised and ridiculous Shipley in Bloom uneasily invaded Ms Stead's weak conservation perspectives. She looked at the environs around Shipley Stn readily agreeing with Shipley in Bloom that the main obstacle to conservation and wildlife in this remarkable railway junction was too much litter thrown away mainly by irresponsible passengers (sorry customers). The place needed a good clean up preferably done no doubt by a sub-contracted PPP outfit. Pronto. Essentially this had become the crux of Susan Stead's wild life improvement efforts; more than that it chimed with her pronouncements three years previously that the meadow was being ruined by a bunch of travellers in caravans who'd taken over one of the triangles park 'n' ride bays. The blame for a failing meadow was shifted on to the travellers rubbish and had nothing to do with her utterly incompetent stewardship. It was a scapegoating that was racist to the core.
Truth to tell, considering no waste bins were provided by the station's management for the travellers use there was little dumped litter. The travellers were in fact a courteous bunch of people ever ready with a welcome hello and friendly wave. If this was merely PR it was also a very seductive exercise as in no time at all we (and others) often engaged in friendly chats with the travellers..... In reality however, the meadow was failing not only because it was far too small even to be an oasis but because bad drainage (no doubt in consequence of an inadequately drained car park foundation and / or the increased rainfall by-product of climate change) had finally brought into being an all-the-year-round damp sub-strate which the dwarf, indigenous birds foot trefoil had found to be an inhospitable terrain to expand upon. And the same went for the larvae of the Common Blue. Radical action was needed if even this pathetic oasis was to survive. The whole meadow had to be more or less dug up replaced with a new fairly wide shingle-filled drainage ditch, followed with a substantial seeding of continental, long stalk birds foot trefoil, together with the creation of hillocks of arid brick dust etc, suitable for the indigenous birds foot trefoil. This though was out of the question as an increasing blind Ms Stead was constantly proclaiming there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the meadow. Thus in a terrible film for Yorkshire TV in the summer of 2013, the illusion was again proclaimed that the famous meadow was alive, stunning and vibrant; even more dreadfully the lie was upheld that the Common Blue was breeding in this space when it plainly wasn't. Fronted by a ridiculous blurb saying Ms Susan Stead was an "amazing woman" a neo-liberal cum Stalinoid propaganda had become the order of the day. There she was filmed with her palette, brushes and easel merrily painting away 'creating' (ugh) art works so bad that they give a new depth and inflexion to the old slogan and truism that "Art is Dead".
By 2010, a small group of us began to realise we had to start doing things ourselves by going eco hands on; getting down and dirty amongst all these seemingly disgusting leftovers of two centuries of industrial revolution, even though we knew what we were going to do was strictly illegal.There was no point in asking permission as it would have been refused point blank as for sure this would have been construed as "guerrilla gardening" but with another intent behind the concept. We knew that Bradford was probably one of the most wildlife rich cities in the UK but that its wild life was now everywhere in peril despite being somewhat protected by the rocky terrain and which at times produces breath-taking conjunctions when chanced upon. We even said at the time that "Bradford was a city hovering on the marvellous" in contradistinctions to all the media hype about myriad regeneration projects based on nothing more than ponzi schemes stimulating a further frenzy of ultra commodification. We also knew we couldn't stay within the confines of Shipley stn but had immediately to move out over into the surrounding environs along the valley bottom and the lower slopes of Windhill. Above all, this area with its specific micro-climate was superlatively rich in wildlife.(Moreover, even within the confines of Shipley station by 2014 there were also substantial colonies of Dingy Skipper and Brown Argus in existence though BUWG members were presumably unable to find them as no mention has been placed on their pathetic website... As the TV ad says, they really do need to go to Specsavers......)
So our merry band of sisters and brothers set out to work and play. Time and again, we were struck by the parallels between what we were doing and the struggles of William Bunting's Beavers decades previously to conserve the raised peat lands of the Humber Head Levels from being seized and drained by large-scale agriculturalists and stripped mined for their peat by Levingtons. Though he would learn old English and use common law to successfully argue his case, Bunting, an engineer who had supplied anarchist insurgents with guns during the Spanish revolution of 1936-9, had a rag tag army of volunteers to call on. Composed mainly of miners from the Thorne Moor, and Hatfield pits during the 1970s, students from Leeds University would also muck-in giving the Beavers a helping hand in their battles with the authorities which included English Nature, the forerunner of Natural England, the threadbare state body charged (jokingly) with the defence of nature.
How different things were in our case! Though our mammoth efforts attracted a lot of local approval rather than hands-on support, when compared with Bunting we lacked a natural constituency, the lack proving crucial in our battle with the greenwash developers of Sustrans who, because of that lack, were able to brush us aside like flies, forgetting fleas are also classified as flies and that this particular "war of the flea" had only just commenced. And, oh brother, have you ever tried sleeping with a flea in the bed? Knowing that it was only a matter of time before the authorities would move against us, and despite our bitter reservations, based on actual experience, of corporatist tenants / management organizations in the council sector, we thought of contacting the Windhill tenants association to acquaint them with what we were seeking to achieve. We never got around to doing this, all our time taken up with the massive, nature-enhancing transformation we were bent on carrying out in this most favourable of spots. And so, to be honest, we were only ever on nodding terms with local council tenants, the majority, though, clearly impressed by our commitment, especially in view of our age. That we could swing an axe with the best of them in our late sixties commended us to tough street kids, they addressing us as "friend" whenever we happened to bump into them. They sort of knew instinctively that we posed no threat - unlike the Sustrans enclosure which spelt their doom, the anodyne greenwash makeover, a covert declaration of war on council and social housing tenancies in the name of yet another, unsustainable, property price bubble. We became something of a talking point amongst local bus drivers as we heaved bags packed with cornunculatus and pedunculatus trefoil, doves foot and cut leafed cranesbill, knapweed and field scabious on board busses to transplant in the vicinity of Shipley station, to aid the spread of the Common Blue and Brown Argus butterfly (and latterly the Marbled White butterfly, the last two flowers particularly appealing to it, as nectar sources). Sometimes we would leave a trail of mud behind us and which must have irked some drivers, who now have to double as cleaners. Despite the inconvenience, the majority were right behind what we were doing with only the odd surly bastard countering "we aren't a bloody removals firm, yuh know". We would, on a number of occasions, hire saloons from Abbey Taxis in the city centre, to pick up 15 or so bags from Gaisby Quarries, the Asian drivers doing it for a cut price rate once informed of what we were up to. They were even more impressed when we explained we were doing it off our own bat, and that we were not in receipt of any grants, they adding it would have been so much better if we had been able to engage local youth in our project. Too right!!
Behind ad hoc tactics though we were armed with a reasonably coherent strategy. We kind of realised we were and are an avant-garde..... ever hoping others will follow through example and make no mistake about it this form of autonomous activity really does communicate with the housing estate poor if our experiences in Shipley are anything to go by. These people knew we were genuine because our intervention, our endless diggings, seedings and what have you were done by ourselves alone. Nothing was sub-contracted out delegated to some outside organisation, even though we were often knackered by the effort. The locals responded with daily friendly greetings and a common dominator from tough gangs to single women rather nervously picking their way through the rough tracks bordered with even rougher grass. Others – often the most unlikely of individuals - gradually became more active, following us in a kind of discombobulated manner adding their own off-shoots and two penneth; a kind of parallel invasion, a stealthily sleuthing, potentially occupying force and one the authorities found more and more threatening. Our unknown, nameless compatriots became freak, madcap anarchist columns finding their way subconsciously crawling as it were towards a new world, a movement whose shape we had somewhat outlined previously in the Nameless Wilding webs put together under the name of the John Clare Collective. We described how we were shadowed both by insurgent individuals making inroads on the urban, edgeland terrain as well as by those robo-sapiens in the pay of the authorities forever trawling the Internet, in this instance the council sleuths ever ready to identify and maim. Our eco wilding subversion had thus to be destroyed taking out every living insect, bird, weed and wild flower. Kill. Exterminate. The huge and empty land bank of a BNP Paribas site on the banks of the River Aire had to be sprayed with defoliants by robo-sapiens and then sealed with arc welded steel. A Manningham land bank site was denuded and enclosed with rhino fencing (on which somebody then posted a sign "Bradford twinned with Auschwitz–on-Sea, plc") and finally the glory of Briggate had to be put to the sword. All this signalled that any attempt at urban dis-alienation must immediately be nipped in the bud preferably with the blessings of the official green movement, as this cover was the best defence of all. It is of course a path that has been well followed elsewhere initially vis-à-vis the urban terrain, one that cruelly dawned in the aftermath of May '68 in France as that creep of a left wing British architect Richard Rogers - cognisant to some degree with the themes of May '68 – destroyed the psychogeographers paradise of Les Halles building his own wretched controlled and commoditised play arena, the Pompidou Centre. He was later knighted for his efforts, (C/f London's Olympic Legacy: TOWN PLANNING FOR INSECTS.
We were acting horizontally, autonomously; the eco rackets bringing in the professional landscaping outfits who invariably don't possess an ounce of sensitivity. The reality is only experienced field naturalists know how to nuance and help habitat respecting nature's autonomy knowing they cannot substitute habitat. As for baneful professional naturalists they don't take up digging tools themselves as most are made up of middle class people who simply would never get their hands dirty. It is beneath them to do something like that in any serious way. They are there to organise conservation work occasionally visiting a site to observe the working stiffs and nothing more. In the past generally having contempt for the manual working class this attitude is now redoubled as the workless / zero hours society of Chav demonology kicked in, made up of no-people beneath contempt. Or if not these 'enlightened' 'eco' middle class go in for a seeming do-gooding deploying borstal, or possible borstal cannon fodder to do the dirty work - e.g. as BEES (Bradford Environmental Educational Services) in Bradford does re the upkeep of the old quarry of the Boars Well near to the city centre.
Everywhere we went, local people took an interest in what we were doing. Once on the top of Gaisby Quarry, a local resident asked us in for a cup of tea, intrigued that we were taking the cornunculatus trefoil from the exposed heights down to the valley floor below, where it would do more good as the Common Blue foodplant of choice. True, there was a Common Blue colony up here and that had remain undiscovered until we came by to take a look in the 1990s, most of it being destroyed when a ticky-tacky estate was built on the disused part of the quarry during the housing boom of the early noughties. From the heights of Gaisby we would look down on this legoland estate and try to make out the former features, regretting we had never taken more photographs of its once outstanding topography and that, typically, has been all but obliterated along with its wildlife. We wrote in the late 1990s there is a type of building that can actually enhance these amazing, manmade features that, over time, takes on a happenstance all of their own - but only by being put beyond the reach of architects, builders and planners. We would also find the rare Jacobs Ladder up here and wonder however did this plant of limestone grasslands ever get here and take root on a substrate of York stone, the plant having been discovered in nearby Malham Cove in the 1660s by the great botanical insurrectionist, John Ray. And yet, well over 300 years later, it would remain undiscovered up here, an oversight that is yet again an appalling indictment of local wildlife groups, and would, if we had read the runes correctly, predict the ecological ruin of the Shipley site and any hopes we might have had of being able to mobilise Bradford ecos in its defence.
Inevitably the great leader (Ms Susan Stead) began to come across our wilding interventions and immediately somewhat appropriated our often colossal labours as a means of further bigging-up her media reputation providing she could somewhat claim the glory for herself though in the meantime making certain she kept a safe distance by not getting her own cleaner than clean hands grubby in the process. In any case basically she looked askance at our efforts always emphasising their 'illegality'. Once during 2012 encountering our obviously criminal presence in The Big Field adjacent to Shipley Stn, where we were planting trefoil, knapweed and scabious for Marbled White butterflies reported in the vicinity that very year, Steady reprimanded us for blatant, serious skulduggery saying we could be accused of "stealing earth"! It was that petty! As for earth? So this is what you call this fascinating substrate of The Big Field; this base amalgam of decomposed cloth, coal, metal and sheer soot, leftovers from the time this place were busy sidings packed with coal and Mungo Shoddy freight trains. As for "earth" who on earth would have desired this neo-soil in any case? "Moreover" she threatened, "be careful that "Shipley in Bloom don't see you"! Seeing it as a pathetic comment of a steadfast (get it) suburbanite, little did we know what scheming she was up to regarding what she called "the concept" least of all re-baptising The Big Field with the polite name of Bradford Meadows c/o the idiots she was laicising with, the so called, bucolic Friends of Bradford Beck. Little also did we realise that she had an eye on making this place into a chocolate box cover, eco-lite sufficiently horticulturised semi-park devoid of wild nature. Her basic conservative instincts were appearing: she wanted a domesticated nature and was already preparing for an evil collaboration a mere year later between Bradford Council and Sustrans which would eliminate in Briggate one of the richest most bio-diverse site in northern England.
Sometime later in 2012 she briefly accompanied us to see the neo industrial gorge running through Briggate just across the Bradford Beck. Walking in the Briggate basin, a former wharf and the last standing relic of the old Bradford Canal, all this philistine could see were abandoned tyres and the inevitable musical accompaniment of old tins of paint, lost umbrellas, twisted bits of rusted steel and what have you. Yet this was all she could see and was horrified. There was to be no subtle neo-psychogeographers appraisal here, no sense of the 'new sublime'; no sense either of concepts from earlier times like Marcel Proust's "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes." She hated the place! Loathing oozed from her very pores. To even try pointing out the area's remarkable bio-diversity was beside the point; this area offended, this unspeakable industrial dereliction, this detritus. She knew it had it had to be swept clean, swept aside, killed off! She also had the manipulator's wit to realise we could be trouble and would have to deploy cunning measures in the hope she could get away with the forthcoming crime. We were willing, committed fools who needed to be bamboozled. She was the expert as she was top of the hierarchy and that was and is, the be all and end all of everything! Subsequently we weren't informed of an essential meeting arranged with the idiot landscape architect McQuillan who outlined his concept of a linear park to accompany Sustrans proposed cycle way through the industrial cum post-industrial gorge.
But we had been here before. Some years previously in the early noughties we had been excluded – having being promised we would be informed - from a countrywide discussion on brownfield sites specifically the abandoned colliery spoil heaps which for many years had become havens (and heavens) for disparate wild life. Official conservationists belonging to wildlife trusts and Butterfly Conservation deliberately excluded us fearful we would upset the developers plus fine upstanding bodies like the Royal Bank of Scotland who were about to fund an horrendous, destructive makeover involving in particular the holocaust of the Dingy Skipper and much, much else besides. In reality the only question to be discussed was how all could come together to realise an estate agents' greenwash aesthetics, which is what happened in practical reality. Ever since that fateful moment our revolutionary eco critique has been brutally marginalised as a maimed Stalinoid law of omerta kicked-in; our theories a form of samizdat crushed under the weight of neo-liberalism with our films never to be given a public showing; nay, more than that, never to be mentioned. So far, the suppression of the truth has worked wonders. Ms Susan Stead quite some time ago fully realised that ignorance really was bliss wholeheartedly embracing lies wherever she goes. It seems a long time ago she was told never to look at our websites and unquestionably, it seems, she obeyed the diktat........
Moreover, she didn't even know her own patch of Shipley Stn. She was so on her way to robotisation she couldn't even see other areas. She was so cloned she couldn't even allow herself to look elsewhere. It was forbidden. It wasn't even lawful. She was only interested in position and hierarchy and a honourary place on Shipley station's management committee was all that mattered. And from such heights and honour she wasn't going to say anything that could offend, so Network Rail could –and did – cut down any tree they liked simply for the hell of it and really invasive plants like Japanese Knot Weed were allowed to flourish at will. Don't upset the apple cart was all that mattered and in any case wildlife must learn to respect private property, trespass laws and Lockein civics........
And as for the Marbled White. We first got wind of it during 2012, a youth we were on passing terms with saying he had seen one in the field behind Shipley station. "Oh yeah" was our sceptical response, sure he had mistaken a Large White with particularly pronounced black markings for the butterfly. We would foreswear our disbelief a couple of days later when we managed to get a crappy photo of the butterfly in the field that bounds the Leeds Road, the photo going on Bradford Urban Wildlife's web site. We felt real good about it, sure that there was no better place for the butterfly to make out than here. And how right we were in our prediction, we counting close on 50 in the vicinity of Shipley station during the summer of 2013, the maximum count recorded by Bradford Urban Wildlife Group a mere 5, the group obviously suffering from a bad case of myopia in more ways than one. We never checked out the Briggate site, as we were too distressed by the destruction taking place there, but we were told by a consumer of nature who remains irritatingly stuck in the mere recording of wildlife, he had seen them on the site. The killing off of the butterfly on the Briggate site is sufficient in itself to damn Sustrans to all eternity - never mind all the other unspeakable horrors it is responsible for.
Once all hell had broken loose as Bradford Council together with Sustrans in early 2013 destroyed a big part in of the amazing wildlife site adjacent to Shipley station, there was to be no going back. War had been declared and we hadn't started it! Though the part of the site called Briggate lay in ruins Ms Stead's instinctive response was to back the destruction simply by saying – more or less – that it didn't matter, that, in fact there was no serious destruction. Worse than that there were no butterfly colonies in Briggate. The Small Tortoiseshell, it seems was in the February of 2013 happily hibernating in the trees (no matter that it's foodplant, a glorious, rich, thick bed of often giant, ancient nettles was destroyed) and as for the Common Blue and its inimical Ab mariscolare variety peculiar to this industrial gorge, well it simply didn't exist. Again, was she blind? This was preposterous stuff! In fact, Ms Stead simply didn't know, for as previously stated, she'd only ever been on the site for half an hour and hated it! Later, the leader of BUWG even sort to absolve Anne Heeley, Bradford Council's dire bio-diversity officer who had had the temerity to say Briggate was virtually valueless regarding the quality (or lack of) its natural life. As also mentioned elsewhere, Ms Heeley further said it was fine to cut down the wych elm trees host to a colony of White Letter Hairstreaks because other elms saplings could replace them! Moreover, the bureaucrats of the council knew better than we did what was in Briggate!
And then the familiar scapegoats were again wheeled out as Ms Stead blamed the utilities companies and beck maintenance firms including Yorkshire Water for the destruction (if indeed there had been any). Yep, it was those ignorant workers again who had gone all vandalistic yet again! Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look to the aesthetes.
In fury we sent a letter to Susan Stead. 4th April 2013 and below is an extract....
"And so to the Briggate site (formerly the "lanolin site"). We were the only two people in Bradford who were at all responsive to the site and adjacent areas and open to their multi layered suggestiveness. The vast majority of 'nature lovers' and ecologists in Bradford including BUWG, BEES, etc. would have regarded them as an eyesore and not worth a second look, their retardation that bad and out of sync with the times. What it will take to shift this sickening, knee jerk, deeply reactionary view is beyond our envisioning. It was just so easy for the Council / Sustrans, etc. to move in and destroy because, if it wasn't for us, this malevolent act of destruction would have been almost totally regarded by BUWG, BEES, etc. as an act of wild life enrichment and visual improvement the more it resembled parkland and suburban gardens. This is not nature but its ruin, the respectable appearance of nature, not its wicked, liberating essence.
And then what about the Woodpeckers both Green and Greater Spotted and the rare flora? We could go on and on and on, but what is the point? BUWG has lined up with the destroyers and is seeking to whitewash them. don't worry because there is virtually no one in BUWG, BEES, etc. who can contest the party line because of one enduring, unassailable fact: their pathological hatred of genuinely urban wildlife. Obviously neither of us can have anything more to do with BUWG and we aim to make our objections public in the fond hope others will follow suit and leave in disgust."
(Obviously in the above letter, many details and names had been left out of the reckoning especially the bats, never mind the abundant small mammal life, but in the heat of the moment, in the despair and the anger, it's easy to forget things......)
Because our objections were forthright and we pulled no punches we were inevitably condemned outright as Ms Stead demanded we apologise to all BUWG members for having openly sarcastically renamed the organisation, Bradford Suburban Deadlife Group. We also took great pleasure in learning that we'd kept top bods (or top gods) on the council awake at night. In response Ms Stead even went more firmly behind the powers that be seeking out every photo opportunity available to show her solidarity with fellow partners in crime. The behaviour was craven.... as we said in a letter at the time: "We don't doubt we were thoroughly slagged off to Bradford Council and made into a laughing stock, courtesy of BUWG. Susan haughtily dismissed our initial protest with the words "you've had your fun", the very words GCHQ and M15 would use against The Guardian newspaper for publishing the Snowdon spying revelations just prior to taking a hammer to a computer hard drive storing the top secret documents, even though other copies existed. It is surreally symptomatic of the totalitarian state now dawning that even the liberal middle ground are required to submit to the most infantile irrationality without protest. And so we were expected to go along with the mindless destruction of the Briggate site without demur. Unable to accept the unacceptable, we were the problem - and still are."
Then, almost a year later, came the big blow: Morrisons was going to build a supermarket in this landscape of contempt seeing it was next to a major commuter rail exchange. Ms Stead reacted in horror even issuing a statement that was published in the BUWG newsletter which nevertheless came out with the same dire litany that marks all these ultra collaborationist greenwash groups: BUWG would work with Morrisons no matter what to ensure some trivial ground to be set aside to 'protect' in particular, the Marbled White on the Big Field!! Meaning, prepare the butterfly's graveyard.
Later it transpired this was a Plan B alternative as Morrisons was desperate to build their new store on the Crossley Evans scrap metal recycling site adjacent to the Otley Rd on land owned by D B Schenker and Network Rail, a site that has since been heavily contested locally Then, after such pusillanimity all opposition to Morrisons new supermarket had to be curtailed forthwith; the result being that all stickers, etc. objecting to the development were torn down. Protest was out, the Greens demanded it! Seeing protest was declared an evil act henceforth we proudly proclaimed ourselves Los Amigos del Diablo! Not only that. It was just so easy to pillory Morrisons for blatant hypocrisy for hadn't the supermarket merely a few years ago launched a sophisticated "anti-greenwash initiative" when developing their Kidderminster store, when hand on heart, they provided a "company green print for stores of the future" taking care of local otters and cycle paths?.... You could throw these facts right back in Morrisons managements ugly mugs. THE GREENS SAID NO...... but we did just that it in any case!
Moreover, in a kind of angry open letter to BUWG we suggested members could have occupied this disputed ground with pop-up tents around the Briggate site even though many participants are retired but such is the leaders and led unquestioning passivity we knew this would have been out of the question. If they had somehow overcome this ridiculous self-imposed obstacle their retirement status would have made things a lot more difficult for the authorities sent to deal with them. (Perhaps like the recent Barnsley based Freedom Train Riders, a morphing, pensioner, anarchist inclined, Iron Column of Women against Pit Closure thirty years on and an inspiring event). Moreover direct action would have immediately attracted some enlightened youth as well as others. However against the grain such prospects were nil. The guiding maxim of these sheeples is: don't put authorities back-up; get on your knees to the great and good! In reality such a submissive attitude is pathetic and nothing more than a permanent stab in the back for those who make an effort. Deploying the reality of a certain age can tap into big advantages and Occupy in New York's Zuccotti Park wasn't short on creative wrinklies. Moreover the notion of "the youth revolt" is less than ever in the past 50 years though the reality of the ageless proletarianised is bigger than ever having sucked in ever bigger swaths of a once large middle class as the aspirational become almost indistinguishable from the permanently marginalised.
Although we created quite an underground stir it was hardly surprising that no mention was made of our principled opposition either on paper or on BUWG's pathetically deadly boring website. Totalitarianism reined supreme. Omerta as always remained the order of the day.....we had been airbrushed – yet again - out of existence.
....As for the future most likely our real enemies will be not so much the developers but the official ecos intent on recuperating the raw abandonment of untrammelled, amoral nature as the nature bureaucracy re-marshall their sullied forces adamantly reinforcing cover-up of the destruction which took place during 2013.
Moreover, it was not just nature's disquieting freak show that had to be evicted from this post industrial Galapagos, but the oddballs, misfits and other dodgy people that also felt more at one in this their largely surveillance free, devil's island playground, the place to be rendered a yawn of a hollowed out, re-commoditised space by Sustrans and handed over to an up market, neo-liberal, home owning elite from literally across the tracks who, up to now, were absolutely ignorant of its existence. Having put the environs around Shipley station on the map, we would become convinced we had inadvertently fed a powerful appetite for revenge, the appalling destruction of nature that was to follow, also a settling of scores with us.
Though, in the last analysis, it was economic factors that would drive this appalling destruction and which were a consequence of capitalism hitting an internal barrier, sadistic psychological forces were also palpably in play and which would become ever more so as we sought to put obstacles in the path of this destructive juggernaut. And so heartbreak would follow heartbreak as each outrageous act of destruction would be outdone by acts that were even more outrageous, as if limits were being tested, the adjective, in ecological terms, here been given a whole, new meaning - as indeed it had. It seemed to us the progenitors of this destruction (Sustrans, Bradford Council, and Fiends of Bradford Beck) wanted to be avenged on nature, and that this particular skirmish in a universal war of annihilation had been anticipated in myth. And so a statement of ours would draw attention to how the myth of the Ragnorok was once more receiving an airing in extreme right wing web sites. This Twilight of the Gods, (which is how it translates from old Norse), had formed the basis of Wagner's Ring Cycle and was much admired by Hitler who even more than Wagner bent it to serve his own ends, Wagner, however, more successfully treating it as raw material out of which he would fashion the world-dominating, modern myth of the artist as messianic demi-urge replacing that of the departed gods, the "bohemian corporal" also learning much from German theatre on how to give these myths a particularly nasty, mesmeric doh-wop, ultra nationalist inflection. A glance at the poetic edda in which the myth of the Ragnorok can be found, shows how riveting and germane some snatched measures still are: "weather all treacherous", "fire engulfs the age", "it is harsh in the world", "people walk the road to hell", "no man will have mercy on another", "an axe age, a sword age" etc. Hmm - an axe age? In the case of Sustrans, a "chain saw age" more like, the bastards all but clear felling the Briggate site in an afternoon, leaving only a couple of ecologically worthless, aesthetically posed a la Corot / Claude, trees, to signpost the cycle road to hell. However when we cited the Ragnorok, we specifically stressed it was a vibe, and not something intentional, and which was operating behind the backs of Leeds Sustrans and that we must make a distinction between what an organisation thinks it does and what it actually does. This schizoid split intensifies according to the degree one is involved in the Sisyphus task of restructuring capitalism, or promoting its ends, which is what the Sustrans makeover in Shipley is all about, this debugged nature upgrade as devoid of substance as the bubble capitalism it is in hoc to. The brazen breaking of planning and bio diversity laws also has a stink about it that is peculiar to the scandal ridden, speculative side of capitalism's valorisation process, Britain now the world's R and D capitol for shady research into the manufacture of fictive values.
THE END....... AND WHERE WE START FROM