SIOBHAN BAILLIE: Loss of wetlands contributing to environmental crisis

The Stroud MP’s weekly column.

It was brilliant news that £867,600 has been given to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) through the Government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

I am really pleased that this world-leading charity is headquartered here locally. I am proud to be a member of WWT Slimbridge and work closely with the team on national policy in Parliament. The funding will be used for their Flourishing Floodplains initiative as part of the push for environmentally friendly nature based solutions in England.

WWT are key players in helping to fight climate change, improve biodiversity and provide innovation. It is important the Government helps in this way. Just in England we have lost around 90% of our wetlands over the last 500 years. Such devastating loss of habitat is contributing to the environmental crisis we face today and we have to do everything possible to reverse the loss.

I remain very concerned about the shenanigans surrounding one organisation’s request to take down a statue known as the Blackboy Clock. They demanded it be immediately removed even though there’s a council consultation asking local people their opinions.

The upshot is that the organisation believes itself to be right and feels its view should be enacted. They called local people racist for expressing an alternative view and whipped up a lot of online hate in the process.

We live in a free country and everyone is entitled to an opinion. My personal view is that statues should remain in place and not torn down. We must live with our history and learn from it. Hiding statues in museums may be a quick way to deal with outrage but sadly will not educate as such a small percentage of the population visit museums. Where necessary, I think factual information plaques should be put near statues to provide information.

I was called racist for providing my opinion. I believe other local people who were labelled racist online by the organisation are considering calling the police or taking legal action. I thank them for not being intimidated.

It is my view that cancel culture must be challenged whenever its tentacles attempt to grab our communities and bully them into silence.

A number of people have now contacted me to say that they have never seen the Clock, some have lived here all their lives. I am naturally now receiving emails on both sides of the debate too. Please look up the council’s consultation and I look forward to seeing how the council is planning to handle the matter.

If anybody experiences racism or inappropriate behaviour online or offline, please contact the police. We thankfully have low levels of recorded hate crime in Stroud but that is not to say it does not happen and we must tackle this strongly. I will continue to fight online hate and call out abuse too with my Online Harms Bill work. I do these things to change the future, not target the past.

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