Written for the Cumberland News June 2020.
“There are people on the pitch, they think it’s all over – it is now”! How I jumped up from the kitchen table and cheered as Geoff Hurst thumped the ball into the top right- hand corner of the German net. It was only a re- run of the 1966 football world cup, but I was lifted up.
Recently we haven’t had much to cheer about and not much of a feelgood factor. We’ve just gone about our lives as best we can. It pains me to say that we are not over the worst. Once the virus is beaten, it’s going to take a long time for the economy to recover. In agriculture we are in danger of being sucked into a short – term comfort zone. For most farm businesses, things ain’t so bad although there are of course a few exceptions. Constant reappraisal is going to be required. Where are we now and where do we want to be?
My feelings have not changed. Longer term, Cumbria has a bright future. The visitor economy if It can survive the current crisis, will recover to a stronger position. If we can ally farming and food production alongside the tourist sector to a much greater degree, then let us not miss the opportunity. Local food, produced, marketed, and consumed ethically and sustainably within the county is a great public good to be able to deliver.
The limitations of the grand global market have been exposed as have the mistruths about UK farming on climate change and greenhouse gases. Methane production from ruminant animals has been going on since first we crawled out of the primordial soup and “chowed” on a grassy tuft. What were the lifetime emissions of 100-ton Sauropods over the 120 million years they roamed the Earth? Annual gas losses from oil extraction emit twice as much methane to the atmosphere than the entire global bovine population? Time for some perspective, then let’s go forward in the right way.
I know some who will accuse me of being a little Englander, but it isn’t that at all. I’m talking about best use of our local resources. We grow grass, farm livestock, and look after the landscapes. So, when we do reduce our agriculture emissions (currently 10% of total), and contribute to making Cumbria carbon neutral (or better!), I would hope to see fair reward for farmers and a little respect!
Last week I watched a documentary re-run of the 1996 European football championship. I remember my spine tingling way back then as Stuart Pearce stepped up to take a penalty in yet another shoot- out. He had missed one in the 1990 world cup and England went out.
Now here he was volunteering to go again, stepping up to be counted. He absolutely smashed it past the Spanish goalkeeper, bottom- right, to wipe away 6 years of misery and prove he had the ultimate bulldog spirit. Again, even though it is 24 years later, I was off around the kitchen table “Get in”!
We will all need some of that spirit before this crisis is finished. It might be day by day, month by month, but we will get there.