The Ecologist


Oaken wood in Kent has been approved for destruction in order to expand a quarry.


More articles about
Related Articles

The Ballad of Oaken Wood

Andy White

When Andy White realised that there would be no green knight coming to save an ancient woodland from 'death by quarry', he refused to join the ranks of people who had all but despaired and decided to take action.........

A week ago I hadn't heard of Oaken wood, an ancient forest near Maidstone in Kent. The Woodland Trust sent me an e-mail and scrolling down I saw an article entitled ‘'Mr Pickles, what have you done?". Who is this guy? What did he do? Turns out he's a minister who decided it would improve Oaken wood by turning 32 hectares of it into a quarry. I felt outraged, scrolled further down to the blogs, taking time to read one howl of protest after another.

Then I began to notice something disturbing. Many of the comments, though well meaning and heartfelt, seemed to simply accept that the destruction of the wood was now a forgone conclusion.

The pattern was unmistakeable. Even the Woodland Trust spokeswoman was talking about the wood in the past tense. I looked for further trends in the collective outpouring and found quite a few just as worrying. People were confining themselves to the wish to kick out the leaders in the vain hope that there was someone else out there that was going to come along and save the situation. There was much bewailing of corruption, talk of swapping parties, but most frightening was the tolling bell of inevitability. There's nothing we can do.

I began to think about the under belly of our political system. We cast our ballot, feel we've done our bit and leave it up to our ‘representatives' to look after us. All very well but it doesn't work like that and worst of all it begins to engender in local communities a tremendous sense of powerlessness.

Despite our freedom to speak out we forget that this privilege does not come with a promise to listen. Centralised democratic government has, as its first priority, the maintenance of its own power base. It does not need you and me for that let alone feel obliged to pay attention.

The fact that they can be elected out doesn't bother politicians in the slightest. They still draw their pay. Besides, an eternal game of political musical chairs suits them perfectly. No-one has to take responsibility because everything was the fault of the last bunch in office which we can't tidy up and are far too busy with our own agendas to be bothered with anyway.

The government relies on our protest being poured into the resolve to throw them out! It maintains social control. ‘Don't do anything now; just use the power of your ballot in a few years time'. This creates the illusion of people-power whilst keeping us quiet.

The fantasy that we can intervene on the behalf of Nature by getting rid of the government is like saying we are being politically potent by choosing to be punched by the left hand of Corporate Greed rather than the right.

As I read on my despair grew but then something new happened. I felt glad that I could realize the myth that is ‘the power of the ballot', glad that I knew no-one was coming to save the wood because then it was down to me and what I could do.

I started a 38* campaign. It took an hour. I e-mailed everyone I knew asking them to sign. I figured out face book and milked it till it shut me down. People started getting in touch, passing on the news, forwarding the message to occupy the wood. A lady in Maidstone offered to ask a guest speaker at the town hall to champion the cause. Would I write something for a flyer to put on every chair? Yes M'am!

The sooner we recognise that centralised government is, by its nature, disinterested in local issues the sooner we will stop giving away our power and stand in our own authority. Democracy is fledgling and must evolve by becoming decentralised but to do so we too must evolve. To effect change and bring about green revolution we have to undergo a personal revolution. Reminding ourselves that we are responsible will have serious consequences for character structures rooted in a philosophy of the ultimate rescuer out there who's going to come along and fix stuff for us. It's not going to happen. We have to make it happen.

We have to stop being afraid, not of others and what they might do but of our own power, our own authority. My son said it best when we discussed occupying the wood and what the consequences might be. ‘'They're just people Dad. So long as you are doing what is right they can't do more to you than you'd be doing to yourself if you betrayed your inner truth.''

Occupy Oaken Wood!



Previous Articles...


Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...




Help us keep the Ecologist platform going

Since 2012, the Ecologist has been owned and published by a small UK-based charity called the Resurgence Trust. We work hard to support the kind of independent journalism and comment that we know Ecologist readers enjoy but we need your help to keep going. We do all this on a very small budget with a very small editorial team and so joining the Trust or making a donation will show us you value our work and support the platform which is currently offered as a free service.

Join The Resurgence TrustDonate to support the Resurgence Trust