Last week the UK government passed the controversial Trident nuclear proposal, and committed the country to spending billions of dollars on new nuclear missiles (which will no doubt expire before ever being used).

Now the powers that be in this country are looking at expanding into the green belts – rings of relatively untouched countryside that surround big cities, intended to limit urban expansion and keep at least a small part of this tiny island green. They cover 13 per cent of the UK, about 17,000 square kilometres. In a small, densely population nation that industrialized before the rest of the planet, these belts are a blessing. English woodlands are truly beautiful, and it is truly a shame that almost the entire country has been deforested.

But the population keeps expanding, and there is a need for housing. Apparently. So the government now has plans to expand into the green belts – and at a much faster rate than people had anticipated. According to this BBC news piece, “Government predictions could see 50% more land than currently planned being allocated over the next 25 years.”

The plot thickens when you take into account exactly who would be profiting from those expansions. According to this Guardian piece, about 10,000 acres are at risk, and “BP stands to make nearly £10bn if its advanced plans to build 20,000 houses on 3,700 acres of greenbelt land that it owns in Hertfordshire are accepted. The Crown Estate, which manages property owned by the Queen, could make up to £500m from the development of 6,000 homes near the A1 (M), while Arlington Securities, the former property arm of British Aerospace, hopes to make £3bn from the sale of some of its greenbelt land at Hatfield.” So we’ve got Big Oil, Big Industry, and The Queen. Hardly surprising.

Everyone’s wringing their hands over how to accommodate the UK’s growing population without decimating the remaining countryside, and nobody has suggested the obvious. So I’m going to.

How about building UP guys? Eh? UP, not OUT. I know the English are attached to low-slung landscapes, and tend to associate big shiny skyscrapers with crass Americanism – but come ON. Seriously. Would it KILL you to expand the skylines upwards so you don’t have to eradicate every single last remaining stand of forest in the country? Eh?

Up. UP. Not out. For CHRIST’s sake. Is it that hard to figure out?

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