I must congratulate Jonathan Porritt for a beautiful and expensive presentation on BBC Wales “Week in / Week Out”. My fear is that one of the previous leaders in the environmental debate is being misled by the very commercial pressures that he wished to harness. Jonathan is presenting with great conviction and passion, the outmoded half-truths developers have been spouting for years to get a great construction project underway and feed the profits of their shareholders. This deception and manipulation deeply saddens me.
One has to ask, who is financing this slick presentation and how were they able to convince the BBC to present such a one sided and self-interested presentation on a national issue? This amounts simply to propaganda. I take my hat off to the consortium of construction companies who are straining at the leash to start pouring concrete into the river with their “get rich quick scheme”.
The barrage proposals were spoken of as “proven technology”. This is unfortunately simply untrue. There are no schemes like this any where in the world. Jonathan has fallen for one of the simple deceptions being pushed by industry that the tidal power plant in La Rance is comparable with plans for the Severn. Firstly the Rance River is tiny. The structure there is more like a bridge. And fundamentally, the water is crystal clear and not bit like the magnificent brown Severn. The important thing here and something the pro-barrage scientists continually gloss over is silt. Silt on a massive scale, silt that could render a barrage a dead lump of giant concrete in a stinking life-less river in a matter of decades. If anything has been proven about barrages, it is that they don’t work in silty estuaries. Scientists with years of experience on the Severn and similar estuaries worldwide are trying to warn us, but their voices are being brushed aside by the developers and Jonathan is blinkering himself and believing what he is told about the evidence.
In the program, much is made of Roger Falconer’s research in Cardiff University. I have no doubt that he is a well read and canny man. But his models have glaringly obvious flaws. The extensive plastic models are shown with steep sides and pumping clear water. This further promotes the myth that the Severn is like La Rance. So why is such a clever man, pushing these misleading models? What is his agenda? Could the fact that his research is sponsored by a Halcrow, a construction company be skewing his perspective? Is this the manipulative hand of industry influencing science for its own ends?
Things have moved on since these old plans were first brought to the table. Jonathan, with his alarmist view of looming catastrophe, would do well to take his head out of the sand and look at the advances in technology. Devices now exist that would allow us to generate tidal power from the Severn forever, true renewable energy.
The pointless and emotive sacrifice of a fully functioning river system to the gods of climate change is a misguided indulgent “green” luxury. Jonathan’s “mega green” project is simply not what he is claiming. I fear his well-earned reputation as the “high priest” of environmentalism is being tarnished by a diet of manipulative misinformation.