The mushroom theory of environmental management

I saw a rather ‘academic’ definition of mushroom management. “Mushroom management, also known as pseudo-analysis or blind development, is the management of a company where the communication channels between the managers and the employees do not work traditionally.”

Actually it was defined to me by an employee as ‘we’re kept in the dark and fed bullsh*t.’

Now we have the mushroom theory of environmental management. Apparently according to those in the know, you’re expected to sit in the dark and feed yourself bullsh*t.’

I just read an article from the BBC

It seems that the National Trust accidentally destroyed an important natural habitat in an attempt to rewild a field! Apparently they ploughed up grassland near Bassenthwaite. Conservationists pointed out that the field contained waxcap mushrooms which indicate that the land has not been cultivated for a very long time. Indeed a lady from one of the local conservation companies pointed out that it would be ‘very difficult’ to restore the land.

Given that one would hope that National Trust staff have some training in environmental matters, it’s an embarrassing mistake, but also it’s a symptom of a larger issue.

Yesterday somebody pointed out a Facebook post made by Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP for East Edinburgh on his Facebook page. He was extoling his vegan breakfast. To be fair it was just a bit of harmless virtue signalling. MPs of all parties do it all the time. Scrolling down his Facebook page he gets between thirty and a hundred likes for his post and can get up to twenty comments. Indeed if it’s an information post (details about postal voting or similar, which is a useful thing for an MP to post), he can get up to twenty shares.

After he’d virtue shared his breakfast he got two thousand four hundred likes, hates and equivalents. He also got three thousand three hundred comments and a hundred and two shares. His facebook page had become a battleground. He was inadvertently hosting a small war.
I’ve dipped into the discussion but frankly it’s a waste of time. How can you explain things to a vegan who insists that soya for cattle feed is flown into the country and demands that the air miles be included?
Then you get people demanding you watch a certain BBC documentary, and then get somewhat aeriated if you point out that the BBC has already had to apologise for errors of fact in that documentary.

It was at this point, where the thread had grown so massive you couldn’t really find whoever was preaching at you, that I decided I’d taken part long enough for research purposes. I had cattle to look after.

The problem is that people ‘believe’ and their belief is part of their self-image and because they’re ‘the nice people’ they have to be right. Any attempt to show that they might not be as right as they think they are is regarded as a personal attack.

Belief is a funny thing. The latest figures I saw for the UK was that 11% of the population are regular church attenders. So however else you define things, the UK is not a Christian country. We are now, for good or ill, a secular country. Mind you when you tot up the numbers of members of political parties, there are about a million who care enough to put their money down. So in reality we’re not a country of people who believe in politics either.

Now the advantage of Christianity and politics is that they teach humility. Christianity teaches it overtly, it’s there in the manual. The fact that people prefer not to read those sections says more about them than it does about the faith itself.

It’s the same with politics. When you talk to those who have been involved in politics in a ‘real world’ context, they know that they have to work with others to get stuff done. So when you get them chatting over a beer or a coffee, they’ll tell you about the times their political opponents came good and supported them (or vice versa) and they’ll even tell you about where they screwed up. Yes in politics there are the ones who talk a lot and put ideological principle ahead of reality. But generally they’re people who do nothing. Even their own side realises they haven’t got a good enough grasp of reality to be allowed near the levers of power.

But the trouble with a lot of the modern beliefs that have replaced Christianity or Political principle for many people is that they are both cheap and allow endless opportunities for virtue signalling. So you can be an actress and fly 5400 miles to join an extinction rebellion protest. But then you’ve probably got the money. Similarly if you’re prosperous, a vegan diet (or any other diet) is easily affordable and you can have a wide variety of foods fetched from all round the world to your door. I suspect that the vegan diet would be far less popular in this country if, instead of imported rice and lentils, (neither of which grow well in this country) you had to eat potatoes with turnips and cabbage as your winter vegetables.

The problem is that people have decided on a belief and are sticking with it. I’m sure everybody could produce examples of this sort of thing. People who have build belief systems, almost personal religions, around something we don’t think of as particularly important, or even just plain silly. But because I got dragged into the ‘debate’ on Tommy Sheppard’s Facebook page, I’ll use that one as the example. Going back to the ‘discussion’, just scrolling through the threads, the same person had posted a link to a ‘propaganda video’ (I won’t mention which side the video supported) any number of times. Whether it was relevant or not to the discussion. They didn’t bother to hang round and discuss it, they had given the proles the benefit of their wisdom and saw no point in wasting time explaining it to those so irremediably thick that they disagreed with it. Similarly several times people would make claims they claimed were scientific. One such claim was ‘livestock use 83% of the arable land while only producing 18% of the calories consumed’. So I asked for the source of the data. After the usual abuse I was given a link to a document which didn’t include the claim. So I asked again, and got more abuse. The reason is that the quote is wrong. A Guardian journalist wrote that livestock provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland which is an entirely different thing altogether. Even if he’s correct (and looking at the article there are questions that need answering) a lot of farmland isn’t suited for arable agriculture.

In the UK, “The agricultural area used is 23.07 million acres (9.34 million hectares), about 70% of the land area of the England. 36% of the agricultural land is croppable (arable), or 25% of the total land area.”  These are Defra figures via wiki.

So in the UK which is a densely populated and fertile island, we cannot crop 64% of our farmland. If there were no livestock, it wouldn’t suddenly produce arable crops, it would produce no food at all. Or, where it could be ploughed, you’d find yourself in the same embarrassing position that the National Trust found itself when they dug up ancient grassland to ‘rewild it.’

What we really need is a ‘grown-up’ debate with a lot more humility and people willing to admit they don’t have the answers.


There again, what do I know? Ask an expert.

Or from anybody but Amazon

Yet more observations on rural life. We have cattle, environmentalists, a plethora of new thinking as Defra plunges into the new world but more importantly we still have our Loyal Border Collie, Sal. She is joined in a starring role by Billy, the newly arrived farm cat. As well as this we have diversification opportunities for those wishing to serve niche markets, living in the past, and the secret of perfect hair.

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31 thoughts on “The mushroom theory of environmental management

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 26, 2021 at 4:44 am Reply

    1) I learned a word: aeriated. Thank you!

    2) Facts: they aren’t so factual any more when people can make up the ones they like. And, like you said, you have work to do.

    Unfortunately, the people in charge are often the ones who SOUND as if they know things, but it’s “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 4:47 am Reply

      Yes it’s a lot wide problem.
      Oh and another thing I discovered Posted a couple of links to government reports and Facebook blocked them because they ‘didn’t meet community standards’. I was told I could appeal but the appeal would never be looked at because they haven’t got enough people due to covid’
      I was left wondering if it is the new debating technique. If you cannot cope with an argument, just complain to facebook knowing the argument will magically disappear?

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 26, 2021 at 5:49 am

        Learn to post links in such a way that they don’t look like links – and aren’t directly clickable. liebjabberings dot wordpress dot com requires a bit of work, for example. Or liebja at-sign optonline dot com.

        Most people won’t bother, and the bots shouldn’t detect most of them.

    • rootsandroutes2012 April 26, 2021 at 5:07 am Reply

      Thank you for that, Alicia. Jim’s post taught me that word too. My father used it more times than I can count during his short life, but I’ve never heard anyone else use it, and never seen it written down before – so I’d rather assumed it was one Dad had coined himself.

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 5:41 am

        It must be a real word, it’s got a wiki entry 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 26, 2021 at 5:54 am

        My pleasure in several ways.

        Some of the new words don’t stick – I should start my own list somewhere – but some just fill a need I didn’t even know I had, such as limerence. Look it up – fascinating – and describes what I’m writing in some ways.

  2. rootsandroutes2012 April 26, 2021 at 5:04 am Reply

    Thank you Jim – you don’t see that many posts about humility these days. The interesting thing is that our prime minister is a classicist. He will, therefore, know that ‘minister’ is simply the Latin word for ‘servant’. The question about him (or indeed any of us with a calling to minister) is what we choose to do with that information. I find it easier to discover a clear expression of humble service in one who noted that ‘foxes have holes, and the birds of the air their nests, but [I] have nowhere to lay [my] head’ than in one whose temporary home is refurbished at a cost of some tens of thousands of pounds.

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 5:47 am Reply

      As you can imagine, Agriculture is an industry where we’re used to people living in tied accommodation. Not merely farm workers but many tenant farmers. It’s pretty standard. when you get a new tenant, for the landlord to send a maintenance team into the house and just go through it and bring it up to scratch. This can involve new boilers, or total rewiring or whatever. A discussion with the new lady of the house as to what décor she wants seems to be standard.
      I confess that in some households the big question will be, ‘How on earth did you convince the tenant and his friends to stump up the money’ 🙂
      But yes, Humility is unfashionable at the moment. As is the washing of feet and ‘just quietly getting on with the job’

      • rootsandroutes2012 April 26, 2021 at 6:36 am

        In my line the ’employer’ stumps up the money… and we get taxed on the change whether it’s for the better or the worse.

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 6:48 am

        I don’t know enough about it to say whether it’s unusual or not, but with a farm house I don’t think it has an impact on the tenant’s tax

      • rootsandroutes2012 April 26, 2021 at 7:42 am

        There won’t be a minister that doesn’t know of the baleful impact of the P11D 😦

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 9:04 am

        That explains it, P11D is for directors and employees of companies, not tenants.
        But I note that the Supreme court ruled that Methodist Ministers are office holders, not employees

      • rootsandroutes2012 April 26, 2021 at 12:55 pm

        The Supreme Court (acting in a case from Cornwall) did indeed do that – but why would HMRC let that stop them?

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 1:47 pm

        It is often said that the HMRC regard themselves as above the law. Mind you the Post Office did as well and that seems to be unravelling spectacularly

  3. Eddy Winko April 26, 2021 at 5:17 am Reply

    You had me at potatoes and cabbage, the winter diet of the Polish prole during communism.
    I have to say I have only ever gotten into one Facebook ‘discussion’ and then I realised its a loosing battle and a very poor format for debate. How have we come to this, how can it be changed and where are the grownups?

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 5:40 am Reply

      I suspect we have people who just became more entitled rather than grew up 😦

  4. Richard Greenwood April 26, 2021 at 7:06 am Reply

    I totally agree with your last comment Jim ,too many entitled so called experts spouting false biased facts.

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 7:25 am Reply

      Yes, and they devalue the debate for everybody else 😦

  5. Doug Jacquier April 26, 2021 at 12:25 pm Reply

    I think this excellent article puts many things in context, including the space given to social media nutters in mainstream media that creates the illusion that the world has gone mad. Every interaction with such nutters simply encourages them. Always good to remember that church-goers were burning witches once. 😉

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 12:44 pm Reply

      Yes, I can well understand why occasionally the last remaining token grown-up might feel that cleansing fire could be the best solution to dealing with his./her own fanatics 🙂

  6. Cathy Cade April 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm Reply

    I struggle to understand the point of being vegan?
    If it’s an animal welfare thing, wouldn’t they be better occupied (and more effective) by lobbying for worldwide animal welfare standards and humane methods of slaughter?

    Many don’t even seem aware of the need to watch levels of iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin-B12 (a deficiency of which can potentially cause irreversible neurological effects). Some of these supplements can only be sourced from animal products. (I’m not citing any website here, since a quick google of vegan nutrition will give the details.) Even protein requires a balance of different plant proteins to be useable by the human body.

    Some vegans seem to regard it as a religion to which they hope to convert the world, but humans evolved over millenia to be omnivorous. Do disciples expect this to change at any time before people become extinct?

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 12:43 pm Reply

      I think it’s more a case of a way of stressing their virtue. At least the ones I’ve been preached at by seem to need somebody to look down on 😦

    • Doug Jacquier April 26, 2021 at 1:32 pm Reply

      How do you know if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. 🙂

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 1:47 pm

        So I believe. I’m not sure I know any who admit to it 🙂

  7. Stevie Turner April 26, 2021 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Everyone has their own fixed beliefs, and probably will never be shifted from them. In my opinion it’s not worth arguing with anybody, especially regarding religion and politics. This fixed belief is right, and everybody else is wrong. What’s the point?

    • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 2:52 pm Reply

      That’s rather what I thought which is why I abandoned the ‘debate’ after monitoring it for ‘research purposes’

      • Stevie Turner April 26, 2021 at 3:51 pm

        It just ain’t worth it…

      • jwebster2 April 26, 2021 at 4:37 pm

        It isn’t, life it too short.
        The ‘debate’ is now up to 2.8k likes or whatever plus 4.2k comments. If people think I’m going to search through that heap to try and answer them I’m afraid they are doomed to disappointment 🙂

  8. M T McGuire April 27, 2021 at 10:03 am Reply

    So well put. A lot of the discussions I have had seem to involve the vegetarian folks quoting figures and arguments that stack up for protecting, say, the Amazon rainforests in South America – as in ‘don’t eat meat because they slash and burn trees to get it’ or ‘don’t eat meat because it is not suited to x, y or z landscape and arable crops would thrive there instead’. But I don’t eat cheap imported meat. I tend to eat stuff that was reared locally so not so many food miles and I am feeding into my local economy.

    Like all political arguments, it seems to be a blanket on size fits all where actually, I’m not convinced it is. Sure, I would bet that as time goes by and the number of humans on the planet increases, we may well eat less meat and more pulses, or we will grow meat in labs but if we stop farming livestock then what would happen to the land. Would it just become a barren wilderness of brambles. Are trees really going to grow on the the hills round the lakes? One of my vegetarian friends genuinely believes that places like that have been artificially cleared and should be rewilded (ie planted with trees). But what about the ecosystem that already exists on moorland etc, what will happen to that. And what about the animals. If fell sheep really do have a kind of racial memory of the terrain upon which they live, it leaves me wondering what came to that area first, them or us? Did we introduce sheep which ‘ruined’ the landscape or where they already there.

    It’s a thorny issue.

    • jwebster2 April 27, 2021 at 10:17 am Reply

      Some of the fells around Penrith may have been cleared for arable, judging by Roman era remains found 🙂
      But the problem is that people don’t understand that a lot of ‘forest’ was a legal designation which effectively mean ‘Royal hunting preserve’
      A lot of them would be more like ‘parkland’ but with more undergrowth
      I looked up the Caledonian Forest on the wiki and there is the phrase ” An examination of the earliest maps of Scotland suggests that the extent of the Caledonian Forest remnants has changed little since 1600.”
      We do have a problem in the Lake District where people want to take the fells back to what they were
      We have taken to asking ‘Which Millennium were you aiming at?”

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