It is widely recognised that nature will be needed to tackle some of the big challenges of the present day – climate change and urban flooding, for example. Despite this, our approach to land use has changed little in the last 70 years, and remains geared towards the needs of past times when production – of food, timber, etc – was the most important function of the countryside. Roderick Leslie argues that, for the benefit of people and nature, we should take the opportunity provided by natural-capital thinking to change our attitude to land use, and to scale-up our ambitions when designing new landscapes.
The established view of land use is that it can be divided along sectoral lines: agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, urban. Of these, it is agriculture that has dominated in our landscape for the past 70 years. In a starving post-war Europe, the 1947 Agriculture Act enshrined the production drive of the Second World War for years into the future, before being superseded by the Common Agricultural Policy, which was based on the same principles.