… is from page 101 of Matt Ridley’s 1996 collection, Down to Earth II ; specifically, it’s from Matt’s December 17th 1995 column – his final weekly column for The Sunday Telegraph – “Of Suits and Sandals”:
This column began as a nature column but it soon also became also a weekly comment on a large, complacent and growing industry: the nature industry. This consists of a symbiotic mixture of bureaucrats and lobbyists – suits and sandals.
The clever thing about this industry is that the public does not realise it exists. The public … thinks that conservationists conserve nature. This is like saying footballers score goals; it is the aim, but it is a poor description of what most of them spend most of the match doing. Most conservationists can and do talk for hours to each other without mentioning an animal or plant. I have seen them do it many times. They talk about committees, guidelines, grant applications, advertising campaigns, legislation conventions, protocols, conferences, secretariats, treaties, regulations, resources – just like the businessmen they affect to despise.
This is true whether they are suits or sandals. The name of the game is much the same for all of them – diverting some of the money that flows into the environmental industry their way. Suits do it by giving themselves taxpayers’ grants to administer and regulations to enforce. Sandals do it by winning grants or by persuading the public to make donations.