Monthly Archives: May 2015
It’s a great feeling to see progress. To know that attitudes can change very quickly. For the better.
I watched the movie Pride a few weeks back. It’s thirty years since the UK Miner’s strike. GLBT rights were stagnant in Ireland during most of those years. Yet now they’ve been propelled forward very rapidly.
I watched a youtube video of Mark Ashton (the person the main character the movie is based on) talking about the Thatcher era. He said it was set up so the rich could get richer off the backs of the poor. And we are more than ever under the yoke of the 1%.
Thirty years ago, global warming was ringing alarm bells and elephant poaching was a huge problem. Now we are again looking at the extinction of the few remaining megafauna on the planet and the Antarctic ice sheet is melting while a bunch of politicians are more interested in stopping immigrants and sending them home to die than accepting the looming crisis of millions left on land that can not sustain them, or house them, because of desertification and flooding their economic policies cause.
There are glimmers of hope, though.
Despite a setback in Britain the other week, there is some movement forward. In Spain, the ruling right wing party suffered a big setback yesterday, losing the majority in most regions and municipalities.
The Pope will hopefully remind us on his “much-anticipated encyclical letter on the environment“,
that a religion aged in millennia must think of the long term survivability of the planet and its inhabitants, and anyone who considers himself a follower of that guy two thousand years ago should see past the financial reports of next quarter, and understand that a superrich Christian is a contradiction in terms.
The Yes vote is a giant leap forward for Ireland, but only a small step for mankind.
But after Friday we can smile that we’re still standing.
When I came up with the idea of Lonesomeness, my wife, Maite, who is my biggest critic (seriously not just saying that), told me it was my best title so far.
I like all my titles, but I was glad she gave this the thumbs up.
For me, there are two ideas in Lonesomeness. The themes of the book. The first is that love can appear anywhere though it might seem we are destined to be always alone. We can find love even in our supposed enemies, people we should apparently run a mile from. To avoid Lonesomeness, we must embrace love everywhere it shows up, even if that leaves us open to hurt. If love is true, it can be transformative and overcome all obstacles, even to the extent of making people go against their better, baser, or most practiced instincts and inclinations.
The other side of Lonesomeness is that we need rewilding, even if we seem to think we don’t – or of others say we shouldn’t. We all need to get out in the woods alone, and find out who were are. If we can rediscover our inner selves away from all the noise (in all it’s senses) that surrounds us we and the world will be better off.
As an ecologist, I know the Loch Ness monster is ecologically impossible. But when we set a novel in the Great Glen, it’s impossible not to think about it, have characters think about it. If it weren’t just a myth, and there was a new species in there, I imagine that neither Kaleb in the story nor I in real life would say anything. Just like if I saw a boar in Ireland I’d keep schtum, Or a beaver, or a wolf.
I want rewilding – to bring back those wild animals to their former haunts – but I only understood that everyone else does too, or at least might have an unconscious need for such rewilding just to make their lives more exciting, when George Monbiot wrote about the tiger that was supposedly on the loose near Paris (http://www.monbiot.com/2014/11/14/cat-flap-in-paris/ ) after I’d already sent the second draft off to beta readers in November 2014.
Now I still wonder if all those who would love to see a mythical creature in the loch actually saw it, if they’d keep quiet, too.
It might be the only way to save it.
The idea that we had these large wild animals up to only such a short time ago is heartrending, really. To think that the auroch, which graces the walls of prehistoric caves like Altamira along with mammoths and giant Irish Elk, only became extinct a couple of hundred years ago, is just depressing, frankly. Ignorance is bliss, and believing it died out ten thousands years ago at the end of the ice age, like many of the other megafauna like cave bears and sabre-toothed cats – which is what I’d always presumed until very recently – was easier to swallow.
When I think about it, since the auroch is the ancestor of the cow, it couldn’t have gone with the woolly rhinoceros, since humans had only domesticated dogs at that time.
To know that Tarpan were let die out only a century ago, when there were already Hollywood movies, or bison nearly went and the beaver used to be in Britain makes us wonder what we could have saved if only we’d stopped just a little sooner in our destruction.
But of course, we only stopped once there were no big animals left to stop killing.
We could say the same now, about the African elephants, the Asian rhinos, the India lions, the goats of the Himalayas… “if only we could stop killing them.”
France only lost its wolves in the 1800s, and Spain, a country of 40 million, held on to them. Yet Ireland, with just 8 at the height of its population couldn’t – or wouldn’t.
There is no good reason, other than just not giving a shit.
The question is, if there were a new species in Loch Ness, would we give a shit about it?
Would we protect Loch Ness?
Unfortunately, I doubt it.
You can read more about the book here on this website at this page: https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/the-ecology-of-lonesomeness/
Don’t forget, 10% of my royalties go to the WWF to help protect animals still on the brink…
Don’t normally retweet stuff, but since the day is fast approaching, just in case there are any undecided lads and lassies in my surroundings who might read this…
I have two things to add since I posted this on the blog. One, is that it seems Saint Patrick was himself gay, so it you’re sticking to your no guns out of respect for the shamrock, don’t bother: https://voxhiberionacum.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/st-patrick-marriage-equality/
The other things is that if you are worried that the sky might fall on your head because you vote yes, don’t worry – I’ve lived in Boston, capital city of the first state to adopt gay marriage in the USA, and I was still able to work in a Catholic School and teach kids stuff like evolution. Now I live in European country with gay marriage for ten years (yes, 10) and if you want to be off the wall, mad catholic, you still can – check this video out for mad catholic!
from my window no less.
So vote yes. Keep the no voters the ones with the masks on…
A few months back, I talked about voting YES in a referendum. Now I’m back doing the same. Different topic, different country, but strangely, I can’t actually vote myself in this one, either.
Even though it’s an Irish referendum, and I’m obviously Irish.
Once you leave the island, you may as well not exist for the Irish government and civil service. They probably want people to leave so they have fewer people to canvas for votes.
I have missed a good many votes since I left home.
Some of them I wish I could have been there for. This is definitely one of them. There have been significant changes to our constitution before. This is no less important. It is more so, in fact. It proposes that we, the Irish, change our constitution to make it possible for anyone to marry anyone else. And to have a family the way…
View original post 780 more words
This year there is a lot of colza planted around Pamplona – canola oil plants, usually called oil seed rape (though that name is becoming unpopular for obvious reasons: Tisdale, in Canada, called the land of rape and honey is considering changing it’s motto…)
It’s a lucrative crop these days. Anyway, I’ve been driving and cycling and walking through these fields and they made an impact, so I wrote a poem.
Amid the Fields of Oil Seed Rape
I do not take a camera to the fields.
The country is too immense to condense
In a simple snapshot, or fifty.
Surrounded by a sea of yellow
I take only memories, including birdsong,
The touch of breeze in trees, carrying
Sugared scent of oil seed rape
Flowing over brows and filling senses
Such that only memory can contain.
but then I went an took a photo – doesn’t do it justice, though
I talked earlier this week about being an ex-pat rather than the emigrant/immigrant I’d always assumed myself to be.
The last day or so in Spain there has been a big news story about an eight year old boy, Abou, who was found in a suitcase crossing the border between Morocco and Spain.
He’d come all the way from the Ivory Coast. His father, legally residing in Spain had tried to get his family visas to join him. He was refused. Why? Because to do that he’d have to be making 1350 Euros a month. Now I know plenty of people here who don’t make that. The average wage is way lower. The father made 1300 euros a month. So for fifty quid a month, he was not allowed to have his family with him. I say made, because he’s in prison now: he could go down for human trafficking. The kid is in care, and the mother and his sister are alone waiting to see what the authorities will do.
Just one story of desperation. And the regulations seem stupid in their ability to take human needs into account.
But of course, that’s exactly how they are designed. Keep out the migrants, whatever their reason for trying to come.
I also learned a couple of weeks that reason people don’t take a plane to Europe to seek asylum, is because Europe doesn’t allow them. Not really. It makes the airlines refuse them because if they don’t, the company will have to pay for the flight back. It’s called EU directive 2001/51/EC. It’s there to stop illegal immigration of economic migrants. That’s “people looking to stay alive on more than a dollar a day in a drought-ridden country” to you and me.
It would actually be cheaper for an immigrant to buy a return ticket than pay the people smugglers, but I guess the airlines aren’t allowed do that.
So they have to sneak in, no matter where they are coming from or what they’re fleeing.
And we all know that’s some pretty bad shit there.
But they’re black, or mostly so. So they don’t matter. Their lives don’t matter, just like in the USA, but less, since they’re not even citizens. So the government of Spain can tell their police to shoot into the water to make some men drown rather than get shot instead of reaching dry land and have to be taken care of and processed, knowing few people will protest. They can take men down off the razor wire fence they’d been sitting on for hours and shove them through a gate back into Morocco without even bothering to tend their cuts, or see if they’ve stopped bleeding.
And they can wring their hands in worry at the plight of thousands drown after falling from boats designed to carry twenty weighted down with hundreds, but do nothing to make such voyages unnecessary.
The British government says they will help fish for survivors, but won’t let those they pick from the sea go anywhere near Britain.
And so we sail on.
We are currently debating marriage equality in Ireland, and in the USA. Meanwhile, inequality of application of Universal Human Rights is blatant in all our societies.
If there were true equality between people, the urge to migrate, or expatriate would vanish in 90% of the people who find themselves outside their own countries. Only those who want to live elsewhere for reasons such as my own (love!) would be bothered to move, to learn a new language, find friends and put down roots in a strange place.
But we don’t have anything near that.
Spaniards flock to Germany and England, or South America. The Irish hit the planes to America (illegally staying on past their tourist visa limits in some cases) or Australia.
And those destination countries do their best to discourage them. The only reason some can’t stop them is because of the “freedom of movement we supposedly have in Europe. If they don’t get a job, they want to send them back.
There are some countries, like Germany and England, who didn’t even allow the citizens of other European countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, to even try get a job until seven years after they’d joined our wonderful union.
All of the European Union is equal? Bollox.
The idea of a European Union is farcical until we have equality of citizens, and that means equality of employment rights and salaries. If the wages in Spain (or Bulgaria, where the minimum wage is six times lower) were the same as those in Germany – the minimum wage, if not the median – Germany would not need to worry about people going on the dole there – what they call benefits tourism and poverty migration (and when I came to Spain I had the right to the dole here). But people in rich countries like to have cheap holidays in Spain, or cheap products from counties where people have low wages. And the governments of poorer countries seem to think it’s good to have their citizens working for low wages to attract companies and tourists.
However, until we have a situation of true equality in this globalised world, there will be an unstoppable flow of lives across borders. Some to sink on the way, or die in the desert, or suffocate in the bottom of a truck or container.
But again, they’re only migrants.
This is a new park in Pamplona. I cycle past it everyday. They took down the temporary fence a couple of weeks ago.
When I noticed the poppies growing in the grass, I smiled.
I was glad the company responsible for maintenance was a bit slow to get the lawnmower onto the newly seeded grass.
A few days later, I was glad that the recent rain must be keeping them off the soft sod.
But then I saw other flowers. Beautiful wildflowers I’d never seen before.
And I stopped my bike on the way up this very steep hill.
But you know how when your worldview doesn’t include something, it takes a while to see it.
I’d never seen this shit before.
But it was true.
And I took a photo to prove it.
There was no grass…
They’d sown wildflower seeds.
In a new park.
Not lawn. Wildflowers.
My mind is blown.
Rewilding is possible. It’s simple. It’s easier and lower maintenance than keeping wildlife cut back.
And it will be beautiful.
(Copyright: http://www.crossexaminer.co.uk/archives/8257 the examiner)
There was a guy I used to know. He used to say he’d rather ask for forgiveness than for permission. I didn’t like him much.
There is a similar train of thought in the Irish landscape.
Burn first, then they can’t do shit. There’s nothing to save, no special interest, scientific, or scenic.
If you burn the habitat, then there are no special species to protect, and you can put up all the wind turbines you like.
(Full disclosure: I love wind turbines. If there were decent populations of birds, I think the wind turbines wouldn’t be a problem. In Spain I see hen harriers every weekend in the wheat fields on my way to my family’s village, and the place is surrounded by windmills.)
Since the start of the season (take your pick – burning season or prohibition on hedge cutting and burning season, depending on your inclination), we have had what seem like dozens of out-of-control fires burning across the country.
The idea is that if you burn the fuck out of it, nobody will bother you about saving it. How can we rewild a charred landscape? If it is dust and a few blades of grass, nobody will tell me to take care of the toads, or the curlews, or the corncrake. If there’s no gorse, never mind birch, how can those boyos contemplate bringing back the lynx, or anything else.
People (the ones with a brain) are appalled, of course, and are waiting for the relevant authorities to take action, to prosecute the culprits and make an example of them.
Needless to say, fuck all has been done about it.
It’s Ireland, after all.
Some politicians have called for wasting time by creating task forces to regulate something already explicitly illegal.
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has claimed it’s not her bag, baby, despite all logical and legal arrows pointing to the fact that it is her fucking bag, baby and burden to shoulder and she better get her fucking finger out. http://www.thejournal.ie/gorse-fires-heather-humphreys-2065294-Apr2015/
The Irish Wildlife Trust (great people, and I’ll be donating 10% of my royalties from Peter and the Little People to them) have produced a great video to clarify this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHry6wIMYcw
And as we watch the country go backwards instead of forwards, the great shame is that farmers don’t see they are kicking themselves in the arse along with every one else. It is their own communities which are dying, their kids leaving the country to go to the cities, because there is nothing stay at home for.
Yet burning only loses revenue. A recent letter to the West Cork Times shown on the IWT facebook page showed that tourism is not compatible with burnt ground, that people won’t go to Ireland to see a charred landscape.
And yet, rewilding could bring back so much money and prosperity. Just two white-tailed eagles were worth a million in tourist revenue over the last two years, because people go there to see a beautiful creature restored to its former habitat and living wild in Ireland.
If the fucker who kills them could only see that he is only losing a few quid for a lamb mostly only in his imagination – because they probably won’t attack his animals anyway, and definitely won’t if he just locks them up well during lambing season or keeps a proper eye on them. On the other hand, his kids can get some of that money, and the much more to come as word spreads like wildfire, if he stops the stupid practices of a regressive worldview, and embraces regrowth, regeneration, and rewilding.
I learned the other day that I am an ex-pat
No, not a former paddy – though my government would no doubt love to take those like me off the list of people they answer to – but a person living outside his own country.
Sorry, that’s white person living outside his country. And living in a less well off one (or at least one further south…)
I always thought I was an immigrant – or an emigrant. I actually thought that ex-pat meant the same as emigrant – one outside his native country, viewed from that country. I’m an Irish ex pat living in Spain; an Irish emigrant living in Spain. Not the same as an immigrant from Ireland living here in Spain.
But migrants and their prefixes only refer to non-whites, it seems. Silly me.
When I lived in the states, I knew I was an immigrant, despite my lily-whiteness. Homeland security was pretty good at getting that message across. There everyone is an immigrant. At least…. the Irish were, since they hardly counted as white back in the day.
And yet, when my former students of colour learned I was an immigrant, they laughed. And now I wonder if it wasn’t because I was not supposed to be called that, being white. I mean, it was obvious I wasn’t American. They asked if I was illegal, and lamented the fact that an illegal immigrant could be a teacher. I patiently explained. But for some, immigrant and illegal were words that were bound together like fried chicken. Can you be an immigrant if you’re not illegal? Can you have chicken if it’s not fried? Sorry, perhaps that’s an inappropriate metaphor, but I can’t think of anything else right now, and they’ll take it the right way – the way I did when I patiently explained that we don’t eat Lucky Charms in Ireland…
But I’d never thought there was anything bad in the word immigrant, despite the ignorance of a few kids. I was wrong. Silly me.
There was a stigma attached to the word, and kids who were obviously not born in America were reluctant to use it. I used to tell them I was an immigrant to how them that it was okay to be one, that immigrants could be “white,” too. But no. Now I realise they were right. Their reality is the truth.
There are those who like the fact that “immigrants” sounds like “illegal immigrants.” People who don’t want those who come to their country to have the same advantages (or luxuries in many cases) that they themselves have when they go to those persons’ countries.
These are the same guys who insist on a tight border control between the USA and UMS, yet like to take a trip to old Mexico now and then. Or the upper- and political-class Europeans who like to travel to the tropics to show how worldly they are, but let thousands drown in the Mediterranean.
They’re only migrants dying, after all.
So, the calls for reintroducing lynx to Britain have transformed into action. The Wild Lynx Trust is actively seeking licences bring to test populations to three different areas of that island Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Norfolk.
Of course, there are concerns for human safety – unfounded and ridiculous ones which don’t warrant discussion, though one article did state that they are not considered a risk to people.
And this week, both the British Deer Society and the Wild Deer Association of Ireland have issued statements expressing grave reservations about the reintroductions. The latter’s just in case anyone gets the wild idea of restoring the lynx to Ireland, where it’s been absent for longer, admittedly.
Now, I’m an advocate of deer societies. I used to be a member of the BDS, and I was very active in the Irish Deer Society when I lived at home. If I was still there, I would be still. They’re usually the only advocates for the deer.
But they also advocate for deerstalkers. Most of their members are deerstalkers – which is not as strange some might assume, but that’s another day’s discussion.
And in this case they are putting the stalkers before the deer – the lazy ones at that.
Deer hunting is hard. But we all know that going in, and if we go home with no venison, well, that’s hunting too.
As long as the deer and the habitat are healthy, we’ve done our job.
Venison is great and a healthy meat, but we’re not going to starve when we have veggies and rabbits.
Anyway, the BDS says “Lynx will clearly not address growing populations of fallow deer in England and Wales nor areas of local overpopulation of red deer in Scotland,” and that “Lynx are efficient killers of roe deer – the species which presents the least threat to woodland.” They basically suggest that the lynx will feed on the roe and ignore the fallow and probably muntjac.
The latter is an unknown quantity as yet – they’re smaller than roe, are very secretive and I think present the perfect prey for lynx, but they’re from outside the lynx’s natural range., and so won’t know for a while.
So if the lynx keep the roe under control and hunters were already doing that okay, well, the hunters just need to leave the roe to nature and concentrate on the fallow – and the muntjac if need be.
We can’t expect the lynx to do all our job for us, but it can help out and spread the work, as it were.
But that’s not the point either.
The WDAI actually, and inadvertently, get it right when, in trying to claim that Ireland is completely different from Britain with regard the deer. They says lynx will have an impact only on the natural balance of the ecosystem, in terms of other native or indigenous species, such as the Irish hare or ground nesting birds, partridge for example and of course the migratory species.
That is the point.
We seem to need to give reasons for reintroductions in terms of it being necessary, to solve some problem (usually of our making).
Did people say the salmon and trout were going fucking mental before the reintroduction of the white tailed sea eagle? Did they say there Scots were being attacked by birch trees before bringing back the beaver? Was Wicklow’s Avoca vale run amok with small mammals before the red kite began to soar over it once more?
Conversely, did they say the fox should be eradicated because it does a shit job of controlling rabbits, while it snacks on the odd lamb or two? Actually some would love that, so perhaps bad example.
No. And if they did, they were frowned at and told to go stand in the corner until they copped themselves on.
These animals need to be reintroduced because they belong, they make our islands richer, our hearts glad. Not because we’re putting them to work.
Perhaps the lynx won’t miraculously solve our deer problem. But in Ireland, it will certainly help with the rabbits (and foxes would do a better job if they weren’t snared and poisoned and shot so much).
And most importantly, it will be another cog in the machinery of our environment. It will help the natural balance, it will give some more stability, so populations of deer, among others, are not so subject to the vagaries of our human nonsense, and resultant wide variation in numbers. For example, we have increases in the overall number of hunters – more or less inexperienced and ineffective – during economic booms and lots of unscrupulous poachers during recessions.
Lastly, the BDS calls for “a clear exit strategy.”
What exit strategy? The stated aim is to have hundreds of lynx in the country. After the five years, does anyone really believe that there will be a call to remove them? Based on what? Human safety? If they really need to be eradicated, it won’t be that hard. We made them extinct on the island before. With medieval technology. We won’t be overrun with cats we can’t eradicate, for heaven’s sake.
The opposite scenario will probably be the problem – also referred to by the WDAI, who say “the lynx may even fall foul to gamekeeper traps, snared as does the fox and will become persecuted.”
Given our recent experience of poisoning raptors in Ireland that hits the heart. Of course, when Ireland has grown up a bit, when those old ways of thinking have died out because those who thought like that have died, there will be a life for all wildlife in Ireland.