Monthly Archives: December 2015
Climate Change for Christmas
At a thousand metres the mist does not reach;
Here the flies have taken refuge, where the
Flowers begin to bloom and bumblebees
Seek a suitable nest, like the Virgin Mary
Her room in the desert to give birth. Yet
A very different beauty should belong to December,
And the most depressing thing this Christmas Day
Is to hear the priest after his homily say:
“Sure a metre is not that much after all.”
While every week practically, there is some good news from somewhere around Europe or further regarding the rewilding of our environment, it seems Ireland is sadly lagging behind. The golden eagles we restored to our landscape are struggling, and might go extinct again.
Irish golden eagle chick; photo taken from Golden Eagle Trust, credit Laurie Campbell
In the Italian Apennines, bears are making a comeback. A recent article said that bears, and other predators need some understanding, and the goodwill of the locals. If not, they’re doomed. The bears have this goodwill, though, and prevention is better than compensation. Electric fences keep bears out of bee hives and chicken coops, and sheep folds. The sheep have to be brought in closer to the farmhouses and protected. This makes it more expensive, but considering how much money could be earned by small towns and villages providing wildlife viewing opportunities and tourism as farmers get older, and their children leave because they don’t want to farm, that’s not considered an unwise investment. And the bears have always been around, if a little higher up the mountains.
As the reintroduction of lynx to Great Britain rolls forward, people ask if this predator will target sheep. The answer, from other countries, is that it’s very unlikely, as long as the rest of the ecosystem is functioning and the sheep aren’t in the forests – where really they’re not supposed to be.
These forests are, in fact, the reason lynx are needed in the environment – to help rejuvenate them. Over-population of deer is preventing regeneration, and lynx are designed to hunt deer. This article on CNN indicates that lynx reintroduction has support of 90% of Brits, and the effects on the environment are expected to be significant, if it follows the pattern of cascading impacts wolf reintroduction had in Yellowstone National Park.
The article also states that returning predators is “not a quick fix for long-term decline” because “the removal of predators for decades causes changes in a system that make it resistant to the effects of reintroduction.”
One of these changes is the attitude of humans, especially those who work the land. While the Apennine farmers have always lived with bears, and European farmers with lynx, and farmers in northern Spain with both bear and wolves, farmers in Ireland and Britain have had it relatively easy. The idea of changing their practices on a livestock that already loses money and only subsists because of EU payouts is rather daunting. “When projects do not have public support it can prove fatal for returning species.” As it is, we know how much goodwill predators have in Ireland.
It can be done, though. In China, where the tiger was extirpated 65 years ago, a few breeding females have recently been spotted. And rehabilitated Amur tigers have been released back into former haunts, one of which has given birth to two cubs.
Apart from ensuring that the predators are not overtly killed by those opposed, the habitat has to be suitable. Rewilding Europe helped rewild Dutch rivers penned in by dykes and canals, and only then could forest return enough to allow beaver recolonisation. The Amur tigers have thousands of square kilometres of birch forest still intact despite logging, and the lynx in Britain will only be released in forested areas.
Irish forest cover is still very low compared to the rest of Europe, with sheep still grazing in woodland, on top of whatever deer population is there. The land has been so changed that there is a debate as to whether the Scot’s Pine survived and can considered native. Some think it is an invasive on peat bogs and should be removed. It’s hard to be angry at Scot’s Pines at the best of times, though. A recent Economist article says it’s a waste of time and energy trying to eradicate even the bad ones, but considering that the bogs are not necessarily the best environment in terms of providing habitat for as wide a variety of species and a robust environment, I think we should give the Scot’s pine a free pass and let it get on with growing. It will help rewild the landscape, providing habitat for more species than the bogs do. As I said before, and George Moniot said yesterday in an interview, rewilding is not an attempt to turn any clocks back.
Having any trees grow might be hard, though, unless the sheep are reduced. Making our environment suitable for reintroduced predators will involve keeping such targets out of their way, and reducing the destruction they and their husbandry is responsible for.
The predators we’ve already reintroduced might die out again if we don’t.
In Donegal, a place as wild as we can claim to have in Ireland, the constantly overgrazed and burned bogs are not producing enough food for the golden eagles to breed. Instead of getting fat on hares and grouse, like they do in Scotland, the poor eagles have to hunt badgers and magpies.
News like that makes even the most gung-ho Irish rewilder pause and wonder, if the golden eagle can’t clasp a foothold on our island, what hope will the wolf have?
It will only have a hope if it finds the goodwill of the rural community. And George Monbiot said yesterday, the countryside is not inhabited only by farmers. If 90% of Britons favour having lynx in their forests, there, then we can hope a majority of Irish will also approve. And when sheep inevitably disappear from out hillsides as the payments propping them up are removed from EU legislation, and in some places to help the much-loved golden eagles, the forests can return to provide a home for them and many other species.
My novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is reviewed on Coffeeholic Bookworm’s blog today as part of it’s review tour this month. Check out what this reader says about it.
Five Days on Ballyboy Beach
by David J. O’Brien
Date published: September 2014
A startling revelation – the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
But what do you do about it?
For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland’s west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.
Never the proactive one of the group – he’s more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore – Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he’s currently seeing someone else – and she’s coming to join him for the weekend.
As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he…
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Haven’t had much time to write recently, with a new baby at home, but thought this post was important to repost. My new son will be told the same as my daughter was – that the wolf ate the 3 piggies, just like we eat piggies, but he would not have hurt Red Riding Hood’s granny.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Well the three little pigs and Little Red Riding Hood are certainly not fans … but apart from myths, legends and children’s fairy tales, why is this beautiful creature so demonized in the modern world?
If someone asks you what is more likely to kill you; a wolf or a cow? You would probably go with the wolf, right? I know that’s what my first thought was. But let’s have a reality check.
Cows are responsible for an average of twenty two human deaths in the U.S. each year. On average wolves are responsible for zero. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning or killed by an elevator than be killed by a wolf. In the 21st century, only two known deaths have been attributed to wild wolves in the entirety of North America.
The War on…
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I’m participating in a blog hop for Christmas today…
Here’s a holiday photo..
Christmas is a complicated time for a writer. Both for his or her writing and for the characters in his or her head.
We generally have some time off over the holiday season. We writers generally look forward to it, imagining we’ll have long quiet mornings to get some serious word counts down, or plot a novel, or just scribble down ideas as we ponder the virgin snow in our gardens.
And at the back of our mind, we know that it’s as fictitious as the man in red. We’re surrounded by family, by food and preparations, by kids running around with toys that usually make noise, and require some putting together.
We do get some time, because as writers we make it. We get up early – perhaps not the night Santa Claus comes, just in case we bump into him in the hallway, but on other mornings. And we see the sun come up over the winter landscape as we scribble, or edit, or plot.
For our characters, our plots, our storylines, Christmas can be a crux, or a crossroads, or a cross we have to jump over or have our story impaled upon it. To move the story along it can help, or hinder. Characters who are not from the same place would logically separate for the holidays, go their separate ways, to their separate homes – even if they love one another very much, and I know because I left my girlfriend every Christmas until we got married. If their families are living close by, we are faced with the battery of family members who’d want to be introduced, and while it can be amusing to have some banter over the table, it can be too much, too complicated to include in a plotline that nowadays readers expect to be ever more streamlined and spare, free of unnecessary sub plots and minor characters.
So we skip it sometimes. We gloss over it. If we have to deal with it at all – sometimes the timeline nicely avoids the whole season. In my most recent adult novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness, Kaleb the American scientist, stays in Scotland for Christmas, since he’s Jewish and isn’t expected back home by his parents. He’s going out with the daughter of fairly strict Scottish Presbyterian, which might have provided some laughs, but also some awkward moments, and it would have bogged down the story; we’d already found out much of what we needed to know about Jessie’s parents, and more would have become boring. So a few comments about how well it had gone and how good an impression Kaleb had made by just being there and attending morning service with the family sufficed.
In my only other novel that had to deal with Christmas, Leaving the Pack, the two main characters are also very different in their approach to Christmas. Paul, of a race of men who are the origins of the werewolf myth and who worship the wolf, has no familial obligations at Christmas, and is happy to accompany Susan, his “normal” girlfriend to her family for lunch (though he does make her miss morning mass… The rest of the day is leapt over, because Susan’s family, since they’re not werewolf-like, are very peripheral to the story line.
Leaving the Pack is part one of my Silver Nights Trilogy, the two other parts of which I am currently editing. My plan is to submit them to my editor and publisher in Tirgearr Publishing as soon as submissions reopen after the holidays. To this end, I have grand plans to work while I have some time off from my day job teaching high school science… of course, I have a 4-year-old who’s waiting to put up the tree, a 10-day old son who hasn’t yet figured out that his dad has other children besides him, most of which are imaginary but equally demanding to have their adventures written down,an extended Spanish family who will expect to see said son and me for their intensive three-day family celebrations, complete with Basque version of Santa, dinner on Christmas Eve, Lunch on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s day, as well as the serious gift-giving on Little Christmas when the Three Kings come… The only reason I don’t have to squeeze in a trip home to Ireland in between is because said son is too small to travel as yet (and hasn’t got the travel documents in time). But I will find some time, and get my submission in.
I’m offering a prize today of a copy of Leaving the Pack – a werewolf novel like no other you’ve ever read, written by a scientist about the truth behind the myth.
Leave a comment and let me know whether you prefer to read about Christmas in a novel or skip it to get to the other plot points to be put into the draw.
Blurb of The Ecology of Lonesomeness:
Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.
Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.
When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.
Blurb of Leaving the Pack, Silver Nights Trilogy Part 1:
Nobody believes in werewolves.
That’s just what Paul McHew and his friends are counting on.
They and their kind roam our city streets: a race of people from whom the terrible legend stems; now living among us invisibly after centuries of persecution through fear and ignorance. Superficially Caucasian but physiologically very different, with lunar rhythms so strong that during the three days of the full moon they are almost completely controlled by their hormonal instincts, you might have cursed them as just another group of brawling youths or drunken gang-bangers. Now at the point of extinction, if they are to survive their existence must remain restricted to mere stories and legend, but, paradoxically, they also must marry outside their society in order to persist.
The responsibility for negotiating this knife-edge is given to Paul, who runs the streets with his friends during the full moon, keeping them out of real trouble and its resultant difficult questions. Having succeeded for years, he finds his real test of leadership comes when he meets Susan, a potential life-mate, to whom he will have to reveal his true identity if he is ever to leave his pack.
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.
David is a writer, ecologist and teacher from Dublin, Ireland, now living in Pamplona Spain. He has a degree in environmental biology and doctorate in zoology, specialising in deer biology and is still involved in deer management in his spare time.
As an avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science. While some of his stories and novels are contemporary, others seek to describe the science behind the supernatural or the paranormal.
A long-time member of The World Wildlife Fund, David has pledged to donate 10% of his royalties on all his hitherto published books to that charity to aid with protecting endangered species and habitats.
To see others on the blog hop, click this link...
The System Wasn’t Designed For You
“Hospitals will now register newborns,” the papers proclaim.
“Here are the papers to present at the Registry,” the nurses counter:
It seems foreigners need to register kids themselves…
And of course they have to ask for an appointment first.
But las uck would have it, there’s a nice guy who
Has a break in his busy schedule so you don’t have to come back
(After all, you’re obviously not sub-Saharan…).
Then they ask if we can’t swap first and second names –
Sure what odds? It’s all the same, Enda Julen or Julen Enda…
After all our nine months of decision making,
Well, our apologies, then, but
Even though Enda is a famous name – a first minister of Ireland, indeed –
It’s not allowed.
If you were both Irish, or any other nationality, it’d be grand;
You could do whatever the hell you like –
Name the child “monkey shite” –
But since his mother is Spanish,
We are obliged to protect the progeny,
And any name that might make one wonder
About the gender is verboten –
That’s ending in on A for a girl, O for a boy,
So you’ll have to go and argue with the judge
Once we deny your register request;
Which we don’t want to, but the law requires –
After he gets back from his long weekend, of course…
Enda signifies anything in Euskera –
Which a quick search shows it does, so
All aboard and full steam ahead –
Since we’re in a Vascoparlante zone of Spain.
Even if it meant “monkey manure” that’s okay:
Just be glad we’re not in Madrid, or
You’d be back here Monday morning.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel like there are so things that need to be called out. Some might say it’s all just fun, but what kind of fun? The fun that makes fun of the weak, the fat, the gay; is that funny?
Spain is famous for being tolerant of the gay community, making gay marriage legal a decade ago. Almodovar made movies in the 80s and 90s that other countries wouldn’t have dreamed of putting out – at least the one I was in then.
But at the same time, there are lingering elements of chauvinistic movies of the 70s, where girls in bikinis were ogled by old men in tweed and cloth caps. And of stuff I for one just don’t want to see.
Two recent examples of, to me, unacceptable behaviour have been brushed aside by most people I’ve talked to, as just a bit of a laugh, not to be thought of as serious.
The biggest box office draw of the history of Spanish film industry – Ocho Apellidos Vascos, or “Eight Basque Surnames,” was on the telly the other week. I’d seen it in the cinema and had forgotten one of the things I hated about it.
In the first scene, a girl who’s a little drunk and verbally abusive is manhandled out of a bar while her girlfriends and the rest of the clientele look on as if that’s perfectly okay. Her friends don’t even follow her outside. Instead, she snogs the guy who dragged her out and ends up sleeping in his house (they fall in love at the end of the movie, so that’s okay…). John Wayne would have been happy in that role back in the fifties.
However, in my worldview, you just don’t fucking do that.
I’m writing and editing the second and third novels in my werewolf trilogy Silver Nights Trilogy, and the characters, though one female character calls them the poster boys for chauvinism, wouldn’t dream of manhandling a girl like that – unless she specifically requested it because she liked it.
And however funny the film might have been after that, it doesn’t make it okay. Not in a country with such a huge problem of violence against women, with hundreds killed every year by their current and ex-partners.
Scene 2… Make up your own mind…
The other example was just yesterday when we saw on the television, scenes of the president of the country on a football commentary show with his son, who seemed around twelve. It’s hard to his age exactly, say as minors aren’t allowed to be shown in that situation (where his parent is famous), so he was pixilated out. In the photo below, which I didn’t see till just posting this, he looks around ten or twelve.
What wasn’t pixilated out, however, was his dad slapping him twice across the head for giving a truthful answer about the quality of some video game, saying he thought it was rubbish. The blows weren’t hard, but instead of giving him a nudge on the shoulder or a light poke with a finger in the ribs, a slap to the head is a completely unacceptable thing to do, much less on national television, much much less by the supposed president (I say supposed, because he does fuck all, really – he says he can’t find time to be present in the pre-election debates, but admits he watches two or three football matches every weekend).
More than a year ago I wrote a blogpost about Jeremy Clarkson and dumping sheep carcasses, and I said we don’t to that shit any more – animal cruelty and racist comments are unacceptable, and give that another order of magnitude when it comes to dragging girls around and slapping kids around the head. If Jeremy Clarkson did it we’d be upset, but not so surprised (well, I am not actually surprised Rajoy slaps his kids; I am surprised, still, that such a guy ever got to be the leader of a country).
We all know that abuse victims go on to abuse others. Many of the aggressors against women were abused themselves as kids. I’m not saying that the son of the president is going to become an abuser, but it sends a signal to the country that it’s perfectly okay to give your kid a slap if you don’t like what he says. And there will be many who will put a bit more force into their slaps, and give a few more than two.
What sort of example is set? (Again, I’m not saying the president is any sort of example – he’s a fucking embarrassment, to be honest).
How do we propose to make a less violent society if we allow such incidents to go unquestioned, and uncriticised?
Perhaps I’m over reacting. Spain is paradoxically a fairly peaceful place – though I have to shout more in my school classes to be heard, and asking politely doesn’t get half the speed of reaction that a stern rebuke does, I don’t see the same number of fights and brawls that I used to see in Ireland. When a German newspaper article praised the Irish football fans for being a bright spot in the European games next summer, as they are so jovial and peaceful, I asked myself where those self same football fans are on a Saturday night on O’Connell Street.
It’s possible the chauvinism and abuse people see on the telly doesn’t translate to the street, but I don’t think we should have to hope that.
I’m being hosted on Romance Fanatic blog today. A short and sweet 5* review, too. Leave a comment and don’t forget to enter for a free copy and for a book voucher.
5 out of 5
Available for Purchase on
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00XLYRD1Q
This book was very well written, I liked how the author kept some information till the end of the book. He made it so you thought you might have an idea on some of it but you didn’t know for sure. It was a long book but was so worth reading it, the characters have good story lines and hook you to keep reading. This had something for everyone from it taking place in Scotland and the way the author discuss the scenery, and a wonderful love story with the main characters
Reviewed by Brave One
Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot…
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