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So long, and thanks for all the fish…

 

Except Britain didn’t give the EU very much fish – the North Sea is basically fished out.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is that the Brits always said that it was the Irish who were stupid (we did give up a lot of fish, it must be said.)

I’ve not spoken about the referendum on Britain leaving the EU until now – except to say that if they left I was going to set up a Change.Org petition to get the immigrants out of Spain.

It seems a bit late to stick my oar in now.

And many would assume that since I was all for Scottish Independence, and support a referendum in Catalunya, I’m all delighted the Brits have signed out.

Well, though I have to respect their decision, I think they’re making a mistake.

I don’t believe they’ve voted for more autonomy, because they felt the EU was controlling them too much. Apart form the fact that the City of London drives many policy choices, look at Britain’s position in the EU. It didn’t join the Euro, it kept citizens of new member states out for years, and still doesn’t allow free movement of EU citizens into the country, and it’s border starts in Calais. And when it threatened this referendum, it got a sweetheart deal to stay in.

On the contrary, I think the majority voted to leave because they can’t control completely what direction the other nations are going in, and that pisses them off. They want not their own autonomy, but to be in charge again – that’s of course, ignoring the fact that many people believed the lies they were told by politicians mostly intent on improving things for their rich mates.

Look at the ages of who voted to leave.

Brexit voter ages

The youth voted to stay, the pensioners to go.

Usually it’s the old who are most conservative. And this is a pretty big change to embark on.

But do they see it as change? Or as a return to the olde status quo. They are the ones who remember the Empire.

Much as a small part of an Irishman wants to let the Brits try out their experimental isolation in a globalised world, and say good riddance, I was being facetious about making a petition to rid Spain’s health service (much better than the NHS, I reckon!) of the burden of a million non-EU immigrants, the folk here are like me – European.

They didn’t vote to leave. Many a feeling very fucking sick this morning. They signed up to the story we were told twenty years ago, about everyone in the EU being one.

We can see that in reality the politicians of the rich nations care little for the ideals of the European project – look at how they hung Greece out to dry.

But millions of us still believe in those ideas – that we’re not penned in by stupid patriotism to the extent that we hate anyone enough to go to war anymore. That we are now – or can be – truly equal as EU citizens, such that the inequalities between states can be reduced – not only to the extent that Ireland now has decent roads (hurray!) but that there is a continent-wide minimum wage, so nobody will want – or need so much – to emigrate solely on economic bases, that prices will be similar across borders and, yes, tax regimes will be run more in line with one another so companies don’t skip from country to country, blackmailing governments for special favours and it won’t matter where we live and/or work.

This, for me, is only a stepping stone towards what I see as the main goal of humanity this century (apart from avoiding the imminent ecological disasters and planetary degeneration of course… ) to make opportunity, prices, wages, etc. more equal between continents, so the economic migrants don’t have to make such treacherous journeys and were are not persuaded to buy shite trinkets or too many clothes from cut-price stores simply because they’re so cheap.

Perhaps it seems like a pipe dream, but so is rewilding Ireland, and I’ve signed up for that!

The British have voted to go back in time. For many of us, there is no going back. Brits in Europe will seek citizenship and permanent residency status – just like any African or Asian, or South American immigrant. Thousands are already seeking Irish passports.

And perhaps without Britain the European project will become more concentrated on fulfilling the ideals we were sold. Maybe soon it will be a more cohesive continent – one so good and attractive that the English (and Welsh – Scotland and Northern Ireland will break away to stay inside) will want to join up again.

 

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Will We Ever Rewild Ireland?

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.

Golden_eagle_before_fledging_laurie_campbell.jpg

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.

 

Peace on Earth

Happy new Year everyone!

2014 was a great year for me – started this blog, had two novels published… – and I hope that 2015 will be just as good if not better. Thanks to all who liked and followed this, and read the books.

To start off the year here’s a poem I wrote on Xmas day, looking over the fields of northern Spain during a short walk alone, thinking of my own peace and the peace that is so ephemeral and yet so pursued by the world, and especially remembered on the 100 year anniversary of England and German troops having a spontaneous ceasefire. However, after listening to the new Spanish king talk bollox the previous night in his first xmas address to the nation, the only bit I got was our “competitivity in a global world.” When we have Germany making laws against the Europeans who they asked us to join a union with, as they turn turn the screws on other European countries (and now suggest that Greece should shuffle off and die an economic death rather than hold true to the bullshite they sold us about European Unity) it’s clear that the only way out of this shite is to pay everyone in the world the same wage. Then we won’t bother to immigrate, or buy shite just because it’s cheap… but the kings of this world don’t want us to do that.

 

Peace on Earth

 

This is peace on earth, solitary and silent;

Only the swish of the windmills on sunlit hills.

 

And the war they ceased a century past shows

Each man merely wishes to have his life go on,

To return here. Still our kings tell us today how it’s

Us against them: horse shit best left to fertilise

Their graves. For it’s them against us, and

Together is just them first, till we shed the march

Of history we’re cursed to continue entrenched.

 

For what differs between me and a Mongolian?

Only that I earn more than he knows and can

Buy what he makes while be barely buys clothes

But what makes me happy is the mere chance to

Visit his hillsides in the silence of sunshine or snow.