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Woolly Maggots

I’ve favoured a return of our wild megafauna to our mountains for some time, now as a general wish to see wildlife flourish on our island. This includes letting the red deer extend their range beyond the small confines of Killarney NP, where it seems only those with friends in the right places and a pile of cash in their back pocket can get to hunt stags. It includes getting wild boar back, as far as our scant natural habitat is still suitable for them. And of course in includes letting the wolf roam the uplands, as those uplands regain their balance in terms of flora as well as fauna.

There are clear barriers to such steps. One of them is the lack of that suitable habitat, and another, connected to that, is the extent of sheep farming.

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Sheep in a field. See any trees? Only habitat for tellytubbies.         Photo by Paul Mutton.

I have long marvelled at the fact that sheep are still farmed in Ireland. I’ve spent decades hearing about and seeing how destructive they are to the uplands – anyone whose seen the golf green fields where farmers have them on the lowlands can imagine their effect on a wild landscape. When I was still in college in the early 90s we learned about overgrazing at important conservation and recreation areas of Ireland (like the slopes of Errigal Mountain in Donegal, Connemara NP). Some call them woolly maggots, for obvious reasons.

 

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Sheep in the mountains. Hard to spot a tree here, either.        Photo from http://snowdonia-active.com/news.

Simultaneously, I’ve spent decades pushing these animals ahead of me, both in cars on the roads and while trying to hunt or just hill walk without them scattering every shred of wildlife I might have otherwise had the chance to see. I even spent an hour saving one, which had got its leg caught in the wooden slats of a footbridge. It gave me scant thanks, and I was sure the farmer wouldn’t have been too pushed either way, given the huge numbers of dead animals you see while walking in our mountains. But I didn’t think letting it die of thirst was a valid option for anyone with a conscience. If my car jack wasn’t able to push up the slat, I was going to smash its skull in with a wrench, or a rock. A better end, despite the visual image you’re probably conjuring up right now…

Anyway, I remember a farmer telling me more than a decade ago that the wool was barely worth the effort to shear the sheep, and that the merchant only took it from him under no obligation to actually return money to the farmer. If it sold, he gave a portion of the sale, if not, then he… I’m not sure what he’d have done with the wool – throw it out, donate it, or what.

I’ve only eaten lamb a few times in Ireland, and I never liked it much. How much lamb is eaten round here and how much a lamb is worth, I’ve no idea, but I never imagined it was much (again, seeing how little attention is paid to them on the hill).

 

George Monbiot has the numbers. He reckons it’s less than 1% of the British diet, and the wool has almost no value. And it’s probable that the flooding caused by overgrazed hillsides means less food is grown downhill than otherwise would be, meaning sheep grazing actually reduces agricultural production.

He’s submitted a whole list of problems with the current Common Agricultural Policy and its effects on the environment.

One of these is that without subsidies sheep farming on uplands would be so clearly a waste of time that the sheep would disappear from the mountains by themselves.

And if that happened, well, two obvious effects would be that there would be no problem with sheep kills by reintroduced wolves up there (down the slopes any remaining sheep are easily protected in electrified pens at night), and the deer and other fauna would have something to eat and habitat to hide in as they spread over a landscape currently almost devoid of plant cover.

And real money could flow into these areas from people who want to see the wildlife, just like the reintroduced red kite (hopefully right now spreading across and out from Wicklow) brought £8 million in tourism revenue to parts of Scotland.

Seems simple maths to me.

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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.

 

There Can Be Only One

I saw that the movie Highlander was released exactly 30 years ago, the other day.

 

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One of my favourite films ever, if not my favourite, it is the perfect example of something I wrote a blogpost for MuseitUp’s Sunday Morning Musings last week, in answer to the question … is every story a potential series?

My response was No. Not in the least.

You can  read the full answer below, but suffice to say, some stories are done when they are done, much as we’d like them to keep going. Highlander said it right before they broke their own rule with two successively silly sequels – There Can Be Only One.

 

 

Even those that seem like they could be are probably better off not becoming series.

I don’t like writing novellas very much – if I have to create a world and a set of characters each with their own back story, I want to give them more life than just 25 thousand words. And while it is nice to use the universe you create for more stories, especially if that universe is kickass and cool and populated with beings Darwin only wished could have evolved, sometimes the story to be told about that world has its beginning, its middle and its ending. And they say “that’s all she wrote” because there was nothing else to tell.

Trying to come up with a something new to say in a series is often difficult, and sometimes contrived, if not an abject failure. Just look at some of the movie franchises that have “graced” our cinema screens over the years.

I’ve never written a series. Nor do I plan to. But I am writing a trilogy, which didn’t set out to be one – I got the idea for the second two parts twenty years after I wrote the first book, which stands alone fine. I just needed those twenty years to get the novel right, get it published, and have the characters age that much – kind of like if Sylvester Stallone made Rocky and then just went straight to Rocky Balboa. And thought the story for second and third books came pretty easily, and I have first and second drafts of both, they still feel a little contrived and not as fresh as the first, and are having an equally long and difficult birth as that – my first ever novel.

Though some of my other novels are open ended, so that the characters are mostly alive and well at the end and could hypothetically continue their adventures, I’d feel like I was just throwing more shit at them just for the sake of it. They did their time. They paid their dues. They deserve to live happily ever after in everyone’s imagination. Aside from this fact, I don’t have the time for them anymore. They came, they conquered my imagination and I obliged by giving them a story and now I’ve shown them the door.

There are too many other ideas knocking to get in, demanding mind time and requiring their own stories be discovered and told.

And while I wish they’d hush now and then, I’m forever in love with the next book, whose possibilities are endless and unprescribed by stuff I’ve already written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holiday Hop

I’m participating in a blog hop for Christmas today…

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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.

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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.

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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 by David J O'Brien - 200

 

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.

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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.

Author Bio:

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.

You can find out more and read some poems and short stories at https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/ and can join David on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DavidJMOBrien

 

To see others on the blog hop, click this link...

 

Everyone Else is Doing it…

Denmark, in addition to having wolves for the first time in centuries, now has European elk (Alces alces; the moose to Americans) for the first time in five thousand years. Talk about going back to the way things were. Well, it’s not all about going back to the way things were, as I will discuss in my next post. It’s about putting the animals to work, making this megafauna do what they’re best at – manipulating the habitat. The elk are going to help maintain a marsh by munching on the birch saplings, much like the cattle in the Burren in Ireland keep things cool for orchids and other important flora.

 

The Danes don’t seem to be asking themselves if they can rewild their land. They’re just doing it.

 

The Brits, are, though, asking if they can make Britain wild again. And the answer from most seems to be yes of course. I just read an interesting article on a blog about the matter of returning wolves to Scotland, and there are obstacles, but they can be overcome with a bit of political will.

 

Even in the US, which we might believe is wild enough, thank you very much, and where they are delisting the wolf from Endangered Species Protection as some scientists claim they have recovered enough to be controlled by individual states, they want to return wildlife to former ranges via the network of wildlife corridors that rivers provide.

 

If everyone else can do it, why can’t we? I think it was The Cranberries who asked that question back in the Nineties. We still have no good answer, but one has to come sometime.

 

If there’s one thing we have in Ireland it’s rivers and waterways.

 

Imagine fishing on the Grand Canal and watching a wolf walk by on the other side?

Now that would make me get up in the morning.

Third day of Lonesomeness Review Tour

On another two sites today.

One has an interesting review – is The Ecology of Lonesomeness a romance novel with science or a science novel with romance?

In my own opinion, it’s hard to put this novel in a category that lets the reader know what they’re in for. I’d like to call it Science Fiction, or Biological or Ecological Fiction, so that people don’t expect space ships, but those categories aren’t really used…

http://sharinglinksandwisdom.blogspot.com.es/2015/11/the-ecology-of-lonesomeness-review-tour.html?showComment=1448360239446#c7609415692878482056

 

I’m also on this site with a charming review from an Italian reader, http://libriamicimiei.blogspot.com.es/2015/11/review-giveaway-ecology-of-lonesomeness.html?showComment=1448381038100#c8177540790025763305

 

Don’t forget you can enter a draw for a gift voucher as well as a free copy of the book. The more sites you click on the greater your chances!

 

 

 

 

The Catalan Question; The Answer is Yes

Almost exactly a year ago I suggested the Scots take their chance at independence like a wide receiver clutches an American football to his chest and legs it.

I stand by that.

At the moment, the Catalans – the people of the region of Cataluña or Catalonia in the North east of what we call Spain – are pondering a similar question.

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Here’s a map for those who’ve never heard of the place – I should add that Barcelona is the capital of the region; might jog the memory..

It’s not quite the same because there will be no referendum.

The right wing government in Madrid are insisting such a referendum would be illegal, clinging to a constitution made when everyone was not quite sure some follower of Franco wouldn’t take over and return the country to Fascism for another forty years, so it was best not to ask for too much. They tried, actually, not many years later, on February 23rd 1981 (I know that because my daughter was born on the 23rd of February and everybody makes a comment; not far from the mind of people even now).

So the pro-independence parties of Catalonia have decided that if they get a broad support from the populace in their regional elections this month, they’ll go ahead and announce independence anyway, to come in after eighteen months of negotiations and preparations.

The answer is the same. Yes.

I fully expect them to get the support they want. If there had been a referendum, I reckon the Catalans would have voted to stay inside a federal Spain, albeit with more autonomy. But they weren’t given that option, and when some powerful fucker from somewhere else says you can’t have something, then it’s not too uncommon for the common folk to say, fuck you, I’m going to take it.

The question you might perhaps be asking is if I just last week said it was time to get past this silly notion of nationality, how can I suddenly support the separation of a part of a state from the rest based on that same idea?

I implied patriotism for a place that is just as good as any other place, with people who are just as good, and bad as (equal to, in fact) you and me is a load of wank, there to empower only a few dodgy politicians.

And I stand by that.

And the Catalan question involves a fair few politician of the distinctly dodgy persuasion, who have thus far got fairly rich (actually very fucking rich) off their positions, and a decent handful of whom are being investigated for fraud and corruption and all that good stuff, while they all touted how bad they and their fellow Catalans were being treated by the big bad government in Madrid.

Because the shittiness of their politicians does not negate the Catalan’s right to self-determination. They deserve to decide if they will be a separate country, and they deserve to determine how that country will be run; if it will involve the same kind of structures used up to now or if they’ll try out a whole different thing – or even return to the way things were done during the heady days of 1936 when George Orwell was marvelling at the anarchists of Barcelona, before the war was taken out of their hands by the Nazis and Stalinists.

The patriotism of the Catalans is not better or worse on its face than that of Americans or Afghans. But in the greater scheme of things it will be more positive if we end up with a situation where people are able to run their own small patch of land. I don’t want to say that they’re governed by people closer to them, because I don’t think they should be governed necessarily – I prefer to see politicians as citizen representatives than leaders; which they jolly well should be, to put it nicely.

If the world, or in this case, Europe, was broken up into smaller and smaller pieces then people would have more control over their politicians, would be able to keep closer tabs on them, and make them do what they are supposed to (forward the good of their fellow citizens and the area as a whole) rather than get rich helping out big corporations. Iceland got itself out of debt because the politicians could not hide from the population, and had to do what the citizens said – which in this case was don’t pay those fucking leech banks. Ireland didn’t do the same because our politicians are separated, just a little bit too much, from their constituents, and because they know we’ll vote them back in in four or eight years because we’ve short memories and we’re a little stupid at times, and since we had our independence and a civil war we’re reluctant to go on the rampage again (by we I mean those still keeping their heads above water by keeping their heads down, to mix a metaphor).

Even though Ireland is run by a bunch of arseholes, they haven’t fleeced us as much as the corrupt pigs in Spain have, simply because they couldn’t get away with such opulence if they took all they could. We’d notice if they suddenly had their own helicopters and yachts and private islands. The Spanish have been used to rich nobility for ages, what with that old woman who’d more titles than the queen of England. There is a social circle to which the politicians can aspire, which is kind of lacking in Ireland. Saying that, we did have Charlie Haughey in Ireland, who had his own private island and boat and all that gear, and it took us a long time to ask the question, “how the fuck is he able to afford race horses and the like, and just why is our prime minister called Champagne fucking Charlie anyway?”

But that’s the Irish for ye.

Back to the point.
If Europe is a band of tiny nations, it’s less likely that one arsehole can just do that the hell he wants. Putin rules one huge country, and as such, has power. If we could knock Russia back into a plethora of small principalities (not calling them that, though, since we’d rather not have any princes running them) then he’d only be in charge of one.

It’s hard to do with Russia, but the nationalistic movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that unified Germany and Italy, and Spain and France, too, can be turned back now. It was all well and good (actually, it was shit, cos it caused two fucking world wars) for a while, but we’ve gone beyond that now – we have a unification of Germany WITH Italy and Spain and France into mother Europe, and so it’s fine to go back to having Bavaria and Prussia and Lombardy and Galicia, etc. If Mrs Merkel was the leader of just one Germanic region (not sure where she’s from), then she’d not be able to frog march us all into eternal debt. She’d have to find consensus. And that would be harder to find (a consensus that we all pay back huge banks money they don’t deserve and we didn’t lose) when every other leader had to answer to a population he or she was forced to live closely among.

The smaller the country, the more accountable are the representatives.

And the more necessary for such small nations to band together to pursue common goals.

And those common goals are less likely to be sucking the bell ends of banks and corporations.

So go for it, Cataluña. What have you got to lose? EU membership? Nah. They need you more than they need the Greeks, or the Irish for that matter. Just come back in under better terms.

Reservations about Lynx Reintroductions

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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).
But why?
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.

The Wind has Changed

So my old mate Dave – that’s Sir David Attenborough to you lot – has come out.

Out of a slightly different kind of closet to the one you’re thinking of.

He’s said it.

He sees no reason not to reintroduce wolves to Scotland.

And at first I didn’t realise anything was out of the ordinary.

I mean, why wouldn’t he?

Well, there are some reasons.

But the times have changed. So quickly it’s rather astounding.

Suddenly rewilding is happening.

And it’s a little akin to our changing attitudes towards being gay, actually.

I’m forty, and I remember when I was in my twenties that coming out was an ordeal for most men, and women.

Lots of them didn’t, until they’d left university (with doctorates, not just bachelor degrees), until they’d left Ireland.

The idea of gay marriage was in the same category as human missions to Mars – some crazy fools were saying it would happen some day but most of us were fairly (but not rightfully) sceptical.

Well, maybe not in the same category as going to Mars – one is a worthwhile step forward for humanity, the other is just some geeks spending money making the masses wonder if perhaps we can survive without Earth.

Anyway, here we are : suddenly the right for gay people to marry is common fucking sense. People wonder why it’s taken us so long to cop on to the fact.

Even in middle America (as traditional as middle Earth in many aspects: Americans sometimes think they’re immune from the general rule that people in the centre of large land masses – like central Asia, the outback of Australia, WestMeath – are slow to change and often reluctant to keep up with the rest of the world. But they’re not) state after state is changing the law.

 

A lot of this is due to the direct action of brave citizens:: something rewilding advocate George Monbiot, and his new mate Russell Brand advocate for in lots of situations.

Wild boar were released (accidentally, in some cases) in several locations, in Britain and Ireland. At least in Britain, they were let live and the sky didn’t fall.

The Scottish government had a small experimental reintroduction of beavers, which they might recapture once their data is in… Meanwhile, beaver were released in another location in Scotland, and also in England, and suddenly people want them to stay.

The MFI millionaire who wants to have wolves on his estate also wants lynx. And now the path for at least a small lynx reintroduction is being laid (in birch tree plantings).

David Attenborough reckons a fence around those Allandale wolves is necessary.

But he never said that before.

All those years of wildlife work and I don’t recall him advocating wolf reintroduction to Britain once.

Why not?

Because it wasn’t a serious suggestion for a respected biologist to make.

I remember when I started my PhD thesis, on deer population biology and management. Twenty years ago now, too.

I was told there was a government scientist who worked on the deer in the same area (he actually ended up being my external examiner) who the hunting community disliked. Mostly they just thought he was an idiot for having voiced the opinion that wolves should be reintroduced to Ireland.

They called him “the wolfman.” Yeah, clever lads the Irish.

So I never voiced the opinion that I agreed.

I worked with those hunters on my project, and since in different ways (hunting myself, of course).

Wolf reintroduction was not something I ever mentioned to anyone but close friends.

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article for the Irish Wildlife Trust about deer management in Ireland (the link has since been removed when they rejigged their website. I must post the original here).

I didn’t mention wolves.

But then they asked me to.

So I did.

Not that enthusiastically.

I reckoned the readers who could have influence in implementing any change I advocated (mostly by getting more deer hunted to reduce numbers – not popular among many hunters) did not want to hear me talking shite about bring back the wolf. It was considered less than a pipedream: a sure sign of being a hippy and having taken too many drugs.

I did get some feedback from hunting organisations

But then I noticed that the wind had indeed shifted. Not much, but it wasn’t blowing my own piss back into my face.

I said in a blog post straight after, that if we didn’t start pushing now, we’d never get to realise our objective in twenty years. And it was my decision to start pushing myself.

Since then, I’ve blogged probably once a month about rewilding. And every month there are more articles about it in the newspaper.

The wind was blowing the other way.

Snowballs were rolling.

And growing.

The idea of rewilding Ireland, and Britain, has snowballed so big that the most influential biologist on the planet now thinks that the time has come, that the public can get their minds around it.

(Just to be clear: I’m sure Sir David always would have liked to see it. Now he feels he can say it. He’s lots more to lose than me. Well, the planet has more to lose, since Sir David has the standing to influence other places on the planet where protection and extinction prevention is paramount.)

There is nothing that can stop it, now.

Just like gay marriage, even in dear old quaint little ultra catholic Ireland where until after I was born unmarried mothers were living as slaves in state-sponsored laundries….

I only hope that things have changed so fast that we can have wild wolves not in twenty years, but two. And that Sir David can narrate the first documentary about their release.

 

 

 

Seeking Beta Readers….

Hi folks.

Sorry I’ve been a bit absent in recent days – just had to power through a second draft of my newest novel that was in rough shape after the first draft. That’s done, now, though, so I will be posting a few poems soon, and I have a guest on Tuesday, but in the meantime, I’m looking for beta readers….

That’s beta readers, not better readers – though I am looking for some of those, too! Only kidding. But what the hell is a beta reader, you ask.

It was a new term to me, too, not so long ago and I’m not sure I really understand it all that well, so to give you a clearer idea and to get it straight in my own mind, here are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Beta reader for someone – particularly me.

I will start with the disadvantages, though that’s not the way an opinion piece should be – I want to make sure everyone is on board with the thing, so while I want to convince, I don’t want to sell you a used car here.

 

Advantages:

  1. You get the book NOW – before even my publisher sees it.
  2. You get it before the public and you get it for FREE
  3. You get to tell me what’s good and what sucks. And you get to call me out on my grammatical errors!
  4. You get to shape – if only a little bit – what the final edit will look like.
  5. You get my thanks, and an acknowledgment in the book, if and when it’s published. And it will be eventually, even if I have to do it myself: but I’m sure it won’t come to that!

 

Disadvantages:

  1. You have to read it. All. Now. And get back to me in a matter of weeks. No “Yeah, no, I haven’t gotten round to it yet – been up to my eyeballs.” It’s now or never – sorry, I mean now or buy the book and read it at your complete leisure!
  2. You have to read the book in its unfinished, unpolished, imperfect state. Sure, you can read it again – lots of folks read book twice or more, and yes, I’ll spot you a free polished copy, so you can spot the differences, see where you made a difference.
  3. You can’t tell anyone about the book. You can say, I’m reading David J. O’Brien’s new novel. It’s not out yet.” But when someone says, “Oh? What’s it about?” you cannot reply: Nothing, nada, nout can come out of your mouth about it. Not a word: no, “Ah, it’s about dragons, but that’s all I can say.” Not even vague shit, like when some asks you to “Just say yes or no” and makes random guesses.

You can only say what I am going to tell you about it right now, so that you have some kind of idea what type of book you’re signing up to read.

It’s set in Scotland in the present day – say between 2012 and 2014. It’s not about dragons. And it’s got biology, and romance of course: there’s kissing, but not heavy sex (just in case that’s a dealbreaker for some:-) ).

 

So if you think you’d like to do me the favour – and, really, at the end of the day, there are 5 advantages over just 3 disadvantages… then drop me a line however you want – comment here, davidjmobrienauthor@ gmail.com or at my facebook page – like button is across the screen on the right…