Friday, 4 October 2019

The Roadkill Cafe and the Field guide to flattened fauna

In February I wrote about the now annual dinner of our old guys expedition group, "Crispy Grey Squirrel at the Roadkill Cafe".  The squirrels I  had in the freezer have gone along with the pheasants, I inadvertently switched off the freezer while working in the workshop.  Now with only three weeks to go I need replacements urgently.

Many years ago I discovered a unique field guide in the Minneapolis airport bookshop. .....Flattened Fauna, A field guide to common animals of roads, streets and highways.

The author describes 36 reptile, avian and mammal remains after compression, mainly by really big trucks. He he says that the animals are most sincerely dead, so dead that even the flies have lost interest.







Grey squirrels are very flat except for the long bushy tail which is usually the only identifying characteristic as it waves in the slipstream of passing trucks so it's not really suitable for cooking.

I won't be scouring the roads of Northumberland ( we don't have grey squirrels here) and hope that my squirrel trapping friends can  supply a fresher non flattened, humanely despatched corpse.


 


Thursday, 5 September 2019

Maurice le coq peut chanter! ......Country people and their poultry have won a landmark case in France.

Vive Maurice!
In France's Ile-d'Oleron a tribunal and a judge have decided that Maurice the cockerel can continue to sing.

Maurice has become a symbol of the resistance of country people to gentrification of rural areas by  the "neoruraux" incomer retirees and second home owners from urban France.

Earlier this year a neighbour of Mme. Corrinne Fesseau complained to the authorities that her cockerel, "Maurice" was a nuisance because his early morning crowing disturbed the peace of the village.

Mme. Fesseau defended Maurice on the grounds that in French law it would be necessary to prove that Maurice was a nuisance and this was not done. The villagers and neighbours enjoyed Maurice's morning song and he received letters of support from all over France. Further she saw this as an attack on the rural way of life in France. What would be next? church bells? frogs?

Here in Kilchoan I have five cockerels who all sing in the morning and there have been no complaints but in rural southern England where areas such as the Cotswolds have been taken over by wealthy incomers it is against the law to keep a cockerel. This is further evidence of the English countryside rapidly becoming a large suburban park and luxury housing complex.

Vive la France!......... Vive Maurice!. For a full report of the proceedings see todays Le Monde







Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The UK and the EU after Brexit......... There's a simple solution to every human problem; it's neat, plausible and wrong. H.L.Mencken.

Last week 84 %  of this blog's readers lived in the USA, I know that thanks to Google, but I don't know why? you are obviously intelligent and discerning people so....

I thought that you might find it useful to have a brief explanation of our current political shambles in the UK and consequences of our leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement on future arrangements between ourselves and our biggest trading partner.

While you are reading bear in mind my favourite aphorism of the late, great american H.L.Mencken.

" There's a simple solution to every human problem
it's neat, plausible and wrong"

The simple solution to the current UK problem of leaving the EU favoured by the loony right of the Conservative party ( mainly angry old men) and the even loonier, authoritarian English nationalist Brexit party is to leave the EU without any agreement on trade, the EU border between Ireland and  N. Ireland and freedom of movement. A complex problem but for Johnson there's a simple solution.... just walk away and all will be well.

Our current UK Prime Minister ( Alexander Boris Pfefell Johnson) is well known to be incompetent, lazy and mendacious from his early career as a journalist and his time as Mayor of London, our own "Mini Trump". It is obvious that he is aiming to take us out of the EU without a deal despite the awful economic consequences.

Johnson's wealthy backers see opportunities for "disaster capitalism" during the ensuing chaos . In the longer term their aim is to turn the UK into a low wage, low tax offshore  haven for money laundering and tax avoidance with minimal regulation of financial services and the environment.

All will not be well as many of our Members of Parliament who are meeting today to try to stop the , No Deal Brexit know. Thay have to do this before Johnson shuts down parliament on 14th September.

Because if we leave without a deal on October 31st........
  •  From November 1st we will be treated as a, " third country". A vast range of checks and tariffs will be applied to our exports to the EU our biggest customer taking 46 % of our exports. Trade will immediately become more complicated, costly and difficult especially for smaller businesses. Farmers and fishermen will be totally screwed.
  • Air and road transport will be disrupted, perhaps not immediately because the EU have put in place some temporary mitigation procedures. The UK does not appear to have done anything.
  • We rely heavily on immigration from Europe to staff hospitals, care homes, the hospitality industry and agriculture. Employers will have to apply complex new rules which have not yet been decided.
  • The UK will lose access to information and data from Europol, the Schengen visa system and the European arrest warrant system....... new opportunities for criminals however.
  • Ireland will remain an EU member. The UK has a land border between N. Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so checks and tariffs will be applied at the border.  the ~~UK government (Johnson) has said this will not happen there will be no hard border which is against World Trade Organisation rules. 
I do have a dog in this fight as you may have realised. I am a Scot, living in Scotland where 62% of the population voted to remain in the EU at the referendum in 2016 . In this of course, we are ruled by our political masters ,in London.



Postscript, 13/09/2019

My friend Derek sent me a comment today.,,,,,, Derek doesn't use Google, he's a one man stand against their bid for world domination! His comment is another quote by H.L.Mencken in his political commentary, "On politics, A carnival of bunkum".

"As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents more and more closely the soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day the plain folks of this land will reach their heart's desire at last the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

This doesn't just apply to the White House of course, the quotation applies equally to No. 10 Downing Street .

NB
If you have nothing better to do:-

Sunday, 21 July 2019

The perfect bullshit shitstorm and something to help you deal with it.

"Bullshit" and it's synonym "bollocks" are common English expletives regularly used in response to  nonsensical or misleading statements which have no concern for reality or the truth.

Next week we in the UK will have a new Prime Minister, Alexander Boris Pfeffel Johnson, who has built his whole career in journalism and the pursuit of political power on bullshit. If bullshit was an Olympic event Johnson would win silver, we all know who would win gold, after a photo finish. If you want to know more about Johnson go to this link in today's Observer newspaper. The 10 ages of Boris Johnston

Why am I concerned about bullshit? If you read my previous post you see that those who do not want action on climate change have made strategic use of bullshit to refute the claims of climate scientists with great success over the last 30 years and now we are about to be confronted by a shitstorm of bullshit once Johnston is in office and I want to be able to refute it.Oligarchs, think tanks and global warming

If I am honest I only tell you what I believe to be true. If I tell you an outright lie I am aware of the truth but have chosen to ignore it. The Bullshitter  however isn't at all concerned about the truth or facts, he doesn't care because he only wants to persuade you to accept his point of view. And sometimes to entertain you because comedians are thought to be harmless. He's a snake oil salesman.

When I Googled bullshit  I discovered a really useful bullshit refutation toolkit. Calling Bullshit.
It discusses the principles and philosophy of bullshit, how to spot it in the misuse of correlation, the making of unfair comparisons, deliberate misuse of statistics, dodgy graphs and fake news stories.

That's it folks..... it's up to you now to look at the, "Calling Bullshit" website by following the link above and equip yourself to identify and deal with bullshit in all of it's many forms.

PS
Its now Friday 26th July 2019,  Johnson has been elected Prime Minister by a caucus of 90,000 Conservative Party members. We have 46.8 million people registered to vote in the UK. So he was chosen by 0.0019 % of the electorate. If this happened in Africa we would be described as a "failed state".

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Oligarchs, think tanks, marketing and global warming

Somewhere near you?
Sixty five years ago I had my first school chemistry lesson  with, "Doggy Collins"  a scary old Welshman. I clearly remember two topics that are relevant today, the gases comprising the earth's atmosphere and the, "scientific method".

The air we breathed then contained approximately 300 ppm of carbon dioxide it now contains 400 ppm, a 25 per cent increase in 65 years. This is a scientific fact, in other words there is a very strong probability that it is true. Doggy's scientific method involved three steps;

  • Observe the situation
  • Formulate a hypothesis 
  • Test your hypothesis by experimentation 
I should add a fourth....... present your methods, results, discussion and conclusions to the scientific community to seek consensus by peer review.

Scientific consensus about climate change has strengthened considerably since 1990, ninety seven per cent of published climate scientists  now agree that climate change is being driven by human activity ( Anthropogenic Global Warming).

Meanwhile there is a vociferous minority, in the USA  and UK denying that this is the case. They  are presumably happy to accept scientific consensus if it benefits their health or wealth but not if it means radical lifestyle change and inconvenience. People on every continent are experiencing the effects of climate change; from wildfires in California, to drought in Somalia and melting ice at the poles.

Closer to home; in the 1950s Crofters in this village made hay and grew oats, the climate was good enough at the appropriate time to make hay and harvest oats. Now it could not be done, the summers are too wet for haymaking and September too wet for harvesting cereals. Our annual rainfall in the W. Highlands has increased by 45 per cent in the last 20 years. We don't have significantly more wet days but when it does rain the rainfall is much heavier. 

Who are the deniers?....... and why do they do it?

In the USA and the UK anthropogenic global warming denial is generated and lead by right wing  think tanks and media funded by oligarchs and business corporations who have a vested interest in avoiding any mediation, it would lower their income and increase their costs. So, the "think tanks" churn out misinformation ( fake news) to create doubt about the science. This benefits their owners by decreasing support for mediation measures. The myths and misinformation are readily adopted by populist right wing politicians..... you know who they are!

The think tanks, right wing media and their supporters use the same tactics that gave us consumerism.... marketing!. They influence public support by casting doubt on the consensus among scientists. In the UK it has been found that only 11% of voters believed that the scientific consensus was 90% or more....... very effective marketing.  The gap generated between the public perception of scientific consensus and it's reality has delayed effective action to mitigate climate change.

If you are part of the consensus and recognise the global climate crisis you can outwit the  deniers by countering myths and misinformation, but more effectively by inoculating people against new myths......... explain how science works!  here is some ammunition  .....The effects of climate change NASA















Friday, 5 July 2019

Members of Parliament debate the potential extinction of red squirrels

At the end of February the UK experienced it's hottest ever winter day. On the same day there was a debate in Parliament on the climate change emergency.

I counted 35  of our 650 MPs in the photograph of the debating chamber. The other 625 were probably too busy having lunch with lobbyists or filling in their expense claims; the best part of their week.
Westminster Debate on Climate Change, The Guardian.

Earlier this week there was a briefing for MPs on the potential extinction of Red Squirrels in England, I can't find out how many attended but you can find a transcript of the debate on line at;  Debate on potential red squirrel extinction . Transcript of debate on potential red squirrel extinction

In the one and a half hours available there were over thirty contributions from the politicians present. They concluded that the threat to our iconic red squirrel population from the invasive, alien greys must be removed.

Invasive alien grey squirrel
If you write a blog,  each day you get a summary of how many people have read posts in the last 24 hours and which posts they have read. Since the first of three posts about the red squirrels in the Coquet Valley and their potential extinction was written in October last year; someone, somewhere in the world has read about them every day.

It seems that people find it easier to identify and engage  with, small, furry, bushy tailed little mammals and their plight than with the human existential problem of climate change. Politicians certainly do.

For a really accurate, concise and readable account of the grey squirrel problem and possible solutions you can read the MPs briefing paper yourself.Briefing paper on the extinction threat to red squirrels









Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Wild flowers, insects and birds return to traditionally managed grassland



Colourful pre-industrial diversity surrounded by deep green desert
Industrialised agriculture in the UK began after WW2, until then we had traditional low input, low output farming, a time when farmers didn't have to keep accounts or pay income tax, yields were low, machines were powered by horses, weeds were removed with a hoe and wildlife generally flourished.

My childhood saw the horses replaced by tractors ( small grey ones mostly with motor car engines), combine harvesters replaced binders and threshers, this "mechanisation"  led to loss of habitat and enabled intensification. Then the widespread adoption of
High energy input........ no diversity
fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and intensive use of nitrogen fertiliser on grass and arable crops in the late 60's led to widespread loss of birds, insects and flowers.

Even in the remoter livestock farming areas of the north and west intensification has resulted in a landscape of dark green fields ( because of high nitrogen fertiliser use)..... a deep green desert dominated by grass, cow parsley, stinging nettles and low diversity.

Low energy input .......... high diversity
High diversity needs low soil fertility. When fertilisers are applied the more vigorous crop species and weeds out compete everything else..... result ......... loss of species.

But this week, in the Coquet Valley in North Northumberland we visited an island of colourful diversity in the sea of green..... Burradon Windyside Farm near Thropton. Here  Kevin Wharf has transformed what were once intensively managed barley fields into floristically rich meadows.



The change has been achieved quickly and effectively by using traditional grazing management, haymaking and broadcasting wild flower seeds. Sheep graze the fields during and immediately after lambing in the Spring. The fields are then shut up until late June  early July when a small scale seed harvester collects the flower seed then this is followed by making hay.

Why is this interesting?................. well you may have noticed that the UK is about to commit economic suicide by leaving the European Union. We farmers and Crofters are unlikely to get the level of subsidy enjoyed by farmers in member countries but our Minister for the environment has promised enhanced incentives for biodiversity creation and sustainable farming.  Kevin has shown how this could be done.

No!......  I don't believe the promises of politicians ......... But!..........along with climate change they are going to have to take biodiversity loss seriously and it might just happen.