Saturday, 11 January 2020

Extinction Rebellion classed with violent extremists.... UK Terrorism police

The UK terrorist police think I'm a potentially violent extremist despite my white hair, hearing aids, poor eyesight, poorer memory, dodgy knee and the occasional corn on my right foot. Why?...

Because I support the aims and activities of Extinction Rebellion along with many other crumblies and their grand children. Who wouldn't, given the evidence on climate change and government inaction?...

Anti-terrorism police have produced a guide to recognising children and adults with, "anti-establishment" views and philosophy who might be keen to take part in non-violent protests in order to pressure government to introduce effective climate change mitigation measures, it's obviously aimed at XR.

So XR have been included in the secret policeman's handbook along with Neo-nazi and violent islamist organisations. Once you recognise these people you are asked to report them to the appropriate authorities. It looks like the thin end of a very authoritarian wedge.

How could anyone consider me "anti-establishment?  Possibly because I think of our new Prime Minister as a mendacious, indolent, incompetent narcissist but this is a perfectly reasonable assessment and a view held by over half of the population.

A peaceful protester outnumbered by not very secret policemen

The cops haven't kicked my door in yet perhaps because their project has been widely revealed and criticised in today's newspapers.

In a rapid about turn they have said that they do not now regard XR members as violent extremists and their guidebook is to be recalled.

Friday, 10 January 2020

National Parks were the best idea the USA ever had.....Why is the Trump administration being allowed to destroy them

I have always been lucky, my mother once told me...." If you fell in the harbour you'd come out dry with your boots full of fish".

Forty years ago I was lucky to be given a Winston Churchill Scholarship to visit the USA to find out about the development of sustainable agriculture. I travelled from coast to coast meeting academics, farmers and environmentalists. I took a small tent and at weekends I camped and hiked in  National Parks from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to Colorado and Californian Sierras.

Half Dome Yosemite NP
The National Parks  were beautiful, well managed, well protected and looking as if John Muir's vision would last forever. However, commercial developments, road building and tourist facilities encroached up to and within park boundaries. It seemed they were in danger of being sacrificed to commercial tourism......outdoor versions of Disneyland. I also formed a lasting impression that without national parks the US might have very little left of conservation value, outside perhaps of Alaska.

Why are you Americans allowing the Trump administration to dismantle the National Park Service, hand political leadership to anti-public land sycophants , natural resources to mining, ranching  and other industries while allowing widespread misuse of the parks during government shutdowns?

Since that first visit in 1983 we took our children camping, canoeing and walking in US national and state parks from S. California to the Boundary Waters, the White Mountains, the Appalachians and upstate New York.

Later without the children we drove south from British Columbia into Washington State from pristine forests, lakes and mountains into a scene of utter devastation south of the border forests had been laid waste and rivers polluted with run off from soil erosion. No one stops there anymore the highway was littered with abandoned gas stations and wrecked vehicles. Don't let this happen within your National Parks. To keep up to date with developments click on the link below.

This land is your land, get regular updates here

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Climate change denying Trolls are still at it despite the scientific consensus

Each morning I read the online version of The Guardian (UK equivalent of the Washington Post and France's Le Monde)) and The Times,  to get a balanced view of the world.

Photo: Patrick Hendry, Unsplash
Today's Times ran a  report by the United Nations on global greenhouse gas emissions and how they have reached a record high. Our global annual output of greenhouse gases is 53.5 bn tonnes and is set to be 59 bn tonnes by 2030. The "Paris Agreement" was for 40bn tonnes by 2030 to limit global warming  to 2C and avoid catastrophic climate change.

At the end of the piece there was an unbroken run of 12 comments all denying the report's findings,  claiming that climate change is a myth or attacking the integrity of the journalist who wrote it. This is classic climate change denial strategy as begun by ExxonMobil in the early 70s and modelled on the tobacco industry attempts to keep us smoking; despite lung cancer.

The primary tactic of environmental scepticism is........ "deny the evidence and deny the environmental problem"....... Then the deniers manufacture uncertainty by calling on us not to rush to judgement by claiming that more facts are needed.

Have a look at today's Times article then read the comments below it and judge for yourself, does it look like  organised scepticism of Troll factories supported by individual  contrarians who may be afraid,  angry or just scientifically illiterate.

UNDP Global Outlook Report 2019

I can't give you a link to the Times article because there is a paywall around their website, you'll have to buy a copy I'm afraid.

For an appraisal of the history and denial strategy of contrarians have a look at this link....

How the fossil fuel industry blocks climate change action.

The comments in the Times are true to form
  • It's not true, it's a myth
  • The evidence is widely disputed
  • This is a conspiracy
  • The journalist lacks integrity he / she is just recycling PR material
It has to be mostly paid for Trolls writing this , who else would spend their day churning out the same old stuff?  Their output falls into three categories:

It's not just "big oil" coal mining is still expanding
Generally you can find "outright denial" or conscious denial in the face of the facts or events, this is lying (See; D. Trump).

Instead of outright denial, the denier can choose to interpret the facts of climate change  in order to distract. For example the accumulation of Co2 in the atmosphere is due to rising temperatures. not vice versa. 

Deniers can accept the facts of climate change then proceed to present them as something else altogether by minimising or dismissing the need to act when the facts say that we should. Most of us are guilty.

For example, I take the train on European journeys instead of flying and kid myself that I am doing my bit.  The emergence of Extinction Rebellion has made more of us think about our response to climate change, self-deceit is becoming increasingly untenable in the face of a moral imperative.   

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Travels with a donkey......La Route Stevenson

Sunrise over the Morven Peninsula 15/11/19
It's the 14th November and already this month I have filled the water butt with a hosepipe for the livestock  three times.  It's been unusually  dry for three weeks,  at a time when we are normally deluged., the sun is shining in a cloudless sky and it's 4 degrees outside.

Thoughts turn to summer 2020, France and a walking holiday but this time with a difference.....I want to take donkey.
A long walk in the Pyrenees without a donkey

Robert Louis Stevenson is  perhaps most famous for his novels Treasure Island and Kidnapped. He may be less well known as a pioneer travel and outdoor writer. "Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes", written in 1879 was one of his first outdoor books, an account of his 120 mile walk with the donkey Modestine from Le Puy to St. Jean du Gard through the Cevennes.

Modestine was his essential pack animal because he didn't travel light his heavy extra large sleeping
bag was made of sheepskins, he took wine, brandy, a leg of mutton and a revolver he really needed a donkey. We don't really need one, we travel light and unarmed, overnight baggage can go by courier van to the next stopover. I just like the idea of an asinine companion.

RLS cursed Modestine roundly every day and  he goaded her with a stick; she was too slow and stubborn, he didn't realise that she was on heat for at least part of the time. In 2020 a hired donkey should, I hope be more amenable as long as the donkey driver follows some basic rules. Don't overload her, don't creep up on her from behind especially when she is eating corn, don't try to stroke her face her shoulder or neck are are preferable.

At the end of their trek in St. Jean du Gard RLS was sad to see her go when he sold her and described her thus....

She was patient, elegant in form, the colour of an ideal mouse, and inimitably small.
Her faults were those of her age and sex; her virtues were her own.

My walking companion an experienced horsewoman is more practical than me and thinks that a donkey may be more trouble than it's worth. I'll have to work on this.

"The Route Stevenson" the GR 7 follows Stevenson's route closely and the original book, only 176 pages in the copy that I have , could be used as a guide but my map reading is never brilliant so I've bought the french Topo Guide, it's detailed and the maps are excellent...... we'll take both!

 While planning I also have to bear in mind that I am now a "crumbly" (over 75 years) and I think we should do one half in the early summer and if we do the second half... in the autumn. The stages will be shorter than those of the GR7, the accommodation comfortable and the baggage goes by van.  This is as a result of my biting off more than I could chew on the GR10 in 2018.

The best Gites d'Etapes are fine but mountain huts are out and in some places hotels and inns will be used. It has taken me a rather long time to realise that  it's worth paying for a good bed with en-suite bathroom. Food is normally excellent everywhere except in mountain huts.
A summer in the Pyrenees

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Environmental ethics in the age of fake news, oligarchy and moral relativism

Thirty years ago when The United States lead the world in the field of environmental ethics I had the opportunity to do a Masters degree in "Environmental Values".

Now with the world turned upside down and the USA  having won the race to the bottom in  valuing the environment, I wonder if it was worth the effort.

Back in 1989 I was a working farm manager with a science degree and an interest in the environment. It seemed to me that we knew the technical solutions to many of our environmental problems and that these problems were the unforeseen side effects of new technology, technologies which had been used without sufficient precaution. Studying environmental values might lead me to understand why we were so careless with the natural world. I was still rather naive and idealistic in my forties.

My first seminar in a philosophy department was a shock. The vocabulary often required resort to a dictionary, there were long and pregnant silences while people thought about the questions posed. It was a strange world, far from a science tutorial where we mainly dissected and critiqued scientific papers in front of the Prof. Gradually I got the idea, which was to discuss how the various theories  of ethics could and might be applied to the natural world.

First we had to decide if non-humans; animals, ecosystems, mountains rivers etc could actually be moral subjects because to be a moral subject you had to have intrinsic value and only humans could have intrinsic value according to the 18th century Scots philosopher and sceptic David Hume

We discussed the application of utilitarianism to the environment and it's underpinning of 20th century environment policy, animal welfare and even animal rights. Then Kant and, " The Golden Rule" which in it's crudest terms says you ought to do as you would be done unto. More up to date was  the american philosopher John Rawls and his notion of the ," Veil of ignorance"; he argued that policy ought to be made by policymakers assuming that they were completely ignorant of their own position, socially, culturally and financially in order to be completely fair.

What appealed to me most was , The Land Ethic",  first outlined by Aldo Leopold  in his 1949 collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac". Leopold appealed to me probably because he was a scientist, manager and wonderful writer. His ethos was ecologically based, he rejected the human centred approach of utilitarianism and argued that we need a new relationship with land, animals, plants and ecosystems. The real philosophers concentrated on arguing that there was no real philosophical foundation to his ethic it was basically romantic ecology. I think that's why it appealed to me and the US National Park Service who underpinned their management for three decades with Leopold's ethic.

At the end of two years studying I felt that some of my questions had been answered but far more had been raised.  The important thing is that we were discussing our values and the environment and how we might save and preserve ecosystems, species, rivers and mountains.

I can't imagine that happening in today's White House or No. 10 Downing Street where politicians and the people who fund them are taking us to "hell in a handcart" . As for the Masters course, it's long gone.

Good news on global warming and climate change.... if we plant more trees!

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, gave us some good news in  the July edition of it's journal, Science.

Global mapping of the earth's tree growing potential has shown  we could restore 4.4 billion hectares  (10.6 billion acres) of woodland worldwide, outside of existing forests and agricultural land. The global tree restoration potential, Bastin, Science, 365, No. 6448, pp. 76-79

This would increase the global forest area by more than 25 per cent storing over 200 giga tonnes of carbon over it's lifetime and 25 percent of  the current pool of atmospheric carbon.  Read the abstract here

A remnant of the Caledonian Pine Forest
In Scotland , in 2017, we had a review of our national forest strategy 2019 - 2029. About 18 per cent of our land area is covered by trees  and a further 12 per cent is capable of growing trees without  taking any prime farmland. This compares with an average  37 per cent tree cover in the countries of the European Union .

The Scottish government has set a planting target of 15,000 ha per annum until 2024/25. Two thirds of our forests are privately owned  and one third is owned by the government through Forestry Scotland formerly the Forestry Commission. Scotland's Forestry Strategy 2019 -2029

The Scottish "Crofting Counties"  cover some 750,000 hectares of land, crofts are smallholdings where the farming family earns most of the household income off the croft and many of them would welcome the opportunity to plant trees.

 It costs around £5,000 per hectare to fence, plant and establish trees, large landowners have the resources to do this and at the end of the day are presented with a valuable capital asset because the whole cost is grant aided by the taxpayer. It is not the capital cost itself that deters Crofters from planting it is their lack of capital to pay for the project over two or three years until the grant is paid. they cannot afford to do it.

If the Scottish government are serious about their ambitious planting targets they need to introduce bridging loans for smaller forestry projects. Once the trees are fenced and planted the loan would be recovered from the grant. Investment in trees would no longer be only available to the wealthy as socialism for rich landowners.

Scotland: Too many deer... too few trees
Deer fencing  comprises up to 50% of the cost of tree establishment, without fencing the trees are rapidly destroyed by marauding deer, we have an estimated 350 - 400,000 red deer in the highlands. Without them or with much lower numbers tree planting would be much cheaper and natural regeneration possible in many areas.

Please bear in mind that this report in the journal Science is based on real science using rigorous methodology, peer review and the results published in a prestigious journal of international standing.

It is not the deluded Twitter ramblings of a climate change denying politician or the propaganda of a so called, "think tank" paid for by business corporations or oligarchs ( you know who they are).

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.