Reintroducing the bear and wolf to Britain: valuable for our ecosystem or too dangerous to be attempted?

This morning while watching the news, it was mentioned that across Europe (although particularly in the Eastern countries) we are seeing a variety of long lost animal’s being reintroduced into their old habitats. This has revived somewhat the debate in Britain as to if animals once at the top of the food chain here, such as the brown bear or wolves, should be reintroduced.

Now, I remember reading up on the topic a few years ago when it was (I think) last brought up at a National Level (rather than for just the Scottish highlands) and I was stringently against the idea for reasons I’ll come on to, and this recent debate hasn’t changed my mind.

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The Brown Bear was last seen in Britain probably around 1000 years ago. Despite their occasionally cuddly appearance  there should be no doubts as to how immensely powerful they are in the flesh.

I mean the effort to introduce animals such as the beaver and lynx as well as those such as the bear and the wolf will undoubtedly have positive effects on our natural eco-systems. I was reading research done by Nature England which stated that beavers could reduce the risk of flooding which would be excellent, and also we have a rather large deer problem in Britain which would be helped a lot by introducing creatures such as the Lynx and Wolf who would begin to hunt them (preventing the need to cull herds). On the other hand, the modern landscape of Britain must be taken into account on such an issue; and the general consensus among experts is that we do not have a sustainable environment for these creatures to live in without significant risk to either people or their livelihoods. As much as people may say that highland farming is not important or ‘too small’ to be significant clearly don’t understand that for their new eco-system to work it’s got to build upon what we have now and not what they want to have.

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The Wolf; last seen in Britain around the beginning of the 18th Century. Powerful beasts with a pack mentality, close control would need to be kept to avoid groups of them demolishing herds or even people who venture into the lovely British countryside.

Organisations such as humansandwolves.org argue that these species have considerably more positive than negative effects on our society, our economy, and indeed, on our eco-systems. However, I don’t think the extra £300 (rising from £500 to £800) in income for deer estates has as much influence on anything meaningful to the majority of people as the supporters are suggesting.

I have read a few different articles on the topic, and I find most commentators saying that such animals pose a threat to humans in argument against the supporters of the reintroduction who state that properly educated humans will have no fear from the animals in their natural habitat. However, and I think this is something to be stressed, what about when the animals venture out of their natural habitat? Let’s take an example of the common fox; over the last couple of decades we have seen an explosion in the levels of ‘urbanised’ foxes moving out of their natural homes in the countryside and setting up shop in cities, towns and urban areas. Not only this, but the competition for food has meant foxes being in the news for breaking into houses, stealing food, terrorising people and even attacking humans; most shockingly, the young. Now, I don’t have any expert opinions backing up the idea that given 20 years wolves or even bears may have lost their fear of the urban environment, however in the modern environment with suitable habitats shrinking it means its ever more likely that these creatures could very well move ‘out of the wild and into civilisation’. It may not even be cities, but towns or villages. Situated much closer to their habitats in the countryside and with a much less imposing human presence, as the animals become ever more confident attacks will, I would say, rise dramatically.
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The urban fox has developed into just as much a menace to city-goers as to country bumpkins (such as myself!) 

Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly don’t want to see any of these species go extinct, or anything like that, but I most certainly don’t want to see them suffer by being forced into an area too insufficient for them to the point where they are forced into conflict with humans. Because if that does happen, it’s not a fight that’s going to turn out well for the creatures, the supporters of reintroduction or the attitudes of the public towards sustainability and creation/cultivation of clean eco-systems.

Post Script; All images courtesy of Google.

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A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

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John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born on November 13th, 1718 and he died April 30th, 1792. He was a British Statesman who held various different military and political offices throughout his life, such as being British first lord of the Admiralty, however he is arguably most recognisable as being the man after whom the sandwich was named.

 

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The Early Years
As a child, Sandwich studied at both Eton and Cambridge while inheriting his title from his grandfather at the young age of 11. Upon leaving education, he travelled around Europe (taking the ‘Grand Tour’ as it was known in the upper classes).

On his return to England in 1739, he took up his seat in the House of Lords.  Like many of his other Parliamentarians, Lord Sandwich was strongly opposed the deployment of British troops on the European Continent to protect it. He gained attention for his speeches in parliament which earned him a reputation for clearly setting out his argument.

The Politician, the Administrator and the Military Man
It was in 1774 that Sandwich was to gain his first military experience and received a place in the administration of the Navy under the Duke of Bedford (whom Sandwich supported in the House of Lords). Despite having a somewhat successful spell in the Admiralty, Sandwich was moved not long later into a position in the Army (which was small by most other European standards); it was in this position that he would catch a fever, become seriously ill and almost die.

Sandwich also spent time in diplomatic circles, and he represented Britain in the Congress of Breda 1746-48 (where he would utilise the British Secret Service to get one over on the French) and he would also be made British Ambassador to The Dutch Republic at the same time.

In 1748 Sandwich was granted the position as First Lord of The Admiralty, however by 1451 the leading politician of the time, The Duke of Newcastle, had become distrustful of Sandwich and had him dismissed from duty. This provoked the Duke of Bedford (a close political ally of Sandwich and rival for Newcastle’s power) into resigning in protest. Despite spending the next few years in solitude on his estate far from politics, upon the new Government forming in 1763, Sandwich was reinstated as Lord of the Admiralty by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.

From 1763 to 1765 and 1770 to 1771, he also served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department. In this capacity he took a leading part in the prosecution of John Wilkes (1763), the radical British politician and agitator.

Sandwich then served for a third time as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord North’s administration from 1771 to 1782. During this period, his critics accused him of using the office to obtain bribes and to distribute political jobs, however although he was frequently attacked for corruption, his administrative ability was been recognized by his earlier successes. Despite the early administrative success in the role however, during the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1781) Sandwich insisted upon keeping much of the British fleet in European waters because of the possibility of French attack, and he was subjected to considerable criticism for insufficient naval preparedness. Sandwich was accused of not only having too few ships prepared for an ‘inevitable’ war with France (which began in 1778 when France declared war), but his tactics were also criticised, as well as his ability to counteract both French and Spanish attacks when Spain entered the war on the side of France. Despite criticism however, a planned French-Spanish invasion of Cornwall in 1779 was foiled, perhaps as a result of the primary British ships being in Europe.

The Later Days
Sandwich retired from public duty in 1782, and lived another ten years in retirement; he married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane, by whom he had one son, John, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (1743 – 1814), who succeeded him as the 5th Earl.

Lord Sandwich was also great supporter of Captain James Cook. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich approved Admiralty funds for the purchase and fit-out of the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery for Cook’s second and third expeditions of exploration in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of his interest in naval affairs and his promotion of exploration and in honour of Sandwich, Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) after him, as well as Montague Island off the south east coast of Australia, the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

The origin of the Sandwich

sandwich-1The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact reasons and causes of its invention and original use are still uncertain. One rumour that formed was the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table. A very dedicated gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. As such, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montague was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” and hence the ‘sandwich’ was born.

Another alternative is provided by Sandwich’s biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich’s commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk.

Either way, while these do show that the sandwich does indeed get its name from The 4th Earl, the fact remains that Arabs had already started stuffing meat inside pita bread centuries before the Earl was even born!

Europa Universallis 3: England 1399 to 1589

Is it just me, or are games based on Alternative Histories just brilliant?

Let’s take Europa Universallis 3. In my current campaign, starting at 1395, its been about 155 years and England has used Colonialism to conquer most of the Northern and Western Africa as well as a chunk of Eastern South America. I also control parts of Northern France (Brittany and Calais). It’s funny the way things work out. The English Empire is growing larger than it ever actually did.
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Here be England – you’ll see I’ve left Scotland alone to the North, but for political reasons I have also been forced to leave parts of Ireland unconquered. 

Unfortunately, Portugal beat me to most of the available areas on the coast of eastern North America, but using my place in South America, I’m going to try and take the area where Mexico would be and dominate the southern hemisphere. I don’t fancy a war with one of the largest nations in the world which has been a loyal ally for over a century and a half, so I’ll leave Portugal be as long as possible. In a couple more years, I should be able to integrate the Spanish Crown into my own and combine our Empires – makes me wish I hadn’t blocked Spanish expansion in the Americas.

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Here are my few possessions in Continental Europe. Luckily, France isn’t too bothered about Brittany or its Western Coast. But by God they don’t half want Calais back.

So, what’s my diplomacy looking like you might ask? Well I am allied to Spain, Portugal and a couple smaller nations across Europe. France hates us, the African nations don’t trust us and most of Europe don’t care about us. Brittany keeps demanding the ‘return’ of Calais, even though four successive wars over it have failed. Scotland is proving to be something of an oddity. They quite like us, and we have a Royal Marriage, however they refuse to accept any closer diplomatic relations. The only way I will be able to form Great Britain is by taking them over through war, however they are allied to France and I think another nation in Europe – I’d rather not lose my foothold in France just yet, which would most likely happen if I started a war on two fronts.

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As you can see, I also hold pretty much the entirety of the African West Coast. I also hold the tip of the South, and parts of Madagascar. I’m planning on using it as a jumping point between myself and Asia, but don’t tell them!

Financially and technologically we aren’t doing too well. Our tech is lacking behind the other leading European Nations by a few levels which could be important should we ever go to war. The English treasury isn’t exactly low, but it’s weak and could be considerably increased if I didn’t need to fund such a large empire for the time period. I think my lack of decent tech is the reason I’ve only been making minimal increases in Northern Europe – if we were equal, I have little doubt Burgundy would now be within my grasp.

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I’m also a majority shareholder in South America. This means not only to I have the monopoly on slaves from Africa, but also tobacco, gold and sugar cane!

Next step troubles?
France and Burgandy – I have a feeling Calais is going to cause more strife in the later half of the 16th Century. I am also in a predicament in I don’t know if I should integrate Spain, or risk it and hope I eventually inherit the entire country. As it is, I am going to try and avoid war for as long as possible – I am technologically outmatched and as such I think its far more profitable for me to keep investing in a large colonial Empire. South-North America is under my control, Portuguese expansion is slowing and I hold more of South America and Africa than any other state.

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And here is the jewel of my Empire. My very large North American colonies. Sure, they kick up a fuss every few decades, and wheat (their primary product) isn’t too useful, but it gives a huge base of operations in the West. Okay, it’s not that useful. I just want to make sure 1776 never happens. Pity Portugal got in there and snapped up the 13 colonies before I even knew what was happening.

Overall, I’d say the future looks bright for the English. And this is a bloody good game.

Post Script:
I should get around to actually reviewing this game soon. Its somewhere on the list anyway.

Women’s football: Underpaid or the true spirit of the sport?

Keep with me readers – I may know diddlysquat about football, but this is going to be footie related today.

Yesterday, there was a feature on the news about the female Arsenal football team. It mentioned successes in the 2012 Olympics (beating Brazil – who are supposed to be really good at football yeah?) and in their league. It then went on to reference one of the players, and pointed out she only played part time and earned £13,000 from football. The inequality between the Arsenal Men’s and Women’s squads was the main topic of the feature, and while it didn’t do any direct comparisons, the report concluded that women’s football was still massively understated.

The news reporter seemed to be suggesting that in order for true equality between male and female football, the wages of women’s football need to be raised to meet those of their male counterparts.

Just to look at a few figures – as of Nov 2012, the Arsenal Mens first squad apparently has only three players who earn less than a cool £1m. It seems ridiculous to me that people who kick a football around, sometimes very little, can earn such absurd sums.

If you ask me, it’s the women’s team which has the right idea! They are people who play the football because they enjoy it. They do it part time, and earn a reasonable sum for it too. It isn’t the women’s football which needs to raise wages to the dizzying heights of the men’s, but the men’s football which needs to lower its stupidly high wages to the rate of the women’s!

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Post script: I really really despise football. I can’t put down in words just how much I hold the damn sport in contempt.

The Iron Lady is dead: Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

So. Margaret Thatcher is dead. Yup, I’m afraid today is going to be political people.

Many love her. Many hate her. I don’t think it’s typical newspaper exaggeration to say that she is the most divisive politician in the modern age. To quote two well-known UK politicians; “She changed the political landscape not just in our country, but the rest of the world”

Baroness Thatcher was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have ever held the office (she was also the first female leader of similar standing in the developed world). She went to war with the Trade Unions, Miners and Argentina and most definitely got her way in all of them. She developed our relationship with the United States and was a key player in the thawing of the Cold War, so much so, a Soviet labelled her the ‘Iron Lady’. Her economic policy led to major recession, and the methods she used to fix the economy (which they did) were incredibly unpopular. She arguably ripped the industry out of the North, and destroyed the mining industry. She also took on the Trade Unions which, I think its fair to say, were too powerful, and were holding the country to ransom. She responded to the Falklands situation and defended the people against oppression.

She was a person who restored belief in Britain. The defeatism which had become installed in Britain post-WW2 was successfully expelled, and Britain grew into one of the strongest countries in the world economically.

Now, I wasn’t actually born until after Thatcher left office, so the only knowledge I have of her policies is based off the accounts of others and my own research. However, I like to think that I have covered at least a basic understanding of her time in Office and the woman that was Margaret Thatcher. I think she had a lot to answer for, but she was a straight talker. You don’t become the ‘Iron Lady’ without deserving the title.

“The lady is not for turning” And it’s a testament to her strength that she never did.

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Post Script:
For those that are seeing the news that people are actively celebrating the death of Thatcher, its something I can’t comprehend. It is more than reasonable to condemn someone for their policies or opinions – politicians pretty much load the gun for us – but to celebrate a death?
Smacks of distaste if you ask me. I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to actually celebrate a death. Don’t mourn them, criticise them sure, but don’t celebrate it.
It’s not a matter of showing respect. It’s a matter of being human.

Post-Post Script
Sorry for the nearly two months of inactivity! Back to normal, semi-weekly updates from now on!