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.

European Gray Wolf
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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An alert to the threats to Europe

I found this ‘letter’ and thought it tied in quite well with my previous post regarding Syria – its credited with coming from he famous comedian John Cleese, however a little bit of reasearch has dug up the fact it looks like its actually not by him at all!

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

— John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person A final thought -“ Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.”

A Victory for Democracy?

Now, I don’t claim to be anything more than a passive watcher of the news; I catch it for an hour in the morning, maybe the headlines at 6pm and then I watch the news at 10. However, I can’t help but feel that the events in Syria, and in the British Parliament, need a mentioning.

For those that do not know, I will give a brief outline of the Civil War in Syria (and it will be brief, I hardly know a barrel of information on the topic!). It began in March 2011 as a chain of peaceful protests, followed by a crackdown by the Syrian Army. In July 2011, army defectors declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army and began forming fighting units. According to the United Nations, up to 100,000 people have been killed and in order to escape the violence, over 1.7 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. As of this moment, the civil war has become so out of control that a chemical attack was made on civilians in the city of Damascus. It is currently unknown as to who exactly caused the chemical attack, and while it is heavily suggested to have been the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has neither been confirmed nor denied by the UN Weapons experts who have examined the evidence.

The chemical attack is the cause of the main flux in condemnation for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, particularly from the Western World.

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have both been particularly strong in their words when describing the chemical weapons attacks and it is for this reason that the House of Commons, one of the Two Houses of Parliament, was summoned by Cameron (while not in session) to vote as to Britain’s willingness to take military action against Syria.

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Far from budding friends most of the time, both Obama and Cameron appear to have found a unity over Syria and the outrage of the use of chemical weapons

The Government put forward this Bill with the express intent of having Military action being ratified, however The Labour Party also made an amendment to the Governments Bill. Call me cynical if you will, but I feel they are mainly doing so in an effort to appear as if they have learned from the mistakes of their recent past in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Despite this, what they called for were reasonable measures; military action would be validated when:
– The UN Security Council voted in support of it
– There was undeniable proof that the chemical attack was of Government origin
– The force was to be used only to stop the use of chemical weapons and promote humanitarian support
– The UN Weapons Inspectors could guarantee that it the chemical attack was designed to attack civilians

The Labour Amendment was voted on shortly before the Government’s and defeated by 220 voted to 332. As such, it meant that Parliament was either accepting military action on the facts as we known them to be know (as the Government wants) or declining to accept any use of military force at all.

As it happened, the House of Commons voted to defeat the Governments Motion, 285 votes to 272.

Now, mentioning Labour, there is something I don’t understand; The House of Commons had two votes tonight: one in which Labour put forward their amendment to the Governments ‘militant’ Bill regarding Syria and another in which the Government put forward its Bill for military action to be taken in Syria. Both failed, yet the second fails by a much closer margin.

Despite this, Labour are calling for a General Election and/or the resignation of David Cameron? As much as this is a rather stinging blow to Mr Cameron and his pro-action agenda, its hardly been a staple part of his manifesto. Its a simple fact of office that (probably more often than not) politicians may want one thing, but not be able to achieve it.

The defeat of the Goverment’s motion prompted a, I think, rather nice quote from the PM:

“I believe in respecting the Will of this House of Commons.”

“It is very clear to me the British parliament, reflecting the view of the British people, does not want see military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.”

I think that I would agree that the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 did haunt this debate, and those who were making the same debate in 2003 when they agreed to the War on Terror; whether or not it was a wise choice, or a fair choice. I don’t know.
Will it stop others from getting involved? Unlikely, as Obama has already made it clear that he is fully prepared to make this a singular American Operation (unlike Bush’s ‘Coalition’). However the effects of the vote on Congress are yet to be seen.

Do I personally think that we should have voted yes to military action in Syria? No. I think it is about time that we realised that just because we may have some degree of power by the size of our Armed Forces it does not mean we have an automatic position as the Worlds Police Force. Not only this, but I think we have to recognise that its simply not possible to solve problems like this with full out military force; it hasn’t worked for use in the last decade, and it wont work here. Saying that however, I do feel that we as human beings have a moral obligation to try and ensure that such heinous crimes as the use of chemical weapons on civilians (or anyone for that matter) are never permitted nor allowed to occur.

To this end, I have no idea what to do about Syria. Its a right old mess.

So. There we have the ramblings on of someone with very few of the real facts and only our (if we are honest) pretty shoddy media to source.

Empire Total War

For those that don’t know, Empire Total War is a turn based strategy game which puts you in command of one of the leading Empire’s of the 1700’s (Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Spain, The Maratha Confederacy ect ect). You then get to expand through Trade, Technology and often War in order to ‘win’ the campaign.

Now, in my latest play-through of the game (I’ve spent over 252 hours playing it – thats about 10 and a half days) I was just minding my own business, expanding the size of British India and building up the newly won colonies of North America when Prussia decides they are going to declare war on me. This shocked myself and a number of members of the British Government as Prussia had been a long time ally of ours and we hadn’t actually come into contact with them since the beginning of the game. So, as a courtesy, I decided to pay them off with a peice of relatively insignificant technology and hope we’d go back to being friends. This did not work. After declaring war on me a further three times, sending their rather pitiful navy to be destroyed by my own, I decided that I was no longer going to pay them off and promptly took over three of their stronger cities and two small ones. Austria tried to get involved but after one crushing defeat decided to leave me to it.

This is what my foreign relations currently looks like (although I have taken all but one of Prussia’s cities and I have also taken Austria’s main city). Something is telling me Britain is not very popular.

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Sometime in the future I’ll do an actual review of the game. Its fantastic. Also expect news on my current play-through for Europe Universallis 3 – its a steep learning curve that’s for sure!