Industrial landscape or green island?

Image may contain: grass, sky, outdoor and nature

If you look really carefully at the skyline in the photo above you will see a line of electricity generating windmills.  In the field are dairy cattle and on the gate is a warning  about a bull and electric fencing.  All these elements got me thinking about the environment.  But don’t believe a word of what I say – the “Beware of the bull” warning applies to my posts too.

I hear a lot of people complaining about windmills in the countryside, and how they are ugly things, and how they ruin the landscape and how they kill birds etc etc etc.  These are the kind of people who look into this field and see nature.  Then they go to the shops and feel very morally superior when they drink soy instead of milk.

I look at this landscape and what I see is a factory.  The field is not natural, it is a creation of man.  The cows are not natural, again we created them through breeding.  There may be a bull in the field but I guarantee he is only servicing the cows that missed out impregnation with the top quality AI sperm.

The windmills in the distance are no less “natural” than any other element in the picture.  The countryside is a factory, a unit of production, an industrial landscape.

There is a balance to be struck.  Hardline vegans say that the dairy industry is engaged in the rape of cows and the forcible kidnapping of their calves.  It is emotive language.  At the extreme conclusion of their philosophy we plant a fraction of the currently farmed land with vegetables, fruits, grains and pulses and the remainder becomes rewilded.  This is a dystopian horror future for farmers.  More importantly for the nation it results in the depopulation of the rural countryside.  If you want a vibrant rural economy there must be jobs.

We have already seen the conclusion of the extreme commercial approach to farming.  Cows so heavy with milk they cannot walk anymore, riddled with infections which are controlled by massive amount of antibiotics.  Meat animals in cramped conditions where diseases are controlled by antibiotics and where hormones are used to accelerate growth.  Widespread use of insectisides, weedkillers and fertilisers that are undoubtedly harming the environment and killing off pollinators.  Destruction of biodiversity in favour of commerical monoculture.

Funilly enough the result of both extremes – High intensity automated commercial farming at one end, and a rewilded vegan world at the other, is rural depopulation.

I believe Ireland can and should lead the world as a Green Food Island.  A place where the most environmentally positive farming practices are the minimum standard.  A place with a reputation for compassion in husbandry.  A country that keeps people in the countryside by valuing less profitable family size farms that provide employment on the land.  And keeps people in the countryside by rewarding the situation of production in the rural infrastructure.

That is a vision of a world in balance.

 

 

 

 

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To Make Someone a Saint.

Image result for glass of powers gold label in pub

The evening sun slanted through the window inscribing a triangle of golden light across my newspaper.  I was struggling with the final clue on the simplex crossword, and this was war!  I don’t mind failing the Crosaire, but I’m in a foul mood if I can’t finish the Simplex by the end of the day.

“To make someone a saint.”  Eight letters.  I thought it was “Sanctify” this morning.  First clue and I was so sure I had it right.  I scan the crossword quickly when I pick up the paper in the morning, read all the clues, allow them to percolate slowly into my brain.  I jot down any obvious answers.

The real challenge comes at lunchtime.  There is the race to finish the Simplex and see if I can crack open the Crosaire, the real brain buster.   If I fail at lunchtime then I sneak in to the local on the way home and try to nail it before dinnertime.

There is a rule at home you see.  Born of the experience of sitting in silence, watching me wrestle with one problem after another, my wife brought out the big guns.  Once I get home the Irish Times becomes a newspaper and only a newspaper.  No crosswords, no puzzles, no Sudoku.

So I face this unfair challenge to complete before I return home.  The challenge sometimes drives me to the local for a drop of golden sunshine in a glass, a Powers Gold Label.  Another family habit passed down to me, father to son, like the crossword.  It drove my mother insane too, but my father boxed clever.  He told her it was an education in the English language, a way to understand words better and a tool for expanding my vocabulary.

So, part of my evening homework was to sit with my father, puzzling out the clues, as he sipped on his glass of Powers.

My oldest child is only five.  When can I decently roll out my dad’s plan?  I figure three, maybe four more years.  But until then what can it be but “sanctify” which does not fit?  The laptop beside me knows the answer.  A matter of seconds to look it up, but that would be cheating.  “You may cheat others but you can’t cheat yourself” my dad always said.

The phone rings in my pocket.  “Hi honey” I answer, “I’m just leaving the office, should be home by six.  Would you like me to pick up anything on the way home?  Bread, milk, bottle of plonk?”

“Who canonised you?  Go on then, but no Chardonnay.”

C-A-N-O-N-I-S-E.  And I didn’t cheat!

Related image

Happy Birthday this guy

Image result for david attenborough

I am quite literally from another age, I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 year period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species we are today.

That stability allowed businesses to grow, nations to co-operate and people to share ideas. In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.” … David Attenborough

 

Human Habitat; by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer. Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential.
The actual is prior to substance.
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood.

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge.
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.
Now what. No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

Mental Health

Blind

Blindboy Boatclub and Mr Chrome: AKA Rubberbandits

I take my mental health advice from a foulmouthed Limerick goul who wears a plastic bag on his head.  It’s much more convenient than Catholic confession and much cheaper than a shrink.

In the process I get to learn a lot about history, politics, sport (he hasn’t a clue), the artistic process, Limerick, words the Corkonians are trying to steal, cocktails, short stories, how to distract Banshees, vaping and backing Jazz.  And that’s just from the first episode.

Home

https://www.patreon.com/theblindboypodcast

The bit about mental health is not a joke.  Pure serious.

Little brown jobs

Gerald-Durrell

Gerald Durrell with a pair of little brown jobs

When he founded Jersey Zoo Gerald Durrell changed the very purpose of the Zoo.  Instead of being an exhibit for the entertainment of the bored public Durrell created a haven for threatened species.  In the process he moved the entire zeitgeist of Zoo Keepers from the entertainment paradigm to a model of study, conservation and preservation of species.

The greatest success for a Durrell style zoo keeper is not the display of animals, but the act of returning them to the wild, to a habitat made safe for them.

Gerald had a special place in his heart for the animals he called “little brown jobs”.  The bored public came to the zoo to see the headliners, the Tigers, the Lions, Elephants, Giraffes, Gorillas and so on.  It is not enough to save the species we admire.  To be true conservationists we must also protect the species that are less exciting, and indeed some that we find truly repulsive.

 

To a Lady, viewed by a Head-Louse; by Denise Riley

I with my triumphant bites
Vex useless human parasites.
You world-devourers are for – what?
“Useful” you yourselves are not.
Refer me, lady, to your Gaia –
My jaws will raise your blush of fire.
When humans pause to think of me
It makes their skin crawl eerily:
“Delusional parasitosis”: infestation
Of purely phantom nits’ gestation.
It’s my sole work to multiply –
The task of ladies to ask “Why
Should such a pointless breed exist?”
Only the entomologist
Admits my “good-for-nothing” species
To own the interest of its faeces
For those can raise allergic wheals
Then mortified parental squeals
Or groans of mums or dads who find
Their darlings’ hair home to my kind,
Each louse egg’s tight-cemented pearl
Superglued to their shampooed girl.
I’ll plant rosettes of telltale red
High on her neck, low on her head
Until your steel rake catches me
Or unguents loose their fatal sea.
Fleas acquire some charming tropes
For amorous fluid-mingling hopes;
Lice? Condemned to Owen’s trench
By reportage of mud-blood stench.
Some sorts are meals for grooming birds
While others have engendered words
Like “lousy”, apt for human speech –
Each head-louse purely is for each.
My species’ world obeys no brief
Of reciprocity – such a relief
Not to claim virtue. Ah, your “rich
Biodiversity”! Makes you itch.
I am for nothing – only to increase
My number, swelling after my decease.
“Purposeless” insects may prove good
For thwarting your delusion that all should
Conform to human dreams of mutual aid –
Presumptuous fantasy we lice downgrade.
Lady, I’d answer Robbie Burns:
Let other species take their turns
And do not keep so dour and mean
Vaunting your old Anthropocene.

Modern Working Life

Hostelworld

Hard at work in Hostelworld

Jobs I did

Lounge boy in McGowans Broadstone Inn

when it was a cabaret.

Lounge boy in Finglas Castle,

not Finglas and never a castle.

Steward on the B&I Line ferries

to Pembroke and Liverpool Docks.

Storeboy in Dunnes Stores

on Georges St. with a blue shop coat.

Attendant in James Connolly Memorial Hospital

cycling to Blanch through Finglas and Dunsink.

 

Clerical Officer in the Dept. of Posts & Telegraphs

a civil servant for 4 months,

then becoming an uncivil servant, Executive, Administrator,

in Telecom Eireann, which became Eircom, and then Eir.

If anyone else buys it I expect it will become E.

 

Senior Scientific Officer in Enterprise Ireland

or Forfás, or Forbairt, or whatever it was called.

Bórd Gais market development manager,

market research manager, heat sales manager.

Leo Burnett Strategic Planner,

I don’t advertise that one.

I donned a robe and a mortar board,

and cultivated the minds of tomorrow,

and more than a few of yesteryear.

 

And then the real work started,

the self employed work,

the contract work,

never a dull moment, never a routine.

Finance today, beer tomorrow,  pass the fags,

sporting clothes, babywear, cooking pots,

pan handling, networking, adding value,

finding syngeries and changing games.

 

I changed the sheets in Hostelworld,

not bedsheets, spreadsheets.

I worked in Waterford for the Canadians,

life in the sun, with Sun Life, was testing,

data testing.

 

Sometimes Project Manager or Senior Business Analyst,

a DQA for the USA an MBA Association Panellist.

You see him here you see him there,

the contract guy is everywhere,

three workplaces in one year,

three job titles in one chair,

dedicated follower of management fashion,

no wonder I have grey hair.

 

Tiles

Real work!

African American Beauty

Black Beauty

199 years old today Anna Sewell is the famous author of Black Beauty, one of the ten best selling childrens novels ever written.  Born to a Quaker family in 1820 in Norfolk in England.

In 1807 the UK parliament passed the Slave Trade Act which banned slave trade but not slave ownership.  In 1833 the UK parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act which banned slavery in the British Empire.  Sewell lived to see the emancipation proclamation in the USA in 1863.  She also lived long enough to see the Jim Crow laws passed in the USA ushereing in an age of apartheid to replace the age of slavery.

As a child growing up in Ireland in the 1960’s and 1970’s I was oblivious to the problems with the word “Black”.  In that Ireland we did not have black people.  Irish people left this island for opportunity abroad, nobody came here.

Besides, in the Irish language the black man “An Fear Dubh” is a nickname for the Devil.  People with black skin were called Fir Goirme (Blue men).

Over time we have seen people struggle with how to address the issue of skin colour.  The word Negro has fallen out of fashion, and yet the “N” word is used prolifically in Hip-Hop culture when people of colour refer to each other.  It is only banned in the mouths of whites.

People of colour.  African-american.  Black african.  They are all terms with issues.  I heard a white American refer to a Black British work colleague as “African-American” and the British guy laughed when he heard.  He said “I’m neither African nor American mate, I come from Birmingham”.

British black people, who were emancipated in the 19th century, appear to have fewer hangups than Americans.  Ditto for the French black population.  As far back as WW1 American Negroes who wanted to fight had to enlist with Canadian or French regiments.  Those who enlisted with the French were astounded when they were treated as equals.

Black americans have never been treated as equals and quite rightly struggle with the word black.  Black carries many negative connotations in the English language. Gloomy, dirty, angry, evil and wicked are all meanings of black.  White by contrast represents purity, cleanliness, goodness, honesty, all the good stuff.

So the word black has developed many deep and symbolic meanings.  Black power.  Black lives matter.  Black and proud.  Blacksploitation.

I suspect if Anna Sewell wrote her book today the publisher might toy with the title.  After all there is no “official” colour for horses that is black.  A black horse is usually either a Grey or a Bay or even a very dark Chestnut.  After all, look at the problems caused by the name of a dog in the Dam Busters movie.  It has caused huge difficulties with a remake.  It raises the important question: “Do we change historical facts to assuage modern PC sensibilities?”  The danger is that we begin to rewrite history to suit modern attitudes, and that leads us to a 1984 dystpoia of alternative facts and post-truth.