I've been incensed by the news that seagulls are being culled in various towns and cities across the UK for being a 'nuisance'. This just illustrates the idiocy of people I'm afraid. Rather than rejoice in the fact that we can experience these majestic wild birds up close, some ridiculous people label them a menace. If you are going to have an ice cream on the promenade (which is within the gull's natural territory after all), then you should expect to provoke the interest of the birds. For goodness sake, it's not rocket science – you wouldn't go into the Serengeti with a joint of beef and complain that you were being attacked by lions.
The various species of gull, whether it's Herring Gulls or the Lesser Black Backed variety, are coming to live in closer proximity to us only because there is an opportunity provided by us for them to thrive. This move to our towns and cities is also thought to be a result of overfishing, by man, in the gulls' traditional feeding grounds out at sea.
So a gull, being a resourceful bird, may show an interest in your food at the seaside.
What do you expect? To see them queueing up at Greggs for a pastie? And while a gull may well have its eye on your fish and chips as you sit looking out to sea, bear in mind that both the Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls are protected species, not only that but both are in serious decline, the former having fallen to 50% of its pre-1970 population.
How can anyone in their right mind think about culling them? It's just another sign of the stupidity and feeble-mindedness of the human race. And it makes me sad and angry.
The same prejudice happened long ago with pigeons, another bird of which I am very fond.
For those who don't know, a quick history of the town pigeon:
They are all descendants of the Rock Dove (Columba livia); originally inhabiting coastal cliffs, they were domesticated by man thousands of years ago primarily as a food source. Apart from the fact that they are eaten the world over, pigeons played a huge part in both World Wars, carrier pigeons saving hundreds of human lives. Many were awarded honours for their service to mankind. Impressive isn't it?
Feral pigeons, the ones we see in our towns and cities, are descendants of these very same birds.
I have huge admiration for pigeons and it breaks my heart when I see the way ignorant people treat them. These wonderful creatures have adapted to life in and around human habitation with a steely instinct for survival against the odds. When I witness people treating them with cruelty, chasing them, kicking them, screaming like fools when a pigeon flies by them, it makes my blood boil. In spite of the effort some councils invest in trying to eradicate them, pigeons continue to survive in our midst, against the odds. But in fact feral Pigeons are not all that common, there are only 100,000 breeding pairs in the UK compared to 4,000,000 pairs of blackbirds (source: pigeonrescue.co.uk).
The reason they live alongside mankind is primarily due to the waste that people leave for them to feed on. If not for the grubby individuals leaving litter on our streets then the pigeons would have no reason to be there. Half eaten pasties and discarded burger wrappers are the reason that pigeons proliferate in towns. Don't blame the pigeons, blame the low life humans that litter our streets. Indeed looking around the town centre in my neighbourhood, I can truthfully say that I would prefer the pigeons to some of the people....
I was hugely honoured recently when two pigeons decided to roost under the eaves just outside my office. I would see them return each night and settle down together, watching me through the window as I sat writing at my desk. Alas, they didn't stay long, moving on to pastures new. I miss them. Still now I look for them as the sun goes down in case they have returned but their little space under the eaves remains empty.
'the two of them hold tight, together,
huddled, still and watching me,
sheltered from the raging weather,
praying that I will let them be.'
As an independent environmentalist, there is one important lesson I've learnt from recent experience - it is not to align myself with any political party.
Politics and conservation do not make good bedfellows.
The problem I've found since exploring and writing about my feelings on the environment is that without exception an element of politics creeps in, usually covertly, and hijacks the good work that people do.
There ends up being so much conflict within environmentalism that all the good work begins to unravel through division. One conservation group begins to oppose another, each competing for the greenest label.
There is only one form of true conservation – that is simply to conserve the environment.
My vocal opposition to wind farms might appear to fly in the face of 'green' thinking, given that wind projects are backed by many 'green' groups, Greenpeace, the Green Party, Friends Of The Earth to name but three. And yet their support for such an obvious racket can only mean one of two things: they must either be part of the moneymaking con themselves or they have been hoodwinked by the wind companies and their deceitful propaganda.
And if the latter then can we really trust their judgement anyway?
Sometimes a mainstream political party or two may back an environmental protest but please make no mistake, they are still part of the problem.
Conservation of the environment is a simple philosophy, it doesn't require the involvement of political parties.
By all means use the politicians to further your cause in high places – but don't let them use you!
The HS2 protests which I back wholeheartedly, HS2 being the biggest folly of our times, has been hijacked by politics too. On to the bandwagon have jumped the Green Party – but where are they when it comes to opposing wind farms? They criticise one form of environmental destruction while actively promoting another. When politics begins to control genuine citizen protest then we have a problem. Some good folks opposing one form of countryside desecration may, because of the propaganda being put out by the organisation or party that 'sponsors' their particular protest, feel obliged to follow the party line and ignore another real threat to the environment somewhere else.
There is no choice between good or bad when it comes to environmental destruction, it's all bad. Any scheme that harms the countryside or our wildlife should be resisted. Many will go ahead, some can be halted. But don't let's all go off in different directions turning a blind eye to one scheme just because our organisation says it's okay or a necessary evil.
It's a mess. That's why I resolutely refuse to be swayed by political involvement in conservation. It is never a good thing, there are always strings attached. People, ordinary people like you and I, are more than capable of speaking out and protesting without being beholden to one or more 'green' organisation run by people who seem to think they know better than the rest of us.
I urge people to go with their instincts and intuition. We all know when our countryside is threatened and by what. Almost without exception, development in our rural landscape comes down to money. Whether it's plans for high speed rail links gouging through our forests to save half an hour on a train journey or wind farms destroying our countryside and coast under the 'green' banner while raking in big money for big wind companies. The end result is the same, our beautiful and essential rural environment gone, forever.
So my plea today to all the amazing people out there speaking out and protesting against the many threats to our environment – listen to your hearts and minds and not the politicians and organizations that are trying to divide you into scattered groups.
One environment. One aim.
We're in this one together.
I think that the reason I've been speaking out against HS2, wind farms and similarly calamitous projects is because I don't want to look back in years to come having sat there, said nothing and thereby given my consent to the wholesale destruction of our countryside. Regret is a bitter pill and as Albert Einstein said “If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.”
The brave people who have been camping out in the path of the HS2 developers are an example to us all of positive environmental action and we owe them a debt of gratitude whether or not they succeed in delaying or halting work on the route.
My own contribution is not hands on but, through writing about the current disregard for our ever shrinking countryside, I hope to at least reach a few people who may not have hitherto realised the extent of the destruction these schemes are threatening to wreak in our landscape.
I'm in my fifties now and even in my lifetime I have seen a dramatic decline in the nature around me that has been very noticeable and shocking.
In my youth I remember vast flocks of lapwings, starlings and greenfinches. Even just outside suburban Liverpool where we then lived, I recall encounters with partridge and rabbits on a daily basis and there were trees, fully grown majestic old trees, before the days when councils began to cut them back within an inch of their lives, and importantly a reverence for such trees and nature at large, something that no longer seems to exist in the wider population.
I think that's the problem. A majority of people appear to have lost a connection with nature and no longer appreciate that our own existence depends on maintaining a delicate balance between us and the rest of the world around us.
For me anyway, the culling of badgers, the hunting of foxes and the careless wrecking of habitat for creatures such as the hedgehog are all signs that we as a society no longer appreciate the wonders of nature and this apathy leads to developers having free rein over what happens to our countryside, with few willing to challenge them.
When society loses respect for, and becomes detached from, the natural world then disaster lurks around the corner.
HS2 and other projects are bumbling ahead without any regard for the environment and the wildlife that will be decimated in the process. The ancient and delicate balance between mankind and nature is being ignored and in its place there's a callous disregard for the importance of protecting and conserving our native wildlife.
With nearly a hundred ancient woodlands under threat from HS2 alone and countless more imperilled by other plans such as road building and thoughtlessly placed power stations, pylons and the ubiquitous wind turbines, we stand to lose what little remains of the natural environment in this country. There are alternatives which may cost more financially but would pay us back handsomely in preserving and nurturing a healthy and diverse flora and fauna.
Perhaps though, as I mentioned, the most disheartening thing of all is that apparently people don't care. I was lucky to grow up with huge regard for nature. To me the natural world, the flowers, trees, the wildlife - it was magical and something awe inspiring. Still now to see a hedgehog out on a warm autumn evening is a beautiful thing, albeit, alas, a rare privilege. It still thrills me to stand in the midst of a flock of seagulls, feeding them as they whirl above and around me. I've heard that some councils are considering culling seagulls because tourists have complained that they are a 'nuisance'! What is going on?! Will majestic seagulls face the same disdain that some ignorant people have for pigeons, one of the few species that have been able to adapt quickly enough to survive against mans' best efforts to eradicate them?
Now it seems that roads, cars and crazy plans for high speed railways have dulled the senses of much of the population. The wonder and inspiration that the natural world has given us for millennia is all but forgotten.
I have to consider the possibility that here in the UK it may be too late to turn back the clock. The news from Germany that there has been a 75% decline in insect populations over the past fifty years will surely also be reflected here in the UK.
It seems that we may end up living in a sterile world where grey replaces green and where nobody really cares.
A world littered with redundant wind turbines that didn't succeed at anything apart from exterminating birds and bats and where offshore wind banks lured whales to their deaths on litter-strewn shores.
A world where high speed trains run half empty along tracks that take people from one urban conurbation to another unnecessarily quickly across desolate landscapes and where roads cut swathes through lifeless land where ancient forests and meadows used to support diverse species.
When man has finally extinguished the magic, then what?
There will be no wonder, no simple pleasures and no magical discoveries.
For there will be nothing but mankind left.
And then there will be nothing.
Watch anything spinning around for long enough and you're sure to go nuts and/or become mesmerized into submission. Evidently this is what has happened with a large section of society who have bought into the nonsense spewed out by pro-wind supporters.
As I've asserted on many occasions, wind power is farcical but worse has caused untold, irreversible damage to the environment. Not bad for something peddled as 'green' is it?
But one of the questions I've been asked several times since 'coming out' as an anti-wind farm lobbyist has been "okay smartarse, what would be your answer to the energy crisis?". Until now I haven't been able to confidently come up with a response but now I'm going to say it.... I'm pro-nuclear.
I have to tell you that saying this out loud is usually met with gasps of disbelief. The propaganda put out by anti nuclear campaigners has resulted in a public reaction of horror whenever the 'nuclear' word is mentioned. And it's not without reason, one only has to think of Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi to realise that nuclear accidents may be rare but they are devastating when they happen. If anything positive has come out of these events, it is that lessons have, we hope, been learnt from them and that today's nuclear power plants are much much safer places. Nuclear as it stands is not totally sustainable. Mining uranium and storing or processing nuclear waste are huge issues that have yet to be successfully tackled.
But my pro-nuclear argument is two-fold. Firstly the footprint of a nuclear power plant is tiny compared with the vast swathes of countryside and coast that are taken up with inefficient wind farms and secondly that nuclear energy is extremely efficient in that a nuclear power station generally produces energy for 90% of the time it is operating, with no, that is zero, emission of greenhouse gases.
I am extremely disappointed that all the money poured into subsidising wind power (and ultimately producing a ridiculously incompetent energy source) could have been spent investing in new nuclear technology and research that is sure to produce results. Thorium as a fuel in place of uranium, together with molten salt based reactors, are considered by many to be viable, safer, economical alternatives to the current methods of nuclear power production and, although some countries are actively working on research into these alternatives, I question why the UK and many other advanced countries have taken the wacky wind power route, which will inevitably lead us down a dead end street with no turning back from the hideous physical and mental scars the turbines are leaving across our once beautiful countryside and communities.
I do not in any way claim to be scholarly in this subject, my loathing of wind farms has just led me to consider the alternatives and still, for me, the best we have at the moment is nuclear. If we can invest heavily in nuclear research, I think we can safely assume, based on historical human innovation, that we will come up with a safer, more efficient and renewable method of producing energy from nuclear reaction.
And in spite of the 'green' anti-nuclear, pro-wind message that is predominant, it is worth remembering that some high profile former supporters of the green movement have since rejected the unachievable and ignorant ideals of the greens. They include the former president of Greenpeace Canada, Patrick Moore who has been quoted as saying that the movement has "abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism”. This rings very true with me. And renowned environmentalist and scientist James Lovelock has also voiced his support for nuclear energy even though he describes himself as a 'green'. He has suggested that the green movement is rife with corruption.
And thereby hangs another potential concern. Corruption. Because it seems today that corruption, money making tactics and deceptions are muddying the water when it comes to research. While big business, and it has to be said politics, are so influential in the field, I worry that genuine concern for the environment and indeed the future of mankind is being put at risk in the wake of those making a quick buck with propaganda disguised as 'green' ethics.
One thing is certain, those selling us the green dream neither have the planet's welfare at heart – nor any ethics.... and if we decide to rely on their distorted vision for our future and the future of the planet then perhaps we can only blame ourselves when the wind farms grind to a halt and we find ourselves at the end of the last road, signposted oblivion.
Is the Government wearing rose tinted spectacles? Or are they purposely covering their ears and eyes so as not to hear and see the protests to the debacle that is HS2?
Because once again, the point of the protesters has been missed, whether by intention or just ignorance.
I received a Government communication today in response to a petition I signed against the HS2 rail project.
The empty words are a stunning example of tunnel vision (no pun intended) and a self obsessed determination to push through with this hugely expensive and environmentally destructive white elephant of a plan with total disregard for the genuine concerns of citizens nationwide who are opposing the project.
In the shockingly smug reply, not a single reference is made to any point of opposition. The whole communication reads like an advertisement for HS2 and vaguely attempts to allay concerns with words that read like a promotional brochure extolling the claimed virtues of this environmental disaster-in-the-making written by someone looking through some pollyanna, rose-tinted spectacles. Are we supposed to just accept this claptrap?
Let me quote from the message which fails to address a single question put forward by anxious citizens who deserve a better and less patronising response.
“....Opening in 2026, the HS2 network will serve towns and cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Crewe, Nottingham, Derby, York and Newcastle....” Really? Liverpool for example isn't even on the current HS2 map which may be just as well given the destruction that HS2 is creating in its path as it winds its way across the country.
“HS2 is a major investment but an essential one. HS2’s total budget is £55.7bn.....We are keeping a tough grip on costs and are determined to deliver HS2 on time and on budget...”
Yes, well we've heard all that before haven't we? Do they think we are that naïve as to think these things ever come in on budget? Some projected estimates have suggested that the cost could in fact exceed £100bn, money that most of us think would be better invested in the National Health Service than on some madcap rail project that may reduce journey times by half an hour.
“Benefits to the North”.....
perhaps things like destruction of ancient woodlands and demolition of residential housing?
“By 2020, as a result of this ambitious and comprehensive upgrade, passengers will benefit from faster and more comfortable journeys...”
at what cost? Train fares are already too expensive for many people, making rail travel increasingly unaffordable.
Can we please have some proper responses to the genuine worries over the destruction of our countryside and wildlife? And what of the businesses and houses that will be lost in the wake of this biggest of white elephants.
Can you at least give us the courtesy of a direct reply to these questions instead of the mumbo jumbo promotional guff that you considered to be an adequate reply to the petition?
A poem inspired by an encounter with a homeless travelling man....
we should really count our blessings, this could be someone we know....or any one of us.
He told me not to hesitate, to follow all my dreams,
For time is short he said to me, it isn't as it seems,
you may think that the years are long but sunny days are few,
So always seek another sky when clouds obscure the view.
He told me of his life and loves, his passions and romances
Before the winds of fate and time had smothered all his chances.
He listened to my questions and he answered those he could
His eyes betrayed an empathy that showed he understood.
He sought to reassure me that my doubts would set me free,
that they were just an echo of the man that I could be.
And then he started crying as he told me of his fears
And I saw my life reflected in the mirror of his tears.
And he quietly made me promise not to follow him that day,
He gave a sigh, a wave goodbye -
and then he walked away.
© Jason Endfield 2017. All rights reserved.
Whenever my birthday rolls around, I find myself reflecting on the years that have come and gone and the changes that I've seen. That, and anticipating the coming year and what might lay in store.
But what I've found is that getting older really does bring with it a mixed bag of experiences and revelations.
When I wake up in the mornings now I find I have a stiff neck, a sore back and occasionally a headache – but at least I have actually woken up...
Some of the things that used to mean little to me now mean more, for example I used to laugh in the face of cushions and now I see them as a boon. They're comfortable and I like them. It's a sign no doubt of getting old and it both worries and pleases me - which sums up the contradictions that come with getting on a bit.
I realise now what is important in life, getting out there and living – only it takes a whole load of extra effort and planning to get out there and live. One has to plan more, especially when it comes to toilets. The wanderlust that arrives with getting older brings with it the need to know where the toilets will be on the next adventure. Camping is a no-no, I don't want to poo in a field and even where there are toilet blocks, the days of me sharing facilities are long gone. Been there, done that. Now I want some privacy. Nobody wants to see any part of me uncovered. Ehem.
Getting older does have some benefits of course. A little while ago I was offered a seat at the bus stop by a charming young man (you see I've even started talking like an old person). That was nice. What worries me is that I accepted his kind offer and as I sat down I sighed, one of those 'ahh good to take the weight off my feet' kind of sighs that old people do. I was shocked at myself and stood back up abruptly as if trying to prove that I was offended at the very thought of someone thinking of me as senior. I mean, really, how dare they?
Where I especially notice getting older though is when I go out at night, which I still do on occasion, doggedly pursuing my youth as it disappears off down the street and into the distance.
I used to enjoy 'dancing myself dizzy' at the disco (a 1980 reference there for anyone old enough to remember Liquid Gold's smash hit record) and now I see the poignant truth in the lyrics as I literally dance myself dizzy – and then I need to have a little sit down in a quiet corner, away from those booming loud speakers as I gather myself together, while the rooms spins.
So I still get a head rush when I dance but these days it's without any need for poppers, now it just happens naturally, while the lights flashing to the music do tend to bring on a migraine.
I have turned into one of those old codgers who I used to see and feel sorry for, the ones who huddle together at a table, nursing a pint, watching the younguns gyrating on the dancefloor, 'remembering when'. Now in their faces I see me. Scary.
And, alas, I've finally given up on some of the dreams I nurtured in my youth.
Will I ever ride coast to coast across America on a Harley Davidson? Possibly not.
And I'm probably not going to ascend Everest unless they install a cable car.
But I'm still stubbornly keeping other dreams alive....
For example I do still want to fill Carnegie Hall, performing to an audience of fans after my album of Greatest Hits reaches number one - worldwide.
And I want to humbly bow in front of a standing ovation after my new show debuts on Broadway. The critics will love it and I will be the toast of New York.
In my head, those things still seem possible.
Meanwhile I will toast myself with my current tipple, a large Vodka with a Gaviscon chaser, and remember what I can of the past while looking ahead to the future.
I have given up on trying to fathom out what life is all about. I have come to the rather excellent conclusion that it is about nothing, it makes no sense at all so why worry?
Now if you'll excuse me I have dreams to chase.
Travel writer Bill Bryson pointed out that “Britain still has the most reliably beautiful countryside of anywhere in the world. I would hate to be part of the generation that allowed that to be lost."
That is why I speak out against thoughtless development in the British landscape, whether it be HS2, badly located power stations and pylons - or the relentless march of the utterly appalling wind turbines.
At least I can say that I voiced my concerns and didn't quietly stand by and let it happen with my consent....
And those not-so-green developers are at it again.......'renewable' energy companies championing their schemes and missing the whole point of just why there is local opposition to their plans to desecrate the countryside...
One example I came across will affect a beautiful and unspoilt part of the Border country, between Scotland and England. The area is being earmarked for a particularly intrusive new wind farm development at Cliffhope, near the small town of Hawick.
But what is especially galling is that the developer is referring to this proposed farm as a 'community windfarm' even though the local community seems to be wholly against the project which involves plans to erect 46 turbines each up to 200m in height. All of this amid the most picturesque scenery and in a peaceful, quiet landscape that has probably remained unchanged for centuries.
Local residents are outraged at the scheme which has been labelled as “horrendous” by their local council who also pointed out that it is “not remotely sympathetic to the local surroundings”.
And yet the developer refers to it as a 'community windfarm' as if it had the interests of the local community at its very core. They maintain that the farm will bring benefits of around £2m for the area during the course of it's lifespan – but I think they are missing the point - they just don't seem to understand that for many of the locals this is not about money, this is about preserving a landscape that will be destroyed by such a scheme. No amount of money can compensate for that.
And that's the trouble with these renewable energy companies and developers, they only see the picture in terms of money. They don't appear able to comprehend that there is more to life – a local, rural way of life – than financial gain. No amount of financial compensation can, or will, ever replace the untouched countryside that is obliterated by the determined onslaught of these wind companies both here in the UK and internationally. Until they realise that local people can not and will not be bought with financial incentives and until local councils and governments begin to act on behalf of, and in the best interests of, the communities they represent, then these companies will continue to bulldoze their way across our unspoilt countryside without remorse, relentlessly and callously wrecking the environment as they rake in large profits.
So when Bill Bryson says that he would hate to be part of the generation that allowed the British countryside to be lost, I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I will continue to voice my opposition to the spread of industrialisation in our rural areas - including the expansion of wind farms, a destructive and anti-environmental source of energy.
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