Posts Tagged ‘Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands.’

Call for evidence: Parliamentary debate on Driven Grouse Shooting.

September 23, 2016

Readers who are able to manage to keep up with the pace surrounding the complex and controversial ‘discussion’ around Driven Grouse Shooting will be aware that the long awaited date for Parliament to hear evidence on the issue has been released.

Tuesday 18 October 2016, will see Dr Mark Avery and Jeff Knot of the RSPB offer robust evidence for the case to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting whilst, as yet un-named representatives from the Countryside Alliance and the Moorland Association will offer evidence that the sport should not be banned.  Why are the names of those supporting driven grouse shooting not named?

The Parliamentary website is also inviting submissions to be sent to that same Committee Inquiry:

Scope of the inquiry (terms of reference)

The Petitions Committee has decided to hear evidence about grouse shooting before a debate in Parliament.

The Committee would also welcome written contributions from people who want to share their expertise on this subject. In particular, the Committee would welcome evidence on the following points:

  • Should the law on grouse shooting be changed? If so, how?
  • What effect does grouse shooting have on wildlife and the environment?
  • What role does grouse shooting play in rural life, especially the rural economy?

The website also provides links to the two epetitions on their site, one which has achieved this ‘discussion’ the other which seeks to “Protect grouse Moors and grouse shooting”.  There is also the opportunity to link through to the Countryside Alliance paper which extols the virtues of grouse shooting and its many (perceived) benefits.  As with much of the marketing material provided by pro driven grouse shooting and therefore intensive upland moorland management, it does not provide any validated or peer reviewed science to underpin the claims.  Perhaps they will be made available in due course?

Anyone willing or able to submit evidence to the Inquiry is invited to do so and has until Wednesday 5 October to do so.  Click here for more details.

As more information becomes available on the issue we will update the blog.  Particularly the list of MPs who will be provided with (we assume) the written submissions and then hear the oral evidence on 18 October.

To date the only list made available relates to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation, see here.  It is interesting to note, perhaps, that the secretariat is provided by the BASC.  The Chairman is Geoffrey Clinton-Brown) Con. (The Cotswolds).  As well as supporting the Govt position on bTB he also opposes the ban on snares.  It maybe that as the Chairman he will hold a neutral view on matters placed before the group, it may be that as Chair he is required to act with impartiality?  It would seem that the Vice-Chair Lord Cunningham of Felling has more experience in environmental politics?

Please, those of you who signed the petition (and even if you didn’t but wish you had) write to your constituency MPs* asking for them to make your views known.  All MPs are entitled to attend the Inquiry (currently there are 650, so if each were to be given a 10 minute slot then the Inquiry would need around 108 & 1/2 hours, so approaching three weeks?  We have one of our Humberhead Levels MPs prepared to attend the debate, diary commitments permitting.  We are grateful for the letter received back from The Rt Hon Andrea Leasom MP on the issue. We are informed by the SoS that “grouse shooting” delivers “water regulation and carbon storage” services.  We will seek clarification on those claims, particularly set against the costs of utility company treatment of water to remove sediments and colour from the drinking supply.  Similarly the costs through the public purse of restoration projects in the uplands where management has damaged deep peat through burning etc.

See a recent post where details of a Durham University study condemns upland burning as a management practice. See also the link below:

A modelling study and investigation into how annual burning on the Walshaw Moor estate may affect high river flows in Hebden Bridge.”

A well researched and referenced critique of the sport is available, and there is also a paperback version, which contains an update chapter.

Inglorious front cover

* To find your MP visit TheyWorkForYou.

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Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Land Management & Issues

September 9, 2016

Day One of the Sheffield Conference “Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Land Management & Issues” yielded an interesting selection of quotes across a range of speakers.

It has to be said that there was certainly selective quotes used by some to try to further their particular case(s), but ever the case when politics enters the arena at the expense of robust facts?  There were plenty of placatory sound bytes but also some excellent talks based on studies, so a collection of thought provoking offerings.  Tomorrow promises more but in the interim dear readers could you match the quotes to the speakers?

Day One speakers are listed at the bottom of this post.  Please note that I have not provided a quote from each, some speakers have more than one quote offered here and not all speakers are quoted.  Answers to execsec@thmcf.org 

“Love these moors with a passion”:  A member of the RSPB and who recognised the work of Moors for the future on the most degraded moorland [locally].  Mentioned the RSPBs withdrawal from the Hen Harrier Action Plan.  That the challenge is clear now and that whilst politicians prefer consensus, grouse shooting is now in the ‘last chance saloon’ and a precursor to any compromise is that the illegal killing has to stop.

Chris Packham was described as “talking out of his a**e” because of his view that it’s about the science.

“A junior keeper acting on his own” [referring to a recent pole trap incident].

“It was an utter disgrace” and “it really is despicable” [reference to illegal activity].

“Everything done to date had not produced anything” [reference to the decades of seeking consensus and compromise].

Referring to the southern re-introduction “sourced birds would not be from northern England but European and the programme would follow IUCN guidelines”.  

“Government has made it clear that it will not ban it [DGS], or licence it, but it will back the  Defra six point plan”.

“It’s a trial, [but only] when the threshold is reached”.

I did ask the Natural England representative (Policy) later what that threshold was, but …. guess what, so watch this space perhaps?

“A lot of moorland land managers are signed up all ready to be receptor moors, many would be honoured to have hen harriers on their land”.

Paid tribute to Mark Avery’s “Juggernaut”.

“Scotland are ahead of England as they have Vicarious Liability”.

“Vicarious Liability has so far not been allowed in England”. 

The fact that the Minister refusing to consider this option was himself a grouse moor owner might have been a factor in this issue?

Day One speakers:

Angela Smith MP, Steve Redpath (Uni. of Aberdeen), Stephen Murphy (NE), Adrian Jowitt (NE), Philip Merricks (H&OT), Pat Thompson (RSPB), Adam Smith (GWCT), Alan Charles (former Derbyshire PCC) and Mark Avery (Inglorious).

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Who should get the right to kill this?  A Hen Harrier to feed its young or shooters for a hobby?  Image (with permission): Tim Melling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uplands, raptors, badgers, campaign updates and Short-winged Coneheads.

August 26, 2016

Last Friday at Rutland Water listening to inspirational campaigners and naturalists.  Today back on the moors.

160826 S&C Moors hrk 347 web

The first bird of the day was a Hobby, a fantastic little falcon who breed here and then depart for their winter quarters in Africa in September.  We were fortunate with perhaps four birds seen including a juvenile.  They are aerial masters and easily take sizable dragonflies on the wing and can be seen eating their catch in the air or from a perch.  Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were the other raptors seen.

Waders were evident with Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Snipe in good numbers as well as Lapwing on the exposed margins of pools.

The intriguing observation of the day was of a female Short-winged Conehead, spotted on the car window as I crawled along Limestone Road – where had it heralded from?  The curved sickle shaped ovipositor a good identification indicator and distinguishes it from C. discolor (Long-winged Conehead).  Records of this species are uncommon in Yorkshire but understood to be increasing although there is no mention on the YNU website of any occurrence on Thorne Moors.

SWConehead MW 160826 webConocephalus dorsalis: Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN UPDATES

Readers having signed the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting are asked to follow this up by contacting their MPs about the possible Parliamentary debate on the issue.  Obviously bespoke letters are best but for useful pointers and guidance see Mark Avery’s ‘Firm Briefings’

Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Conservation, Land Management & Issues

Friday 9 & Saturday 10 September 2016: Sheffield. 

For more information see here

 

Another equally controversial topic is that of the ongoing Badger Cull which is to be rolled out to other areas.  One of the excellent but equally frustrating talks at last week’s Birdfair was that given by Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive of the Badger Trust.  This small but incredibly energetic organisation has led the campaign opposed to the unscientific Badger Cull.  Badgered to Death is a compelling read, but it is also a horror story in so much as it provides a critique of failure by Government to address the real causes of the bTB outbreaks.  Bad enough that Badgers are illegally baited against dogs, that they are now demonised by Government who have discarded their own scientific evidence and ignored their own veterinary advisers for what?  Slaughtering badgers in a cruel, inhumane and astonishingly expensive way has failed to address the spread of the disease, failed to help farmers combat the disease of cattle, that is to say bovine Tuberculosis.

Any blog reader with an interest in the Badger Cull / bTB issue is recommended to read Dyer’s critique of the sorry saga as it contains much useful background and brings focus to failure to underpin policy with evidence.

B2D

A reminder too that Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands is now available in paperback and has an additional chapter providing an update to the campaign to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting’s progress.

BBC to investigate Packham ….

August 9, 2016

It is not that long since there was a call for Packham to be sacked by the BBC and an online petition set up seeking support for this proposal, it reached 5,031 signatures  (see https://www.change.org/p/bbc-chris-pacham-is-on-nearly-every-bbc-wildlife-program-he-s-anti-shooting-and-not-impartial).   Interestingly this epetition is still open and has added 26 signatures since I last checked it.  Conversely  another online petition (which is now closed) was set up asking the BBC to retain Packham’s services and this one passed 80,000 (see https://www.change.org/p/bbc-don-t-sack-chris-packham)  doesn’t that tell you something?

In excess of 80,000 people expressed support for Packham’s campaigning stance, after all argued many, he wasn’t actually employed by the BBC rather he was occasionally contracted to deliver popular television viewing.

So what’s this latest episode about?

BBC News offers an insight with selective quotes,  John Vidal‘s piece “Countryside Alliance urges BBC to sack Chris Packham in conservation row” written in September 2015 offers background to the latest attempt to gag passionate conservationists. Listen to Tim Bonner (erroneously describing Packham as an employee) call for his sacking subsequent to his  article in September 2015 edition of BBC Wildlife Magazine.  Bonner (CEO Countryside Alliance) says Packham was pursuing “obsessive crusades” and that the BBC was printing “blatant political propaganda”.  Read for yourself, extremist?

The recent on line petition, Don’t sack Chris Packham, set up two days ago  has already passed 14,500 signatories.  Do the BBC Trust really want another public backlash?  The licence fee payers clearly see Packham as value for their fees?  The BBC Trust is a public body and subject to scrutiny, one assumes it operates a transparent modus operandi?

It is also interesting perhaps to consider other recent words used, recall …. The Rt Honourable Sir Nicholas Soames MP retweeted that Packham was a ‘nut job’ after his autobiography Fingers in the Sparkle Jar revealed he had Asperger’s Syndrome.  The then Prime Minister Cameron informed us that “Mr Soames is a backbench Member of Parliament and all backbench MPs are free to express views that do not necessarily reflect official position of their party or of the Government”.  Interpret those words as you wish?

Are these two instances examples of a disconnect with the public?  Perhaps we’re biased but robust science should prevail and I’m oft reminded of a piece of advice I was given by “The guardian of the Yorkshire Landscape” the late Stephen Warburton many years ago …. “always be courteous to your enemies, it infuriates them”.  What is gained from ‘tasteless and offensive’ dialogue, media will love the sound-bites but how will history report it?

We ask you readers to consider signing the second edition of “Don’t sack Chris Packham” petition via the 38 degrees website here.

Ban driven grouse shooting as supported by Chris Packham, Bill Oddie, Mark Avery and others is delightfully picking up pace, currently 80,654 …. will it reach the magic figure by Friday: the Inglorious 12th?  Will it get there by the following weekend, the Birdfair at Rutland Water?  What we must do is make sure it reaches 100,000 by 20 September so then according to the petition website, “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament” ….

It’s not just about shooting, but land management which has been shown to exacerbate flooding, cause issue with water quality, muir burning damages sensitive areas for the benefit of a single species which is required to be available in high densities …. you’ve heard it all before, and from a variety of sources.  An excellently researched critique Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands is available now as an updated paperback edition.  If the facts were not true then I suspect we’d be reporting a pending court case.

To hear a reasoned case, watch a video which offers bite sized chunks of information about land management practices which are required to support driven grouse shooting.

Inglorious front cover

Wildlife and the natural environment is under threat, it needs those of us who care about it to speak out.  It needs robust science and evidence to underpin our case and remember those other wise words “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then … you win” [attributed to Ghandi but not verified].  If we are to hand it in a better state to future generations then we need collaborative critical mass to challenge the attrition which is destroying so much.

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2016 – resolved or resolute?

January 2, 2016

Should New Year Resolutions be a personal issue or can organisations take them up?  Perhaps organisations call them Business Reviews, wonder what politicians call them?

The author of this post decided to start the year proactively and whilst not a serious NYD list, a few species of note were recorded making the short excursion worthwhile and carbon neutral by virtue of cycling ….

Stunning views of two Short-eared Owls hunting over arable grassland reverting to scrub, very wet and waterlogged in the lower areas of the field, ideal small mammal habitat.

Short-eared Owl Image copyright: Tim Melling

Short-eared Owl
Image copyright: Tim Melling

The same field, in a drier area, provided a sheltered microhabitat for Viola arvensis or field pansy, something agri-industrialists would consider a weed.  But on a cool ‘winter’ day quiet delightful.

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year's Day 2016

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year’s Day 2016

So, in terms of ‘New Year Resolutions’ that ticked the

*Get out more and enjoy the wildlife / spend ‘moor’ time out in the field recording findings,

*Reduce carbon footprint (including continued *cutting back on ‘commercial’ meat),

Which leaves:

*Focus on a couple of key ‘conservation’ themes to ‘campaign’ on, research them thoroughly to ensure up to speed with the current science involved to underpin case.  Topical issues at the moment might include climate change and what better example to use than the recent flooding episodes and the role of the various agencies and drainage boards?    The use of and impact of neonictinoids on pollinators?  Equally topical might be fracking?  It might be badger culls or illegal persecution of raptors (particularly Hen Harriers)?  In case any reader hasn’t signed the epetition ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ then that might be a topic to consider?  Management of upland moors (burning) for grouse has been shown to be damaging for water supplies as well as other eco-system services, see Leeds University’s EMBER Report Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins.  For background reading an informative and well researched book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands provides a good understanding and a starting point for further investigation into a sport which has cost implications for all tax payers.

*Enter into ‘regular’ correspondence with a variety of ‘people’.  Ministers, Defra officers, media, MEPs, MPs, local councillors etc.  Write a minimum of one letter a month to relevant MP / Minister (ial Department).

*I suppose we might / should also consider taking up ‘Twitter (ing)‘?  I recall an audience being told, or at least those who didn’t  to ‘get over it’ and effectively get on with it …. whilst I recognise the gains made through the use of ‘Social Media’ I’m not entirely convinced that it is something for us, but ever an agnostic?  Rural internet is sadly still none existent in parts of God’s own county and its hinterlands, so blogging isn’t as easy as it ought to be, twitter and tweeting – I thought that was something the birds did?

*There has been suggestions made that one should review the NGOs you support, and there has to be merit in periodic reviews of this nature because there are the large, medium and small or for those sufficiently motivated there’s always the option to DIY if a gap exists?  Whilst the large can have impact through advocacy on some key issues, they may not help local community groups protect locally important sites.  The regular direct debit becomes a habit.  Regional offers or specialist organisation can help you learn identification skills and can confirm difficult identifications, and are valuable networking opportunities and generally appreciate contributions from volunteers.  It’s not a case of what you receive but what wildlife receives for your contribution and some it has been suggested spend too much on recruitment, PR and spin through regular press releases?  Conversely, they can be a force for change?

*Remembering the late Stephen Warburton, one of the Forum’s founding members, we should remain true to those principles, particularly Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

*Enthuse the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts / amateur naturalists.  Once upon a time, that would almost certainly have been deemed to be children and whilst that is important, there is a resource with considerable capacity that could take up natural history as a hobby and or conservation campaigning to influence change etc. and they are the early retired proportion of the population.  We should be promoting wildlife and natural landscapes as important habitats at any and every opportunity.  If we don’t then they will be lost to agri-industrial intensification, to green belt development or mono-culture commercial theme / country parks?

So a few for nature conservationists to consider?

Here’s to 2016 – challenges and opportunities it’s sure to bring?

Greenblobpride

‘Moor’ Inglorious & RBA poll on ‘brood management’.

August 27, 2015

Never mind ‘gripping yarns’, Inglorious is compelling reading and whilst I am not able to read it as quickly as some seem to have done according to Avery’s recent blog post it is perhaps because it is also motivational and prompts action as one reads the various chapters.

This is the kind of volume that is helpful to people who want to help but need encouragement and probably more importantly direction as well as a ready reference of easily digested facts and figures.  In combination with a talk by, or a discussion with the author then you have not only the inspiration, but motivation and a significant resource at your finger tips to be part of a collaborative ‘community’ campaign.

Inglorious front cover

This kind of community action is interesting because to a large extent it might be said to have arisen from inactivity or rather a robust challenge by the ‘conventional suspects’ to achieve or deliver a positive conservation success story?  Quick wins seem the preference these days and challenges are not for the faint hearted as they require dedication, tenacity, an effective and committed network as well as funding to fight the deep pockets of self interest?  It seems that those self proclaimed champions of conservation are constrained through funding related relationships, so should they act as a catalyst and or support infrastructure for this kind of community campaign?

It is against a similar kind of background that the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum was created.  In our case it was through the peat issue, or rather the destruction of peatlands particularly those here at Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  The founding membership saw benefit in collaborative endeavours through an independent organisation able to act in a timely manner and with principle without recourse to copious committees and tedious policies and protocols.  The ability to think and act through an extensive and experienced network  as well as commissioning and publishing robust science brought credibility and a catalogue of campaign involvements and successes.

So back to the current conservation campaign, or at least one very high profile one which is the plight of the Hen Harrier and other persecuted raptors which appear to interfere with the ‘sporting interests’ of a relatively small number of people.  Avery offers an estimate in the region of around 15,000.

At the moment it seems that the Hawk & Owl Trust are promoting ‘brood management’ as a mechanism to try to find compromise and a way forward for Hen Harrier conservation in the uplands particularly.  Rare Bird Alert are running a poll which is seeking peoples views on the option, there is also the opportunity to add comments on the proposal.

HOT founded in 1969, markets itself as being dedicated to conserrving owls and birds of prey in the wild.  Interestingly their website also explains that they ‘create and manage nesting’ …. they appear to manage just three reserves in Norfolk, North York Moors and Somerset.  ‘The HOT say stop this illegal killing’.  It all seemed laudable but then their high profile President resigned ….

The epetition Ban driven grouse shooting is steadily but surely increasing numbers daily, potential signatories are informed that “Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers”.   Can we help get it to the 100k by the end of the year, therein ensuring a discussion in Westminster about the issue?  It’s well past the first milestone of 10k and the reply from Defra is well overdue ….

A more in depth analysis, forensically researched and referenced with robust science is available …. in the form of ‘Inglorious’. Avery’s uncompromising style pulls no punches which is precisely what is needed as the patient endeavour to achieve compromise has, it must be said, failed miserably?   

 

Greenblobpride

 

 

 

 

Celebs & call to arms …. Birdfair 2015

August 23, 2015

Today is the final day of the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water and if Mark Avery’s blog is anything to go by Henry is having a great time meeting up with and getting lots of hugs from conservation ‘celebs’.  This year was the 27th and was significantly different to the first back in 1989.  The weather has thus far been kind, Friday saw a few spots but n’owt to deter folk and the marquees were within easy distance of each other, but over far larger acreage and a far cry from the very first BF which Bill Oddie described as a boy scout camp in his reminiscing on page 8 and 9 of this year’s programme.

This year Iolo Williams made his debut appearance, alongside a cast of other ‘celebrities’ from the environmental conservation sector.  His presentation, as expected was an excellent call to arms similar in some respects to his introduction at the State of Nature Report launch in 2013.  His charasmatic Welsh charm was wonderfully refreshing to hear and his honesty despite his frustration with statutory failure to address the loss and ongoing decline of habitats and species was evident, yet there was also a ‘can do will do’ proactive passion still there.  Red Kite is the Welsh national bird, but he admitted when asked by a member of the audience that his favourite was the Hen Harrier and one of his favourite memories was that of finding his first nest of the species.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

The next ‘celeb’ up was Simon King, he is clearly passionate about educating the next generation and to this end has recently established a new charity, the Simon King Wildlife Project which is using a 10 acre meadow to restore wildlife and in so doing create inspiration for young people through education and engagement.  It has to be said that he did a wondeful job persuading people to experience the true aroma that is otter spraint.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the 'educational engagement experience' offered.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the ‘educational engagement experience’ offered.

Another speaker who has created a haven for wildlife and alongside a fantastic education facility at Aigas in the Highlands, Sir John Lister-Kaye also spoke of statutory procrastination and the need for nature in all our lives.

The irrespresible Bill Oddie 'Unplucked'

The irrespresible Bill Oddie ‘Unplucked’

The wonderfully provocative Mark Avery offered and advocated an ‘Inglorious’ challenge to the ‘grouse-industry’ much to the delight of the audience in another packed marquee and risked writers cramp by signing copies of his book Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. 

150821 BF Mark Avery 2 hrk 662

Tucked away in a corner of a marquee was a ‘Lush’ species created specifically to raise the profile of the issue around illegal persection and loss in our uplands of the spectacular Hen Harrier.  It was great to be able to secure a HH bath bomb and to thank Mark Constantine in person for Lush’s support of the Hen Harrier campaign.

150821 BW items hrk 692

It was great too that the guys from Birders Against Wildlife Crime had a presence.  Charlie, Phil & Lawrie have worked hard to raise the profile of the Hen Harrier issue and in collaboration with Mark Avery and Chris Packham have run a seriously successful Eyes in the Field Conference in March 2015 in Buxton, two fantastic Hen Harrier Days in the Peak District and an evening of talks ahead of this year’s HH Day.

150821 BF BAWC hrk 2 660

 

It is great that as well as the expected ornithological related stands and the astonishing array of travel offers, the latest optics to test out that other natural history disciplines were represented.  The British Arachnological Society had a presence and Dr Helen Smith was present with some of her fabulous study species Dolomedes plantarius or fen raft spiders. They really are a fabulous beast, well they are in the author’s opinion and it was a delight to be able to see some first hand.  “On the margins: The fen raft spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen” is superbly illustrated by Sheila Tilmouth and is an account of Smith’s studies and work on the species.  There is a dedicated FRS website Dolomedes.org.uk

Atropos, the journal for all butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts was present and subscribers were able to collect the latest edition of the journal ‘hot off the press’.

One pleasant surprise was the service received from the guys at the Leica stand.  Now my trusty 8×42 Trinovid’s are admittedly in their early 20’s but they are still in very good condition and optically as one would expect provide Leica excellent views but they were in need of a new rainguard so I enquired if they had any to purchase.  Half an hour or so later I came away with a new rainguard and they’d stripped the eyepieces down and performed a very professional clean of some two decades or so of accumulated ‘dust’.  All part of the Leica lifetime guarantee, now that is what I call service!  Thank you Leica team.

So all in all an excellent event and here’s hoping they reach their target for this year for ‘Protecting migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

 


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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