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The Peacock Butterfly

Thursday 11th December, brilliant china blue sky and gentle cloud outside my window, no sign of any Weather Bomb around here. Yesterday I was ill in bed, and plagued by cats, galloping over me and racing each other up and down the stairs: behaviour I tried to ignore until suddenly I heard Milo, under the bed, making his ferocious, unmistakeable, I'll kill you if you touch my prey noises. I investigated. Something dark fluttered furiously in his jaws; it escaped, it was a peacock butterfly. I caught the gallant creature in my cupped hands, and transferred it to a small box. It's looking fine this morning, alert and composed: I'm just about to take it outdoors, to a safe hibernating spot. You cut a vertical slit in the box, so the butterfly can get out, leave it some where unheated and out of the light and in the Spring, if all goes well, you find the box empty. Amazing things, butterflies. A lot tougher and more intelligent than they are given credit for.

There. Butterfly in a box is in the greenhouse, under a rack of seed trays, cool and dark.

Up to London on Wednesday for the RSPB/Wildlife Trusts/League Against Cruel Sports
Rally For Nature & their allies. Originally a Birders initiative, about the devastation wrought by the Shooting Industry, scope had widened as the thing got organised. "Many people here" said one of those responsible proudly, "have never been involved in a political action before". Hm, I wouldn't be too sure about that. I was sitting nexted to a LACS activist from Bridgwater, who didn't seem scared of the smell of gunpowder, or the crack of a shotgun. You don't have to be, if you're resisting the badger cull. As is often the case, many in the rank and file probably far more radical than most of their leaders.


Here's the main points I took away with me:

The Government must Protect the European Species and Habitats Directives.

More important than ever under the very dubious recent appointments. "No country should secure a competitive advantage by trashing the environment". We don't need new laws, the wildlife and environmental laws we have, in Europe, are very good, balanced, professional. What we need is for the laws to be observed and protected.


We call for A Full Public Inquiry into the Shooting Industry's practices, including wildlife crime.


Shooting landowners who like to make money out of their rich cronies regard themselves as guardians of their grouse moors and the lowland woodlands (where caged pheasants are released). This is no longer the case. Besides devastating the populations of iconic birds of prey, shooting for sport is an unregulated industry these days, destroying fragile peat uplands, with calamitous effect; releasing staggering masses of caged pheasants every autumn, with a shocking, ever-increasing impact on the survival of our struggling wildbird and small mammal species. Caged pheasant rearing and release has been banned in the Netherlands (2002). Why shouldn't it be banned here?

We want to see the landowners who employ the gamekeepers brought to book. We want to see existing laws enforced (the quote was that in a survey, 60% of wild bird hunters admitted they still used toxic lead shot even in protected areas.)



We need the Well Being and Nature Act, and we need it to be a good one.

"Every political party needs to play a part in rebuilding society's relationship with the Natural World. We need to defend the existing laws but we also need to wake up to the value of nature as the foundation of our quality of life"

I was least impressed by the third heading. Yeah, it sounds hopeful, in the sense that an Act like that could be passed, by a new and eager government, I agree. But (unless we get that Green Party/UKIP coalition I'm praying for) they'd pass it knowing they'd got themselves a pretty bit of greenwash, and make sure it had no teeth. . .

I've met the European Directives in my activism against proposals to frack for shale gas in West Sussex. They're impressive, I admire them very much. I think the Shooting Industry Practices inquiry could be as important to the public, if they knew the scale of what is happening, as the proposed sell off of the Forestry Commission a few years ago. I have access to "wild nature" within five or ten minutes (in the Brighton and Preston Cemetery) in the centre of Brighton. I've seen rewilding in central Manchester (where I come from). I know these things are possible. So never say die. Always keep trying.

Interestingly, the soi-disant "Natural England", our lovely government's alleged "guardian of the natural world" was not represented, and did not get a single mention. And are even the Wildlife Trusts to be trusted? Some doubt about that. Some suggestions that the Trusts accept the guidance of the Shooting Industry and the Farming Industry far, far too readily.


Reading

The Golem and the Djinni, Helene Wecker. Debut novel. In many ways a lovely book. A well-characterised pair of mediaeval monsters, a golem from Yiddish Poland and a Djinni from the Ottoman Empire's Greater Syria, provide the frame for a big nostalgic travelogue of 1890s New York, with its patchwork of ancient cultures (all of them, including the culture of the ruling WASP caste, fairly inimical to women). Altogether too much starch, or stodge as we call it in my country, and the finale is a long, handwaving, and lumpy blur. But still cosy and enjoyable.

And Jessica Cornwell The Serpent Papers. What is Jessica like? "Uber promotable!" it says here. Ouch! But believe me, you cannot judge a book by its cover, or an author by her publicists. More on this later.

Signing

Read and sign. Please.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627

http://jubileedebt.org.uk/actions/ebola-drop-debt



The Season Of Giving

Oooh! My fuel allowance arrived. £200! Excellent. Have passed it straight on to Project Antifreeze, as I can afford to do that, unlike many people. & If you are in the same position, I advise you to do the same: but keep it local . . . More festive cheer: The Grasshopper's Child is back on Aamzon Kindle. The POD edition is put to bed, to be published (notional date!) 7th Feb 2015. Many thanks to all my amazingly generous and kind early readers including Kath Langrish. & finally, The Powerhouse, the last Ann Halam giveaway, will be free from amazon kindle on 19th and 20th December. Merry Christmas

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