Final leaf flutters,
bidding farewell as it falls -
Deep sleep ’till Spring warmth.
The spry touch of a burning gift,
Upon a fuse by a little spark in a manner so swift,
Ignites the fire of life and on a journey to embark,
Until parturition brings forth light from the dark.
How many gather round to observe the flight,
In anticipation of socially acceptable delight,
Will it be yellow, will it be blue?
Lest it should matter or under what colour flag it flew!
Some will fly high, others not at all,
A few may inspire and yet many more will just fall,
In this grand display that feels so dispossessed,
Can we not love the meek as much as the rest?
So whether it be with a fizzle, a crackle or out with a bang,
Deadly darkness soon returns to where living lights once swam,
And only a memory remains that disappoints as it fades,
Dimming recollections replaced by new firework parades.
Spirits gather on this most auspicious of nights,
As a portal slowly opens to the otherworld’s heights,
Magic and fire on hilltops form halo sprites,
Heralds death and rebirth through mystical rites,
And with each gust of blustery nocturnal wind,
Icy chills rescind as veils between past lives are thinned,
Now silent lanterns flicker and sway while they grin and protect ’till the darker half’s first day.
Under the burdened apple tree,
Late rubies tumble and fall,
By a lagoon of calm stillness,
Mists envelope like a shawl,
Furry acrobats enjoy swollen kernels,
Hints of future ciders are drawn,
Strewn in over abundance,
Across the garden lawn.
In the wild hedgerows of the hither-land,
That brim so full of life,
Cutting the rolling farmland,
Into a quilt of patchwork delight,
A rustling and something stirs,
Beneath feathers of green and gold,
Gatherers of harvest’s splendour,
Indeed they are now so bold!
Across a field of razors,
Reigns silence and a naked air,
Shadowless and almost featureless,
The land laid barren and bare,
Encircled by giants in autumnal robes,
Arms spread wide yet hang so low,
Prickly baubles burst at the seams,
Expectant creatures wait below.
To the forest of scarlet umbrellas,
Where the air fills with spinning wings,
Cloven hooves patter and rummage,
Amongst shells trampled by antlered kings,
Balmy days of sharing with peers,
And a right to feast and store,
Mast fills the eyes with joyous tears,
Like the glorious years of yore.
The UK Environment Secretary, a certain Owen Paterson (of Badger Cull fame) opened his mouth again this week, however this time not to attack badgers for “moving the goalposts”, but instead to criticize all those opposed to genetically modified (GM) crops, labelling them as “wicked”.
His outburst came in an interview with The Independent newspaper, in reference to various environmental NGO’s continuing opposition to the development and use of “golden rice”, which has been genetically modified and fortified with beta-carotene, giving the rice its distinctive golden colour. It also makes it a potential source of vitamin A, when prepared correctly and in the presence of the correct fats (which requires a balanced diet, something generally lacking in developing countries).
Now there are two camps with regards to GM crops. The first consists of a small group of global companies that between them control about three-quarters of the worlds seed markets, and their patrons and supporters; government ministers who are connected with those businesses, and a gaggle of billionaires who have funded the research under the name of philanthropy, but who would, of course, never expect or hope for anything in return in the future. This group, to which the environment secretary belongs, claim that GM golden rice will solve many of the developing world’s food problems, improving health and saving millions of lives. A fairly substantial claim.
And on the other side of the argument are the environmental groups and other non-governmental organisations. They support many of the third world farmers on a local level. This group says that there are a number of issues with GM crops; The seed will be owned and controlled by a few multinationals, restricting farmers rights to breed and exchange seeds. Malnutrition, which the bio-companies claim to work against, is primarily down to problem of access, given the massive amount of overproduction and food waste in the developed world. They also highlight that even though the dose of beta carotene (the precursor chemical for vitamin A) has been boosted in the latest version of the rice, it still has a huge question mark over how effective it will be, as it degrades over time and when cooked. It also requires longer cooking time, and therefore more fuel.
Seems like a lot of work for so little return. Surely it would be simpler to give out carrot seeds (they are a far better, and natural source of vitamin A) and teach people how to grow it?
So, given the two contrasting positions on this contentious issue, one ponders the truth of the situation.
Who would you trust? The conglomerates and their government backers? Or volunteers groups, and African and Asian farmers who fear that they will lose control of their food sources?
Is there a better, more balanced way to deal with the world’s food problems, that directly address the real issues of incomes and food distribution?
And what next? Is golden rice just a “Trojan Horse”, to ease a sceptical public into acceptance of GM crops in the future, with free seed handouts, and other demonstrations of generosity, patent waivers and too-good-to resist deals, only to then be replaced by tight controls on future GM seed ownership, distribution, and rights to buy once enough people have become completly dependent on them?
I think that I will let my poem do the talking on this one.
How to set up a trap and then snare?
Mix a potion of rice with hot air,
Say it cures all and claim that it’s free!
Just don’t mention seeds later won’t be.
Billionaire’s row funds the show,
Then sits on the panel that decides it’s good to go,
False prophets proclaim it saves all that partake,
While counting the future profits they’ll make.
What started as a miracle no longer meets needs,
Awaiting handouts or more debts for new seeds,
Sold our souls for GM golden rice,
Should have bought carrots for a better long-term price.
A debate has been raging within the United Kingdom on how to deal with bovine tuberculosis in domestic cattle. Unfortunately wild badgers have been targeted as a potential source for this disease, resulting in a cull in two designated areas which has involved the shooting of badgers to reduce the local population by more than 70% in an attempt to demonstrate a lower incidence of Bovine TB in cattle.
Most responsible scientists with expertise in this subject are against the cull and believe that it will not work. There is also the issue of animal welfare, in what seems to so far be a pointless slaughter of wildlife, bearing in mind that there are other more effective control measures such as vaccinating badgers, or management of livestock on farms in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
And so the badger cull debacle turned into a farce this week with the publication of widely contradictory figures for badger populations within the designated cull zones, and also the announcement that the badger cull may be extended again due to the its failure to reduce population numbers sufficiently order to make the cull “effective”.
This is of course an absurd situation. The inconsistent figures published indicate that no one actually knows for sure how many badgers live in cull areas, or how many have been exterminated as part of this cull. One thing has become apparent though. The badger populations are far lower than previously estimated, and may collapse if the cull continues. The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, blames this on the badgers themselves for “moving the goalposts”, a surprising and slightly ludicrous statement which can be interpreted as an admission that these beautiful creatures are in fact more intelligent than our politicians.
But the most disturbing part of this situation is that due to the wasteful and inefficient way that the cull was carried out (free shooting badgers regardless of whether they are healthy or not – 6 out of every 7 killed have been found to be disease free) the instigators of this cull extension have reverted to the use of trapping badgers in cages before exterminating them.
A very simple question is raised in the mind of the discerning reader; If a badger is trapped, with all the expense, effort and organisation involved with that, why not then simply administer a vaccine and then let the creature free?
During this difficult time, it is more important than ever not to lose sight of the suffering and devastation caused by these non-sensical culls. I have attempted to record a glimpse of their terrible impact in the following poem:
At rest with cubs in warm family sett,
Torpor disturbed by sweet-scented net,
With full moon outside just cannot sleep,
No final goodbyes on this occasion to weep.
Easy finds follow simple neat trails,
Does not seem natural but instinct prevails,
Leads blind follower into rusty cell,
Trapped in baited heaven waiting death row hell.
Piercing pain in back of neck, falls upon broken head,
Eye stares up from coffin deck, watches moon turn bloody red,
Executioner’s shadow suffocates life’s last sight,
Distant scream informs newly orphaned of end to sorry plight!
October has arrived, and both city dwellers and country folk alike may have noticed a subtle increase in the number of foxes that roam at night. The reason? During the later part of the year, in what is known as the season of dispersion, kits leave the family den and “disperse”, to seek out their own territories and establish new lives.
To many people, the presence of foxes may be seen as something controversial. However, in traditional cultures, the fox possesses a spirit associated with wisdom, cunning and guidance.
Here in this poem are my observations of this spirit in action on our city streets:
Seen through broad windows above polished oak tables,
Dark blanket of evening adorns the city in sables,
Coy figures shimmer between lonely street lights,
Pen is released by the hypnotic sights
In the gloaming they observe without being seen,
Their invisible presence scanning the scene,
Sudden amber pearl-drop eyes pierce the yellowy light,
Slender red muzzle narrows to black nares and snowy white.
Again like sleight of hand they slip from sight,
Then re-emerge from the shadowy night,
Spirit of vulpes silently glides,
With totem wisdom it effortlessly guides.
New season signals freedom and new adventures when,
Silent troops disperse from the den,
Bushy tailed shaman casts magic! all are withdrawn!
Pen starts to scribble on page until dawn.
This week NASA released some fascinating results from the experiments carried out by the Mars probe “Curiosity” on the Martian soil, which could potentially have very profound implications with regards to the future direction that human civilization may take.
According to the findings that have been published, Curiosity discovered water in the topsoil of between 1.5 and 3.0 percent, which in simple terms means that by heating one cubic foot of Martian soil, about two pints of water can be obtained.
Now, there are of course other, very serious factors, that need to be resolved before humans colonize mars; high levels of radiation, extreme temperatures, a lack of oxygen on the surface, and now the discovery that the soil contains perchlorate, which interferes with human thyroid function if ingested.
But all these things can be overcome with technology. And the fact that there is now a way to obtain water directly from the red planet’s surface means that we are a step closer to the first human landing on Mars, and then if an economic case can be made, the first Martian colonies.
But what would it be like on that first journey? And what about the psychological impact of living so far away from home? Look at the photos of Curiosity, all alone on the surface. What would it be feeling if it had human emotions?
I am a ton of pristine steel,
Reflective glass and gadgets to feel,
Curiosity has brought me to a barren place,
Open my eyes and enjoy rust covered space.
My masters leer through a distant screen,
Key in commands for their favorite machine,
But why don’t they hear my frozen cries,
When my robot eye is turned up to the skies?
Shield of darkness falls one last time,
Heralds a new beginning for a forgotten crime,
Power down to sleep in the hope that one day,
I will be found and taken away.
An early morning excursion revealed far more than I had expected. After a gentle stroll along an oft-treaded short cut through a local park, a rather thick fog seemed to descend as I approached a wooded area, enveloping all within it’s mist.
I was fortunate enough to locate a nearby bench through the murkiness, and I resolved to sit and wait for the gloom to lift. So as the morning progressed, visibility began to rapidly improve, and I was treated to a true wonder of nature, igniting my thoughts as vividly as the grand display before my eyes. My heart was stolen in a moment of passion, and Autumn has now become, against all odds, the season of love!
I feel so fortunate that I was able to record in this poem a glimpse of what I had seen this morning through the eyes of my enamoured heart.
Here in the woods there lays a carpet of soft golden down,
And trees beneath which repose beds of ambery brown,
That rustle underfoot and scatter in the breeze,
As watery sunlight glitters amongst the leafy seas.
Abundant fruits promise most mellow flavours,
Floral passions now replaced by pastel papers,
Sounds of crackling chestnuts mingle in the smoky air,
Prize Pumpkins soon for sale in the market square.
Early morning fog cloaks hidden treasures,
Then lifts to reveal a riot of fiery pleasures,
Nature’s last stand brings on it’s greatest shows,
The tinderbox is open! How it sparkles and glows!
Wispy mists battle a distant sun,
But neither can win for Winter’s Spectre has come,
The season resigns to be sentenced by Jack Frost,
So enjoy Autumn’s fragrance before it is lost!