Waging war

By Lynn.art (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Today is Remembrance Sunday and this year it falls on the 11th day of the 11th month.  The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in human history but I was surprised to learn that the First World War was ‘only’ the sixth deadliest.

Are you wearing a poppy? It’s interesting that we use a natural object as our symbolic way of remembering all those deaths (and here is the link to the John McRae poem).

In the deadliest conflict on earth we killed our fellow man (and woman and child) at the rate of about 10 million people a year – or 27,000 people a day, or more than 1,000 every hour or around 16 each minute or one every 4 seconds and we kept it up for six years non-stop.

By The Illustrated Shooting and Dramatic News [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the early weeks of the First World War the passenger pigeon (yes, an enthusiasm of mine) went extinct.  This was quite possibly the commonest bird on Earth a matter of decades before its extinction with a possible population of as many as 9 billion birds.  We got rid of the passenger pigeon in a few decades, let’s say 50 years. That is a rate, maintained over 50 years, of 340 birds a minute or 6 every second for 50 years.

Our war on nature has been quite bloody.

I won’t say more about the passenger pigeon as I am currently writing a book on the subject which will emerge in 2014 in time to commemorate the centenary of this bird’s extinction.

But there are others interested in the passenger pigeon too and I commend this excellent website and this excellent Facebook page.


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6 Replies to “Waging war”

  1. So what’s changed, animals across our planet are becoming extinct all the time because of man’s greed, ignorance and stupidity. Sadly I doubt if this trend will ever change within the world we all share. Just in case anyone is left in any doubt the situation is just as bad in our own back yard. We only have to look at how the hen harrier has been treated throughout the uplands of northern England. The species is now on the very verge of extinction simply because there will always be people amongst us who place their own sporting self interests above any other consideration, even legal ones. Of course this situation could all change if we had a strong and committed government who was totally dedicated to stamping out such widespread criminal activity irrespective of who they might upset.

    1. Terry - thanks. Yes, the hen harrier is one of rather few species that are being deliberately reduced in numbers. Most species declines are avoidable but not deliberate. No-one is shooting skylarks into a decline but they certainly are shooting hen harriers into oblivion on large areas of northern England and south and east Scotland.

  2. Mark you may be correct about skylarks, however if the skylark predated on red grouse they also would suffer the same fate as the hen harrier, peregrine and goshawk continue to do today. Having walked over much of northern England’s moorlands used exclusively for shooting red grouse in the last 47 years, the truth is there for anyone who cares to take a look. From Tarnbrook moor in the west of Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, all the way to the red grouse moors of Alston in the northern Pennines, the north York’s moors, Northumberland and Durham, the majority of these regions are now reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, with very few other upland species to hear or see other than many, many Red Grouse. Raptors other than the odd kestrel are obvious within these regions because of their almost total absence. I shudder to think how many assorted birds of prey collectively may have been slaughtered in these areas since the early 1960’s, but in my opinion it must be many thousands.

    1. Terry - you may well be right. But the grouse moor managers would say that you could hear more curlews, lapwings etc because of all that legal predator control, wouldn't they? And they may well be right? But that doesn't justify the law being broken in my opinion.

  3. Curlew numbers and Lapwing numbers have declined though, haven't they? Fact is Hen Harriers have always been there before man started to kill them and all three species were doing ok until "man" started to meddle with things


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