Episode 106: Irish Cave Bones with Ruth Carden

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Regular listeners have already heard that this episode was coming. And we’ve been planning it for a long time. Conflicting schedules, travel plans and life, in general, were always getting in the way. But boy, was it worth waiting for! 

And so, we sat down for a chat with Dr Ruth Carden, a zoologist, who specialises in the zooarchaeological analysis of faunal assemblages. To the casual reader, Ruth is probably best known for her groundbreaking discovery of butchering marks on a reindeer bone found in the Castlepook Cave in north Cork. This discovery dramatically changed our understanding of Irish human history, pushing back the earliest signs of human activity by 20,000 years. 

We discussed this discovery as well as other topics related to Ruth’s research, including Irish glacial fauna with a particular focus on the Giant Irish Deer which is sometimes, incorrectly, called Irish elk. I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t asked Ruth about wild boar in Ireland. Were they native to Ireland at one point in time? You need to listen to this episode to find out.

And here is the craziest thing. All that research work is self-funded by Ruth and done largely in her spare time. Please, keep an eye on Tommy’s Outdoors website as we will shortly let you know how you can financially support Ruth’s efforts. For now, I want to give a massive shout out to the car company that co-sponsored one of those projects: K&N Motors, Dublin 22. A big round of applause for these folks, please!

Episode 40: Pleistocene Megafauna with Richard Doran Sherlock

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This episode of the podcast is going to take you back in time to the Pleistocene epoch of the Quaternary period, an epoch often referred to as the Ice Age. Our guest is Richard Doran Sherlock who has a particular interest in Quaternary science and megafaunal collapse. Over the years Richard has worked in many capacities including research for rewilding projects and not-for-profit groups.

Since I also have a keen interest in natural history I was really glad when Richard accepted my invitation to the podcast. So, it is my pleasure to present to you an episode where we talk about Pleistocene megafauna and have a healthy discussion about what might have caused its extinction. We also touch briefly on rewilding, a topic to which we may devote an episode of its own.

Cover photo by Ciaran McNamee

Extinction Rebellion

There is a lot of buzz, at the moment, around the activist group called Extinction Rebellion. The group is organizing direct action campaigns and acts of civil disobedience in a protest against governmental inaction on climate change and disappearing wildlife.

As concerned as I am about the environment and wildlife I have mixed feelings about that group and their actions. So let me break it down for you.

I do recognize the role of such campaigns in environmental advocacy. Showing dissatisfaction about governmental inaction has its place in democracy. It can raise awareness of an issue in the minds of the general public. However, actions like these don’t make a difference on their own. In addition, they can give ammunition to the opponents, making it easy to label legitimate NGOs, lobbying for the cause, as “extremist”. That is especially true, if peaceful demonstrations deteriorate into vandalism resulting in arrests and disruption of public order. That just annoys people.

Unfortunately, that turn of events is quite likely, when the group behind the campaign has a strong anarchist background. And that’s exactly the case with Extinction Rebellion. Their leaders actually speak openly about their previous involvement in the anarchist community in Britain. It is also hard to miss their carefully curated, parallel media campaigns and personal attacks on public figures to push a socialist political agenda. All that makes me question the real motivation behind their actions. Do they really care about the environment? Or are they merely puppets in the hands of higher level political actors, used to rally unsuspecting people to create confusion and weaken the political structure?

Because of these questions, I was deeply concerned to see a reputable conservation organization and even a political party getting behind such events. We should exercise great care to make sure we’re not helping push hidden agendas that would work against our cause in the long run.

As always, I welcome discussion and I am curious about your thoughts on the issue. I would be more than happy to be corrected. So if you would like to be my guest on the podcast and have a conversation on the subject, please get in touch. Leave your comment or contact me through the social media channel of your choice, and let’s talk.ex_sq

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