We Just Want to Vote - Franco ReturnsDuring a pre referendum social event in Placa Octavia, Sant Cugat del Valles, with dancing and other traditional activities, including castellets, the human towers, pro independence activists question the actions of th

Catalonia: We Just Want To Vote

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“We just want to vote”

This is the message, in English, that many Catalans have been sending out to the rest of Europe, in the run up to this Sunday’s planned independence referendum.

Most Catalans, or more correctly, most people, who can vote here want to have a say, in what the Catalan Generalitat (regional government) has said will be a binding vote. Depending on which polls you read, less than half of voters want independence. While these stats are widely reported, I did read a poll today that suggested there would be 63% or more turnout and an 83% yes vote.

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Supermoon rising over Parc Collserola

What my son taught me about the moon

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I remember being small boy, standing with my father in the field outside our house. Shivers ran down my spine, not because I was cold, but because I was craning my neck to contemplate the universe above me and because I realised its vastness and my own insignificant part in it.

My dad pointed out constellations and the Milky Way. Maybe that same night we were out spotting shooting stars, or watching the moon cross the river and drop behind the forest. Maybe that was many nights, all memorised into one night.

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Greenpeace ship Esperanza on her route towards Antarctica in a Force 10 storm.

Some Good News: We are all crew on this voyage

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About a month ago, Deutsche Welle journalist Irene Quaile AKA Iceblogger wrote, in a piece titled Some Arctic good news – not #fakenews!

“With the environment and climate under constant fire from the actions of President Trump, it is great to end the week with a little piece of good news”.

“One thing that made me smile was the announcement that the famous cruise ship operator Hurtigruten had signed the Arctic Commitment, calling for a ban on the use of marine heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic.”

“So let’s go into the weekend with a round of applause for the tireless campaigners for a clean Arctic. It is hard for an environment journalist to be optimistic in these difficult times. But every little helps. And winning over the cruise ship industry which so many people associate with holiday expeditions into remote areas with intact nature and spectacular wildlife would be a great way to get a wider public “on board” for the voyage to protecting the icy regions of our warming planet.”

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2016 in review: What I Got Up To and What Happens Next

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2016 went by in a flash, between moving countries, working hard for Antarctic and Arctic protection, and joining the quest to halt international trade deals.

When I set out to write this, I realise that had not posted to since early in the year. For someone who professes to make a living from writing and communications, it’s lamentable. In my defence, I’ve been busy, and this is no bad thing, as it has culminated in a very successful and exciting year, with opportunities to work with great people on important projects.

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Massive queues crossing Spain-France Border

Crossing Europe’s Frontiers #2: Pointless Pyrenean Traffic Jams

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New Year’s Day 2016: Our car is one of thousands stalled on the AP-7 autopista, waiting to cross the Pyrenees into France. The fire has gone out of the bellies of most drivers, who’ve quit their frenzied switching of lanes and are now going through the robotic motions. First gear, handbrake off, roll forward, brake, neutral, handbrake on. Repeat.

Everyone has realised there’s no easy way out of this, so they’re giving up the wheel to their passengers, having slow-moving picnics, or in the case of two cars in the lane next to us, have broken out hookas to smoke some shisha. A recovery truck goes by in the hard shoulder, carrying a VW Passat that has given up.

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Pan European Networks Science & Technology Magazine

Saving Antarctica’s Ocean

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In an article for Pan European Networks Science & Technology Magazine, I ask if its possible for members of CCAMLR reach agreement on protecting two vast areas the Antarctic Ocean?

Belgium France Border

Blather: Opening a Can of Worms on Europe’s Frontiers

Belgium France Border

Telling stories is an important part of what I do, yet it’s easy to leave it aside to “work on it later”. Last week I had the chance to come up with to formulate a story during a long journey, and committed it to text later that night. It came to me while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the Belgium-France border, ostensibly because of increased frontier checks. As every delayed driver that day discovered, the only thing the “border check” successfully accomplished was creating the traffic jam.

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An Beal Bocht

Cop21: The Poor Mouth in Paris, starring Enda Kenny

An Beal Bocht
Performance of An Beal Bocht by Myles na gCopaleen by the Irish Theatre Group at the Warehouse Theatre in Brussels. Photos (c) Dave Walsh 2013,

Ireland’s dear and glorious leader, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stood manfully astride the COP21 podium in Paris. Holding the lectern in a white-knuckled embrace, Enda rolled out Ireland’s comprehensive plan for taking global leadership on climate change, and he would personally corner Hollande, Obama, Merkel, Putin and Xi Jinping and the rest of them into finally saving the planet.

Enda had clearly been consulting the governmental ouija board while on the governmental jet to Paris, such was his close channelling of the spirit of his predecessor, Garrett Fitzgerald, on the powerful Diplomacy of Small States. In his speech…

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Admit nothing, blame everyone, be bitter

The Blame Everyone Game

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I cycled through the city, dodging broken cobblestones and feckless drivers. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a shapeless process was churning on human rights and the shameful geopolitical tug-of-war that is driving the deplorable treatment of the refugees trying to reach Europe.

I paused at a crossroads. An image of a postcard flashed into my head. A postcard I received from my friend Donal, years and years ago. A black and white image showing two hands barely meeting across a map, with three commandments in red strips overlaid:

  • Admit nothing
  • Blame everyone
  • Be bitter

That card, I thought.

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault back in the News

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Global Seed Vault, located the top of the world, on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, is back in the news – for the first time seeds are being taken from the bank for one of the reasons it was created – to supply and safeguard seeds in a time of war. Al Jazeera reports that “as Aleppo gene back built to safeguard global food supplies is at risk, researchers request frozen seeds from Svalbard”. Although Aleppo lies within the famous “fertile crescent“, it’s also in the thick of the Syrian war. Svalbard, despite some political shenanigans between Norway and Russia, remains calm, with more polar bears than people, and very cold.
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