As times get harder in Britain’s cities, armed gangs are heading for the countryside – and stealing deer, salmon and rabbits to feed a burgeoning black market in food. Andy McSmith reports
Masked poachers caught in the act, hunting rabbits on private land
Once, the poacher was a man with big pockets in his raincoat sneaking on to an aristocrat’s land to steal game for his family pot. Now he is likely to be part of a gang from town, in it for hard cash, rampaging through the countryside with guns, crossbows or snares.
Police in rural areas across Britain are reporting a dramatic increase in poaching, as the rise in food prices and the reality of recession increases the temptation to deal in stolen venison, salmon, or rarer meat and fish.
Organised and sometimes armed gangs of poachers are accused of behaving dangerously, intimidating residents, causing damage to crops or to gates and fences. Squads have also been out in the countryside “lamping”, poachers using lights to transfix animals.
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore’s chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.
A sudden cold snap brought snow to London in October
This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China’s official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its“worst snowstorm ever”. In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.
So what explained the anomaly? GISS’s computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.
The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs – run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious “hockey stick” graph – GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new “hotspot” in the Arctic – in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.
“We have never lost in recent times anything close to this number [of homes],” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
He blamed the spread of the fire on “absolutely atrocious” winds of up to 80 mph (130 km/h) that pushed the fire out of the forests and into the suburbs, jumping wide highways in the process.
“It was an absolute firestorm,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Steve Ruda of the Oakridge blaze.
“Firefighters were braving 50ft flame lengths as they swept across the mobile homes,” he told the Reuters news agency, adding that heat from the flames had melted his firefighters’ hoses to the road.
The Sylmar fire has burnt through 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) since it broke out late on Friday. Fire officials said it was 20% contained as of late Saturday.
About 2,000 firefighters are using aircraft, helicopters and bulldozers to beat the flames back from populated areas.
Pillars of smoke
Meanwhile, more than 12,000 people were ordered to leave their homes in Orange County, in the south of the Los Angeles urban sprawl, as another fire flared up early on Saturday in the communities of Yorba Linda and Corona.
That fire has so far scorched 2,000 acres (800 hectares) and damaged or destroyed about 100 homes or other buildings.
It has plagued scientists and politicians for decades, but scientists now say global warming is not the problem.
We are actually heading for the next Ice Age, they claim.
British and Canadian experts warned the big freeze could bury the east of Britain in 6,000ft of ice.
A taste of the future: Plunging temperatures around Britain created dramatic 2-ft icicles over Sleightholme River in County Durham
Most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England could be covered in 3,000ft-thick ice fields.
The expanses could reach 6,000ft from Aberdeen to Kent – towering above Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.
And what’s more, the experts blame the global change on falling – rather than climbing – levels of greenhouse gases.
Lead author Thomas Crowley from the University of Edinburgh and Canadian colleague William Hyde say that currently vilified greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide – could actually be the key to averting the chill.
The warning, published in the authoritative journal Nature, is based on records of tiny marine fossils and the earth’s shifting orbit.
The Big chill: Experts warn that 3,000ft ice sheets could cover most of Britain
The Earth has seen dramatic climate fluctuations – veering between cold and warm extremes – over the past three million years, the researchers say.
And changes in the Earth’s orbit and slowly falling levels of carbon dioxide are the cause.
The team says we are approaching a turning point, in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years, which will lead to the new ice sheets smothering much of Europe, Asia and South America.
The theory, which is based on computer models, suggests ice sheets will also slash sea levels by up to 300m, so Russia and Alaska will be connected by land.
£13m shed-size reactors will be delivered by lorry
Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.
The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.
The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. ‘Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,’ said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. ‘They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.’
The Roadster goes 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Image: Yi-Wyn Yen
SAN FRANCISCO – How much is Tesla Motors worth?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk won’t say, but it’s at least too expensive for General Motors to buy. “I’m not sure they can afford Tesla right now,” he said during a 30-minute talk Friday at the Web 2.0 Summit.
The South African-born entrepreneur talked candidly with host John Battelle about the failures of the auto industry and Tesla’s own troubles. Battelle had asked why GM (GM) doesn’t buy the electric car startup.
GM reported a $2.5 billion loss in the third quarter Friday and also warned that it could run out of cash soon. Said Musk, “There’s an issue with organized labor and trade and management still acts like it’s 1955. There are too many country club memberships, and [GM] management has focused on the wrong thing. ”
Tesla has been plagued with its own problems. In mid-October Musk, who has helped bankroll Tesla, became its third CEO in less than a year, announced layoffs and delayed the debut of its forthcoming electric sedan, the Model S.
Musk explained why Tesla had to let go 10% of his employees last month. “Before market Armageddon occurred, the point was to raise $100 million. And we intended to get going with that in full force before the market collapsed,” he said.
The company settled for cutting costs and raising $40 million from its existing investors. Musk says he’s backing half of the $40 million round. He has already poured $55 million of his own money into the company.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A major blizzard is continuing to pound South Dakota.
Officials say snow over a metre deep has fallen since Wednesday in the Black Hills area amid reports of howling winds gusting to more than 80 kilometres an hour. The storm has stranded an unknown number of motorists and knocked out power to thousands in the western part of the state.
Officials say they expect little improvement Friday as the storm moves east.
A lengthy stretch of Interstate 90 has been closed.
Dozens of vehicles are reported trapped, but rescue teams cannot reach the stranded motorists because of zero visibility.
“This is a dangerous storm,” Gov. Mike Rounds told reporters in a telephone conference call Thursday evening. “Western South Dakota is basically under a no-travel advisory.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California said Thursday that it plans to cut water deliveries to their second-lowest level ever next year, raising the prospect of rationing for cities and less planting by farmers.
The Department of Water Resources projects that it will deliver just 15 percent of the amount that local water agencies throughout California request every year.
Since the first State Water Project deliveries were made in 1962, the only time less water was promised was in 1993, but heavy precipitation that year ultimately allowed agencies to receive their full requests.
The reservoirs that are most crucial to the state’s water delivery system are at their lowest levels since 1977, after two years of dry weather and court-ordered restrictions on water pumping out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This year, water agencies received just 35 percent of the water they requested.
Farmers in the Central Valley say they’ll be forced to fallow fields, while cities from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego might have to require residents to ration water.
• Two planets need by 2030 at this rate, warns report
• Humans using 30% more resources than sustainable
The world is heading for an “ecological credit crunch” far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.
The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. As a result, we are running up an ecological debt of $4tr (£2.5tr) to $4.5tr every year – double the estimated losses made by the world’s financial institutions as a result of the credit crisis – say the report’s authors, led by the conservation group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund. The figure is based on a UN report which calculated the economic value of services provided by ecosystems destroyed annually, such as diminished rainfall for crops or reduced flood protection.