Review: The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

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Amazon Description:

The plot of this novel depicts a group of men who have become castaways stranded on an island in the Pacific during the American Civil War.

Ade’s Review:

NOTE: This book was published in the late 1800’s. I, however, read it in 2013. Due to cultural differences the book may not have been received as intended.

Here we have five civilised men stranded upon a desert island, but as soon as they arrive they act as a plague upon the paradise, slaughtering the indigenous wildlife and destroying the landscape, shaping it to their own end with no respect for the natural world. Not the slightest remorse is shown for the creatures whose lives they destroy; every new beast or bird encountered is met with the same response: “Can we eat it? How do we kill it?”

Oh what loathsome devils! On one excursion they return to find apes inhabiting their home. Rather than peacefully usher them away, the blood-thirsty gang slaughter the lot, taking one final orangutan prisoner to turn into a slave. Indeed, they callously mock the poor beast for its inability to understand the concept of remuneration for its troubles.

The brutality does not end there. Happening upon a large turtle on the beach, the men joyously turn it onto its back so it would die slowly in the sun. Upon finding whale bones, they freeze them curved in fat, to lure animals into eating and thus pierce their stomachs. Oh, what twisted degenerates they are!

So arrogant are these men in their claim to this land that when a ship comes to dock for a similar purpose (to restock food and water), the quintet attack them without mercy, killing every last one.

Over the course of the story it becomes clear that Cyrus Harding is a villain of the most devious kind. I found myself first rooting for the big cats, then the pirates and finally the volcano.

Upon reaching the outcome, I was very disappointed.

What Can The Green Party Learn From The Liberals?

Today, Natalie Bennett addressed the Green Party conference with an attack on Labour, claiming to be the real party of opposition. This is rather reminiscent of the claims the Liberal Democrats used to make, back in the days when the Conservative Party was proving to be a useless opposition to Labour. So it is clear the Green Party are hoping to fill the void the liberals are going to leave in the next election, so what can they learn from the Lib Dem’s mistakes?

1. Don’t Try To Be Everything To Everyone
In opposition the Liberal Democrats managed to pull together quite a wide range of philosophies ranging from the libertarians to far left socialists. This ‘coalition’ soon fell apart the moment they entered government because it became quickly apparent that these factions simply can’t govern together. A party should make clear its philosophy and from that philosophy all policies should spring. The Green Party needs to be clear and at times ruthless now to avoid a similar exodus of support should its popularity rise. True, it can gather more votes in the short term by claiming to be both a champion of civil liberties and punitive on polluting behaviour, but philosophical inconsistency causes far greater trouble later on.

2. Never Rule Out An Energy Source
The Liberal Democrats spent a great deal of time being fiercely anti-nuclear, and yet once in power the reality dawned that if we are to have energy security we will need a whole raft of energy sources. To claim it can all come from renewables and energy efficiency (whether true or not) smacks of the old conservative line that cuts could be made simply through efficiency savings – too good to be true. If the Green Party gets realistic, then their message might go further.

3. Compromise Isn’t Betrayal
In the last election, one of the central planks of the lib dems attack was that the other two parties had repeatedly broken promises (most notably on tuition fees). Whilst the facts of the matter are that coalition compromise is not a betrayal, the perception is far different. Labour and the Green Party have fuelled the public perception that if a party doesn’t fulfil a manifesto pledge in a coalition, it is a betrayal of their supporters. Unless the Green Party works to educate the public on coalition politics they are doomed to the same fate as the liberal democrats, because if they want to enter government it’s going to be through coalition, and that means compromise.

Flawed Opposition

The Government’s plan to sell off some of Britain’s publicly owned forests has been scrapped under immense pressure from the public, universal condemnation and a plethora of celebrity opposition. Call it a u-turn or ‘listening to the public’, the result is the same: the government backed down.

A victory for the public? The first of many changes brought about by people-power?

First, lets examine why the government backed down on this policy and not the more controversial education bill. Ironically the cuts to higher education, scrapping of the EMA and raising of fees was labeled ‘ideological’, whilst the selling of the forests was seen as a quick attempt to raise cash. In actual fact the reverse was true. The education bill was a compromise in cash-strapped times. Ideologically both parties would have been more comfortable defending another policy; unfortunately this was the only real option.

The selling of the forests, unlike the education bill, was ideological. The proposal wouldn’t have raised money, reports suggest the government could have even lost money (albeit by an almost negligible amount). The reason for the change was the ideological belief that power should be devolved away from the state, that if you give responsibility to the citizen (rather than dictated from Whitehall) you get a better return for your investment. Everything would remain broadly the same, just run by local businesses and charities; forests and wildlife protected with legislation, except without the government bureaucracy.

The government backed down on this proposal because they could. It was a policy based upon principal rather than necessity and for that reason was expendable.

But what was so monstrous about this proposal? What was getting so many people so incredibly furious? The answer is the mythical bit where the forests would be closed to the public, chopped down, burnt, or whatever other random fears formed in the cynical public’s mind. All nonsense of course, but once the rumor-mill gets going, there’s no stopping it.

So was it a victory for the public? In one sense, yes it was. The public let their views be known and a bill was defeated. The problem is the bill the public were objecting to wasn’t the one being proposed. They were objecting to a bill that never existed, a figment of the collective imagination, and in the process an opportunity to improve the well-being of our forests (by putting them in more capable hands) was missed. It is a dangerous precedent that could mark the end for many of this government’s more radical reforms, whether they are good for the public or not.

Saving Grace

Some good news has broken in Tasmania for the endangered Tasmanian Devil (one of Ade Grant’s favourite animals, featuring prominently in his Marina Saga). Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) have claimed to have cracked the code of the deadly contagious facial cancer that is threatening the entire species. It spreads by the little Devils biting each other on the face (something they do during mating) and then disfigures them so badly they cannot eat and starve to death.

While we are still far from a cure, the disease is now easily diagnosable, so ‘clean’ colonies can be started to try and protect this wonderful species. This is a tiny ray of hope for a creature that’s status was recently upgraded from vulnerable to endangered and is predicted to be extinct in the wild within 30 to 50 years.

As if to counter this positive news, Sweden is about to cull its wolf population. The Swedish government believes that 180-220 wolves is too many for their country to support and 27 need to be shot. Thrilled to finally have the chance to kill such a beautiful animal 10,000 hunters are planning on stomping out into the wilderness, gun in hand.

Now, if Sweden can sustain a human population of 9.2 million, then surely it can handle a few hundred wolves? Isn’t it this enormous primate colony that needs to be restricted, rather than a rather small collection of rare beasts? It’s hypocrisy and genetic selfishness on a grand scale, something which humans are rather too adept to be.

Still, despite the sad news from Sweden, things are looking up for the Tazzy Devil. If you would like to help Grace’s kin please visit:

http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/index.html