Five bizarre animal breeding programmes from totalitarian states

If there’s an idea behind totalitarianism it’s that it is possible and desirable for human life to be centrally controlled. Unsurprising this has also affected how dictatorships think about nature.

What totalitarian states choose to breed shows us a lot about how they interacted with nature. These bizarre projects served as propaganda, an expression of crazy romantic notions, an outlet for yet more misanthropy, and even served as a demonstration of dissent.

1. Heck Cattle

800px-XN_Heck_Cattle_0033Lutz and Heinz Heck were German zoologists in the 20s and 30s. They wanted to recreate wild versions of domestic animals by breeding for qualities similar to those found in extinct undomesticated breeds.

The most famous are Heck Cattle. The first bull of this breed was born in 1932, before the Nazis took power, but the whole project was quickly surrounded with Nazi ideas.

In 1940 Konrad Lorenz, another Nazi zoologist developed the theory that civilisation and domestication had made humans and animals made less beautiful, more sexually active and more prone to mutation, such as different skin colours. Heck Cattle were an attempt to purify the bovine race. Göring, the head of the project, envisioned a new breed of prehistoric Aurochs that the Germans could hunt in vast wildlife reserves in Poland.

The attempt to recreate some idealised, racially pure past was of course a complete disaster. But the poor cows weren’t racist themselves. Despite suffering in the final stages of the war they still exist today. The problem is, they’re basically big, bovines with a reputation for aggression. This reputation may or may not be fair, but the creators believed it was, and few farmers really want a herd of angry Nazi cows.

2. The Manpanzee

Ilya Ivanov was a Russian scientist who dedicated a large part of his career to the question of whether humans can breed with Chimpanzees. His failure may lead us to the conclusion that they can’t, but he was hampered by three problems: a lack of financial and political support, a lack of human volunteers, and a lack of chimpanzees.

In 1927 he got funding from the Soviet government, arguing that breeding humans with an animal would be a blow against religion. He used the money to artificially inseminate female chimpanzees in French New Guinea. When this failed he tried to reverse the experiment in Russia. In both cases he only had one male donor, and the male chimpanzee died before the experiment began.

3. Heck Horse

SteppentarpanAnother Heck project. This was an attempt to breed back a Tarpan, a species of wild horse believed to have gone extinct in 1909. They’re meant to be calm, intelligent, and curious. They don’t mind being ridden, but don’t like being told where to go. So, it’s a small horse, but that’s okay because you can’t steer it anyway. Good job, Nazi Science. Seriously.

4. Himmler’s Angora Rabbits

Another giant angora rabbit, not related to the Nazi breed
Another giant angora rabbit, not related to the Nazi breed, which did not survive

Of all the projects on this list, this is the one I find most intensely disturbing. I feel I should apologise for including it, really. Himmler’s “Project Munchkin” was a project to breed large white fluffy rabbits. The rabbits could be shaved, and were very well looked after, providing a cheap, humane way to get fur. Himmler produced a loving photo album of the project and saw his humaneness to animals as a sign of German greatness.

Sickeningly, these rabbits were kept in concentration camps and looked after by inmates. People were actually executed for not showing enough care and attention to rabbits. Himmler’s care for animals unfortunately didn’t extend to his own species.

5. The Domesticated Silver Fox

pupsA Soviet scientist called Dmitri Belyaev began a project to breed foxes in 1959. He was interested in breeding away the fear reaction, and breeding for sociability. These foxes now whimper for attention, wag their tails and enjoy making friends with humans.

Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the project has had funding issues, but foxes have been sold as pets. The project is still giving us insights into how humans would have first domesticated dogs and cats.

This is possibly the only successful and moral experiment in this list. So it’s worth noting that the scientist involved was a bit of a rebel. He was interested in genetics in Stalin’s Russia, where it was considered a false, capitalist science. By the time the Silver Fox project had began, Russia was becoming slightly less insane, but still in the early years this project was carried out against the official state ideology.

There are, apparently, foxes that were bred to be aggressive instead. But we won’t dwell on that.

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Unanswerable questions about the world’s first monotheistic emperor

Akhenaten is probably the only hereditary leader in the history of the Earth who I can’t help liking. He was also a bit of an ineffectual merciless tyrant. But let’s start with the positives. He established the first monotheistic state on the planet, momentarily sweeping away the ridiculously well entrenched Egyptian polytheists. He built a new capital city, and he allowed a completely unique and innovative style of art to develop.

His reign was difficult, and it’s an open question how much of that was his fault. A century ago a great disaster had laid waste to Minoan Crete, and barbarians from Europe called the Sea Peoples were attacking the Bronze Age world. We have quite an extensive list of diplomatic letters from his reign which talk about financial problems, plague, and insurgency.

The surest sign that his reign was not successful was that after his death in the 1330s (before Christ, obviously) his name was removed from inscriptions and there seems to have been an attempt to delete him from history. His new religion “Atenism” seems to have totally disappeared.

In a very short time, he completely changed the basis of a civilisation. Even if in didn’t work, it raises questions that I think are well worth pondering. Unfortunately, I think they’re possibly unanswerable.

1. What motivated Akenaten?

By getting rid of the priesthood and taking their gold, Akhenaten got rid of a powerful rival and would have made big financial gains. Could his reforms have just been an attempt to make money?

But, if this was the case, why make such a radical change? And why build new, expensive temples with big open air areas for worship of the sun? It seems like the actions of a true believer.

Maybe his motivation wasn’t so much religious or selfish, but psychological and scientific? One commentator, James Henry Breasted, has suggested that he was “the first individual” trying to stamp his personality on the world and create a more accurate view of how the universe worked.

2. Where did Atenism come from?

The first reference we have to Aten, the God of Atenism, is from the Story of Sinuhe published some six hundred years before Akhenaten. In this, Aten, or the sun-disc, is referred to as a creator. We don’t really know for sure how Aten was interpreted by the layity.

The other contender for the title of “founder of monotheism” aside from Akhenaten is Zoroaster, he founded Zoroastrianism. Estimations for when he lived ranged from 1800 BC to 500 BC. I don’t really want to get into that, but it raises a lot of questions. Did monotheism come from Persia to Egypt? Or Egypt to Persia? Where did the ancient Hebrews fit into this?

3. Where did Atenism go?

Freud had a theory that Moses was a priest of Aten who was exiled to Israel, and therefore Judaism has Egyptian routes. There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to back this up. While the Great Hymn of Aten has been compared to Psalm 104, this similarity is shared with other more orthodox Egyptian religious hymns.

Religions are usually quite hardy, surviving practitioners turn up in all sorts of odd places. But after the death of Akhenaten, Aten seems to have been removed totally from the pantheon.

So how come monotheism popped up again in Israel, and in Persia? Was monotheism an idea whose time had come, and if so, why?

There are many theories on how various factors influence culture,  but I doubts its the kind of question we can get a definitive answer to.

Five people who are leading the way out of civilisation as we know it

All over the world, there are people who have come to the conclusion that modern industrial society is a bit shit, really. As we begin to understand the impact of modern society and the dangers that we inflict on ourselves, it could be tempting to dream of withdrawing entirely from the whole stinking game.

And there are people around who have done that. Here are some of my favourites:

1. Sue Woodcock, hermit in the Dales

In 2004 Sue Woodcock, a retired policewoman, spent her savings on a rayburn cooker and some rare sheep, and moved to the Yorkshire Dales. She referred to the world she’d left as “that England” and claimed to have no morals, because that’s something society enforces on you.

She’s more of a Hermit than a primitive, her lifestyle involves meeting very few people, she generated her own electricity and got water from her own well. In 2011 she was looking into selling up and her lifestyle now seems to involve trips to the shops to buy wine-racks.

2. Emma Orbach, mud hut dweller

orbachEmma Orbach was the daughter of a wealthy musician and got an education at Oxford. She left England with her husband, originally to set up a self-sufficient farming community, but then she split off from that to get even more back to nature. For the past thirteen years she’s been living in a mud hut in rural Wales.

She doesn’t allow tractors onto the land, grows what she needs and does all of her own repairs. It sounds like this isn’t just a withdrawal from society, she hopes that living simply will help humanity see what’s possible.

3. Tom Leppard, most tattooed man in the world

Tom Leppard, 'the Leopard Man of Skye'Tom Leppard, the former most tattooed man in the world, lived alone on the island of Skye, Scotland. He lived alone for twenty years, only travelling to the mainland by kayak once every week to collect his pension. In 2008, at the age of 73, he left the islands and moved to a one bedroom house, claiming that it was getting too dangerous to kayak into town when he needed to.

4. Will Lord, primitive skills teacher

Will Lord, of Beyond 2000 BC is not entirely primitive as such (I mean, he has a website and does TV work) but he’s one of the people in the UK that teach and retain old skills used by “primitive” people, such as flint knapping, constructing, bows, bushcraft, etc. These skills are interesting for people who want to be able to make and use their own tools.

The main argument for these skills is that, while lots of tools that even the people on this list use are cheap to get the industries that produce them aren’t sustainable. This has lead people to develop an interest in making their own tools.

5. John Zerzan, theorist of primitivism

John Zerzan is worth mentioning here as the main theorist of Anarcho-Primitivism. He has some followers in Britain. My main memory of them is seeing big piles of pamphlets they’d put together, and being told they’d formed a production line to make them.

Perhaps the problem with the anarcho-primitivists is that they have a difficult choice to make. The tools you need to spread an idea are the same tools you need to spread your message. So do you compromise your lifestyle to convince others, or do you live by your ideals even though one person doing it won’t save the world?

Leppard eventually had to give up his extreme lifestyle when he couldn’t support himself alone. Emma Orbach’s lifestyle is only possible because she was originally part of a commune that could defend their rights against outsiders. So it seems that people who want to withdraw from civilization may want to be a role-model for others, but they still need sympathetic allies who are still inside civilisation if they’re going to be successful.

Could ancient people have built batteries?

The short answer to this question is “Yes!” The long answer is, “No.” Let me explain.

baghdad-batteryAn odd object has been found in Iraq dating from the Sassanid period (224 to 640 AD). It’s basically a terracotta pot containing a copper cylinder made of a single sheet of copper, with a single iron rod inside them. Put together, this device looks similar to an electrical battery.

The theory is, if you put the correct chemicals into this jar, you could use them to create a chemical reaction that would generate an electrical charge. This is demonstrably true. Experiments have shown that Lemon Juice, or Benzoquinone (which could have been collected from beetles) and vinegar could be used in a device like this to generate electricity. You can even build a replica yourself. Depending on how you use them, replicas have produced between 0.8 and 2 volts.

So, yes, the Sassanids could have produced electricity. But what would they have used it for? The original theory was that it would be used for electroplating gold onto silver objects. We know that the Sassanids were particularly good at this. However it is generally believed now that the Sassanids fire-gilded with mercury to produce these items. Being able to do it inefficiently in a slightly different way wouldn’t have even been a good trick.

The big problem is that the battery theory doesn’t match with the device. We’ve found no wires, and no electrical equipment associated with these objects. Further, no conductive metal is open to the elements, so it’s not clear how you’d get power out of it.

battery1bSo what were these objects used for? We have found similar artifacts that were used for storing holy scrolls. The only difference is that these weren’t covered in clay. We could assume that these objects had a similar use. If an scroll had been left in them and had degraded completely, there could be an acidic organic residue left that is unfortunately similar to what would be left by a battery.

So, yes. A battery could have been made using pre-industrial technology. But the only evidence that it was used in this way comes from experimental archaeology. All this can really tell us is that it’s technically possible to construct a battery, not that it ever actually happens. This is the kind of information that’s useful to accidental time travellors, maybe. But doesn’t help us to understand the past.

But then, nothing is certain. If people could have made electricity, who’s to say they didn’t? These objects haven’t attracted much attention from serious archaeologists. Maybe there’s further study to do.

 

Who were the first Chinese Christians?

Did you know that we have written records of thriving Christian communities in China from a time before there were even Christians in Norway? A nine foot high stele in Shanxi Province attests that there were Christians in China as early as 635.

The Nestorian Stele

The Stele was written by a priest called Jingjing, who also went by the name of Adam, and it records the first 150 years of Christianity in China. The stele is called the “Memorial of the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion from Daqin”. Daqin means the Roman empire, or rather the small part of it that China had contact with. Normally, though, it’s just called The Nestorian Stele It’s written in two languages, Chinese and Syriac, the language of Nestorian Christianity.

The document shows that Christianity was not just a religion of missionaries, it seems to have adopted ideas and words from the Chinese. For instance it refers to Biblical passages as sutras and follows the Daoist example of seeing their religion as nameless and mysterious. Throughout the stele it is referred to as “the Dao”. It’s even decorated with a mix of lotus flowers and dragons, along with the usual cross.

The Stele (which you can read for yourself, by the way) recounts how Christianity entered China in 635 with a Christian missionary called Alopen. It seems to have spread out widely, and received high favour from some of the emperors. But then, it disappeared. Unfortunately, as is often the case, we know less about why a religion stopped than we do about how it started.

It was probably buried by Christains after 845, when the Emperor Wozong started persecuting Buddhism. Christian monks were forced out of this country at this time, but we can’t be sure that persecution finished them off. It probably didn’t help that the Chinese Church had been split off by the growth of Islam and that the Christians of China ended up adopting more and more Buddhist ideas as time went on.

The theory that Christianity merged into Buddhism is perhaps backed up by the fact that the Nestorian Stele turned up in a Buddhist temple in the 1620s. In fact, it’s still there, and according to some sources there are Christian elements to the beliefs at that temple even now. In around that area there’s a ruin called the “Daqin Pagoda” which was apparently in use until 1556. Some have claimed this was a site of Christian worship.

The evidence of continuing Christian worship after the 9th century seems pretty faint, though. The Daqin pagoda is meant to have Syriatic graffiti and a scene that looks like it’s biblical, but this is perhaps the result of the church language persisting in a community that had mostly moved on.

We still know very little about the fate of Christianity in China because for a long time Chinese scholars were at best uninterested, and at worst saw it as a hoax. The Chinese were right to be sceptical. The Christian missionaries at the time weren’t above bending the truth a little. For instance, when the Jesuits found out about the stele they claimed it was a Catholic monument. It seems the one thing worse than there being no pre-modern Christians in China was for the wrong denomination to have got there first.

Greenland’s Lost Islands

Greenland is pretty unique. For a start, it’s the site of the only major permanent Viking colony in North America. It’s also one of the few places on Earth where a European population was expelled by colonists from a different, technologically more advanced culture. The story of Greenland also involves mysterious lost islands. And who doesn’t love mysterious lost islands?

The first European to see Greenland was Gunnbjørn Ulfsson, who encountered a set of flat islands (skerries) between Iceland and Greenland. Settlements sprang up on these islands and they became the first European settlements in North America. Providing we accept that Greenland is in North America, Gunnbjørn’s skerries are part of Greenland, and that Gunnbjørn’s skerries ever existed. All of these points are contested.

Gunnbjørn’s skerries are sometimes explained as a hallucination, or as a semantic misunderstanding. But according to one source the islands hosted a small population, and were reported to have been destroyed by a volcano in 1456. One thing that backs up this story is that an island did briefly reappear in 1783, in around the same place, as the result of an earthquake.

After the first colonies were set up, History happened. The area was far more green than it is today, so the colonists could live reasonably well. But as early as 975, the Greenlanders were suffering famine winters where “the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs”.

This was just a taste of things to come, though. The winter of 975 was a chill at the start of the Medieval Warm Period, the colony in Greenland seems to have died out around four centuries later in the Little Age Age. The population didn’t freeze to death, it seems they just became unprofitable: they started to need more imports to survive but had less to trade.

The church at Hvalsey

People left to find work elsewhere, and the colony grew smaller rapidly. The last written record we have is a record sent to Iceland to prove that Thorstein Olafsson of Iceland and Sigrid Björnsdottir of Greenland had married in Hvalsey Fjord Church in Greenland on Sept. 14, 1408.

There are later sources referring to Greenland, though. They tell us that in the 1410s, a new people arrived near the Greenland settlements, burnt the churches and took most of the people as prisoners. These people were the Inuit. Like the Vikings, the Inuits took advantage of the warm period to expand. As the Vikings spread west, the Inuits spread east from Alaska. Inuit technology was specialised for arctic environments and this gave them the edge over other groups as things cooled down. By the time the Europeans returned, the Inuit had been living in Greenland peacefully for centuries.

The Norse seem to have hung on till at least 1448, but at some point after that, the colony vanished. The lack of precious materials left behind indicates that the Norse left peacefully, and no site of battle has been found yet. But the Inuits apparently believe that they beat the Vikings in open battle and chased them to Cape Farewell for a final showdown.

If Gunnbjørn’s skerries existed, and if they were destroyed by a volcano in 1456 they could well have been the first and last Norse colony in Greenland. Which would be a final stroke of bad luck for this colony. An ice age and getting out-competed by another tribe are bad enough. Their last island getting destroyed by a volcano would be taking the piss.

The Mysteries of the Muggletonians

Ludowicke Muggleton

The Muggletonians were one of those long-running sects that came out of British Puritanism. Their story starts off with the two prophets with supernatural powers picking fights in London bars, continues in centuries of internal squabbling and fights with their dreaded enemy, the Quakers, and ends in lost treasures and mystery.

Remember I mentioned the Ranters in the last post? They are largely remembered as drunks, naked dancers and general fun people to be around. But it’s important to remember that they weren’t just a drinking society. They were also a very spiritual people. Few people could exemplify this better than the prophets John Tannye and John Robins, they reportedly condemned their enemies to Hell, raised the dead, and tried to establish a new society in Israel.

John Robins ended up in jail for his beliefs in 1652. There he was visited by two people he knew from the sectarian community in London, Muggleton and Reeve. He may have expected that this would be a nice thing. He knew them, and they’d entertained Ranters in their homes in the past. So it may have been a surprise when they announced they were prophets and cursed him to Hell.

As Prophets do, he cursed them back. What happens next is difficult to judge, we only have Muggleton’s word, and he obviously says that he won. This may be true though, because Robins later recanted and apologised, while the two new prophets went on to form their own sect.

The next few years seem to have been wild for these two prophets. As they were establishing their sect, so were the Quakers. The two soon became best of enemies, exchanging curses, and vitriolic pamphlets. At this time, according to The World of the Quakers groups with names like Familists, Seekers, Behmenists, Baptists, Levellers, Socinians, and Quakers would meet in taverns, argue, curse each other, and exchange their pamphlets. I haven’t found a reference to singing, but the Muggletonisn went on to develop a rich musical tradition. We can assume that these were fun evenings.

It sounds like the prophets fitted into all this quite comfortably. Muggleton’s own biography contains the wonderful passage “For God’s sake, Lodowick, let us be gone, else we shall be killed: so he paid for the drink and we departed out of the house and went to another a little distance off.”

After the monarchy was re-introduced, sects like the Quakers and Muggletonians started to get respectable. The Muggletonians argued that the Quakers only changed in response to Muggletonian criticisms, the Quakers refused to comment. They stopped responding to Muggletonian criticism and concentrated on things like inventing sweets, instead. Slowly, the non-comformists moved out of the pubs.

The Muggletonians kept on cursing people until as late as 1826, and seem to have had successes. Walter Scott, their target, died a reasonably horrible death. They even kept on meeting in pubs. Their songs were designed to sound like popular songs so that they could hold their meetings surreptitiously in public spaces. But a lot of time was taken up with incredibly sophisticated doctrinal disputes. or a sect that rejected reason as Satan embodied in humanity, they had highly cerebral answers to a lot of theological questions. They were hard-line materialists: they believed that God had literally come to earth in the body of Jesus, that souls were part of the body, and some of them believed that the sun revolved around the earth.

The movement did modernise, and started to open up more to outsiders. But it’s numbers began to dwindle. It was commonly believed to have died out in the 19th century. Except that it didn’t. A small group in London kept a meeting house running until 1941, when it was bombed by the Germans. Then, their treasured archive was removed to a farm in Kent by “the last Muggletonian” Phillip Noakes, where it languished until 1974 when a Marxist historian called EP Thompson tracked down Noakes, and discovered the archive. It currently sits in the British Library, and is an absolutely unique historical resource.

But, it may not be unique, in the 30s Noakes was in contact with a second group of Muggletonians in America. They also had a treasured archive. It would be surprising if they let it simply vanish. Even if there is no American archive, what about the other people who used the meeting house? There’s some anecdotal evidence of Muggletonians in existence as late as 2000. Could they still be out there? It’s hard to say. The Muggletonians were never exactly secret, but they never promoted themselves and they did enjoy pulling the wool over people’s eyes. I have my figers crossed that they’re still out there somewhere.

Puritans and their weird names

round headI am a Puritan fan. How could you not be? We’re talking about a bunch of people who, in the days when the future of Protestantism was insecure in Britain, got into trouble for saying that Britain was not protestant enough. When parliament raised its standard against the king, it was the Puritans who formed the New Model Army and won the day.

And they did it with style. I mean, they did it with Bible study groups, discussions about politics, and an sense of discipline based on a shared faith that allowed room for people to work things out for themselves.

Civil War is a horrible thing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any group that made it look quite so good.

Obviously, their victory was short-lived, and in 1660 some people decided England should be a monarchy again. Just two years later, in 1662, Puritan priests were expelled from the Church of England if they refused to accept the revised Book of Common Prayer. Most became non-conformists. Puritans were banned from holding positions in the military, positions in government, and even from getting degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. These restrictions were in place till the nineteenth century, and weirdly, in this time Puritans got into business. The Quakers alone developed fixed prices for goods in shops, drinking chocolate, and set up lots of businesses that looked after their workers as well as they could.

Ain't no party like a Ranter Party
Ain’t no party like a Ranter Party

They weren’t all humourless and restrictive either. There were groups like the Ranters who didn’t believe in sin, but did believe in dancing naked and drinking heavily. They were a diverse bunch. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Puritan sense of humour is some of the names they gave to their children. Ostensibly, the goal was to give children godly names that wouldn’t be tainted by unbelievers using them. They also helped Puritans to recognise their own. But some Puritan names just got odd.

Here are some of my favourites. Most of these are courtesy of the brilliant Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. Weirdly for me, many of them originate from East Sussex, which means that most of the weirdest Puritan names in the country originate just a few miles away from where I’m sat now. Continue reading Puritans and their weird names

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire Part 3: Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Saint Helena from space

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

This state has a population of just 7,728. It developed a new constitution in 2009, and it’s in the middle of the Atlantic. Compared to the places we’ve already spoken about, it’s quite dull. Witness Ascension Island’s newspaper, The Islander. I especially like this enigmatic message.

The islands are strategically valuable, especially Ascension Island, which has an air-base. The UK has £19 million (around £2500 per head) invested in the islands, with plans to build an airport and a boat to deliver the post. That accounts for 64% of the islands total budget.

With such a reliance on the British, I can’t see much prospect of independence. I mean, Saint Helena is dependent on British money and Ascesion relies on the British and American militaries. But there are conflicts within the country itself. According to Wikipedia (and sorry for using such a lousy source), Ascension Islands first island council in 2002 was dissolved by the government in Saint Helena. The Ascension Islanders mostly boycotted the next election and by 2009 they had had to introduce a new constitution recognizing the three islands as equal partners. It all seems very civil, but a change in the islands could affect Britain’s relationship with them

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire Part 2 – The Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn Islands

With a population of just 62, the Pitcairn Islands have the smallest representative democracy in the world. In 2012, the population was made up of 52 resident islanders and 10 non-residents. The statistics on the island are truly fascinating because they’re so exact. There are 34 able bodied people of working age, and 31 of those work public sector jobs, although its mostly part time and private enterprise also has a role.

So, 95% of the government’s money comes from Britain, and the population has dropped from a high of around 250. The island also has to deal with the aftermath of a series of sexual assault trials that affected nearly every family and seem to indicate a deeper, cultural problem in the colony.

As if this isn’t bad enough, global warming is likely to have an affect on the survival of this community. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change lists problems such as a decrease in the size of coral reefs, warmer waters bringing up more poisonous or dangerous fish, risks of tropical storms. The biggest risk for Pitcairn is flooding: most shipping comes through one small jetty. If that is damaged then the island could become difficult to access. Such a disaster, even if it’s temporary, could mean soil loss for the island, and could affect the community’s ability to survive.

Chance of survival

The main lesson to draw from this is the political force that the British government puts into keeping the colonies running. In 2012 and 2013 DFID donated £3.6 million to the island, which is £58,000 per islander. This shows a real desire to invest in the survival of British Overseas Territories.

However, in my opinion, the money doesn’t seem to be helping. Big projects on Pitcairn include RSPB running a rat extermination programme on an outlying island, and an abortive attempt to build a wind farm. These projects aren’t creating work for islanders. The population is still leaving. Reliance on British foreign aid doesn’t seem to be a good option for them.

Pitcairn faces big challenges with global warming, and the risk of British funding cuts to foreign aid. There is a good chance that this colony could disappear within the next few decades, in spite of the UK government’s best efforts.