Randal Plunkett, the 21st baron of Dunsany, was once a steak-eating, body-building death metal fan, says Rory Carroll in The Observer. Now the 38-year-old has gone vegan, swapped real leather for fake and turned almost half of his 650-hectare Irish estate over to nature. Where once were cattle and sheep, there’s now “a riot of shrubs, flowers and trees” – and 23 types of grass. Botanists from Trinity College Dublin come to study the transformation. Ireland’s verdant reputation belies a poor environmental record: the country had more than 500 pristine rivers and lakes in the 1980s, but now has only 20.
Plunkett says he’s been called decadent, a fool and “a complete waster” since he started rewilding Dunsany seven years ago. He decided “to go to war” against poachers and horse-mounted hunters, patrolling the estate and filming interlopers. “I’ve been threatened to my face and on social media with being beaten up, having my tyres slashed, you name it,” he says. The “vegan baron” is, however, maintaining some traditions. His family has managed Dunsany since 1402, and Plunkett “will not purge inherited furniture – not even the tiger-skin rug with head”.
Getting away with superhighway robbery
Ransomware is today’s version of highway robbery, says Ciaran Martin in The Spectator. Criminals, usually young, male and “from Russia or thereabouts”, hack into computer networks and take them offline until a ransom is paid, usually in cryptocurrency. They can cause chaos. A Miami software company was hacked last month, forcing several schools in New Zealand to shut down and hundreds of Swedish grocery stores to give away fresh food because their tills stopped working. When a pipeline that provides nearly half of the fuel used on America’s East Coast was hacked in May, President Biden had to invoke emergency powers to maintain supply.
DarkSide, the group behind the pipeline hack, is thought to have made $90m in nine months. “And that’s the root of the problem: ransomware pays.” Criminals based in Russia need not worry about being extradited to the West. If they “co-operate with the state when asked”, President Putin leaves them alone. Cyber-defences in Britain are improving and Biden launched a ransomware taskforce last month. The main message should be “don’t pay up” – “The only thing paying a ransom guarantees is more ransomware.”