Christian, Lions, Australia, NSW Bushfires, Climate Change, Politics, Great Barrier Reef, USA, Espionage, Sylvia Ross, Birds, Art etc
November 12, 2013
This is another still from my footage of our 1972 visit to Christian in Kenya, which was the last time we saw him. Some of you have inquired about my short, unedited home movie. In The Final Farewell on YouTube you can see equivalent (and more professional) footage from the same visit, while mine is just a little more close up and loving.
This, surprisingly, was the last time I was in Africa and I’d love to go back soon. I later discovered India and visited many times, including staging exhibitions and cultural exchanges in India on behalf of the Australian Government.
LIONS: You can sign the AVAAZ petition here to ask President Zuma in South Africa to protect lions by banning the trade in lion bones. There is of course no evidence these these “potions” have any efficacy. This trade, like ivory, especially to Asia, just has to be stopped and urgently. Depressingly, a subspecies of black rhinos, the Western Black rhino has recently been declared “officially extinct”.
NSW FIRES: Thanks to many of you who were concerned about the bushfires around Sydney. They are terrifying and to date, it is unbelievable that no-one has died. The fire fighters – many of them volunteers, are heroic. Some fires are still burning and new ones have broken out, but seem “contained” for now. I have a National Park at the top of my garden, and many many people will be on alert all of this summer. Apparently people are better prepared about evacuating their pets than they are about themselves. Horses are a logistical nightmare to evacuate quickly, and they can smell the fires well ahead of humans. Organisations like WIRES do an amazing job of treating and caring for injured wild animals.
Christiana Figueres, the UN Climate Change Negotiator, stated that extreme weather and the frequency and intensity of bush fires are a result of human induced global warming, and our PM responded by saying she was “talking through her hat”. The most common causes of fires are fallen power lines, and arsonists. New suburbs have always been spreading into bushland, but hopefully tighter regulations and more fire resistant houses will offer more protection in the future.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Apparently the extreme weather is, once again, making Australians more concerned about climate change, and the government will appear more and more out of step – with the world. Our thoughts and sympathies for the many people in the Philippines and region who have died or lost everything because of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst typhoons on record. The scale of the catastrophe is still unfolding, with at least up to 9 million people effected.
With Rupert Murdoch owning 65% of our media, and the media exposure of climate deniers like the ubiquitous Andrew Bolt, it is hard to move the discourse beyond “is climate change real?”, to “what do we do about it?”. There is a very good article News Goes Feral by Robert Manne on Rupert Murdoch and his insidious influence in The Monthly. An analysis of articles and reports about climate change in the Murdoch media indicates very clearly scandalously unbalanced reporting. Ex PM John Howard has been in England addressing a group of climate sceptics. Howard obviously lied to us when he pretended to support action on climate change, when he was trying to win the election in 2007. Now, rather than believe scientists, and after reading only one widely discredited book (by Nigella Lawson’s father!), he says he would prefer to rely on his instinct, which told him predictions of doom were exaggerated!
The first budget cuts by the government were bodies concerned with climate change and science, no specific Minister of Science was appointed, and 1/4 of the scientists at the pre-eminent CSIRO science and research institution have been among the first of many expected job losses.
Although in danger of being “wedged” by the government over climate change, and held responsible for high electricity charges, the Labor Party has affirmed support for a carbon trading emissions scheme. The government never seems to be able to produce a reputable scientist or economist to endorse their alternative Direct Action plan where we tax payers pay the polluters to pollute, and presumably, to encourage them to stop. This scheme will now hopefully be examined for its likely effectiveness – or as widely suspected, will be found to be completely inadequate, which is probably the original intention.
Our current bi-partisan target of a 5% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 is widely regarded as inadequate, which should apparently be around 15 -25%. Although we are a small economy and population, we are the 3rd highest polluter per capita in the world, and we dig up and export so much coal.
I think Australia is now embarrassingly on the wrong side of history over climate change, and the government is not even bothering to send a Minister to the international climate change negotiations in Warsaw. Our Minister of the Environment, who seems to consult Wikepedia for advice rather than scientists, cannot attend as he is so busy “repealing the carbon tax”!!!! It is very Monty Pythonesque and would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
GET UP! The SYDNEY DAY OF CLIMATE ACTION is on Sunday 17th November in Prince Albert Park, Sydney at 11am – see full details here. This protest is Australia wide, and I hope many people attend to demonstrate our concern and dissatisfaction with a government that does not listen to the conclusions based on research and examination of empirical data, by impartial scientists.
POLITICS (AUS): Our PM recently invited several leading Murdoch journalists to dinner – reputedly as a “thank you” for their efforts helping him get elected, and Abbott recently dined with Alan Jones – one of the worst shock jocks. Apparently Murdoch also wants his “pound of flesh”, and would like the government to make it easier for him to acquire Channel Ten.
Even Coalition supporters are surprised by the new government’s secrecy, lack of transparency, and disregard for accountability. Abbott, who has only spoken in slogans for the last three years, seems to be having difficulty stringing whole sentences together. While hungry for publicity in Opposition on a daily basis, the government is refusing to give information on nearly anything! In comparison, the now Opposition have three very formidable, reasonable and professional spokespeople in Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen.
For a scathing assessment of Tony Abbott and why many people are very worried about him, see Victoria Rollison’s Open Letter to Laurie Oakes. Oakes is one of several journalists complicit in the Labor Party election loss, and Coalition win.
The media is getting restless and angry with the government for starving them of material, and with parliament resuming this week, it will not be so easy to hide. Wealthy Clive Palmer finally won his seat in Parliament, and through a few senators in his newly formed party will have a balance of power. He is a rogue conservative who makes outlandish accusations, and should prove to be a headache for the government.
After the hottest summer, winter and decade on record, this year many plants have flowered at least four weeks early. Complex and fragile natural cycles are consequently getting interrupted. I love the grevilleas especially, and at this time of the year all over Sydney one can see colourful patches of the mauve/violet Jacaranda trees.
GREAT BARRIER REEF: There will be an early test for the government in regard to the Great Barrier Reef, which UNESCO has listed as already “in danger”. The Federal and State conservative governments seem to regard environmental regulations and protections as just an obstacle to business. Decisions are expected from these governments in relation to 5 new or expanded coal ports along the Queensland coast. The subsequent dredging (and dumping) will put the Reef at even greater risk. The nearby Galilee Basin holds so much coal that if it is mined, it alone could push global temperatures up past 2 degrees. This is also true of the Tar Sands in Canada where the transportation to the Alaskan coast (en route to China) also puts this area in great danger.
There are many factors threatening the health and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, including the destructive crown of thorns star fish, and it is inconceivable that we let it be destroyed. A recent book The Reef by Iain McCalman, is a “passionate history” which includes the dangers the reef posed to early navigators such as Captain Cook, the formation of the coral, and the future the reef faces.
USA: It was almost a relief to know that Obama was spying on world leaders like Angela Merkel, and not just us ordinary citizens. Hacking into Google and Yaho0! has angered many people. There seems to be no end to Edward Snowden’s fascinating revelations. Australia is part of a US-led global espionage network, and we are spying on our neighbours. While this should not surprise anyone, countries in the region have expressed appropriate indignation. The Abbott Government’s relationship with Indonesia is particularly uneasy at the moment, and their initial attempts at diplomacy described as “inept”.
Congratulations to the extraordinary Serena Williams who had a 78-4 win-loss record in 2013, won 11 titles, and earned $US12,385,572. Unfortunately up to 50% of Americans are not so lucky and are living with “financial insecurity”. One in five children live in poverty. In Australia we are staggered by America’s low minimum wages. The esteemed Joseph E Stiglitz has said America is a “rich country with poor people” He wrote an excellent article in the New York Times earlier in the year titled Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery.
The $20 billion cost of the Tea Party-led shut down of the US Government was an inexcusable waste of money, and trashed their own reputation. Perhaps the Republicans should have put the media spotlight on the many inexcusable teething problems over the introduction of Obamacare, rather than themselves.
WEALTH: 35% of Russian wealth is in the hands of 110 billionaires, which is the highest level of inequality in the world. Putin was recently named by Forbes magazine as the world’s most powerful man – through the power of the office he holds I gather and the largesse he can distribute. Some are predicting however that Russia’s economy is faltering and this will change everything.
The median wealth of adult Australians is the world’s highest at $233,504 (US$219,500), although the Swiss beat us when measured by average wealth. In Australia the richest 10% have gained almost 50% of the growth in income over the past three decades. In America the richest 1% gained almost half the growth in individual income over the same period.
The New York Times recently had an article with the headline: Rich People Just Care Less. Apparently research has found the wealthy to be more selfish, less empathetic, less generous, and less compassionate. It is an interesting and thought-provoking article, especially about what this social and economic inequality means for the future. Americans however, do have a great tradition of philanthropy, which is, sadly, not very evident in Australia.
MIDDLE EAST: Poor Secretary of State John Kerry zig zagging around the Middle East with such volatile issues to negotiate: Syrian chemical weapons, Iran’s nuclear future, Mursi’s trial in Egypt and much else no doubt. Israel’s decision to build 1500 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem is extremely unhelpful to the “peace” negotiations with the Palestinians. I/3 of Syrians have left their country and we won’t forget those images of Syrians finally escaping from their neighbourhoods where they had been imprisoned. Some had resorted to eating cats, dogs and grass. Australian soldiers are finally leaving Afghanistan which has cost us $7.5 billion, the deaths of 40 Australians and many injured, and an unknown number of civilian deaths.
BIRDS: In a recent poll the Fairy Wren was voted Australia’s favourite bird. Magpies and Kookaburras (see images above) were the runners up. I particularly like Kookaburras – they have lots of attitude.
MISC STATS: In Australia: 65% of Queenslanders are overweight or obese; many of our trainee apprentices are illiterate and enumerate – as are a truly alarming % of Tasmanians; 25% of jockeys, and 40% of apprentice riders are now women; 30% of women in their 20s have tattoos.
SHADOWS: We are all appalled by the level of corruption by some Labor politicians in NSW over the last decades which has been exposed at recent inquires, and should result in criminal prosecutions. Also extremely depressing are inquires here into child abuse in institutions, with the Roman Catholic clergy the principal, but not the only, offenders. The reputation of the church is being fiercely protected ahead of concerns for victims. There are estimates that 50% of Roman Catholic clergy (worldwide) enjoy active consensual sex. So much for celibacy. In Ireland ¼ of Irish women have been abused as children, and 1/3 of men.
This image from the exhibition FERAL by Sylvia Ross (co-exhibiting with Emanuel Raft) shows the beauty of a pigeon, widely considered a pest in Australia. Sylvia Ross is an artist, long time Head of the School of Art (COFA UNSW), social activist and dedicated animal lover.
Sylvia sent me these dog photographs which are amusing.
MAIL: I have been asked lately where to buy the A Lion Called Christian DVD and the best source is via Amazon or Blink Films, and via Amazon for the book. I am encouraging anyone to write and post their animal stories, or their feeling about Christian, on www.alioncalledchristian.com.au. It is my fault that it is not as up to date as it should be and I’m checking back for stories I have overlooked. It will be a marvellous archive of your touching and interesting animal stories.
READING: Ashamed by my confession of my lack of reading last blog, I threw myself into the biggest book I could find – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Often named by people as their favourite book, it was extremely readable, and it provided a very thorough context for what was to happen in Russia in the early 20th century. Anna was a fascinating character beautifully created by Tolstoy, although I could not quite conjure a mental picture of how she looked or her age. I became a little exhausted by the spell of her beauty and her melodramatic life, and I was always quite relieved to read about the duller Levin in the country, thinking about seemingly lost love, farming, labour, the landscape and the seasons. He thought he had “lived well but thought badly”.
QUOTE: Winston Churchill apparently said “A dog looks up to you, a cat looks down at you, but a pig looks at you as an equal”.
ART: The Art Gallery of NSW is currently holding an exhibition entitled America Painting a Nation. I attended the crowded opening and can’t really yet say how successful I think it is as an overview, especially in comparison with the curation of the Australia exhibition in London which has been extensively criticised. America certainly has many superb paintings and I always love seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings especially. I was unexpectedly surprised by a stunning blue painting by Lee Krasner in the exhibition, and I am more attracted to the contemporary American artists.
Edmund Capon, ex Director of the Art Gallery of NSW has hosted a comprehensive three part series The Art of Australia which has just been aired. It illustrates with some of our most interesting art, how art and artists have helped shape Australia’s national identity.
VALE: Recently the Australian art world has lost three important and influential artists: Marea Gazzard; Roy Jackson and John Peart. They were much admired and dearly loved.
BOURKE: I’ve come to Bourke for a few days with a friend, the well-known photographer and fellow conservationist Jon Lewis. Bourke is in a remote corner of NSW, the so called Gateway to the Outback. There are 24 indigenous languages spoken here. I have found it surprisingly attractive, with some beautiful historical buildings, and wide streets and green spaces. Everyone has been very friendly and we are loving it. It is a little strange seeing my name everywhere…..more next blog!
Christian, Jiawei Shen, David Attenborough, Australia, Bradley Manning, Middle East, Malala, David Bowie, Dr Chris Brown, Orlando The Marmalade Cat, etc
August 12, 2013
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN!
Artist Jiawei Shen, who as I do lives in Bundeena on the edge of Sydney, has painted this portrait of Christian and me – me as I am now obviously.
Jiawei said he wanted to paint this portrait for several reasons: Christian is an experience that will always be part of my life; it is a story that the internet has introduced to a new generation; and for what it says about human/animal relationships. Obviously he is a big fan of Christian and the story has touched him. In Eternal Hug he wanted to capture and express some of the deep and various emotions this image generates.
Jiawei Shen has an international reputation, and has painted “well known” people such as Princess Mary of Denmark (who is from Australia) and he has recently exhibited the first part of a huge and epic painting of 300 historical figures active in China between 1936 and 1937.
When I first saw Christian’s painting reproduced, I thought I looked a little worried. But when you see the actual painting I do have love in my eyes. I think he has captured the most amazing likeness of handsome Christian, and as the old saying goes, never compete with animals or children! Jiawei says he never realised just how individual lions looked until he painstakingly painted Christian’s fur stroke by stroke, and compared him with other lions.
I also love the smaller quick study of me which he painted (above left) and generously gave to me.
Christian was born on the 12 August 1969 – 44 years ago in Ilfracombe Zoo, Devon. In the wild he may have lived to be 10 or 12 years old, and some lions can live up to 18 years old in a zoo. Some of you may have seen his good looking parents Butch and Mary in our original documentary, pacing up and down a small concrete cage enclosure. Such was his size, frustration and anger, Butch once or twice smashed his way out, no doubt creating havoc! We only found out a few years ago that Christian and a sister were hand reared by a staff member which may explain why he seemed to fit so easily into our lives.
Jaiwei Shen’s portrait is based on a 1970 photograph by Derek Cattani, taken when we were living in the country with Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna while waiting for permission to go to Kenya.
On the YouTube video entitled Christian The Lion- HUG! you can see the same image as Christian jumps up on me when I enter his specially built compound.
We celebrated Christian’s first birthday there, and Christian’s great friend, Unity Bevis-Jones brought Christian a mince birthday cake with one candle on the train from London. She was heart-broken when we finally left for Kenya soon after.
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Now aged 87, with a new titanium knee and a recently fitted pacemaker, David Attenborough did not miss a beat at his recent appearance in Sydney. He was touring with a Q & A show which reflected on his extraordinary career, illustrated with excerpts from many of the programs he has produced or narrated over so many years, that have changed or illuminated our understanding of the natural world. The audience was a heartening mix – of everyone! I have to say he seemed much warmer than the equally indefatigable and admirable fellow English octogenarian Jane Goodall.
It was only at the conclusion that David spoke about climate change and the world’s present ecological tipping point. He has seen the effects over years with his own eyes, and the consequent diminishing habitats for wildlife, and the loss of species and biodiversity.
The Iberian Lynx, native to parts of southern Europe, is the most endangered cat species in the world. There are estimated to be just 250 left in the wild. They may become extinct within 50 years as there are fewer rabbits, which are their main source of food, and their habitats are shrinking.
Also alarming is that only an estimated 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild.
AUSTRALIA: Sorry to go on about Australia, especially as I have many more readers in the rest of the world. I do try not to be too parochial, but I would imagine many of you would find parallels in your own countries.
Our Federal election has been called for September 7th. As I have said, I think Australians face an appalling choice for Prime Minister between Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott who has so far mostly reiterated slogans rather than costed policies.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: Both Rudd and Abbott are involved in a “race to the bottom” over the treatment of asylum seekers which contravenes our legal and international responsibilities to them.
Many of us are deeply ashamed – of our harsh treatment of them, of our politicians who have demonised them, and of the majority of Australians who seemingly feel no compassion for them.
We are now dumping these traumatised people on a malaria-infested island in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
ECONOMY: The growth record of the Australian economy post GFC has yet again been recently described as remaining the “envy of the advanced world” and partly due to “sensible macro-economic management”, according to one of the world’s foremost economists Willem Buiter.
The National Australia Bank’s CEO Cameron Clyne also recently said that as an AAA rated country the government should “issue more debt to fund desperately needed infrastructure”, and that debt can be used productively (read the article here). The Opposition, however, has successfully convinced many in the community that the government is economically incompetent.
The government has been unable to construct a positive narrative of their considerable achievements, which has not been helped by some bad political judgments, disunity, and some truly appalling corruption allegations – especially in my home state of NSW.
I have been interested to learn recently that in the last conservative Howard /Costello government (which I found repugnant in many ways), it was their unnecessary granting of tax cuts as vote buying ”middle class welfare” that accounts for a $40 billion revenue shortfall today!!!!
MURDOCH: Rupert is unashamedly backing the conservative Opposition – as he did unsuccessfully in the US with the Republicans. As he owns 66% of our print media this is very unfair. The Daily Telegraph newspaper began the election with the headline “THROW THIS MOB OUT”! His supposedly more highbrow The Australian is sometimes so partisan that you just cannot believe that professional journalists and columnists allow themselves to be so manipulated. Another factor could possibly be that he may view the government’s National Broadband Network as a threat to his own Foxtel cable TV monopoly.
CLIMATE CHANGE: As I have said several times, the Coalition has a pretend policy on climate change. Depressingly and ashamedly, we may be the only country going backwards on this issue, although various countries in financial difficulties are reconsidering various “green” initiatives. Our Prime Ministerial contender Tony Abbott recently described the carbon price he has promised to abolish as a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one”, while ex PM John Howard now says “there’s more serious questioning of the science”. This is just untrue.
Unfortunately neither party can be relied on to protect the environment. For the conservatives “economic factors” seem to be the “principal consideration” in all decisions, overruling everything else. However the Labor Party has just approved two iron ore mines in the Tarkine region of Tasmania which is a unique wilderness area. This also poses a threat to the Tasmanian Devil population which is already decimated by a contagious face tumour disease.
BRADLEY MANNING: Whistleblower? Traitor? Hero? Manning still faces up to 90 years in jail, even if he has not “aided the enemy”! The prosecution had difficulty finding even one example of someone harmed by his “Wikileaks”.
There have been more espionage prosecutions under Obama than all other Presidents combined. Apparently we should watch to see if the military judge Colonel Denise Lind gets a promotion.
I’ve just looked again at Youtube and viewed the horrific footage that Bradley Manning thought we should see of those Americans shooting innocent civilians and two Reuters reporters in Baghdad from the Apache helicopter in 2007. It is appalling in many ways: cold blooded murder; the cynical attitude of the Americans as they shot them and then shot the people that ran to help them; shooting the children in the van; the Pentagon saying the Americans had done “nothing wrong”; and that no-one was charged. On the other hand, people called for Manning’s execution, and he was subsequently locked up and tortured.
I’d also like Bush, Cheney, Blair, and Howard to be finally called to account for their lies, actions and resulting innocent deaths, and the “basket case” that is their legacy in Iraq.
Apparently 55% of Americans view Edward Snowden as a “whistleblower”, while 34% view him as a “traitor”. Both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are ironically being protected by two countries with appalling records on press freedom and human rights.
MIDDLE EAST: Let’s just see how the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations play out….but I can only be cynical. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion – late in the day and reluctantly, that while the Palestinians “have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, Israel has no intention of ever allowing a Palestinian State, and the continued building of their illegal settlements on Palestinian land is to ensure that this will soon be an impossibility. They are just playing for time.
I wish the Egyptian General al-Sisi would take off his dark glasses and we can see who Egyptians are actually dealing with. Incompetent as the Muslim Brotherhood were in governing Egypt, one does have to wonder what the reportedly charismatic General’s own ambitions are in the power vacuum he has created. The Egyptians do have a propensity for a strong military leader. Mediation seems to have failed so far, and one fears the imminent removal of the Muslim Brotherhood protesters can only result in more bloodshed.
Unfortunately Assad in Syria seems to be regaining territory, but at what a price – whole neighbourhoods and suburbs of cities seem to have been entirely flattened.
MALALA: Shot and badly injured by the Taliban in Pakistan, who will forget the courage and leadership of young Malala Yousafza and her address to the United Nations Youth Assembly about the importance of education?
WATCHING: I loved a recent documentary on David Bowie who was emerging with his Ziggy Stardust persona in the early 1970s as the world moved on from the 1960s “Carnaby Street” and the “Kings Road” era. Isn’t it interesting how some music is the backdrop to our lives at various stages. I do think Bowie was much more innovative and interesting that most of the others.
I did not enjoy watching the film Behind the Candelbra. While I loved the performance of Michael Douglas as Liberace, they were all rather horrible people to have to spend a few hours with. Many years ago with friends I met Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson in Sydney when they were promoting One Flew over The Cuckoos Nest, and they both bought art from my first gallery, Ace’s Art Shop.
CHRIS BROWN: When we appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show several years ago, of my own volition I took tapes of Chris Brown’s Bondi Vet television program. Chris is the son of a family friend. I thought he would be great on the Animal Planet channel which I think Oprah had just acquired an interest in. As an excellent vet with a personable manner and movie star looks, he could be a huge success in the USA, as he is in Australia. Chris is finally about to make his debut on US television on CBS as Dr. Chris: Pet Vet. Starting on September 28th, the program is aimed at teenage audiences.
My godmother loved cats and she presciently gave me this book Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) His Silver Anniversary when I was born and it is my favourite book. Isn’t it interesting how we remain so attached to our childhood books and I still cannot give any away. My mother had a garage sale many years ago when I wasn’t paying attention, or out of the country, and I still have to resist the urge to replace several books that went missing, especially some that had beautiful illustrations.
I think the author Kathleen Hale’s illustrations in the Orlando books are superb and I don’t know why the books have never been re-released, although there are so many excellent children’s books on the market. I quite often look online and consider buying ALL of Orlando’s books!
I just loved Orlando and his family, although I was nervous of their Uncle Truffle (above). I was frightened of the Katnapper because he stole cats, although he said he just could not help himself, and that the cats found him irresistible. I think the fish and prawns in his pockets helped. I think I probably also envied him – his house was cat heaven! I sometimes wonder what effect this story had on my life….
So, Happy Birthday Christian. Many of us will never forget you, could never forget you, and we will continue to be concerned about animal and wildlife issues because of you, and in your name.
Christian, Australia, Clergy, Asylum Seekers, Oceans, Live Exports, Climate Change, Radio, GAZA, USA etc
December 1, 2012
New Zealand artist Karen Neal has captured a very good likeness of Christian many of us can recognise. She very generously donated the proceeds of the sale of the painting to the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust. There are limited edition prints of this image and you can contact the artist direct on her website.
It is the first day of summer and the weather here has been wonderful, and after some rain, the drive through the Royal National Park to Bundeena is beautiful, with many flowering native trees. The jacarandas, oleanders and bougainvillea have also been particularly beautiful throughout the suburbs. In the Blue Mountains last weekend I saw waratahs and rhododendrons in the prettiest colours. I have resurrected my vegetable garden and have eaten some salad greens already. While I was mulching some of the plants on my hands and knees, one of the cats jumped on my back like a jockey. Always so helpful.
AUSTRALIA: Our political debate recently has mostly been name calling rather than examining important legislation the government somehow keeps generating. The Opposition just says “no” to everything and produces few alternative policies. To counter accusations that he is a “misogynist”, the Opposition leader has suddenly surrounded himself in public by his wife, his statuesque daughters and he even trotted out his mother and sisters. He has been letting his female Deputy lead parliamentary attacks. Neither leader is popular but Julia Gillard is clawing Labor’s way back in the polls and this is enough to keep deposed, but ever circling PM Kevin Rudd at bay.
However, the PM is being dogged by a 20 year old darkening shadow from her past when as a lawyer she did some work for a boyfriend who it seems turned out to be pretty dodgy. This story has been prosecuted primarily by Murdoch’s The Australian over many months, and an increasingly shrill Opposition keeping it alive. So far there are insinuations and alleged discrepancies, but not precise accusations or proof of any wrongdoing.
Another shadow is the ridiculous promise to return the budget to surplus, which is looking very unlikely, especially with the drop in commodity prices, a 45% decline in Chinese investment in Australia, and no income from the contentious mining tax.
STATES: The new conservative governments in Queensland and New South Wales have between them opened the way for development unfettered by some previous environmental safeguards, or access to legal advice by communities from bodies such as EDO . Uranium exploration and nuclear energy are back on the agenda. National Parks are suddenly vulnerable to shooters, horses and cattle grazing etc. Public service jobs have been cut and while the respected Gonski Report recommended that $6 billion needs to be spent nationally to remove the inequalities in the education system, the NSW Government responded by slashing the education budget. Some Arts courses have been eliminated or made prohibitively expensive and even a major literary prize has been scrapped.
Meanwhile the previous Labor government is being exposed and humiliated at ICAC for actions involving a powerful family and their mates, inside information from a disgraced ex Mineral Resources Minister, and the potential for them to make many millions of dollars through alleged corruption in relation to coal exploration leases and tenders.
On Sunday I attended a protest in Bundeena against shooting in National Parks. Bundeena is surrounded by the Royal National Park (and the sea) and thankfully we are exempt from shooters. The NSW Government needs the votes of the Shooters Party to get legislation through the Upper House and are blatantly prepared to accomodate their cruel, anachronistic ideas and practices. Apart from the danger to bush walkers and others, the indiscriminate shooting of feral animals makes no contribution to environmental conservation or preservation. We are being encouraged to write to the Premier Barry O’Farrell c/- Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney 2000.
CLERGY: Recently a policeman wrote a letter to the NSW Premier about the lack of action by police and the Catholic Church on child sexual abuse by clergy. This has now led to a broad national Royal Commission which will encompass all institutions and organisations involved with children. The Catholic Church has felt “smeared” by reports in the media of their inaction and obfuscation, but six times more accusations are against the Roman Catholic Church, with very few incidents reported to the police. The interests of the Catholic Church always seems to be put ahead of the victims. After a meeting with Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, the parents of two abused young girls described him as a “sociopath with a lack of empathy”.
Meanwhile the Anglican Church has a former oil industry executive Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Although women have been ordained clergy for 20 years, a recent decision still prevents them from becoming bishops. This is a very disheartening, especially as more women than men are joining the ministry.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: Conditions for asylum seekers living in tents in Nauru, possibly for years, have been described as “appalling” and “completely unacceptable” by Amnesty International. More than 7500 Australia bound asylum seekers have arrived by boat since August, not discouraged by the hypocritical and inhumane government policies, or the very dangerous journey (7 asylum seeker boats have sunk in 3 years with the loss of 400 lives). Appallingly, the “race to the bottom” by both parties just gets deeper and deeper. Australia’s mainland was even excised from our migration zone!
Mark Kimber builds miniature sets with added special effects, and then photographs them. I think he is very creative and imaginative and this image of the ship is so evocative – and ambiguous, I could not resist buying it. I loved many of the photographs in his recent exhibition The Pale Mirror.
ENVIRONMENT: Our Environment Minister Tony Burke has been very busy and quite successful with some highly contentious issues. He has juggled the competing interests in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (irrigators, communities, environmentalists etc), and placated opposition by spending a “flood” of money over the last few years on already beneficial infrastructure and “buy-backs”. Environmentalists still think that not enough water will be returned to maintain the health of the rivers. The long running forestry dispute in Tasmania may be finally close to a resolution, or a workable compromise. The supertrawler has been banned from fishing in Australian waters for two years and the Japanese have cancelled this year’s whale hunt.
2.3 million square kilometres of Marine Parks around Australia have been declared. Unfortunately there has been a 50% increase in coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef – due to agricultural run-off, hurricanes, but primarily star of thorns. There is a GetUp! campaign asking for support to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and to ask Tony Burke to commission an independent scientific review of mining operations affecting the reef. The dredging to build new port facilities on the coast of Queensland is proving very destructive.
Log onto Catlin Seaview Survey to explore the Great Barrier Reef while we have it! The Australian Marine Conservation Society International Union for Conservation of Nature lists endangered fish – and what fish we should eat and not eat.
LIVE EXPORTS: With the recent cruel and unnecessary slaughter of 20,000 Australian sheep in Pakistan, the live animal exports issue is again being debated. Apparently New Zealand has phased out live exports trading which has been profitably replaced by domestic processes.
CLIMATE CHANGE: I think we are at the point of accepting – no longer debating, that the climate is changing and global warming is a factor, and humans contribute to this. People will debate timelines, severity, solutions etc, but many more countries are beginning to understand the urgency and are taking action. It took Hurricane Sandy however, to finally have the words “climate change” mentioned during the US presidential campaign. According to a very alarming Report to climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar, the release of greenhouse gases from the melting of the Arctic permafrost “could ultimately account for up to 39% of total emissions”.
In Australia, official meteorological records kept over 100 years from across Australia, have shown that there has been a 1 degree rise in land and sea temperatures. Spring now comes two weeks earlier and we are having more rain “than ever”. The World Bank has forecast what could be a disastrous rise of 4 degrees before the end of the century – also confirmed by a UN Environment Program report, while Price Waterhouse-Coopers forecast 6 degrees. Much greater effort needs to be made urgently by all countries. With the carbon “tax” implemented, Australia may even be ahead of our projected targets and timelines.
Rather disgracefully, many of our own scientists felt it necessary to go to Canberra recently to protest at how their research on, for example, climate change, sustainable stocks etc is questioned or ignored, and underfunded.
ENERGY: Sixty- six coal seam gas wells may be scattered throughout dense Sydney suburbs, just as new research shows considerable amounts of methane are being released into the atmosphere from CSG. The public is finally understanding what has caused the huge rise in electricity prices over the last few years (“poles and wires”), with the carbon price/tax, accounting for only 10% of the rise. Coal consumption is down 30% in the US, and solar seems to be more and more widely utilised. Ten percent of Australia’s energy is now “clean energy”.
MEDIA: I, fortunately, can work from home mostly. I listen avidly to the news on radio early in the morning (Fran Kelly Radio National), and read the Sydney Morning Herald when it is delivered. Like a robot I turn off the radio and sit at my computer at 9 am – it must be my Protestant work ethic. Lately I have been loving listening to the radio much more throughout the day. Friends, especially artists in their studios, have been telling me this for years. There are so many interesting people out there that know about such diverse and fascinating subjects, and they have often just written a book about it.
The ubiquitous ex PM Kevin Rudd has been giving interviews from all over the world, at any hour of the day or night. He interviewed Radio National host Phillip Adams and they were both very intelligent and interesting. What a pity Rudd apparently was such a control freak and difficult and demanding to work with.
The always interesting and sometimes controversial Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton is giving the annual Boyer series of lectures – so far about the supposedly surprising emergence of an Aboriginal middle class, and the opportunities for some in the mining industry. Marcia is a supporter of Noel Pearson and the Intervention in Aboriginal communities, and she seems to be getting more conservative. Perhaps she has just seen too many failed policies in the past – including the idealistic but seemingly now disparaged policy of Aboriginal “self-determination”. People that object to the destruction and degradation of the environment caused by mining were described by Marcia as “a ragtag team of wilderness campaigners and… disaffected Aboriginal protesters”.
The six part series Redfern Now on the ABC has been an excellent and tough portrayal of the lives and problems confronted by many Aboriginals in the city – including tensions between those that are in the new middle class, and some of the extended family and friends living in places like Redfern who are not doing so well. Redfern is a gritty inner city Sydney suburb, close to the Central train terminal and handy for Aboriginal country visitors. Many Aboriginal families have lived their for generations and have a very strong attachment to the place and the community. As it is close to the city it is now undergoing gentrification, and many Aboriginals and others will be displaced.
Journalist Mark Colvin’s Andrew Olle lecture was very interesting about the media. We know newspapers may have 5-10 years left. There will be very little time (or budget) for investigative journalism. News will be computer generated by an algorithm. There will be an even greater explosion in blogging and information dissemination through social media – much of it which is generated by spin doctors and publicists. The Director of the ABC quoted a reporter out covering Hurricane Sandy in Lower Manhattan, who said he was more up to date by watching the live time action of the many twitter feeds throughout the city as the storm advanced.
GAZA: The Israeli/Palestinian war seemed to be announced on Twitter and other social media portals. The assassination of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing was posted immediately on YouTube by the Israeli Government. There was no world outcry at the assassination of a government official – just an almost 100% support for Israel for retaliating against the also unacceptable rockets fired from Gaza on Israeli citizens.
The Australian-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group is one of the largest in Parliament with 78 members. The informal group for Palestine is 20. Victorian Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou said “What I struggle to understand, there seems to be this fear of offending Israel…To be honest with you, I don’t get it. This is an international issue and if you take an intellectual approach to it, it’s about an ongoing occupation that goes to the question of justice, one people being subjugated by another….I can’t see how my colleagues can’t see this. I don’t understand how you can refuse to see what is happening to the Palestinian people is wrong”. Expressing opinions about either side does not necessarily mean you are anti the other side or reject their right to exist. Surely there can be no security for Israel until the Palestinians feel much less aggrieved, and somehow, a peaceful two- state coexistence established.
The PM is a staunch supporter of Israel and was rolled overwhelmingly by the party caucus into voting “abstain” instead of “against” the very successful vote for observer status for Palestine in the UN. I think there is an international attitudinal sea change happening, with the “peace process” being recognised for what it is – more a “stalling process”. A lack of any resolution provides more time for settlements to encroach into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making a viable Palestine less and less possible.
Gillard was warned (by her friends) that to vote with the US and Israel against the rest of the world would be “on the wrong side of history”. She argued that voting in favour of Palestine would “hurt the peace process” because the US has threatened to withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority. No doubt the Palestinians will be punished by Israel over the UN vote, and the US should be increasing financial support for the Palestinians and helping them to build their economy, not threatening them.
Apparently our Foreign Minister Senator Carr believes that “as a friend of Israel, at times you’ve got to save it from itself”. This reminded me of another remark made years ago: “the Palestinians never miss a chance to miss an opportunity”.
Egypt’s President Mursi earned international praise for his role in the Gaza cease fire, although I’d say it was more Obama’s influence behind the scenes. It is however another indicator of the various and complex changed scenarios, agendas and realignments in the region, post Arab Spring, that require new strategies and approaches. Next day Mursi granted himself wide autocratic powers “to speed up the transition to democracy”! This move was primarily aimed at circumventing the judiciary, who are made up of many Mubarek appointments, and who annulled Mursi’s first attempt to form a constitutional assembly. It has been back to Tahrir Square.
Lives continue to be lost as the war drags on in Syria but the world seems to have given up caring or counting the deaths… 40,000 in 20 months, and millions of refugees now facing winter.
MAIL: I received an email from Minding Animals International which detailed upcoming Preconference and Partner Events in New York, Cape Town, Gold Coast, Sydney, Vienna and Berlin. Thanks for the photographs of Christian (and other animal photographs) found on the internet by some of you like Usasportswarrior and Deb, and interesting stories, articles, and emails etc from Elaine, Lisa, Scott, William, Diego, Heulwen, Laverne and others, and apologies for late replies.
VALE: Albie Thoms, film-maker, writer, social historian, and a lovely person who will be very much missed.
US: The world seemed to be holding its collective breath for the US Presidential election, and now for the looming “fiscal cliff” of December 31st. Still experiencing hard times, a majority of Americans voted very intelligently, and even backed same sex marriage in three states, and a liberalising of some drug laws in others. Romney had a better than expected campaign but the Republican Party has a shrinking base and was shown to be “too old, and too white, too male”. Unfortunately at a time like this, that calls for reform and attempts to reach a wider support base, parties apparently usually get even more conservative, as evidenced by the emergence and appeal of the Tea Party. Four billion dollars were spent. The Republicans were outmanoeuvred by Obama’s very sophisticated campaigning technology, and well organised network of volunteers. Hurricane Sandy did interrupt Romney’s momentum. Yes, there is a degree of schadenfreude for big losers like Karl Rove, Fox News, tweeter Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, who I’m sure Obama would love to pay back for his support of Romney against him. On the other hand, Nat Silver picked the winners in all 50 states.
CHINA: While we may never know – or now ever care about what Mitt Romney actually believes, we know much less about the new Chinese leadership. Xi Jinping is apparently comparatively worldly wise and travelled. Old Jiang Zemin still seems very influential, and this gang of 7 are not known to be reformers. We have at least learnt more about some of the immense wealth some of them have amassed – like US$2.7 billion for the family of Wen Jiaboa.
MISC STATS: One hundred shootings in Sydney this year -several over the last few days; chances of winning at poker machines 13%; 1 in 8 Australians are living in poverty; 70% Australian males are overweight and 56% of women (while the obesity epidemic in the US is now lowering life spans); in the top 500 ASX companies 12 have female CEOs, 9.2% have women in senior executive roles, and two thirds have no women on their boards; our Future Fund has invested $37 million in tobacco; as much as a third of some African nations have been purchased by wealthy nations for food production; recent research indicates “nice and less competitive” baboons have longer lives, while chimpanzees and orang-utans slip into a mid-life malaise before bouncing back in old age!
ONLINE EDUCATION: I love the idea of the many educational opportunities that will increasingly be available online like the Massive Online Open Courses. I am hoping many courses will be inexpensive and accessible to people previously excluded. Universities are becoming so expensive to operate in their present form as to be unsustainable. It would be sad, however, to lose aspects of university life like the positive social opportunities, face to face contact with lecturers and tutors, and the stimulation of campus life.
I was interested in this article by George Monbiot in the SMH Children must experience nature in order to learn it’s worth saving. Apart from the existential environmental crises we face, as children’s lives are increasingly removed and disconnected from the natural world, “the young people we might have expected to lead the defence of nature have less and less to do with it”.
Monbiot quotes from Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, that in one generation “the proportion of children playing in wild places in Britain has fallen from more than half, to fewer than one in ten”. Reasons for this include: a 90% decrease since the 1970s in the areas in the UK where children may play without supervision; parent’s fears; and the quality of indoor entertainment.
People have said to me that part of the attraction of our story with Christian is that it represents a less regulated time when there was more freedom to pursue outdoor activities and have adventures and take risks. We certainly do not encourage others to buy wild animals however, and we now see how by buying Christian we were perpetuating the trade in exotic animals. While our experience with Christian has obviously been a highlight of my life, and he was just so full of personality and amazing to know, it was also always potentially dangerous, and carried great responsibilities to him and the people around us.
Jon Lewis, The Intervention, Tony the Tiger, Ross Gittins, Jenny Kee, Australia, Koalas, Bees, Prince William, Obama, Christian the Lion
May 21, 2012
JON LEWIS: It is the annual Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, and there have been photography exhibitions everywhere. I love this echidna image by Jon Lewis from his exhibition From the Ranges at Damien Minton Gallery. He has lovingly and poetically photographed the land around where he lives in country NSW. His Classic Bondi portraits from the mid 1980s are also on show at the Bondi Pavilion until June 3rd. Jonny is a well known photographer and conservation activist of long standing. See his website here.
THE INTERVENTION: I wrote about the Intervention in Aboriginal communities last time – you can protest against it here, especially as the Stronger Futures legislation to extend the Intervention is currently being debated in the Senate.
Noel Pearson is an influential Aboriginal leader and the Intervention seemed to emerge from his unexpected relationship with John Howard in his last year as PM. He has been an articulate critic of indigenous welfare dependency, but the cancellation of Community Development Employment Projects ( a form of subsidised employment) has left many in remote communities without employment and the ability to make a much needed contribution to the community. Noel Pearson writes regularly for The Australian – on a wide variety of topics, and I did wonder why academic Marcia Langton, another influential Aboriginal leader, thought it was necessary to recently write her defensive “Why I continue to be inspired by Pearson” article for the same paper.
The Intervention is very unpopular with few positive results so far. In some respects it contravenes human rights, and was an opportunistic and clumsily implemented unsuitable one-size-fits-all paradigm. Aboriginal community leaders who were not initially even consulted, need to be listened to about their particular priorities, ideas and solutions. The challenge is to create an economic basis for these remote communities – and not relocate them off their traditional lands to “growth centres”.
I think some of the most exciting Aboriginal art being made today is by the painters on bark from North East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Among quite a few very talented “young guns” is the innovative Gunybi Ganambarr. He is true to his traditional values and beliefs but imaginatively uses new conceptual approaches and mediums to express them. For example, Buyky (above) is natural earth pigments but on incised laminate board. See more dazzling paintings from his exhibition from my mind online at Annandale Galleries, Sydney and Ganambarr is one of 20 artists in the overdue and just opened UnDisclosed, the second National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra until 22nd July.
TONY THE TIGER UPDATE: The case was back in court recently but I can’t quite decipher the result or the next step. It seems it’s at the discretion of the state government whether or not they enforce Tony’s relocation. It just drags on and on. Does the local press follow Tony’s case sympathetically – if at all?
ROSS GITTINS: I often read (and quote) Ross Gittins, an economics journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, as he appreciates we live primarily in a society, rather than an economy. He has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.
Gittins recently wrote about some fundamental differences between European and American approaches to life. It helped me understand some of the very occasional emails I get about “infringements of my freedoms”, and complaints about “big government” etc.
A sample of Europeans and Americans were asked: “Which was more important – being free to pursue your life’s goals without interference from the state, or for the state to play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody was in need”.
In the US, 58% favoured individual freedom, and 35% favoured ensuring nobody was in need. It was the reverse in Europe where in Britain, for example, only 38% favoured individual freedom.
Interestingly, despite the American belief in the opportunities open to all citizens, and President Obama’s example, Americans actually have the lowest degree of social mobility.
Gittins accepts, as I do, “the need for the community to pull together towards common objectives, for us to be led by our elected leaders and for the better-off to be required to assist the less-well-off. I don’t resent having the taxman redistribute a fair bit of my income to those less fortunate”. He concludes that overall the ideal attitude to life lies somewhere in the middle. Read the full article here.
SURVEYS & REPORTS: In other recent surveys: apparently we worry most about our careers; the majority of people think at the end of their lives that they worked too hard and should have spent more time with their families; and at present there is only a “middling” concern in the community for the environment.
There have been recent reports on how the education system is failing to engage with many indigenous and non indigenous teenagers alike, and the judicial system is failing them with high rates of incarceration and recividism. There is an epidemic of marginalised and quite fearless young people – a danger to themselves, and the community. Sydney has also had nearly nightly drive-by shootings in the suburbs.
JENNY KEE: Unusually for me, I attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia to see my friend Jenny Kee’s showing of her famous silk scarves – draped extravagantly around motionless models that we walked around. It was both reminiscent of the excitement of her fashion parades for Flamingo Park (with Linda Jackson) decades ago, and something new – and a new younger audience who have discovered her. See her scarves here. I’m not sure if Fashion Week drew many international heavyweights – but bloggers got a lot of attention – especially Bryanboy – who interpreted a tweet from one of our local glamazons as a real death threat. Checking out their sites, I loved Tommy Ton’ photographs in The Word on the Street and his pick of the best off-runway fashion statements of 2011.
In New York an exhibition of the work of two Italian fashion iconoclasts Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli (who could not be more dissimilar) has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Typically Miuccia Prada has said she does not like fashion and wishes she had found a job doing something important! She is a very interesting woman and hopefully her $6.8 billion fortune may one day go towards something she regards as “important”.
AUSTRALIA: We have just had a rather clever sleight of hand (projected) return to surplus budget. It seemed to compensate people for the upcoming carbon tax and supposedly spread some of the mineral wealth. A return to surplus was a foolish, inhibiting promise at a time when economies around the world need stimulation for growth – particularly in Europe. Two tacky sex scandals involving parliamentarians continued to get most of the media attention however, as their votes are crucial in the knife-edge hung parliament.
Despite the endlessly negative (and policy free) commentary from our Opposition, our economy is the envy of the world, especially in comparison to the extremely alarming eurozone crisis, which is already having global repercussions for us all.
I like the cultural diversity (and number of women) in the new cabinet in France, and M. Hollande’s call for more economic stimulation and growth rather than more austerity.
CSG: A recent rally outside Parliament House NSW called for tougher restrictions on the epidemic of coal and coal seam gas mining. It seems no area, even prime agricultural land, is off limits. Interesting to see usually conservative country people protesting and seeing, as the new leader of the Greens Christine Milne pointed out, that they have a lot in common with environmentalists.
KOALAS: Koalas are now officially “vulnerable” and “endangered” in various parts of the eastern states of Australia. I’m not sure just how much environmental protection this will provide, but in twenty years numbers in NSW have fallen from 31,400 to 21,000 in 2010, a decline of 33%.
In NSW, the government is considering allowing minors to hunt feral animals with knives, dogs and high-powered hunting bows in the National Parks – so the government can secure necessary votes from the Shooters Party on other legislation.
BEES: It is of great concern that bee numbers seem to be declining dramatically globally and this would of course be disastrous for the food chain. 65% of our agricultural production in Australia depends on pollination by European honey bees. AVAAZ recently began a campaign against the use of pesticides by Bayer, and a link has been found between another common agricultural pesticide (containing imidacloprid), and colony collapse disorder in which adult bees abandon hives.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Nice to see a new patron for conservation and in a recent speech Prince William wanted to “sound a rallying call” that in Africa there are only 600,000 elephants, 25,000 lions (halved from 20 years ago) and 12,000 cheetahs left.
MISC STATS: 7000 languages are now spoken in the world but only 600 are expected to survive until the end of the century; in the UK despite double dip recession and record unemployment the richest 1000 people are $643.5 billion richer; in Australia under 1% of the population are problem gamblers, but they contribute 40% of poker machine revenue; 37% of Australian people with taxable incomes of $1 million or more make no donations at all; 31.96% of us sign up for organ donation however; there are fewer than 200 violins made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and 650 by Stradivarius – all worth many millions of dollars.
OBAMA: Congratulations for “evolving” into your support for same-sex marriage, the first American President to do so.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN:
How many times did you both visit Christian in Africa and when was he last seen?
When we were revising and updating A Lion Called Christian in 2009, even we were sometimes confused about some details of particular visits especially 40 years later! Luckily my mother kept all my letters from that period and that helped us as did subsequently published books. We returned Christian to Kenya in August 1970. After a few weeks we left him with George Adamson to get him used to us not being there, and went on a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. We returned to Kora where Christian was very happy to see us. Although the big lion Boy was still not fully accepting Christian, there had been an improvement and we were confident enough to leave him and return to London.
We returned one year later in July 1971 to a marvellous and enthusiastic reception from Christian that has become known as the ”YouTube” reunion and became an internet sensation. We returned again in August 1972 for another visit with Christian. He was now three years old, and was growing more independent and into one of the biggest lions George had ever seen. He had cleverly and courageously survived those early dangerous years. The relentless opposition from the local wild lions at Kora meant George’s male lions increasingly spent extended periods away from the camp. John returned to Kora again later in 1973, but Christian had not been seen since earlier in the year. George last saw him heading off in the direction of the more hospitable Meru National Park which was a much more conducive area for Christian to establish his own territory and pride.
Presuming this happened, Christian would not have been able to leave his pride unattended and return to Kora to see his friends George Adamson and Tony Fitzjohn who he loved. There were never any news or sightings of Christian again. He had grown into such a big and strong lion we hope he may have lived at least another 8 years, and that his progeny may be in Kenya today.
CHRISTIAN: See this recent interview on the BBC – John is interviewed in London in Christian’s garden, and the relocated Sophistocat furniture shop. I loved Virginia McKenna, star of Born Free saying that Christian was “one of the most beautiful young lions I had ever seen. There was just something about him….” I agree!
For a more detailed description of our return visits to Christian – and answers to other frequently asked questions, see our 2009 edition of A Lion Called Christian which can be purchased here.
Christian is mentioned in the excellent books I know some of you have been reading: My Pride and Joy by George Adamson (Collins Harvill 1986); The Great Safari – The Lives of George and Joy Adamson by Adrian House ( Morrow 1993); The Life in My Years by Virginia McKenna (Oberon 2009); and the Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust Tony Fitzjohn’s Born Wild (Viking 2010).
Norfolk Island, Reports from CSIRO & OECD, Art, Middle East, Australia, Germaine Greer, Rin Tin Tin, Earth Hour etc
March 29, 2012
NORFOLK ISLAND: The island is breathtakingly beautiful. Driving around much of the island one gasps at the dramatic coastline – which has always made any landing by sea very difficult. It also has rich soil and rural pockets with fat, contented looking cows, and banana trees and palms which give it a Pacific and tropical look. The population is around 1800 but diminishing. A headline in a newspaper recently declared the island had “gone bust”, with the banks foreclosing on various businesses and residences. I think all our holiday destinations are doing it tougher post GFC and with the high Australian dollar. The Foundation Day re-enactment of the landing in March 1788 was both kitsch and moving. History is very much alive there with ongoing resentments between these First Fleeters who arrived with my ancestor Philip Gidley King in March 1788, and Pitcairners, Mutiny on the Bounty survivors, who were relocated to the island in 1856. My ancestor unfortunately was involved – or initiated, the kidnapping of two Maoris to instruct about flax which grew on the island. They lived with Philip Gidley King who promised to return them to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, which he did months later. This little known episode had very far- reaching consequences, possibly laying the groundwork for the Treaty of Waitangi. I am continuing to research and write about this as I am especially interested in my colonial family interactions with indigenous people.
CSIRO: It seems none of the Republican presidential candidates believe in climate change or renewable energy, not unlike our own conservative politicians. Perhaps they should read the recent report State of the Climate 2012, a review by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. Australia’s current climate “cannot be explained by natural variability alone” and “multiple lines of evidence show that global warming continues and that human activities are mainly responsible”. Click here for the full and detailed report. The CSIRO is a government body (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) not like the US Heartland Institute which appears to fund climate scepticism through “academics” for hire.
Janet Laurence’s After Eden exhibition/installation at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney (until 19th May) examines extremely evocatively, through various media, our experiential and cultural relationship with the natural world. Laurence thoughtfully addresses issues such as the destruction of the environment, particularly animals, and notions of healing and caring.
OECD: Another important recent report is from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Environmental Outlook to 2050. As Ross Gittins asks “Do you ever wonder how the environment – the global ecosystem – will cope with the continuing growth in the world population plus the rapid economic development of China, India and various other “emerging economies”? I do. And it’s not a comforting thought”.
To cherry pick some of the points or questions in the report which Gittins writes about: there will be irreversible “tipping points” in climate change, species loss, groundwater depletion and land degradation; since 1970 the world economy has tripled but with significant cost to the environment and natural resources; by 2050 and with a projected extra 2 billion people, with 70% living in cities this “will magnify challenges such as air pollution, transport congestion, and the management of waste and water in slums, with serious consequences for human health; the ability of the resource base to support increasing demands for energy, food, water and other natural resources; 80% more energy will be required with the mix similar to today – 85% fossil fuels, 10% renewable, and 5% nuclear; increased competition for land; global emissions increasing by half and average temperatures increasing by 3 to 6 degrees by the end of the century; loss of biodiversity and 13% less native forests; urban air pollution becoming the top environmental cause of premature death.
Gittins concludes that “the purpose of reports like this is to motivate rather than depress…there are policies we could pursue that made population growth and rising material living standards compatible with environmental sustainability”.
MIDDLE EAST ETC
SYRIA: 15th March marked one year of the “Syrian uprising” and 9100 deaths later, even Russia is finally growing impatient with Assad and talking about desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Governments have a “responsibility to protect” its citizens, but there are allegations of the use of torture on both sides. The opposition, which I think was originally peaceful, is now running out of ammunition, which coupled with their disunity, will unfortunately give Assad heart to continue his violent repression. Assad has promised to abide by Kofi Annan’s recent peace proposal, also supported (finally) by Russia and China, although it is difficult to believe him and not to be pessimistic.
AFGHANISTAN: Everybody’s patience – both within and without the country – seems to have run out over Afghanistan. I remember in the early 2000s the Taliban were very much in retreat, and our dumb governments left to invade Iraq – one Australian remained there!
I actually saw the ex PM John Howard in the street the other day and felt like accosting him for the many reasons I felt he failed Australia. However he looked so small, old (if chipper), and ordinary – and was just ignored or unrecognised on the street – so I let an encounter I had dreamed about pass…
Not surprisingly, up to 31% of US combat veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder – many of them after repeated deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Quite a percentage even end up homeless.
As a timely reminder of the sophistication and cultural legacy of the region, a unique exhibition has travelled to Australia for the first time, from the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Love and devotion; from Persia and Beyond consists of nearly 70 rare 13th to 18th century Persian, Mughal Indian and Ottoman Turkish illustrated manuscripts and miniatures. Guest co-curator Susan Scollay gave an extremely interesting lecture on the exhibition at the AGNSW, with another on the 17th April for those of us unable to make it to the State Library of Victoria (until 1st July).
IRAN: A classified war simulation exercise forecasts that a strike on Iran by Israel would be “perilous” for the US and lead to a wider regional war. I applaud the Israeli and Iranian online campaign to exchange messages of friendship and love. “I wish we both get rid of our idiot politicians”.
ISRAEL: A UN Human Rights Council is to launch an investigation into the impact of Israel’s settlement construction on the human rights of Palestinians. Israel was quick to say it would not allow access to the country. Issues include (in some instances and areas): prohibition of Palestinians to build new homes or renovate, and demolition of houses; no access to roads or electricity; hundreds of checkpoints; Israeli settler violence (incidences tripled in three years); and last year almost 10,000 mainly olive trees were damaged, severely affecting the livelihood of hundreds of Palestinian families.
There is a marvellous exhibition Lewin:Wild Art at the State Library of NSW. John Lewin was one of the first professional artists in the colony of Sydney at a time in the early 1800s when collectors in Europe were hungry for images and examples of flora and fauna from our part of the world. I see this giant flower growing in southern Sydney and it is about to flower.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Our conservative Coalition in Australia behave as if the nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, but our Reserve Bank Governor recently said at an investment conference in Hong Kong (and reported in the SMH), that unlike nearly all other countries, our economy “suffered only a relatively mild downturn in 2008-09, made up the loss within months, and had continued to expand ever since”. However our high dollar had fed a “sense of concern in some parts of the community, and the tendency to focus on the difficulties rather than the opportunities”.
On the same day the SMH Business Day also had an article by Ian Verrender; “Despite all the hullabaloo, and all the hand-wringing and the wailing from various sections of the mining industry, the passage of the Mineral Resources Rent Tax (in Parliament) confirms Australia as one of the world’s most benign destinations for miners”. Again, the conservative party has been saying that this tax would scare off all potential investment. However see here for a detailed examination of how the taxation of natural resources in Australia compares –very favourably – to other countries.
Yet another negative scare campaign from the opposition is the threat posed by refugees and asylum seekers. According to the UNHCR Australia defied a global trend and recorded a 9% drop in claims last year, and that the numbers that come to Australia are “modest” and “manageable”.
When I was on Norfolk Island, although I was very happy, I somehow felt out of my comfort zone and was reminded that the views I hold are held by a minority of people – from climate change, to the need for a Mining Tax, to same-sex marriage (which I regard as a human rights issue). My feeling of being out of step has been reinforced by the recent crushing defeat of the Labor Party in Queensland, where a most intelligent female Premier has now resigned from Parliament. Now most States have conservative governments, and the Federal Government remain very unpopular.
Recently Margaret Whitlam died. She was the wife of Gough Whitlam, one of our most important, if controversial Prime Ministers. Margaret Whitlam was refreshingly her own person. As she came from a rather privileged background she was asked why she supported the Labor Party. “I belong to the party that cares about people”, and this is why I am a supporter as well.
GERMAINE GREER: Another of our tall and larger than life women, Germaine spends part of her year in Australia and she is very refreshing. Ignore or laugh at her at your peril. She is good “product” on television: attractive, funny, honest, provocative, very informed and very articulate. She now describes herself as an eco-feminist, and said Stephen Hawkings warns that the earth will be uninhabitable in 100 years. She thinks that Australia IS a racist country, especially about each new wave of immigrants, and that this goes back to our unresolved relationship with the original Aboriginal inhabitants. Of course the media here have trivialised her by only highlighting “feminist” Greer’s remark that our PM had “a big arse” and should stop wearing a particular style of jacket. Perhaps as Oscar Wilde said “all criticism is autobiographical”, as she did rather fill the TV screen herself I meanly thought.
A visiting editor-in-chief of the interesting Monocle magazine was surprised that Australia did not take more of a lead – given our location and English language – as a much needed voice in our Asia -Pacific region, rather like Al-Jazeera in the Middle East.
SHAME: The duck shooting season has begun in Australia, although most States have banned it; a visiting Brazilian student was tasered to death on a Sydney street; and there is finally, controversy over the use of whips – padded or otherwise, in Australian horse racing.
FOOD: a report from the Harvard School of Public Health Research states that excessive consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality. Dietary guidelines in Australia recommend 3-4 servings of red meat per week and to limit or avoid processed meat. The rate of diabetes is predicted to double in a decade.
BOB CARR: In a surprise move the PM replaced Kevin Rudd as Foreign Minister with an ex State Premier. Bob Carr is very articulate and intelligent, but as Premier, ran down the State’s infrastructure, and introduced spin over substance into Australian politics. In his maiden speech in the Senate, however, he did speak about an “overlap” rather than a “clash” of civilisations between the Western and Muslim worlds, is a believer in climate change, and is very concerned about the world’s oceans. Unfortunately, after years of attention deprivation, he is a garrulous know-all and has made several diplomatic blunders already.
JULIAN ASSANGE: A tweet from WikiLeaks said Julian Assange intends to stand for an Australian Senate seat – and that this is possible despite his present predicament in England. (27% of Indian politicians have faced criminal charges and I think some have even served from jail, while a Sydney Bangladeshi taxi driver told me 80% of parliamentarians in Bangladesh have had criminal convictions and wear it as a badge of honour!)
Meanwhile a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has accused the US of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of Bradley Manning.
RIN TIN TIN: I have enjoyed the reviews of this recent book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend of the World’s Most Famous Dog by Susan Orlean. Reviewer Delia Falconer in The Australian notes that in the 1920s Rin Tin Tin was earning eight times more than the studios human actors and received 2000 fan letters a week. He was also named as co-respondent in the divorce of his owner. “One gift of his longevity is he allows us to see, through him, an evolving entertainment culture. And, more curiously, how we project the strangeness of our own humanity on to animals – all beasts of burden, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “made to carry some portion of our thoughts””.
Fellow reviewer and dog lover Diana Simmonds in the SMH adds “Among much else, the reader will learn more than any sane person could ever want to know about dogs in movies, dogs in war, dog training, dog trainers and the genesis of the German shepherd (about 1899)”.
MISC STATS: 70% of internet traffic is devoted to porn; ebook sales rose by 623% between January and June 2011 in the UK; Forbes listed 1226 billionaires in the world with a combined wealth of US 4.6 trillion; 8 illegal unmanned drone attacks by the US this year so far – and it seems Australia will be hosting US surveillance drones from the Cocos Islands!
MAIL: Thanks to Kate for drawing my attention to two worthy organisations she supports - David Shepherd Wildlife and Wild tiger. Suddenly there seems to be great support for the endangered orangutangs – check out the Australian Orangutang Project. Apparently there were approximately 5000 orangutang deaths last year, and with 80% of their habitat lost, they could be extinct in 5-10 years. I received a nasty computer virus from a very worthy orangutang site, making my blog later than usual, so I won’t list that site for the moment!
EXHIBITIONS: We are currently spoiled for art exhibitions in Sydney. I’ve already mentioned colonial artist John Lewin’s Wild Art at the State Library, and Janet Laurence at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. William Kentridge is at Annandale Galleries. Ruark Lewis is in two beautiful exhibitions – GADAWULKWULK at Cross Art Projects with Barayuwa Munugurr, and in Shadowplay with Jumaadi and Jason Wing at dna projects, Chippendale. The Museum of Contemporary Art opens a new wing, and Michael Brand (ex Getty) has been appointed the new Director of the Art Gallery of NSW.
I was lucky enough to attend the opening of Opera Australia’s La Traviata staged on Sydney Harbour under a giant chandelier.
EARTH HOUR: It is important to participate in this global initiative which began in Australia 5 years ago and is an imaginative expression of a commitment to sustainability and environmental action. People in at least 135 countries and independent states will be turning off their lights (Saturday 31st March 8.30pm Sydney time) – and remember to turn off electrical appliances at the wall as they are extremely wasteful of energy. Click here to find out more. La Traviata’s giant chandelier will be very conspicuous!