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!
AVAAZ Lion Petition, Christian The Lion, Mugi, Kora, Lonesome George, Gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation
July 1, 2012
KORA: It is particularly exciting – indeed historic, that lions are being re-introduced to Kora in Kenya, the first since George Adamson’s death in 1989. Tony Fitzjohn, Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust who of course lived at Kora with George (and Christian), is overseeing the rehabilitation of Kora and George’s camp, among many other projects. After Tony sent me this photograph of Mugi recently, I asked him many questions on our behalf. What is Mugi’s personality like? How old is he? What care does he require at this stage? Can we help???? The spots on Mugi’s legs remind me of Christian’s spots that gradually faded. I think I also recognise that expression. Apart from Mugi’s curiosity about the camera, he is about to playfully pounce!
I was very touched when these drawings of Christian were emailed from Italy, where these school children had just discovered Christian’s story. Thank you so much!
” We saw a story about Christian at school. He becomes our LOVE at first sight. We were so moved so touched .. SO SO MUCH! we are so happy for
Christian and all of you.
In memory of your beloved Christian we decide to draw something for you and John. We have drawn Christian and after we have made a stickers.
Some of these we are sending you with an attachment. And if you want, we will be very happy to send you also some another via ordinary mail. Only we need your addresses.
Thank you both, including late George Adamson. CHRISTIAN FOREVER!!! MUCH LOVE
Kids from Italy, Croatia and some other places living in Trieste,
Giulia, Lorenzo, Martina, Gessica, Anna, Francesca, Greta,
Francesca, Martin, Leo, Vera, Valentina, Alen, Giovanni,
Francesco, Beatrice, Dario, Andjela, Anna, Marko, Anna, Ana,
Anja, Dario, Denis, Vladan, Christopher, Noemi and Olga, teacher “
I also received an email from Nancy which I thought summed up very well the feelings many people have about Christian and the subsequent journey some embark on – reading relevant and fascinating books, and getting more actively involved in supporting wildlife and conservation issues and causes.
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive your answer; I continue to “obsess” over Christian. I read Adrian House’s book “The Great Safari” The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, as you recommended and spent weeks on it. With my iPad in hand I must have researched every animal, person, national park, tribe, et cetera while reading it. You had mentioned in one of the many You Tube videos that this sensational interest in Christian is a cry for Africa. Indeed it is! I had never considered myself even a conservationist until Christian and since have begun to contribute to organizations. I believe it is no coincidence that he was named Christian as I see God’s hand all over this.
I also read Beryl Markham and am now going onto Elspeth Huxley. I repeatedly continue to view the reunion and am thankful Google has photos as well. I hope you and John realize the import of what you did and that you really have been used by God to change the hearts of men as certainly as I am proof. I will never be the same. “
AVAAZ: It is hard to believe that hundreds of South African lions are being slaughtered to be used for “bogus” sex potions, and are also farmed for trophy hunters. Perhaps only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa and may soon be as endangered as elephants and rhinoceros. This petition is designed to put pressure on President Zuma with as many people as possible signalling that this brutal trade will hurt South Africa’s image as a tourist destination. Please sign the petition here.
GOOD NEWS: The Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered and there are fewer than 200 of the breed alive. So the birth of this baby in Indonesia – the last refuge for them – is very good news. It is only the fourth birth in captivity in 100 years.
VALE: No such luck with Lonesome George, the last known member of the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies (from the Galapagos Islands),who has died, aged at least 100. Despite years of efforts and various temptations, he was unfortunately unable to reproduce.
GORILLAS: I was of course very moved seeing Damian Aspinall return to Africa for his reunion with a gorilla called Kwibi who he had returned to Gabon in Africa five years before – one of 53 The Aspinall Foundation has returned. The emotion both of them felt was very beautiful and extremely touching. Just as we were not frightened of Christian as he ran towards us in our reunion because we could recognise his excited grunts and facial expression, Damian says he was not afraid as he recognised the gorilla “love gurgle”. It is heart breaking when Kwibi followed him along the opposite side of the river and called out to him during the night. We have footage of Christian with a very worried expression padding behind our vehicle as we left Kora one time which can still make me cry (like now). When we had Christian in London Damian’s father John Aspinall was well-known for keeping tigers on his country estate. I suppose this was a ” least worst” option we may have had to consider for Christian, and so fortunately avoided. Damian took over 2 Wildlife Parks in Kent that were founded by his father, but he has a “deep loathing” for zoos and intends to return as many animals to the wild as he can.
MAIL: My condolences to Ray who lost his beloved dog Snoot, and I’m hoping Hélène’s ill diabetic cat Hermione is recovering. Our animals play such an important role in our lives and are a re-connection with the natural world we are increasingly estranged from. They are family, and it is devastating when they are ill or if we lose them.
Mitchell Library, David Scott Mitchell, Global Animal, Jane Goodall, Jeffery Moussaieff Masson, Unity Bevis Jones, A Bloody Business, Aung San Suu Kyi, Amazon, Carbon Tax, A Lion Called Christian
July 6, 2011
MITCHELL LIBRARY: These images are from a recent purchase of early Australian natural history illustrations by the Mitchell Library. Six bound volumes and 741 “exquisite” drawings and watercolours were taken to London in 1795 and subsequently purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby. They are believed to be by the convict artist Thomas Watling. Europeans were fascinated by the exotic flora and fauna from the Pacific region.
DAVID SCOTT MITCHELL: The library is named after David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907) who donated what has been described as the world’s largest private collection of a particular region – Australasia and the Pacific, with over 60,000 books, maps, journals, pamphlets, paintings, and a bequest that still financially benefits the library today.
He appreciated the importance of collecting primary sources - ”Australia’s DNA”, from which we are still in the process of interpreting our past. Indeed, we are at the moment still debating whether to describe the European arrival in Australia as an “invasion” or “colonisation”.
I am reading the just published Book Life, the life of David Scott Mitchell byEileen Chanin. It is an exhaustively researched biography which paints a picture of the surprisingly sophisticated Mitchell and Scott families, cultural life in the small colony of Sydney, and the international literary context. This book is long overdue as very little is known about Mitchell, and the book reveals much more about a shy man who was not as reclusive as reputed, but who still remains elusive. He was my grandmother’s great uncle and she sometimes stayed with him on her school boarder’s weekends. Unfortunately I was too young to ever ask her what he was like. I only remember her saying he was always reading! Only much later have I appreciated the value of oral histories – and identifying people in photographs!
Family skeleton: D S Mitchell’s father James was an extremely energetic and entrepreneurial doctor and businessman and conveniently, his wife Augusta Maria (Scott) was wealthy. He was one of the first in the colony to mine for coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW, and this wealth from the now contentious coal primarily allowed David Scott Mitchell to indulge his passion for collecting books, and Australia has benefited from it as well.
GLOBAL ANIMAL: Later this week I am on a panel at the Global Animal: an Animal Studies conference at the University of Wollongong (UOW). I am fascinated by the amount of interesting and wide ranging research in this field in academia, especially about human/animal relationships. Click here for UOW details.
You may be interested to click on the Australian Animal Studies Group News eBulletin and see the range of activities, articles and national and international conferences and events. I was asked to contribute to this edition, and I wrote about my visit last year to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in India - where through the efforts of many people (but Christine Townend particularly), management of the community dog population has seen human rabies eliminated from both those areas. The editor insisted on using a grisly photograph of a dog still out cold from the operation – I wanted to use the pretty white kitten dressed for Diwali celebrations. OK – I seem to have lopped off some tail – last photograph it was her ears!
A BLOODY BUSINESS: But does gore sell more effectively? The footage of Australian cattle being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs has created a very effective public outcry and scandal. Exports of live cattle to Indonesia have been suspended. The Indonesians are offended. Our government has as usual seemed slow to respond constructively, and many cattle owners are left facing huge losses. The industry is worth $550 million (I read various estimates), and some small compensation to producers is presently being offered. Animal welfare is for now at least under overdue scrutiny.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: There has been no equivalent outcry against sending our asylum seekers or refugees to Malaysia, although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received many emails of protest. The shock jocks and irresponsible politicians who have exacerbated and exploited this issue are now being countered by a few serious and informative television programs that are actually putting a human face to the refugees and showing just what many of them have been subjected to. Most of them had to flee their country – they were not just setting off to look for a better life.
POLLUTION TAX: Much better to call it a pollution tax – who wouldn’t want to prevent pollution? I’m pleased Germany is stepping back from nuclear energy, retiring their 17 reactors by 2022. For years now we have been mired in our carbon/pollution tax debate, but the government is about to finally put a price on carbon. Compensation to coal producers has understandably been a sticking point. The Greens now have a balance of power in the Senate, and are working quite well in an “agreement” with the government. It may be a future direction as many disenchanted Labor voters (like myself) are now leaning towards the Greens instead. They won 12% of the primary vote last election. I wouldn’t want the Greens to be running the country on their own, they don’t have the experience for a start – but at times they provide the heart, compassion, integrity and conscience on social justice and environmental issues missing in our political discourse.
Incidentally, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers seem to be doing everything in their power to force out this government by constantly portraying them as negatively as possible and marshalling opposition at every opportunity - for example, oxygen given to climate change deniers and opponents of the carbon tax. His mother however, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s 102 year old mother was a signatory to a recent letter to a (rival) newspaper calling for action on climate change. A recent Productivity Commission report detailed various actions by many countries, including India and China, and stated that a carbon tax in Australia would not make us uncompetitive internationally. Some critics argue that because of our reliance on coal, comparisons to other economies are difficult. Worryingly, although 95% of scientists accept the scientific statistics on climate change, public support is slipping, with 39% of Australians now not prepared “to pay a cent” to combat global warming. This is indicative of how badly the government has handled this issue, how long it has dragged on, and how effective the shrill opposition to it has been – more rallies and expensive media campaigns are planned. Isn’t this issue so important that there should be bi-partisanship between the major parties?
JANE GOODALL: I recently had lunch at Taronga Zoo where Jane Goodall was the guest of honour. The Taronga conservation society is in partnership with a new chimpanzee rehabilitation centre – the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Point Noire, Congo. Over the fifty years since she began studying chimps their numbers have fallen from about 1 million to 300,000. “The most efficient and cheapest way of slowing down global warming is to protect and restore the tropical rainforests. Saving the chimpanzees natural habitat is extremely important….all these problems are so interconnected”. Last time I heard her speak she explained how local villagers need to have a certain guaranteed standard of living – food, water, education etc before we we can expect them to protect animals or their habitats. Tony Fitzjohn also emphasizes this with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust – the needs and involvement of the surrounding villagers are imperative.
Jane Goodall said Australia was not doing well – a failure so far on carbon emissions, a failure to protect water supplies, disappearing endemic species, and no overall environmental strategy to link the surviving patches of habitat. She reassured us however, that individual efforts “add up”.
I gave her a copy of A Lion Called Christian but she just said “Oh. Thankyou.”, and I wonder if the book was left in the hotel room!
I admire her work enormously and how hard she works. There are Jane Goodall Institutes all over the world, and I particularly like the very successful Roots and Shoots program for schools where groups plan and implement “service learning projects that promote care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community”.
Co-incidentally, I heard on a recent radio program that given the intelligence of chimps and their brain size, living in groups of 5 is the norm,and in a “village” of about 50, while for our brain size humans have a close group of 7 people on average, and a “village” of 150.
UNITY BEVIS JONES: I was recently interviewed by BBC4, and I mentioned Christian’s friend Unity Bevis Jones. She came to play with him nearly every day. I was contacted by a friend who said they had recently seen her, and all was fine with her. After the shop Sophistocat where Christian lived on the Kings Road closed, Unity did not know how to keep in touch with us, and was unaware the shop had relocated to Wandsworth Bridge Road where it still is today. I look forward to seeing her when I am next in the U.K.
MISC STATS: We are part of 2 billion users on the internet …. US involvement in Afghanistan costs $120 billion per year… 85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres from the coast…. 50% of the world population now live in cities.
BRAZIL: Now the 5th biggest economy in the world, Brazilians seem to be having their day – and with the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Earth Summit to come etc. Unfortunately their resources/mining boom will test their environmental credentials – and their forest protection laws are being “gutted”. The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen and 60% of our freshwater, and recently several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered! Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to protect the Amazon.
OF THE 1%, BY THE 1%, FOR THE 1%: A disturbing article in Vanity Fair (Rob Lowe cover) by Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses the implications of 1% of the population now owning 40% of wealth in the US, a statistic to frighten us all. They haven’t been benevolent in the past, and there is a corresponding under investment in infrastructure, education and research. They are pandered to with low taxation, and this nexus of politics/business/media preserves their privilege. It is hard not to view recent “wars” as business opportunities for arms and weapons manufacturers and companies like Halliburton, and there are spoils like oil to divide. In Australia we see many of our wealthy opposing the mining tax, the carbon tax, and the NBN national broadband network, and resenting and resisting environmental restrictions, and workplace reforms.
WORRIED ABOUT: …the PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Iraq is sounding more and more despotic… the despot in Syria is hanging on but the people bravely keep protesting… Greece and European debt…that 193 rhinos have been killed already this year in South Africa, many of them in the Kruger National Park…a rush to mine cold seam gas even in the suburbs of Sydney, with real concerns about environmental damage through “fracking” and damage to the water aquifers… the capabilities of Thaksin’s sister in Thailand…a released but restricted and silenced Ai Wei Wei in China… and if you are concerned for Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy in Burma click here to sign an AVAAZ petition.
JEFFREY MASSON: I just adored reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats. It is a most authoritative book and extremely well written and readable. As a fellow cat obsessive I luxuriated in it. Much of it reinforced my own feelings and my comparatively amateur observations, but there was a lot of new information and ideas to think about, especially about cat’s play and curiosity. Jeffrey Masson also refers to other obviously excellent books on cats – none of which I’ve read. I realised I didn’t really play with my cats much, and I never improvise or buy them toys, but I AM always talking to them and having fun with them. His cats go for walks with him! I am under no illusions – food is the foundation of my relationship with mine. The book made me analyse what I really like about cats. Briefly, I find them very soothing, very cool and so self contained. I like their diffidence, their quietness and their natural entitlement. Everything has to be their own idea. This behaviour can annoy some people, but I can find it amusing or challenging. The only thing I really don’t like is how totally irrelevant they make me feel after I have fed them!
Jeffrey Masson is presently researching violence in different species, lions especially, and how much killer instinct they have, and who it is directed at. I am hoping Tony Fitzjohn with his long association with George Adamson and his own experience and observations of lions may be able to contribute. I know that the wild lions at Kora waged a full-time war over many years against George Adamson’s introduced lions, and killed several of them, although they also mated with several of the lionesses. They were defending their territory which was inhospitable and had limited resources, against intruders. It was miraculous that Christian survived although he ultimately had to leave the area. On his blog Jeffrey Masson described our YouTube reunion with Christian as demonstrating “pure joy” and that “All in all, it remains the single most astonishing video I have ever viewed”.