Tony the Tiger, Christian, Australia, Environment, Energy, Gittins, China, Israel, Obama, Australian Art etc
February 26, 2013
I love the photographs each year of this Harbour event for intrepid swimmers of all ages.
BLOG: I realise my mix of interests isn’t necessarily yours, and I try not to let my politics and layman attempts to understand world events alienate those of you who are more interested in animals and wildlife issues. That’s why I have my paragraph headings – so you can skip. However, I don’t think a love and concern for animals, wildlife, and the environment can actually be separated out from the political, social and economic issues that are facing the world. Is the present rate of economic growth sustainable? Can there be a balance rather than competition between humans and animals for diminishing resources and habitats? What sort of society are we becoming and do we care for the less fortunate and for other related social justice issues? Trying to understand these questions inevitably leads to asking which leaders, or political parties, in one’s own opinion, are best equipped to grapple with these very difficult questions. So to me, all these issues I am concerned about are related, and any solutions have to be holistic.
TONY THE TIGER: Thanks to Dee de Santis for this very comprehensive update on Tony. Many comments left by people were touching. It was quite a thrill to see new photographs of him, and then heart breaking to think how much more time will he waste in that cage? Let’s hope for some action after the 19th February court case. There is a petition to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which I urge you to sign and publicise – this is an easy way we can help. I’ve also renewed my membership of the ALDF.
TIGERS: Several of my friends have loved the book Life of Pi, contrary to my earlier assertion that many did not finish the book. The film is beautifully made and deserves the Awards it has won. I am unsettled by both the film and the book but find it hard to describe why – I got a little waterlogged in both. I’m concerned about the portrayal and role in the human/animal relationship of aggression, domination and training, fear and self –preservation notwithstanding. However, perhaps that is the power of this story/fable to raise questions which I am still thinking about.
I loved the tiger not being particularly grateful. What cat ever says thank you! I’m always rather annoyed by my cats’ behaviour at dinner time. They love me and rub themselves against my legs in anticipation of dinner, but once fed, they never say thank-you, and groom themselves with their backs to me and make me feel I am completely irrelevant, which for the time being, I am.
TIGER STATS: 3,062 to 3,948 in the wild; 40,000 in captivity; 1,571 to 1,875 in India; 923 killed by poachers in India between 1994 and 2010.
BOURKE: I was appalled recently to see the headline in the SMH: Bourke tops list: more dangerous than any country in the world. This country town in the remote north west of NSW has the highest assault rate in the state, along with break ins and car theft. Most crime is opportunistic and committed by disadvantaged youth. The population of 3000 consists of a large indigenous population made up of 22 different language groups who seem to have been failed by both Federal and State Governments for many generations. Unfortunately, many country towns face similar problems and challenges.
My ancestor Richard Bourke has given our name to the town and I feel personally ashamed that people in Australia have to try and live under these conditions. When surveyor and explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell visited the area in 1835, after “tensions” with the local aboriginals, a stockade was built for protection, and as Bourke was Governor of NSW at this time (1831-1837), Fort Bourke was named after him. A fort or stockade was not an auspicious start.
John Lindt took these photographs in the Grafton area in the 1870s. Carefully staged studio photographs like this were popular in Europe, and helped to make Lindt’s reputation. The local community has been trying with some difficulty to identify the subjects and unfortunately this shows how successfully Aboriginal people were dispossessed from their land, and their family histories and ties broken.
Aboriginals make up a disproportionate percentage of our prison populations. Although they are only 2.3% of the population, 45% of male prisoners, 33% of women prisoners and 50% of juvenile detainees are indigenous. Unfortunately for some it is a rite of passage, or a respite from tough home lives. There are very few community based diversionary programs focused on drug or alcohol prevention or rehabilitation.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: While our treatment of Aborigines is an historical, and ongoing national disgrace, our treatment of asylum seekers is a present one. Both parties are competing to be as mean as each other. There have been recent scathing reports and accounts of conditions at the off-shore detention centres on Manus Island (PNG) and Nauru. As of November 2012, 10,000 asylum seekers were held in detention centres or in the community. 591 have been in detention for more than 2 years, and 923 detained for more than 12 months. Many children are included in these statistics, and unsurprisingly, people are developing serious mental problems and self-harming.
ENVIRONMENT: Both major political parties in Australia seem to be intent on “cutting it down, digging it up and shipping it out”. The Federal Government has just given the go ahead for several highly contentious projects. Five thousand hectares of old growth forests in the Leard Forest will be cut down for the Maules Creek mine, threatening koala habitats and much else, and forcing farmers off their land by soil and water damage. The Boggabri mine will be expanded and permission has been given for a massive Coal Seam Gas development for Gloucester. These projects will produce 47 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – more than some countries produce.
Christine Milne, leader of the Greens, recently said the decisions was further proof that the Labor Party was in the pockets of the big miners. “They have not only sold out the Great Barrier Reef to the mining industry, James Price Point to the gas industry, some of Australia’s best farmland to coal seam gas, but now they have also given over the Tarkine”. The Tarkine is a pristine wilderness area in Tasmania and the Government has just ruled out giving it a natural heritage listing which would offer some protection against exploitation.
Without any fuss and arousing little concern, the “agreement” between the Greens and the ALP has been dissolved.
The NSW Government has been forced by community outcry to create a 2 kilometer buffer between residential zones and mining. Tensions also seem to be escalating as the date for hunting in some National Parks and reserves draws close.
The highly contentious Mining Tax which the miners spent $22 million opposing, and contributed towards Rudd losing his Prime Ministership, has only raised a paltry $126 million as opposed to the projected $2 billion – but I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of that. Unfortunately it contributes to making the government look incompetent and combined with bad polls for Julia Gillard, feeds the incessant leadership speculation. The amount of “look at me” media attention Kevin Rudd generates each day is just appalling and counter productive. Interestingly, both parties have ex leaders who are much more popular with the public.
Joy and George Adamson were among the first to warn of the fragility of the environment and could see from experience how animal numbers were dwindling and the many challenges that lay ahead. There are 70% fewer lions in Africa since Christian’s time. I think this is one of the last photographs of Christian and shows what a huge lion he was growing into.
I think the conservation movement in Australia is getting stronger and stronger and with a new constituency – conservative land owning people who have never protested in their life but do not want to live with the effects of mining and the contamination of their land – by dust, or destruction of the water aquifers etc. They also want to farm sustainably and care for their animals humanely. They are finding common ground with the Greens and environmentalists, and overall many people are just no longer prepared to vote for parties that have so little disregard for our long term sustainability or viability.
AUSTRALIAN POLITICS: Nate Silver correctly forecast the results in 50 states in the last American election. He has been in Australia playing poker and based on opinion polls he thinks the Coalition Opposition should win our next election on 14 September 2013. He did say however, he needs to see polls closer to the election. I think Julia Gillard has been amazingly resilient and hard working – but she has no vision beyond the cliche “working families”. The ALP can’t construct a positive narrative for themselves from their successful economic management in troubled times, they make unnecessary mistakes, and are dogged by several unsavoury scandals. The Opposition leader Tony Abbott has few policies and none seem costed, but somehow he promises to return to a budget surplus. It is becoming very obvious he is avoiding any serious interviews or scrutiny – he specialises in macho sports shots or in a hard hat at various places most days, although lately he has been trying to look “presidential”. Removing the carbon tax as he has promised already looks problematic and complex, apart from being reactionary. Although Tony Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar, we just can’t have a PM that says “somethink”!
If I can find one, I’m going to vote for a party or a politician that has values beyond their own short term interests (usually getting into parliament, and then hanging on), and obviously with views I agree with. I want to see a genuine concern for the environment and it’s sustainability ( I can live with less if that is what is required); fair access to education for all; reconciliation and compensation to Aboriginals; Australia becoming a republic; leadership on social justice and human rights issues, and genuine care of the less fortunate.
GITTINS: Ross Gittins is always interesting as an economist who appreciates all the other factors which contribute to our lives and well being. He wrote a perceptive article about how people’s perceptions about the government’s management of the economy comes down to their own political alignment and acceptance of the “party line”, even if it doesn’t really reflect their own experience or independent observation. The Opposition have successfully frightened Australians into believing we are on the verge of bankruptcy, while most countries in the world would kill for our triple AAA credit rating. We the general public also have trouble distinguishing between cyclical and structural factors in the economy. Another factor is the media who of course love bad news stories. In another article Gittins says he had a big reaction to his discussion of Jeffrey Sach’s book The Price of Civilization on the take-over of political power by the “corporatocracy” that I mentioned last blog. Gittins discusses a new report in Australia which argues that “big business exerts influence through campaign contributions, influence over university funding, sponsorship of think tanks and in other ways”. The four most disproportionally influential industries in Australia, are apparently superannuation, banking, mining and gambling.
STIGLITZ: Joseph Stiglitz’s book The Price of Inequality examines the complex issues of income and wealth inequality. His thesis, which influenced the Occupy Wall Street movement is
“The simple story of America is this: the rich are getting richer, the richest of the rich are getting still richer, the poor are becoming poorer and more numerous, and the middle class is being hollowed out”. Read a review in Murdoch’s The Australian by Frank Carrigan here.
SPORT: We are having our own Lance Armstrong moment with reports of widespread use of performance enhancing drugs amongst our sportmen, a huge growth in betting on all stages of games as they are played, reports of match fixing, and links with organised crime.
POPE: It is most unusual for a Pope to retire – none have in the last 600 years and I wonder what the real reason is. It isn’t meant to be a job you can just retire from! Like our Cardinal Pell here in Australia, Benedict XVI certainly put the interests of the Catholic Church ahead of any real action on behalf of those victims sexually abused by their own clergy. If I was a Catholic I would be very embarrassed by issues that seem to be in the secret dossier on the Vatican – sex and financial scandals, in-fighting and an atmosphere very unconducive I would think to God’s work. My main objection is their opposition to contraception which may have cost many millions of lives from AIDS.
I did like two things about the Pope; unlike our Cardinal Pell, he has the intelligence to acknowledge that climate change is real and that it needs addressing, and he loves cats!
God protect Italy from that buffoon Silvio Berlusconi.
CHINA: Happy Chinese New Year. I am trying to work out what the Year of the Snake may bring – from “steady progress and attention to detail” to “shedding a skin” to “I shall arise the same though changed”.
China’s decade long boom in coal driven industry is apparently about to end and energy conservation is being prioritised by the government. China installed more than a third of the world’s new wind turbines last year. China is estimated to have burnt 3.9 billion tonnes last year which is nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. This government directive is good news for global warming – and the pollution in Chinese cities. This has economic implications in Australia as the world’s biggest exporter of coal and iron ore, and the Australian coal industry doubts that China will be able to cap its coal use given their commitment to economic growth.
China is now the world’s largest trading nation. Last year total trade was $US 3.87 trillion, compared to the USA’s $US 3.82 trillion.
I don’t think anyone is surprised that Unit 61398 in Shanghai seems to be the base of comprehensive and covert cyber-hacking networks into the computers of governments and commercial organisations that China feels are a “threat to their prosperity”.
China’s labour market of former farm workers will face a deficit or 140 million by 2030. The working age population will go into a “precipitous decline” within 7 years. With people living much longer most countries are not addressing this issue – Australia’s spoiled and demanding baby boomer generation are retiring, and Japan’s new government is grappling with how to afford their aging and long living population.
ISRAEL: Louis Theroux visited Israel in one of his TV programs called The Ultra Zionists. It was terrifying and fascinating to actually see the settlements and the shocking conditions and tension some people live under. The hatred between the Palestinians and Israelis in some disputed areas was appalling. It is impossible to imagine what it is like to live like that day by day. For example, some Jewish settlers have moved into Arab areas in Jerusalem as a means of gradually taking them over, but have to live with security guards. Louis – in a bullet proof vest, understandably jumped at every stone thrown at their vehicle by Palestinian youths.
The goal of Greater Israel for these Ultra Zionists ensures they will allow nothing to stand in their way – from Palestinians who have lived there for many generations, their own government, moderate Jews or world opinion. Their zeal was both quite beautiful – pure really, in their belief in what they think is God’s plan – and completely scary.
I am always particularly upset when the settlers cut down Palestinian olive trees. It seems so symbolic of a destruction of lives and livelihoods.
A UN human rights investigation is examining the construction of Israeli settlements and their “creeping annexation” which is in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Complaints may be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague which may lead to Israel’s accountability – or prosecution, for “gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of International humanitarian law”.
The Israelis recently bombed Syria when they moved surface to air missiles and now that weapons can reach all parts of Israel, they will have to be extremely vigilant 24/7 – or build radically different relationships with their neighbours.
A recent program in Australia exposed the mysterious detention and suicide of a dual Australian-Israeli citizen Ben Zygier in Israel called Prisoner X. There had been a total censorship of the case in Israel, then suddenly this week a sanitised statement by the Israeli Government, while the Australian Government has so far “revised” their version of event and what they knews three times. Zygier’s multiple identities and passports probably indicate he had been involved in travelling on his Australian passport to countries where it would be dangerous for Israeli citizens, and Australian passports have been used in previous espionage exercises and assassinations.
JULIAN ASSANGE: The Australian Government seems to have cared as much about Prisoner X as they do about Julian Assange, who has announced he definitely intends standing for the Australian Senate at the next election.
OBAMA: Many of us in Australia are surprised by the hostility towards Obama in the US – some people just don’t seem to accept a majority of Americans voted for him in the election. In Australia he is popular even with more conservative voters. I am however horrified by the drones and the 1500 targeted assassinations no doubt with civilian collateral damage. I am also horrified by the huge numbers of Americans still facing homelessness and poverty. In his State of the Union address Obama seemed to make a concern for them a priority, and he did again talk about action on climate change and gun control. The relationship between the Republicans and Democrats is so toxic at a time when some level of responsible cooperation is necessary to address and try and solve the urgent fiscal and economic problems facing Americans today.
I watched a program on mining for gas in the USA called Gasland. The country seemed pock marked by these ubiquitous mines – with many people and their stock suffering mysterious illnesses. Their tap water was actually flammable! Dear old Dick Cheney apparently ensured previously protected areas were opened up to mining, and ensured environmental protections were removed. Not surprisingly, “fracking” for coal seam gas was actually invented by his old company Halliburton. The situation is similar in Australia where the Coal Seam Gas industry seemed to arrive by stealth a few years ago and was operational on a large scale before many people were even aware of it. There has as yet been no definitive examination in Australia of the various side effects of this mining, and possible long term damage, especially to the water aquifers. Environmental safeguards have been loosened rather than strengthened, and it is only determined community opposition (and the Greens) putting pressure on the government. Community protests work!
LAVERTY COLLECTION: Colin and Liz Laverty assembled one of the finest and most comprehensive private collections of contemporary Australian and Aboriginal art. Unfortunately Colin died recently. A selection of works from their collection is being offered for auction, through Bonham’s on the 24th March at the MCA, Sydney. Above is a painting by Aboriginal artist Emily Kngawarray (c.1916-1996), an exceptional and famous artist who only began painting in old age, and below, a painting by Ildiko Kovacs one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists.
Christmas, Christian, Doha, Tony the Tiger, Media, Israel, Christine Townend, India, Whaling, Energy, George Mondbiot, Peter Hartcher, Guns etc
December 23, 2012
Thanks to Derek Cattani again for Christian’s Christmas card – I look forward to them each year. Seasons Greetings to all. We seem to have survived the Mayan end of the world prediction and may instead be “transitioning” into a new era. According to Bolivia’s Government, it is the end of “hatred” and “lies” and the beginning of “love” and “truth” – with community and collectivity prevailing over capitalism and individuality.
Next hurdle is the US “fiscal cliff”!
I hope most of you have time off to relax with friends and family, and our pets of course. I also hope the general public are more thoughtful about pets as appropriate presents, and ensure they are not later discarded and abandoned when the novelty wears off.
I have a friend who is very frustrated by his adorable labrador puppy which is chewing everything, and I’d love to offer to look after him. However, already I can’t travel as much as I would like to as I am reluctant to leave my two cats in any other hands, so I don’t think it is the right time to add a dog to the mix.
DOHA: Given the alarming headlines about the warming of the planet, it was a disappointing compromise at Doha, rather than the urgent action required. Several reports forecast possible temperature rises of 4-6 degrees by the end of the century. China is responsible for 80% of new emissions, and like the US, did not sign up to the extended Kyoto Protocol. Some Pacific island states were not impressed – if the sea rises one more metre, their islands will be uninhabitable. Of scientific published peer review articles on global warming, 24 articles argue against, while 13,926 agree with the analysis of scientific data that global warming is real and humans are a factor contributing to it.
The leaked next Intergovernmental Panel report on Climate Change states, according to the SMH, “Evidence in support of climate change has grown stronger and it is now “virtually certain” that human greenhouse gas emissions trap energy that warms the planet”.
In our Opposition party we have a few boofhead climate change sceptics who wear their ignorance with pride, and the party has a commitment to rescind the carbon tax/price. I’m sure this process would be very complex, and the reversal bad for business confidence and investment certainty, as well as our international reputation. Unfortunately, despite Julia Gillard’s resilience, polls keep indicating that the Opposition will win the next election. Most intelligent people have experienced an almost seamless introduction of the carbon tax, accepted some modest price rises like 10% on an electricity bill, and now understand the need for it.
The Government has just abandoned the impossible promise to get the budget back into surplus. Many economists and business people seem to think that this is the correct decision. The Government no doubt hopes for the distraction of Christmas and the summer holidays to drown out the predictable shrill reaction from the Opposition over this ”back flip”.
TONY THE TIGER: An update on Tony the Tiger is available here. It is rather depressing. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is waiting for the Louisiana Court of Appeal to hear their case, and waiting for a trial date to decide if Mr. Sandlin’s lawsuit will move forward. Can 2013 finally be Tony’s year? Perhaps we should put our money where our mouth is and donate to the ALDF Matching Gift Challenge.
I’m looking forward to seeing the movie Life of Pi, although like many people I have spoken to lately, I didn’t actually finish the book. I hope the film doesn’t create a craze for people wanting tigers. In the US there are far too many tigers already in private hands – more than in the wild, as we have discussed previously.
I’ve been loving Louis Theroux’s shows, and he is as ubiquitous as Stephen Fry on Australian television. Recently, in America’s Most Dangerous Pets, Louis visited exotic animals in private “zoos”. He was understandably quite nervous with many of the animals. The number of animals confined for life for human entertainment was staggering, and inappropriate cross breeding has negated any conservation objectives. In African Hunting Holiday Louis accompanied Americans trophy hunting farmed exotic animals in Africa. He found hunting quite distasteful and couldn’t do it himself. He was mystified how people that profess to admire animals can shoot them? One of the owners of the African farms said every lion would kill anybody given the chance, a statement I can contradict from my own experience! The lions did look aggressive I must admit, but they were probably anticipating food. Their behaviour was probably a response to how they had been treated.
Louis is the son of travel writer Paul Theroux.
Sadly, Koko the dog who starred in Red Dog has died aged 7.
MEDIA: I know some of you think I rely too much on the mainstream press and you often draw my attention to many other sites on the internet. I love reading the Sydney Morning Herald, and also listen and watch news and current affairs programs. I jot down any new facts or insights on the subjects that interest me – and then often forget if I have quoted verbatim or tried to paraphrase them! Most of us accept we can’t lead the debates, but we can all stand up for and support the causes we believe in, and together we can have a collective voice and influence.
I admire sites like Crikey, with their research, reporting and analysis of the news, but they have a huge staff! Despite some of the information divulged by WikiLeaks, I’m sceptical about quite a few of the conspiracy theories on the internet, and don’t seem to have the time to visit – or revisit, many fascinating and informative sites.
Julian Assange still languishes in London in the Ecuadorian Embassy with no access to a garden or courtyard for fresh air or sunlight for over six months. I love his balcony speeches – what a ham. Assange has said he wants to stand for the Senate in the next Australian elections! WikiLeaks has often confirmed our worst fears about our governments, and piece by piece information or new theories do emerge from various sources.
ISRAEL: For example, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson recently said that Israel bombed Hamas in Gaza to clear out their missiles because it wants to bomb Iran in early 2013. This would not have occurred to me, and I’d have no idea if it is true. The Hamas leader Khaled Meshal finally visited Gaza and still wants to “wipe Israel off the map”. Equally chilling, Daniella Weiss, a leader of the settler movement, stated the now obvious; settlements and out posts were planned strategically to prevent a Palestinian state. Announced by Nethanyahu as punishment the day after the overwhelming UN vote (138 to 8) against Israel, the E1 settlement has been described as the final piece in the jigsaw – the West Bank will be cut in half.
If the “two-state” solution is now impossible, a “one-state” would contain a (Palestinian) population without a vote, and a higher birth rate. Israel will have to decide what they want to be: a Jewish state or a democratic one?
CHRISTINE TOWNEND: I was delighted to hear from Christine, founder of Animal Liberation in Australia in 1976, after her recent trip to India.
“ Dear Ace, I was thinking of your visit with us to the Indian animal shelters when we were recently at both the Kalimpong and Darjeeling shelters which Jeremy and I founded in 1995 and 2007. You’d be happy to know that both are running well with plenty of rescues, treatment of privately owned animals especially brought to the shelters, and also a continual ABC (animal birth control) programme. As you know from your visit, the purpose of the ABC programme, according to WHO Guidelines, is to create a friendly, rabies-free street dog population. The vaccinate-neuter programme has now created groups of old dogs hanging around with nothing to do, and fighting over food. I may send you a report I’m writing about this new problem or post it in due course on www.workingforanimals.org.au
As you know Ace, I was managing trustee of Help in Suffering Animal Shelter in Jaipur from 1990 to 2007. Jeremy and I had not returned there for over two years. From the moment we arrived, that traditional Indian hospitality was extended to us. All the staff , the CEO and managing trustee were waiting at the front gate, greeting us by placing garlands of roses round our necks. Jimmie, the dog who had been dumped outside the shelter when a tiny puppy, and whom I had reared so many years ago, wiggled and cried with joy. I, like her, felt quite emotional to be returning, especially when we entered the little cottage in the grounds of the shelter, where we had lived for so many years. It had been cleaned and still looked just the same, with all the objects and books we had collected over the years still arranged neatly (in future the cottage will be used for guest accommodation).
Timmie Kumar, the current managing trustee, was very appreciative of the money we raised through Working for Animals Inc, the Australian charity which raises funds for the animal shelters in India. It was great that you were able to speak at this successful fund-raiser. As you know, Jeannette’s photographs of India just walked out the door, and I’m pleased that my paintings also sold. We visited the new HIS Camel shelter on the outskirts of Jaipur. It must be the first of its kind in India. Dr Pradeep Singhal, who conducts the HIS Camel Project, also treated heaps of camels at the Pushkar Fair.”
MAIL: Thanks for the kind words and comments from some of you last blog, and your Christmas greetings. Sometimes I interpret them as a remark to me personally, rather than a comment to post on the blog.
INTERVIEW: You may like to watch my skype interview with Tiempo Real here. Once I had adjusted to the jerkiness and the unflattering harshness of skype, I thought WilsonVega produced and edited an excellent story.
AASG: The Australian Animal Studies Group’s News Bulletin for December can be accessed here.
WHALING: Correction: the Japanese are going to hunt whales again this season but in a scaled down exercise. Their departure for the Southern Ocean has been inexplicably delayed, and Paul Watson is again vowing to disrupt their unnecessary slaughter of whales with the Sea Shepherd and possibly a newly acquired vessel.
ENERGY: More than 100 coal fired power stations in the US have been closed following environment and community group litigation campaigns to enforce mercury and air toxin standards. A further 170 planned coal stations have not been built.
With the conservative government back in power in Japan, it is expected reservations and opposition to nuclear reactors will be pushed aside.
After coal fired power stations, the production, transportation and marketing of our food creates the most emissions. We need to buy locally and grow much more of our own!
GEORGE MONBIOT: Again George has another interesting article and the premise is pointless Christmas presents where the “fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts”. Our “pathological”consumerism, has been “rendered so normal by advertising and by the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us”. He quotes Annie Leonard who discovered when researching for her film The Story of Stuff “that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale”.
This is at a time when so many in the US are doing it very hard and the inequality is growing. In the US in 2010 “a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1% of the population”.
PETER HARTCHER: It was heartening to read SMH journalist Peter Hartcher’s article Things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Global goals for cutting infant and maternal mortality rates are being exceeded. The global “deep poverty” rate has halved, assisted by more donor aid than anticipated, remittances from family members working abroad, and some developing economies recovering from the GFC more quickly than others.
Worldwide deaths by armed conflicts has been declining steeply for 20 years. Hartcher concludes, on “poverty, war and human misery… progress is possible, progress is happening and progress is real. Of course there are always new threats. Climate change is the great, new, unmet challenge facing humanity”.
GUNS: Let’s hope Americans finally face the facts and act – 300 million guns in the community, 100,000 injuries per year, 30,000 of them fatal, and six mass shootings this year. For now, there is support for Obama’s attempts at gun law reform and eliminating weapons of war from private ownership. The powerful National Rifle Association’s comments have so far been so insensitive that some former supporters are wavering, but this debate will unfortunately be very ugly. Handguns are apparently sacrosanct however, “part of American culture” - pity about the 12,664 Americans killed by handguns last year, compared to 323 by rifles and semi-automatics. Naturally gun sales have soared.
Meanwhile, as discussed, in my own State of NSW, the Government sometimes needs the support of the Shooters Party to pass legislation in the the Upper House, and this lobby group is exerting undue influence and has been able to stack committees. Our gun laws are in danger of being weakened, and hunting is to be allowed in some National Parks even though a secret report from the Government’s own Environment and Heritage Department warned about the high risks to the public! Over the summer holidays bush walkers and campers will have to start exercising extreme caution, but despite this, enjoy!
Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year to everyone.
August 12, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN! Thanks to Derek Cattani, Christian’s photographer, for this gorgeous Birthday Card. Remember on his birthday last year Derek wrote beautifully about photographing Christian when I asked him which was his favourite photograph. Many of you do ask about photographs of Christian, so do check out his archive (and another Birthday Card) as well as the ALCC site.
This month also marks 40 years since we last saw Christian. By 1972 Christian had grown into what George Adamson thought may have been the biggest lion in Kenya – close to 500 pounds, and with more growing to do. To quote from our book A Lion Called Christian, and my letter to my parents.
“We saw Christian every morning & evening for a walk and a chat. He is much calmer & much more self assured than last year, and stunning to be with. Just as silly. Huge. Jumped up on me only once as before on his hind legs and he did it extremely gently. He licked my face as he towered over me”.
Despite his size, the local wild lions were still unrelenting in their opposition, and Christian was spending extended periods away from Kora and George assumed he was looking for somewhere more suitable to live. We realised this may mean we may never see him again…..
See our second and last reunion with Christian in 1972.
MAIL: Thanks to George from Florida for this fantastic photograph of a lion having a paw manicure and story. George asked “did you ever do this to Christian?” While he loved us, I’m not sure he would have allowed us, although his friend Unity Bevis- Jones probably could have!
Thanks to Gay for forwarding this beautiful slideshow titled Beaute Sauvage.
From Devi “I do believe our beloved Christian’s Birthday is approaching…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR MOST CHARMING AND ENIGMATIC LION, CHRISTIAN. May your story continue to be told around the world for future generations. Celebrate in Paradise with your friends my beloved Christian. Will always love you”.
I couldn’t say it better myself.
ALDF: The Animal Legal Defence Fund have had a fund raiser for the various court cases they are fighting, and I know many of you support their efforts for Tony the Tiger especially. I just cannot bear to think of the months and years of his captivity…
ACE BOURKE: A COLLECTORS JOURNEY: For personal reasons I am overdue responding to various emails, and I will. I have also been very busy preparing for my exhibition which opened yesterday at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in southern Sydney. The exhibition is dedicated to my mother Patricia Macarthur Bourke (11th May 1922 – 23rd July 2012).
In the exhibition I examine the idea of “collecting” and all the material we accumulate in our lives which provides a map or diary of our lives. As an art curator – and traveller, I have collected alot of art, but most of us live surrounded by items of great sentimental significance and interest – which includes for me, memorabilia about Christian. An interview or “conversation” with me about the exhibition has been posted on http://www.youtube.com/hazelhurstgallery
This is one of my favourite photographs as it sums up the relief in 1970 of finally getting Christian to Kenya after months of delays, and the necessary vigilance over his well being and everyone’s safety in England. The photograph represents for me the freedom from restrictions, the beginning of Christian’s natural life, and to just…be. Happy Birthday Christian.
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.
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).