CACH, AVAAZ, Tony the Tiger, Action for Angel, Alice Walker, World, Climate Change, Environment, Aboriginal Culture, Animals, Jeffrey Masson, Australia, Edward Snowden, Obama, Institute of Public Affairs, Christian the Lion, Gordon Bennett, Michael Riley etc
June 28, 2014
CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANNED HUNTING: The CACH campaign seems to be growing – and not surprisingly, as so few reasonable people would support the farming of lions to be hunted. I now ring travel agents when I see advertisements for tours to Africa and check they are sending their clients to reputable wildlife sanctuaries. Canned Hunting was also mentioned in a recent 60 Minutes story on Kevin Richardson and his lovely shampooed looking lions in South Africa. Richardson is on the “reputable” list – but I do think he takes risks with the lions, even though they adore him. I did finally watch the story that was on Dateline SBS in January How Much Would You Pay to Kill a Lion? I could hardly watch as lions were shot and the hunters gloated over their successful kills.
In Australia, a Liberal Party MP Jason Wood gave a speech in the House of Representatives about canned hunting and against importing lion and animal parts into Australia. I very much appreciate his efforts. You can sign his petition here. This is what needs to happen in the USA and Europe. I received a formal (unsigned) response from The White House and Barack Obama to my email about the importation of lion and animals parts into the USA. He “shared my concern for animal welfare”. At least someone received it!
AVAAZ: They are running a campaign in South Africa against the trade in lion parts. They intend for this campaign to hurt South Africa as a tourist destination so sign their petition here. There is also a petition about the illegal sale of exotic animal parts – and ivory – on eBay – sign the petition here. Whenever I say “sign here” rather bossily, I know you all make up your own minds, but I know most of you care deeply about many of these issues.
TONY THE TIGER: Shamefully, the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has “quietly” signed a bill allowing the owner of Tony the Tiger to keep him as a roadside attraction. The ALDF are filing a lawsuit for violating the State Constitution. This is SO depressing – I do urge any Americans to ring the Governor and express your displeasure. This is completely unacceptable. Read more on the update here.
ACTION FOR ANGEL: Yet another story of an imprisoned animal for our “entertainment”. Angel, the albino dolphin calf is in a tiny indoor tank at the Taiji Whale Museum. Sign the petition here organised by Australia for Dolphins – and they ask for us to circulate it. The Japanese seem determined to continue hunting whales…and their annual slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. This Sunday 29th June there is a Whale of a Debate at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney (at 2.30pm) discussing historical and contemporary anti-whaling. Speakers will include members of the Sea Shepherd and conservationist and photographer Jonny Lewis.
ALICE WALKER: The Sydney Writers Festival was on recently and while I did not attend, I heard and saw various interviews on radio and television. It did make me think – we have so many intelligent, perceptive, compassionate and ingenious people in the world – why is our country (and the world) run by so many moronic people that just don’t get it? I know I can be slow onto some things, but I am now mad on Alice Walker – she get’s it! I hung on her every word and will now start reading her intensively. I feel as if I know The Color Purple although I’m not sure if I read the book in the 1980s or saw the movie.
When asked for her advice for Obama Alice said “RUN”! She hates the use of drones and that he is part of the “war machine”. “Aren’t we smarter than buying weapons?” “We have to change the system” – all presidents are hostage to it. The capitalist system is now part of the problem. She supports the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and thinks women would make more empathetic leaders.
While nature is for her a “balm” that we “abuse”, writing is a “medicine”. She listens to, and “only”works for her ancestors. Fiction has a “freedom”, while poetry is autonomous. It “descends”, you “can’t chase after it”, and the “muse comes at will”. She named Tolstoy and Dostoevsky first when asked which writers she admires. She saw her mother and grandmother enslaved by their many children so didn’t particularly want to be a mother. I thought she was amusing about her daughter who has been quite critical of her in the past, although I’m sure this was hurtful. She wants us to” turn to each other” and “talk things through”. Life’s purpose and why she isn’t sitting on her cushion meditating “or scuba diving” is “we exist to help each other”. “The deep joy is to show up for others”. For her, this included being part of the flotilla that sailed to Gaza in 2010.
USA: Last month saw yet another senseless mass shooting in the USA. One of the victim’s father Richard Martinez was so articulate asking: “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians, and the NRA…. What has changed? Have we learned nothing? Where the hell is the leadership?… Life doesn’t have to be like this”. When members of the US Congress rang him offering him condolences he said “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and DO something”.
In Glenn Greenwald’s recent book No Place to Hide he describes his encounter with Edward Snowden. He had to put his mobile phone in the hotel mini bar – as now anything can be transformed into a listening device! He says the Snowden cache reveals a regime seeking “the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide”!
Hillary Clinton was very articulate in an interview on our ABC promoting her book Hard Choices. Phillip Adams and his guests were not flattering about her on his radio program. They found the book mostly tedious and boring. Adams choked over the $14 million advance! They acknowledged that she is very hard working and clever, but thought she was a better administrator than a politician. It appears as if she is already campaigning for the Presidency and certainly has a chance, especially as she has such good “name recognition”. Adams prefers Elizabeth Warren. Hillary and I are about the same age (and both Scorpios) and I have fantasised, as you do, wondering if I could physically and mentally do a big job like that now. I don’t think I ever could have! Americans are less ageist than we are in Australia, and I do think Hillary appeared quite good as Secretary of State, especially compared to John Kerry.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Well done Obama for acting on climate change with the US cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2020. Our PM Abbott was recently in Canada and wanted to form a conservative climate change deniers club with PM Harper, but the UK and NZ did not want to join. Next day (after dinner with Rupert Murdoch) Abbott was star struck meeting Obama and said he and Obama’s climate change policies were very close, which is just a complete lie. Next day he was praising King Coal in Houston and saying the world would be dependent on coal “for decades”. What does this man actually believe?
Abbott has succeeded – so far – in ensuring climate change is not on the agenda at the November G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia!
GOOD ARTICLES: Paul Krugman has written an excellent article on climate change in the New York Times. Krugman argues that the economic impact of carbon reductions is actually quite modest – despite the scare mongering, and the debate is a “toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism” which is very true of our conservative politicians and businessmen in Australia.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate change movement 350.org writes in an article that Abbott and Harper have put nations “on the road to disaster”. He points out how Harper was a former oil executive and how he has been described as a bully, “intolerant of criticism and dissent”. The development of the Canadian tar sands and Australia’s coal in the Galilee basin alone could ensure it would be impossible to ever bring the world’s temperatures under control. He notes, however, that their extremism is spawning “widespread resistance”.
There was an excellent summary about action on climate change in the editorial in the SMH June 24th see here.
Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive, recently wrote in the SMH that our federal government “is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free market ideology centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up-and-ship-it-out economic growth model”. Dunlop goes on to say that the government’s Direct Action white paper has no scientific and economic grounding…and is “the climate policy you have when you don’t want a policy”.
Uncertainty is affecting – as was intended – investment and confidence in the renewable energy sector.
Encouragingly, the tide may be turning, and just when this government is about to remove our effective carbon tax, 63% of Australians are now increasingly concerned about climate change (again) and now believe we should be taking a “a leadership role in reducing emissions”.
In the most surprising move, our billionaire mining maverick politician Clive Palmer, who through several senators holds the balance of power in the Senate, turned up at a press conference with Al Gore by his side! No-one is sure yet what this means for action on climate change, and if this was just a stunt and Gore has been played as a sucker. Palmer mines coal and nickel so will love not having to pay a hefty carbon tax. We could be left without an emissions trading scheme and a plan to do nothing, but Palmer, apparently at Gore’s urging, seems to now want to retain the Renewable Energy Target and oppose the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority.
CELEBRITIES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: About to air in the USA is a television series, Years of Living Dangerously which urges action on climate change and has the involvement of industry heavyweights and celebrities like James Cameron, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.
Leonardo DiCaprio recently spoke out about the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, which is at risk of being listed as “in danger”. Leonardo has witnessed the changes for the worse since he first swam there 20 years ago. This year he has donated $US10 million to ocean conservation, and $4 million to tiger and elephant projects.
Geoffrey Rush spoke up about our government’s attempt to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests which has just been rejected by the World Heritage Committee. Our government’s arguments for delisting were described as a “feeble justification”, while many people were shocked that the delisting had been attempted in the first place.
IPA: I am only just beginning to comprehend the undue and insidious influence of the conservative “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia. This ideologically conservative group is our Tea Party, but smarter and therefore more dangerous. Abbott addressed them in April last year and the audience included the unholy alliance of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal Pell!!!
Until I read this article I had no idea of the influence of the IPA on the country, and on Abbott who is implementing many of their policies. I have already discussed the appointment of several of these climate change denying, older businessmen to key positions and reviews: Tony Shepherd conducting the heartless Commission of Audit; Dick Warburton reviewing the Renewable Energy Target; and Maurice Newman, Chairman of the PM’s Business Advisory Council.
The IPA are skilled propagandists and work through fronts such as the Australian Conservation Foundation which is actually anti-conservation! They “muddied the waters” recently over the attempt to delist part of the Tasmanian forest. In what has been described as a “global conspiracy” the IPA have led an active campaign (courtesy Murdoch press) against the plain packaging of cigarettes, trying to make a case it has led to more smoking – which apparently it has not. The IPA are funded by companies such as Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Esso and Caltex.
Our PM was recently abroad – his school boy French in France was excruciating – worse than mine, and he has a certain gaucheness which could be endearing if he was not our PM. I liked the letter to The Australian newspaper which stated “I am confused – there appears to be two Tony Abbotts travelling around North America, one as described by the Fairfax and ABC media outlets and another Tony Abbott as reported by The Australian”. (from Michael Burd, Toorak, Victoria).
Australia does seem to be currently divided along these lines. Murdoch controls over 70% of the print media and unashamedly and uncritically supports the government, backed up by a few popular and shrill radio shock jocks. Their targets consistently include the Fairfax media and especially the ABC.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks starred in the film Jedda which was a very dramatic and tragic Australian film made by Charles Chauvel in 1955. Jedda was about race and forbidden love, and was way ahead of its time. After retreating to a convent, Rosalie emerged to become a respected Aboriginal elder and leader.
Recently on a television program (Q & A on the ABC) a fellow guest who I think was Peter Coleman, suggested that the “Aboriginal problem” could be “fixed” by assimilation into white society. Rosalie responded with the most brilliant and emphatic declaration of her Aboriginality and who she was. She was reported (inaccurately) in the press as saying:
“My language is (Arrernte) in spite of the whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem”. See the footage of her full response here.
UTOPIA: John Pilger’s documentary Utopia examines the present situation for Aboriginal people. Rosalie actually comes from Utopia. The documentary is too long but devastating nevertheless. Pilger has filed several stories over the decades on this subject, and very little seems to have changed. One wonders if things have actuallyeven got worse in many respects for Aboriginal people: their housing; health; employment opportunities; incarceration rates; suicide epidemics etc. These days the Labor Government and the “left” are criticised with some justification for failing Aboriginal people. Many people like myself have supported Aboriginal “self-determination” and we have also been criticised for caring about digging up and trashing the environment. Apparently we have held Aboriginal people back from economic development. I would caution Aborigines from expecting too much from conservative governments and the mining industry…
Alice Walker: “The coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse – I don’t see it – even today”.
MICHAEL RILEY: Michael Riley was a leading Aboriginal photographer who died in 2004. The National Portrait Gallery recently purchased a selection of his portraits taken between 1984 and 1989 and these photographs are currently on exhibition. Michael’s subjects at this time were his extraordinary generation of attractive and talented Aboriginals that had emerged and broken the stereotypes in many ways – not least how they were represented. They included artist Tracey Moffatt, politician Linda Burney and curators Djon Mundine, Brenda Croft and Hetti Perkins. I was asked to speak at the NPG as I was a friend and had exhibited Michael Riley. I am also on the Michael Riley Foundation. More of Michael’s work can be seen at www.thecommercialgallery.com or www.michaelriley.com.au.
Animals Category winner in the iPhone Awards, Michael O’Neal of San Francisco said that he came across this friendly fox in the Wyoming wilds. “I sat in the road for 10 minutes with him…no cars, not a soul around, just me and this red fox” he said. Foxes and cats are primarily blamed and demonised for Australia’s extinction rate of native animals which is “the worst in the world”. We are losing one mammal every decade and have lost 28 or 29 since colonisation in 1788, with 60 presently endangered.
AG-GAG LAWS: It is going to become an offence to film inhumane conditions for animals in Australia. In the USA it is already an offence for any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility. Why is it not an offence to have animals cruelly confined in appalling conditions?
ISRAEL: The Australian government created yet another unnecessary problem for themselves by arguing that East Jerusalem was “disputed” and not “occupied”. Israel is the only country in the world to articulate similar views. Our government argued that this was not a change of policy, but they have been changing their position over Israel by stealth, illustrated by several votes, or abstentions, at the UN. Trade sanctions over our cattle, sheep and wheat exports were subsequently threatened against Australia by Arab and Islamic countries, and 22 international diplomatic representatives demanded to meet our Foreign Minister in Canberra.
Israel is building 3000 more settlement homes in the Occupied Territories as a punishment for the reconciliation between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas, who control Gaza. Many Palestinians are also being punished at the moment because of 3 missing Israeli teenagers. While their disappearance is extremely concerning – what about the 7 Palestinians that have been killed in the search for them? Israeli forces seem to have rampaged through many Palestinian houses, and harassed and detained hundreds of people.
Alice Walker on Israel: “The land they are taking is not theirs and they have to give it back”. She actually made her remark that “the coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse” about Israel, but said it applied everywhere – Australia, USA etc. She also said that with $3 billion a year coming from the US to Israel, “we can’t afford you”. Her participation in the flotilla to Gaza in 2010 demonstrated her courage and commitment.
MIDDLE EAST: Iraq is disintegrating and in the absence of any solutions it is tempting to just think Iraq and Syria should be left to unravel. Their borders are an unnatural colonial construct and they should regroup along more natural tribal and sectarian lines. It is the humanitarian catastrophe for so many innocent civilians that is most concerning. Tony Blair is still in denial, blaming the Iraqi PM and inaction over Syria. I loved Boris Johnston saying “Tony Blair has gone mad”. George Bush Jr and our John Howard have been VERY quiet. Cheney is as cocky and without remorse as ever, and seems to blame Obama.
Many millions of us marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq, and we were right! I did mention the threat and ambitions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) several blogs back – how has everyone been taken by surprise? It is a complete intelligence failure. The thug in the suit, Nouri al-Maliki was an appalling choice as PM by the West and he has made no attempt to include the Sunnis or Kurds. Even now he is refusing to consider a unity government. One of many disastrous decisions by the USA was to de Baathify Iraq as it left no-one with any experience for administration or the army, and just created many disaffected and resentful enemies. The Sunni-Shiite split goes back to the succession to the prophet Muhammad after his death in 632! Shiities say Ali, the prophet’s cousin was the rightful successor and was cheated by the Sunnis “Rightfully Guided Caliphs” Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali!!!!!
READING, LISTENING & WATCHING: Wimbledon is on and I was thrilled of course that Rafa won recently in Paris. This was his 9th French Open. It was a great victory and he is now equal second with Pete Sampras on 14 Majors. Elizabeth Wilson has recently written a book LOVE GAME A History of Tennis. Her book sounds very informative historically and unlike most sports, women participated from the start. Like many people today, she prefers Federer’s graceful style to Rafa grinding his opponents down in a “python strangle”.
NSW has finally won the State of Origin rugby league after Queensland won for 8 years straight. I am sort of watching the World Cup but prefer the news reports of the few spectacular goals. This sport is building in Australia, especially as there are serious injuries – especially concussion, in the rugby union and league codes. Soccer officials will have to do something about the blatant corruption, like awarding the World Cup to Qatar.
OK, I confess I have been watching The Voice. I don’t care too much about the contestants but I love the judges: Ricky Martin is, well, Ricky, Kylie Minogue has been surprisingly engaging, Joel Madden goes down very well in Australia and will.i.am is brilliant!
I haven’t read anything by the serial novelist (4 books a year) Alexander McCall Smith. I heard a repeat of his interview at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2013 and he was hilarious and laughed along with the audience at his own jokes and the madness of life. I’ve just bought his book on his favourite poet What W.H. Auden Can Do For You.
JEFFREY MASSON: I’ve just read Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s latest book BEASTS – What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil. I think Jeffrey combines all of his experience, knowledge and intelligence in this book, examining the huge question of violence in humans and animals and the “search for the origins of human violence”. It is a complex debate, and I found the book very thought provoking as he argues, for example, how agriculture, property ownership and the domestication of animals changed human behaviour. The book contains fascinating information about many different animals and species, and the effects of human intervention in the natural life of animals.
Christian the lion is mentioned as an illustration of a wild animal expressing friendship and love for another species – especially a predator, and how Christian’s wild lioness friends “indulged” us which we also found astounding. This made me think about Christian and the other lions in George Adamson’s man-made pride, as they were an “intervention” into the territory of wild lions already established at Kora. These lions mostly tried to kill most of George’s introduced males and cubs, but mated with the lionesses. Christian, however, seemed to come to what has been described as an unusual “truce” with them, but he ultimately had to look for his own territory elsewhere. BEASTS also made me think very deeply about the behaviour of cats!
WORLD: China is being quite confrontational/active/defensive in the South and East China Sea offending Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and the USA. Russia is getting more actively involved in Asia and cooperating much more with China (suppyling natural gas etc). 6 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan, thousands of survivors are still without homes in the Philippines. Military leaders seem to be on the move and are usually bad for the economy – and for press freedoms and democracy. In Egypt an Australian journalist Peter Greste working for al-Jazeera has just received a 7 year jail sentence. He and two other journalists have been caught in the machinations of the Saudi Arabia vs Qatar enmity. al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and is regarded as the “mouthpiece” of the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the Brotherhood are still facing imprisonment and even the death penalty in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is now giving Egypt $12 billion, compared to $650 million in aid from the USA. The military are installed in Thailand and Frank Bainimarama is bound to win in Fiji. Ex general Pabowa Subianto, who has a terrible human rights record is gaining momentum for the next presidency in Indonesia, while the running mate of his opponent Joko Widodo also sounds pretty frightening. Papua New Guinea’s PM Peter O’Neill is fighting corruption charges, and while we are not entirely innocent in Australia, corruption does seem endemic in our nearest neighbours PNG and Indonesia.
MAIL: Thanks to Scott, MoonieBlues, Bob, Tim, Aidan, Jeffrey, Sylvia and others for sending me interesting articles and images. My thoughts are with William who lost his beloved cat O’Malley, and Ines who takes in cats from shelters and recently lost another one called Bonnie.
To keep up to date with interesting articles and animal related activities all over the world see the latest Minding Animal Bulletin No22 here, especially about a Documentary Festival in New Delhi 13 -20 January 2015, and interesting articles and reviews in Vol 3 Number 1 of the Animal Studies Journal here.
VALE: One of Australia’s leading artists Gordon Bennett has died unexpectedly. Many of his works concerned his identity as an Aboriginal person, but his subject matter and styles were wide ranging. He could out post-modernist the post-modernists! I was lucky to have known him and curated his work into several of my exhibitions. He summed up what I wanted said so eloquently about colonisation – the way Daniel Boyd has more recently. He was highly intelligent, attractive and quite shy and private. His work is currently in the Berlin Biennale. See Richard Bell’s article on Gordon Bennett in The Guardian here. My condolences to his mother, his wife Leanne and daughter Caitlin.
CACH, Tony The Tiger, Birds, Australian Budget, Ross Gittins, Elsa, Art, Daniel Boyd, Faroe Islands, William T Cooper, Neville William Cayley, Christian, Mugie, Jumbo,“Feral” Control, Energy, Climate Change etc
May 25, 2014
CACH: (Campaign Against Canned Hunting). I really believe in this cause, and I think we all have the chance to make a difference. The practice of breeding lion cubs to be petted, then shot by “hunters” horrifies all reasonable people.
See this very recent educational presentation video from CACH and we can help by circulating it as widely as possible.
On the video they have a Call to Action on how we can contribute. I gathered from reading the CACH website that they seem to hold little hope for appropriate action from the South African Government. But we are still urged to contact the South African Government and their representatives in our countries. Despite their growing unpopularity (we all heard the boos at the Nelson Mandela service), President Zuma and the ANC were recently re-elected.
This quote from President Zuma is chilling (and untrue): “compassion for animals is “unAfrican””.
CACH is also very concerned for lions in the wild – and Chris Mercer from CACH has confirmed for me that there may be only approximately 20,000 lions left in the wild in Africa. Owners of lion farms kill adult wild lions to capture the cubs to prevent in-breeding and replace depressed animals in their lion farms.
There were 2 petitions in circulation (Care2 and Change. Org) to have lions listed as Endangered in the USA, so let’s hope the USA Government acts. This would act as a disincentive to would-be American hunters. Apparently many of you signed the petitions and there was an observable lift in numbers – so many thanks!
CACH is by-passing World Lion Day in August and putting considerable energy and global organisation into World Animal Day on Oct 4th. CACH will soon be listing ethical travel agents on their website. People around the world are contacting travel agents and explaining how cub petting and walking with lions is often synonymous with canned hunting. I too will be contacting travel agencies about this and explaining how tourists would love to be contributing to the greater good for wildlife – and not, often unwittingly, being part of the problem. I think it is important to be able to recommend reputable wildlife sanctuaries as an alternative.
VOLUNTEERS: Quite a few people ask me where they could volunteer to help and work with animals. I usually recommend inquiring about helping animals locally – at animal shelters, and to Google animal organisations. Perhaps ask your local vets. I have tried to list many reputable animal organisations on this blog over the years.
Alison Lee Rubie who I met at the Sydney Global March For Lions has forwarded me a link from Facebook for Volunteers in Africa Beware listing reputable wildlife sanctuaries. If you don’t have Facebook, you can access the list here. Well-intentioned volunteers have also been unwittingly used by the lion farmers.
CHEETAHS: See this cute cheetah video. I have a friend Barry who is obsessed with cheetahs, so this is for him especially.
The vote earlier last week was adjourned and is now scheduled for next week May 28th. Louisiana residents are URGENTLY asked to contact your House Members!
One has to wonder just what sort of influence Tony the Tiger’s cruel “owner” has?
FAROE ISLANDS: The Faroe Islands are an autonomous country within Denmark. These photographs are sickening. Copy and paste the photos and petition into an email and forward to others to show your support against this absolutely appalling annual slaughter of whales, dolphins and porpoises. It happened in August last year so it will probably happen again at this time. We don’t care if it is a local tradition going back centuries, and what sort of bloody “right of passage” is it for young men?
BIRDS: I have to admit I’m getting more and more interested in birds and I know many of you are. We grew up with a Neville Henry Cayley painting, and last year Penny Olsen published Cayley and Son: The Life and Art of Neville Henry Cayley and Neville William Cayley. This book looks at the lives and work of this father and son and demonstrates the generational changes in attitudes to natural history, conservation, national ornithology, bird art, Australian publishing and commercial art.
Neville William Cayley wrote and illustrated the hugely successful 1931 book What Bird Is That? Unfortunately, and unfairly, both father and son died impecunious. I am advised by my friend Madeleine that the best Australian bird apps are Michael Morcombe’s Australian Birds which is easy to use, has all the calls, distributions, list making and the text and illustrations from his book. Pizzey and Knight is a more expensive app but has more options. I love the way that bird sightings and locations are now immediately registered, making estimates of populations etc. much more accurate.
Penny Olsen has also written the recently published An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William. T. Cooper. I heard an interview with Penny and William and apparently David Attenborough has described him as the “best ornithological illustrator alive”. He grew up near Newcastle, NSW where I too enjoyed growing up surrounded by the bush. His paintings are excellent, and while his background landscapes are atmospheric, they can be for me, a little florid. His work certainly puts the birds (and other animals) in context with their habitats and food sources etc.
EXTINCTION: There is an ongoing debate here – and no doubt in many other parts of the world, about the extinction of so many species. Some argue about saving “key” species – The Eastern Barred Bandicoot and koalas may be “out” for example, but bees are “in” because of their essential pollination. Incidentally, 30% of our bees have been wiped out by drought and bushfires, although Australia is still mite-free at this stage.
Our beautiful Kakadu National Park in northern Australia, has been described as a biodiversity “basket case”. We have lost 90% of our small native animals and about 100 marsupial species are at risk. Various introduced species or “pests” are usually blamed, including cane toads who are continuing their march across northern Australia, and the usual suspect, feral cats.
FERAL CONTROL: People are now beginning to question the cruelty with which these “feral” “pests” – cats, foxes, rabbits, pigs, dogs etc are controlled or eradicated. They are often poisoned and die agonising deaths. Dr. Clive A. Marks has written an important article: How much suffering is OK when it comes to pest control? He questions why cruelty to “feral” animals remains largely sidelined in the clash between conservation and animal welfare over “control” of these animals.
I especially object to the vilification of cats who are always photographed in this context snarling – who would not snarl under the circumstances? It is hardly their fault if they were introduced to deal with the plague proportions of rats…….
CATS: Meanwhile, some other cats are laughing all the way to the bank! Maru has had 175 million monetised views and Grumpy Cat will soon be starring in his own feature film and has his own agent. William Braden’s marvellous French cinema spoof Henri le chat noir has been viewed more than 15 million times and earned more than $US25,000.
Deb sent me the most wonderful collection of vintage photographs of celebrities and I have reproduced three here. They are mostly not studio or posed photographs, or paparazzi – just celebrities with each other, and often an interesting cross-generational mix of some of the most dazzling or interesting stars.
MEDIA: I have the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning, but it is so slim these days and there has recently been even more sackings of at least 30 photographers. I have to confess that I now buy Murdoch’s The Daily Telegraph and The Australian on my afternoon walk. Despite their brazenly partisan conservative views, they are undoubtedly meatier. The Daily Telegraph is a trashier tabloid which can be fun – and is also more likely to have photographs of animals and wildlife exhibitions etc that I can use on my blog. The Australian remains obsessed with the opposition ALP and long past sins – a pity they did not subject our PM Abbott and his mere 3 slogans to any scrutiny while in opposition.
It is fascinating watching the Murdoch journalists now beginning to turn on this unpopular government and actually doing their job examining the policies and broken promises. It is getting harder to defend the indefensible.
The Letters to the Editor in both Murdoch papers are often shockingly cold hearted and completely lacking in any compassion for…humanity.
I did love the account of the Murdoch divorce in the March Vanity Fair – his mother (yes, she died at 103 and was rather marvellous) warned him about the Wendi Dengs of the world. What an incorrigible opportunist Tony Blair appears to be.
ENERGY: Australian households are being conned over electricity. Not the carbon tax! It is the power of the fossil fuel industry and “gold plating” (where unnecessary poles and wires are built) that is affecting our electricity costs. Peak demand is actually falling. Many people face “energy poverty” – with 10% of their disposable income spent on energy. Winter is coming with additional heating costs, but we have actually been having the most lovely warm and sunny weather.
Storage of solar energy in batteries is hopefully going to be developed soon which will de-link people off the grid.
Our Treasurer recently attacked wind farms and he particularly referred to the wind turbines at Lake George (on the way to Canberra) which I have also criticised as a blight on a rather beautiful landscape. I confess I think wind farms should be located where they don’t ruin a great view….
There has just been a victory for a local community in the Northern Rivers of NSW with the suspension of gas drilling at a well. The company, Metgasco, apparently “misled” the public and “did not consult” with the community. Social media helped build and galvanise an effective if unlikely alliance of landowners, locals, and environmentalists.
The current low price for iron ore and coal (especially low grade coal), will hopefully make it not viable to develop some new mines, and they will become “stranded assets”. Deutsche Bank have just announced that they will not be funding the expansion of the coal port at Abbot Point,Queensland, ostensibly over the dangers to the Great Barrier Reef from the dredge spoils.
CLIMATE CHANGE: I find it fascinating that the climate change deniers have been squealing that they are treated “unfairly” by the media. They have been amazingly successful in the debate although virtually unable to produce any credible evidence to back up their arguments. This is what happened with the tobacco industry and their lobbyists (some of the very same people) which caused many many unnecessary deaths by warding off any action against smoking for decades.
We can’t expect the 97% of scientists that agree that global warming is happening to “sell” the proposition – that should be the job of our political and community leaders.
So it is up to us more than ever to keep emphasising the urgency – and as Annie commented on a recent blog – we live in a very polluted planet regardless…and it is a health issue. In parts of China it is dangerous to breathe the air on certain days and in many other cities around the world. Even in Sydney more people are dying from pollution- related illnesses.
In Australia, rather than earning $4 billion in needed revenue from polluters with the Carbon Tax, the government wants to abolish it – and reward the polluters with tax payers’ money. Does this make any sense?
My friend Christine recently heard Clive Hamilton discuss his book Earth Masters which is about climate change. I do want to alarm you – he said it is already too late for action!
President Obama is at last speaking up for urgent action. The Republicans are of course not supportive as it is a “threat to the economy”. I thought we lived in a society WITH an economy? Obama has been briefing weather presenters, hoping people will believe them more than politicians or scientists.
Black bears usually have 2 cubs. So it was very exciting when people in northern New Hampshire spotted a bear with 5 cubs. A photographer, I presume to be Tom Sears, waited patiently for over six weeks until he managed to photograph them. He could not believe it the following year when the family emerged after hibernation and he could take such a rare family portrait again.
LION DOCUMENTARIES: Recently the documentary Martin Clunes & A Lion Called Mugie was shown on UK television. Mugie was the first lion returned to Kora in Kenya after George Adamson’s death in 1989. As The Guardian commented, Martin Clunes is certainly no David Attenborough and seems to have no natural affinity with animals. It ends very badly – with Mugie tragically killed by hyenas. It was great however to see some of the footage of Kora, especially some images of Christian. I was reminded just how dangerous Christian’s return to the wild in 1970 was, and I did wonder if George Adamson would have taken a different approach to Mugie’s rehabilitation. I did think it was discourteous (putting it mildly) that footage of us with Christian in London and the famous reunion in Kenya with him in 1971 was included in the documentary, but we were not even identified!
Also recently shown on Australian television was ELSA, The Lioness That Changed the World made in 2011. I loved all the old footage used, especially of Elsa. She did illustrate for the world that, like Christian, an emotional connection was possible with humans, and that every animal is unique. The book Born Free was translated into 25 languages. Again I thought there was a certain amount of rewriting of history or a shift of emphasis.
Elsa’s documentary seemed to me to imply that George Adamson’s camp at Kora in Kenya was established to rehabilitate Boy, one of the lions used in the filming of Born Free, and who was recovering from injury. Christian seemed to just turn up from London! In fact Kora was allotted to George Adamson by the Kenyan Government primarily for Christian’s rehabilitation, and paid for through the success of the two documentaries which starred Christian. This was thanks to Bill Travers,Virginia McKenna and Morningstar Productions who made the two documentaries. Despite the huge success of Born Free Joy Adamson did not give George any money towards his projects. Boy was the adult male lion conveniently available for George Adamson to build a pride around Christian. George in fact described Kora as a monument to Christian – not Boy.
For the record, Christian’s initial introduction to the wild at Kora in 1970 was entirely overseen by George Adamson. Christian was very young and inexperienced. He had to survive his introduction to Boy who finally accepted him, and negotiate the wild lions in the area. We first met Tony Fitzjohn, now Field Director for the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, on our final visit to see Christian in 1972, and Tony was of invaluable assistance to George and his lions.
ELEPHANTS: Mark Shand, a well known supporter of elephant causes especially through Elephant Family, sadly died recently after an accident.
There is a recent book by John Sutherland called JUMBO The Unauthorised Biography of A Victorian Sensation. Jumbo’s mother was killed in the Sudan and he was taken as a young calf to Europe, ending up as the star attraction in the London Zoo in the 1860s where he and his keeper Matthew Scott became alcoholics! Jumbo’s story is both disturbing and fascinating. He was bought by P.T. Barnum for $10,000 to be part of The Greatest Show On Earth in the USA. Jumbo seemed happier in the US as there were 31 other elephants in Barnum’s travelling menagerie. Jumbo was tragically killed in 1885. He was the template for Walt Disney’s Dumbo, and I still have my Dumbo ornament!
DANIEL BOYD: Congratulations to Daniel Boyd for winning the 2014 prestigious Bulgari Art Award. This painting references a found photograph of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Daniel’s great great grandfather was captured and brought to Australia as a slave to work in the cane fields, like many others. It is a largely untold and unacknowledged history. It is a quite mesmerisingly beautiful painting and technically brilliant.
In 2008 I staged an exhibition Lines in the Sand: Botany Bay Stories from 1770 which examined the arrival of Captain Cook in Australia in 1770 and then the First Fleet in 1788, through colonial material and primarily contemporary indigenous artists. Daniel is one of the most talented and interesting commentators on the Eurocentric perspectives of Australian history and his installation and paintings were a major contribution to my exhibition.
AUSTRALIA: We have finally had our budget delivered from the new government and they have shown their true colours. They have broken many election promises and hit the most needy the hardest while insulating the wealthiest. The budget was foreshadowed in the Commission of Audit and do read Ross Gittins response to that here. The dystopian view of these extreme economic rationalists is of a “harsher, less caring world, where daily life was more cut throat, where the gap between rich and poor widened more rapidly and where the proportion of households falling below the poverty line increased each year”.
As Gittins, the son of Salvation Army officers also says “The report fits with the wry observation “The rich need more money as an incentive and the poor need less money as an incentive”.
The book Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty is getting worldwide attention – although I’m hardly surprised post the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It illustrates that “progressive inequality is inherent in modern capitalism” with the remedy a return to steep progressive taxation and taxes on capital through inheritance taxes etc.
The Australian Government is arguing that it inherited a budget “debt and deficit” “crisis” or “emergency”. Most agree this is largely confected, although there are undoubtedly middle to long term budgetry problems and sustainability to be addressed.
However FOR THE RECORD, with the ALP (the previous government), Australia survived the GFC better than virtually every other country and did not go into recession. This incoming government inherited an economy with a triple AAA credit rating, record low interest rates and inflation, the third lowest debt in the world, and low unemployment.
The previous government did think big and spend on a National Broadband Network, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and attempted to reform the scandalously inequitable education funding. I agree that much of this was not properly costed.
The downturn in the resources boom is a major factor in our present budget situation and the “middle class welfare” the previous conservative Howard Government used to buy votes, spending with “epic profligacy”. Unfortunately this was matched by the incoming ALP Rudd Government.
See more of my Australia rave and some back up statistics here.
A disturbing article in The Monthly The Abbott Club May 2014 details how Tony Abbott has surrounded himself with rich, older businessman. He depends on them for advice, and several are tasked with conducting key reviews. These people have no idea about the lives of ordinary citizens and represent only the business big end of town. Several of them are avowed climate change deniers – Dick Warburton for example has been given the job of reviewing the Renewable Energy Target!
So the budget was predictably mean, unfair, narrow and littered with broken promises. See Ross Gittins for his very fair summary of the budget which gives credit – and criticism where due… “the truth is most of us have been left unscathed…only those right at the bottom of the ladder have been hit hard”. Low-income families on benefits will lose as much as 10% of their incomes, an Australian earning three times the average wage will lose 0.9%, while a childless couple on $360,000 will lose nothing!
See this follow up article by Ross Gittins on the budget which seems to be getting even more criticism as the details are closely examined. In addition the Prime Minister and Treasurer are selling it to a cynical public very badly.
I am particularly worried about what will happen to some young people who are already facing high unemployment levels and will have NO benefits whatsoever – a recipe for homelessness and a crime wave. The States were swindled unexpectedly and without warning and have to find $80 billion to fund Health and Education. The government intends building more roads rather than public transport, and supports the fossil fuel industry, particularly the coal-fuelled power sector, at the expense of renewable energy.
Unforgivably, climate change action has effectively been halted with big cuts to research and renewable energy which will make further investment difficult, and will set us back decades.
The Prime Minister, never popular in the polls, is even more unpopular, and it is one of the worst received budgets ever. Students, who have been docile for decades are protesting nearly daily at changes that will make tertiary education at least twice as expensive, and similar to the inequitable “”two tier” system in the USA.
My sister and I – with up to 10,000 others, attended the March in May in Sydney which was full of mostly young, bright, angry people who despise this government, but also don’t trust the ALP or the mainstream media. The Daily Telegraph described us as “ferals” and “delinquents”!
MAIL: Thanks to Deb, Maura, Sylvia, Melissa, Madeleine, Lindy and others for sending images and information. I love the emails that keep coming thankyou…about Christian, about your animals (especially cats), families and lives etc. Hi to Tiger aged 7 making her own Christian-based iMovie. Yui in Japan thought he didn’t like animals until he read Christian’s story and now wants a pet. Also from Japan, Rei tells me he is very against whaling – and the Japanese have resumed whaling already.
I haven’t forgotten about the world at large: both sides now seem as bad each other in Syria; the worrying future of Ukraine; missing school girls in Nigeria; the loss of many miners in Turkey; catastophic floods in the Balkans with a huge displacement of people, the risk of disease, and all the unexploded landmines from the 1990s; a coup in Thailand – the 22nd since 1932; dissidents disappearing in China with the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square coming up; and the corrupt Congress Party thrown out decisively in India.
ART GALLERY OF NSW: The exhibition Afghanistan Hidden Treasures from the National Museum in Kabul is currently in Sydney at the AGNSW until 15th June. It is full of absolutely exquisite items and a reminder of another side of Afghanistan and their rich cultural history that we have perhaps forgotten or overlooked in the last few years.
Christian, Harrods, Lions, Exotic Animals, Ivory, Whales, Great Barrier Reef, Tasmanian Forests, GetUp! campaigns, Climate, Tennis, Phillip Adams, Deborah Cheetham, Peter Singer, Christine Townend, Gene Robinson, Australia etc
February 17, 2014
CHRISTIAN: Christian was in the news last month when Harrods announced they were closing down Pet Kingdom which had opened in the London department store in 1917. At the end of this London Evening Standard article, there is a link to lovely footage of Christian and the other lions at Kora in 1971. While Christian received quite a lot of press attention, apparently the most “famous” purchase from Harrods was by the (then) Governor Reagan of California, who in 1967 ordered an elephant, the Republican Party symbol. I am pleased it has closed even though I am eternally grateful for that day in 1969 when we wandered into the Zoo – as I’m sure it was then called – and met Christian. Last time I visited Harrods a few years ago I was upset to see it was full of the most expensive and unnecessary pet accessories, and offering pet pedicures and haircuts.
The Endangered Species Act of 1976 in the UK prevented some of the trade in exotic animals. As I have said before, we did come to realise how we were perpetuating the trade in exotic animals by buying Christian, and we have been criticised for this. I would not want Christian’s story to ever encourage other private ownership of exotic animals. I am very concerned about the number and inappropriate breeding of so many tigers in private hands in the USA for example. Some say we saved Christian, but truthfully, we could not resist him. While we vowed to secure him the best future we could, we did not imagine he would miraculously be returned to a natural life in Africa.
The indefatigable Aidan Basnett has added more photographs to the Facebook page which is a feast of George and Joy Adamson and lion-related photographs.
LIONS: In Africa there are 70% fewer lions than in Christian’s time. In West Africa, there may be as few as 400 lions left, with only 250 mature age lions, according to the organisation Panthera. Like so many other animals, these leaner-looking lions are facing shrinking habitats from encroaching human use.
STANDING UP: I was glad to see prominent people standing up for animal causes: Caroline Kennedy objected to the annual horrific capture and slaughter of 250 bottlenose dolphins in Taiji, Japan, and Hillary Clinton spoke up against the trade in ivory – primarily to China, which is forcing elephants towards extinction. Prince Charles, William, and Harry have just spoken up against the illegal wildlife trade in a campaign which actually might have an effect. WILDAID certainly has highly influential (and wealthy) supporters like the princes and David Beckham. From their website http://www.wildaid.org/ I gather they concentrate primarily on education to change attitudes towards the illegal animal trade, ivory, and the use of traditional medicines.
The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade has discussed the lack of action by the Chinese on the trade in ivory, tiger bones and rhino horns. However, China has saved the panda, and stabilised populations of Tibetan antelopes and snub-nosed monkeys. Also, after a media campaign and a new government policy, trade in shark fins has fallen dramatically.
IVORY: A 30 tonne stockpile of seized elephant ivory is to be destroyed in Hong Kong, a major transit point into China. Read the media release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare here. The appetite for ivory (particularly from the expanding Chinese middle class), resulted in an estimated 22,000 elephants illegally killed in Africa in 2012. Both the US and China (for the first time) have also burned stockpiles of ivory.
BEARS: Recently I saw the most horrific footage of bile being extracted from the gall bladders of roped bears. This seems to happen predominantly in Asia, where it is estimated up to 20,000 bears are caged, with an estimated 3600 in Vietnam. Visit the World Society for the Protection of Animals website for more information. There is also a flourishing trade in animal body parts for traditional medicines. Changing attitudes will be difficult, and require sustained and strategic education and public awareness campaigns.
WHALES: the annual hunt and slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean by Japan began last month. It is truly shocking to see footage of the blood and slaughtered whales in this unecessary exercise in stubborn nationalism. The Sea Shepherd fleet has been shadowing the Japanese, and despite one skirmish, seems to have quite peacefully prevented the slaughter of any more whales. The Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb was very blunt, saying said that the government won’t be complaining to Japan as we don’t want to jeopardise a proposed free trade agreement!
The annual slaughter and capture of the dolphins at Taiji, Japan, unfortunately proceeded despite world condemnation.
SHARKS: 6 people have been taken by sharks off the West Australian coast in the last 2 years. The recently introduced W.A. Government’s shark culling program is using baited drum lines. There were 16 Australia-wide protests by people against the culling. Swimmers are philosophical about the danger, and conservationists say the baits will just attract more sharks and the culling will be ineffective.
HOLIDAY: January used to be the long traditional annual summer holiday. I certainly relaxed, and watched lots of sport. Without my laptop and often out of mobile range, I loved a few short trips travelling around parts of NSW visiting family and friends: the Goulburn district; through attractive Braidwood to Batemans Bay; up the spectacular south coast back to Sydney; and around Bathurst, including the picturesque old mining towns of Sofala and Carcoar. Much of the state is in drought, but it is a very beautiful country. I saw towns that were thriving, but many – like Bourke, are losing people to the cities with the subsequent loss of services and transport which only exacerbate their problems. A convoy of 18 semi trailers with 500 tonnes of hay has just driven to Bourke – a gesture of support from farmers in the south for farmers in the drought stricken north-west of the state. Queensland is 70% in drought.
I think there is a growing movement to at least discuss the idea of repopulating some of these dying country towns and local businesses with asylum seekers and refugees. Both political parties have demonised them. Perhaps we should regard them as “opportunities”, beneficial for the community, and we would also be fulfilling our international obligations.
I think wind turbines are very beautiful in their way, especially up close. They have elegant lines and are monumentally tall. However, they are an imposition, indeed a visual pollution on our marvellous landscape. I hope wind farms generate enough power to justify themselves, as apparently they are in South Australia, and countries like Denmark and Germany.
CLIMATE: All of us around the world are continuing to experience unnatural weather – from the violent storms and continuing floods in Europe, to freezing conditions again in the USA. Australia has had the hottest year and temperatures since recorded observations began in 1859. In Sydney we had the driest January. I believe the 95% of scientists that say data demonstrates human induced global warming from carbon emissions is taking place, and contributing to the more frequent and more extreme weather. Unfortunately Australia’s government is defiantly going in a retrograde direction by proposing to cut the carbon tax/price which looked as if it would be effective in cutting emissions. Since the carbon tax was introduced, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down 7.6%.
The government’s proposed replacement Direct Action is unexamined, untested and unexplained. Unlike the carbon tax, there is no incentive for polluters to change their behaviour and reduce their emissions.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has just embarrassed the government by asking it not to abandon Australia’s role as a “pioneer” in the debate on climate change.
See here for a video on climate change, with beautiful images of the earth from space.
ENVIRONMENT: As many feared, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority has authorised the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the coal port expansion at Abbot Point into the World Heritage Area Reef waters. Given some of the appointments to the Authority, this unfortunately was not unexpected. This is environmental vandalism in an already endangered area and GetUp! is asking for funding to mount a legal challenge to this. You can contribute funds here or sign the petition here.
A historic Forestry Agreement in Tasmania in 2012 ended 20 years of fighting between the forestry industry, unions and conservationists which had divided the community. The Federal Government is now winding back the protection against logging offered by World Heritage Status, by delisting 74,000 hectares, which includes rain forests and old growth forests. This will jeopardise the new Agreement which seems to be working. This decision is related to local politics and the upcoming state election, and is unhelpful to the state Labor Government who are in difficulties already over the parlous economy.
GetUp! has a petition to the Minister of the Environment opposing this Tasmanian Forest delisting.
MIDDLE EAST: The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 divided the collapsing Ottoman Empire between the British and the French interests in the Middle East. As Anthony Loyd wrote in The Australian, these few “hastily drawn lines” were an “imperial clumsiness that ignored the nuances of tribes and restive minorities” which was “shrouded by subsequent dictators”. With many of them now overthrown, the colonial constructs are unravelling. The proposed Islamic State of Iraq and Levant which would include parts of Iraq and Syria, is an example of this.
Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, chief executive of the bitcoin funded Australian WikiLeaks Party, intends to return soon to SYRIA with medicines. He was part of a rather bizarre delegation a few months ago who had a cup of tea with Assad in Damascus. But as one of them said “is it better to talk with Assad or talk of assassinating him?”, as our ex-Foreign Minister Carr had suggested. I think Assad is indefensible, and just continuing his father’s contempt for Syrian lives.
One can only be pessimistic about the outcome of current talks aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict, or easing the conditions for millions of entrapped or displaced people. It is very difficult to understand all the competing groups that constitute the “Syrian Opposition”. It is unlikely they would ever be united, and some groups are very extreme.
Photographic evidence of 11,000 bodies tortured and executed by the Syrian regime recently surfaced. There has just been a “humanitarian evacuation” for some starving people from Homs, but apparently some young men among them have consequently been detained. One commented “I decided I’d rather be shot in the head than continue to starve to death”.
ISRAEL: Actress Scarlett Johansson became enmeshed in the debate over the economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel and the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. She stood down as ambassador for Oxfam, unable to reconcile Oxfam’s opposition to all trade from Israeli settlements, with her role as spokeswoman for a company called SodaStream.
A recent Four Corners program on the ABC investigated allegations about young Palestinian children being arrested by the Israeli security forces, for intelligence gathering. These children have mostly been accused of throwing stones and have been arrested in night time raids, followed by intimidating interrogations, and even allegations of torture. An average 700 Palestinian children are arrested, some further detained, each year. UNICEF has found that the ill treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system was “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.
Just as alarming was to see a map of Israeli settlements scattered throughout the West Bank. An extreme Israeli settler, Daniella Weiss, claimed that since the 1970s land was deliberately occupied to block the creation of a Palestinian state. Seeing the hundreds of strategically placed settlements, I can’t envisage where a Palestinian state could be located. Until Palestinians have better lives and futures, Israelis will not have the safety and security they too deserve.
SPORT: I watched all five tests in the cricket Ashes series against England, unexpectedly won well by Australia, and we are now playing the South Africans. January is always a big tennis month, with several lead up tournaments to the Australian Open. The dangerous heat in Melbourne was the initial dominating story – 52.3 degrees on the outside courts. Top seeds were defeated, talented juniors emerged (Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Bourchard, Pironkova, Muguruza), while Dimitrov, Nishikori, and particularly winner Warwrinka stepped up. Li Na was third time lucky – and sees her racket (x 8) as a friend. “If you look after her, she will look after you”. I think Jim Courier is a good commentator, as is Leyton Hewitt who has a disarmingly sweet laugh/giggle. It was a feast of previous stars – Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, Yvonne Goolagong Cawley etc. Several are now coaches – some looking better than others: Edberg, Lendl, Chang, Becker, and Ivanisevic. Rafa made it through to the final but was injured early, making it painful to watch in all respects. He graciously said “Yes it was tough today. But many people in the world have a very tough day every day”.
All our sporting events have saturation alcohol advertising, and alcohol is usually involved in the celebrations – and we wonder why we have an alcohol-fuelled violence epidemic?
INTERVIEWS: I have been listening to classical music much more again (encouraged by William from Florida), but I have also heard many fascinating radio interviews, some repeats. Broadcaster Phillip Adams is one of our few public intellectuals and has had a fascinating and very important career. He seems to have just worked on through his recent ill health. His interviews on Radio National are always very informative, and he and all of us were dazzled by the intelligence, humour and fascinating life story of Aboriginal Opera singer DEBORAH CHEETHAM. Deborah sang at the opening of my colonial family exhibition Flesh & Blood at the Museum of Sydney in 1998. To me, it was an electrifying, beautiful, haunting cry from the heart for the Aboriginal people dispossessed by families such as my own.
Adams also interviewed GENE ROBINSON. His ordination as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 nearly split the Anglican Church because he is an openly gay man, married to his partner. He is very intelligent, understanding, honest and courageous. He reminded us that change does happen. Up until 1967 interracial marriage was illegal in the US. That same-sex marriages are taking place, and that the majority of the population in many countries are not against it, would have been unimaginable not many years ago.
Colorado has become the first state in the US to begin the legal and regulated growth, processing and sale of marijuana for recreational use. Support for legalisation has grown from 16% in 1987 to 55% today. So community attitudes can change over time….
I also heard Australian philosopher PETER SINGER interviewed. The three most important subjects to him are: poverty; animal liberation; and climate change. He was talking about his recent book The Life You Can Save, which is a growing movement. According to the World Bank, over 1 billion people live in extreme poverty, with 1900 children dying a day. In this annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they argue there is less poverty in the world today and that by 2035 there will be almost no poor countries. There is a “new class of middle-income nations”. Bill and Melinda also write that they believe foreign aid has been much more effective than is sometimes claimed.
WORKING FOR ANIMALS: Christine Townend convened the first meeting of Animal Liberation Australia in 1976. She had been profoundly affected by Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. In 1980 they established Animals Australia. In 2010 I visited the animal shelters in Darjeeling and Kalimpong in India, overseen since their inception by Christine and Jeremy Townend. I was very impressed with the care of animals by both shelters, located in the spectacular foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. I could see that animals just adored Christine, and that she adored them. Their Working for Animals newsletter is now online and you can read the January edition here. Vaccinations, birth control measures and many animal treatments have controlled the spread of rabies, and saved the lives of thousands of animals.
PETS: I heard a very interesting program about grieving for our companion pets. An animal shelter and hospital in Melbourne even has a Pastor specifically for grieving. According to some of those interviewed, the hardest thing is that many people around you, family, friends and work mates, just do not understand how devastating the loss of a pet can be. Of course, animals experience their own grief and loss.
Jeffrey Masson’s seminal book When Elephants Weep about the emotional life of animals was praised and referenced in the interview about grieving. On his latest blog Jeffrey discusses the horrific recent “murder” of the young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo. Children (and adults) were especially assembled to watch the dissection. I’m very much looking forward to Jeffrey Masson’s next book BEASTS What animals can teach us about the origins of good and evil, due out in March.
I have only read reviews of Peter Bradshaw’s book Cat Sense. It is a bold promise to “reveal the feline enigma”! Bradshaw is a biologist who previously wrote In Defence of Dogs. We are very aware cats are a law unto themselves, are far less domesticated than dogs, and are much less dependent. Most cat lovers like this. Cats were worshipped by the Egyptians, and historically they actually DID something – they were used to catch rats and mice in houses. Now they have taken up residence and are waited on! Bradshaw does not think that domestic cats are habitual predators of birds and native wildlife. While feral cats are no doubt very destructive, domestic cats are so well fed with balanced diets that there is no real need to hunt, and many spend a lot of time indoors.
MAIL: thanks to Sara, Deb, MoonieBlues, Michelle, Elaine, Helene, Heulwen, Jonny, Sylvia, and others for sending me great images, messages and information. I am still to respond to some of you and I apologise. I keep being told Christian’s story is big on Facebook again.
MISC STATS: The world’s 85 richest people are worth US$1.7 trillion (Oxfam); Mark Zuckerburg is worth $US19 billion but gave away nearly $US1 billion; Tiger Woods earned $78 million last year; Sochi Games cost $51 billion.
AUSTRALIA: Australia is quite polarised politically at the moment and the level of our discourse is unfortunately not very sophisticated. I am extremely disappointed by the new Abbott government so far. I could list many examples: clumsy diplomacy, especially worsening relations with our prickly neighbour Indonesia; climate change denial; threats against the ABC; broken promises; inappropriate appointments; excessive secrecy, and none of the promised transparency or accountability. We are yet to see any economic blueprint other than some slogans like “open for business” or “infrastructure”, and their industry-assistance policy appears ad hoc and inconsistent. The Government was caught embarrassingly off guard and literally speechless at the announcement that Toyota would cease manufacturing in Australia.
I find it hard to understand how it could be perceived that Abbott is doing a good job. Even one of his chief cheer leaders at The Australian, Dennis Shanahan has finally admitted that “the post-election politics were ragged, rusty and understandably clunky for the Coalition”, and that even Coalition MPs are worrying that they are appearing “hard-hearted”.
Australia could be such a modern, clever, even cool country, and play a major role in the world. Many of the present cabinet served in the previous conservative government, and I don’t want a return to the depressingly reactionary HOWARD years: the sabotage of aboriginal reconciliation opportunities and the attempted discrediting of the “black armband” historians; jingoism; holding Australia back from becoming a Republic; and taking Australia unnecessarily into 2 disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yes, John Howard delivered a surplus, but he has been criticised for not taking greater advantage of the now ending mining boom, and for buying votes with “middle class welfare”.
I’ll let Sally McManus (and others) keep adding to this growing list of BROKEN PROMISES by the government, who in opposition hounded Julia Gillard from office over one supposed “lie”. I was particularly horrified by their early attempt to break their election pledge for fairer and more equitable education funding.
Predictably, the government has rushed to set up an expensive Royal Commission into allegations of corruption and intimidation in the TRADE UNION movement. It is the perfect issue to wedge the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, a former trade union official. Previous commissions have led to exposing corrupt links between unions, builders, developers and businesses. I admire what the trade unions have achieved historically for workers, and I think workers often need protection and representation in negotiations with employers, who are in positions of power. However, in 1992 40% of the workforce was unionised, but by 2012 it had dropped to 18.8%. The unions undoubtedly have an inordinate influence on the Labor Party, and although this should be curtailed, it is very unlikely to happen. I hope the ALP will be an effective Opposition, have the strength to undertake necessary reforms, and do some soul-searching.
I’m now off to Hobart, Tasmania, to visit MONA, the now famous privately-funded Museum of Old and New Art.
Christian, George Adamson, David Attenborough, World, Australia, Lions, Tigers, Martin Sharp, Art, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Bourke, Voiceless, Nelson Mandela Etc
December 19, 2013
MERRY CHRISTMAS, SEASONS GREETINGS, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR from me to everyone as well. Thanks to Derek Cattani, Christian’s friend and photographer, for his annual Christian Christmas card – it is so sweet! My special love and thoughts to the Cattani family for 2014.
GEORGE ADAMSON: Understandably, people remain fascinated by George Adamson. Although where I live is a small “village” on the outskirts of Sydney, I only recently met fellow locals, well known artist Bob Marchant and his wife Inger. Bob lived in London throughout the 1960s and remembers Christian fondly. I love his painting of George Adamson painted after George’s death in 1989. He has always been a “great admirer of George Adamson and the work he did protecting wild animals”. I’ve lent him the excellent biography The Great Safari: The Lives of George and Joy Adamson by Adrian House.
You can ‘like’ the George Adamson Wildlife Trust Australia on Facebook set up by Aidan Basnett.
Recently Aidan emailed me about his recent trip to Kenya, and visit to Kora. Aidan lived for a time in Kenya when he was young, and his trip was a nostalgic pilgrimage to key sites in the Joy and George Adamson story. Consequently I found his video very informative and interesting, although I felt sad seeing some of the graves. It brought back fond and emotional memories of George’s camp at Kora, which looked in good condition.
Just wanted to give you a report on the Adamson Legacy Tour I arranged this year which took in Kampi ya Simba in Kora National Park. Being the home of the late George Adamson, I found the whole experience very poignant and moving. What hit me was I was at last in the spot where it all happened all those years ago – the history. I could not stop thinking of how we were treading in the footsteps of George and his lions, particularly Christian and Boy. Seeing the actual place (Christian’s Rock) where Christian had come down to greet you and John. The years I had longed to visit the area had arrived! We sat atop Kora Rock just taking it all in, and could see George’s grave in the distance. Somewhere out there, all those years ago, Christian had created his domain and we could feel his – and George’s – spirit ! Just an amazing experience I had to share with you and I hope you enjoy the photo and video.
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Recently I’ve been especially loving wildlife documentaries. They are so soothing – as long as they are not entirely about extinction! I loved David Attenborough’s recently shown documentary on African lions, and the lions and tigers in his Secrets of Wild India documentaries. Tigers weigh on average 220 kilograms and can be just over 3 meters long. A male can rule for 3 years, and live up to 8 on average. Tigers have up to 12 cubs and raise them for 2 years. They are not social and do not live in prides like lions. The males come and go, and usually kill any cubs that are not theirs. Surprisingly, tigers and jaguars are the only cats that like being in water.
The Asiatic lions in the desert region of Gujarat and Rajasthan in India look thinner than African lions – but they may just be hungrier in this hostile environment. Once they ranged from India to the Mediterranean, but their numbers declined to 13 last century. By banning hunting, and other conservation efforts, numbers are now over 400 and climbing.
In David’s documentary on African lions he spoke of the importance of the first two years in the lives of cubs – when they “learnt to be lions”, living in a pride, and acquiring skills for future survival. I suddenly felt guilty about Christian living with us in London during those crucial formative years! However, despite five generations out of Africa, and his London upbringing, Christian seemed remarkably well balanced and adaptable. George thought he had lost none of his natural instincts – he was just inexperienced. George said he was one of the easiest lions to rehabilitate, and Christian who was both canny and courageous, survived those first most dangerous years.
In the African lion documentary, four lionesses lived together, and three had cubs which they looked after collectively. They hunted together effectively, although it is still very dangerous for them, especially against buffaloes. The male came and went, but very aggressively took over a kill a lioness had made, and only reluctantly later shared with his cubs.
I also enjoyed the first episode of a documentary Lions on the Move about South African Kevin Richardson preparing to relocate his 28 lions, 14 hyenas and 2 black leopards to another animal park. The animals seem to love him – the lions loll all over him which looks like lion heaven, but is risky. George Adamson would not have been so physical with lions, and he was trying to minimise their human contact to enable their rehabilitation. We knew Christian so well we could mostly anticipate his behaviour. We did not encourage too much physical interaction with him as he was so quickly stronger than us, and we did not want him to realise this. Kevin knows the individual idiosyncrasies of his lions, and he has to trust his own judgement – and them. Most of the lions looked extremely attractive and shampooed, and several are now 15 years old, which can only be achieved in captivity. Kevin also understands and communicates well with the hyenas, and I was amused by his “baby talk” to the animals – everyone else’s animal/baby talk (except one’s own), sounds so ridiculous!
In general, I don’t like the idea of animals “performing” for our entertainment, and the sensitive question of how animals are handled in films has recently been discussed in The Hollywood Reporter. Apparently King, one of the tigers used in Life of Pi nearly drowned in a water tank filming a scene.
I haven’t yet seen Blackfish, the documentary that traces the history of orcas (also called killer whales) in captivity. I’m not sure why it is regarded as “controversial” documentary, as the cruelty of their confinement in such small areas, for human entertainment, should now be generally acknowledged as completely unacceptable.
A tiger “handler’ was injured by a tiger recently at Australia Zoo. A BBC crew had been filming them, which had probably been a disruption to a normal routine.
I will not be showing the photograph of American Melissa Bachman with the lion she proudly shot. I hope she never returns to Africa.
Meanwhile, Tony the Tiger just waits in his cage. You can read an update here from the Animal Legal Defense Fund which had a victory for Tony in court in October, but proceedings just seem to drag on interminably. You can also sign a petition for Tony.
TARONGA ZOO: Kibali, an adolescent gorilla has arrived from France, and joins two selected females to hopefully form the nucleus of a new family of gorillas at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The old silverback has been pensioned off to Mogo Zoo down the south coast. Three elephants have been transferred to the more open Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo – including the one involved in an incident which injured a staff member last year. A baby elephant has been born in Melbourne Zoo, but one born last year died in an accident, playing with a tyre as a toy.
INDONESIA: A recent report on the ABC showed disgraceful conditions in general at Surabaya Zoo in Java. Sumatran tigers are starving and dying at a time when their survival is under threat, with an estimated only 300-400 left in the wild. A feisty Mayor seems to keep everyone at bay despite the scandalous conditions and a situation that has paralysed the zoo. This zoo compared very unfavourably with Taman Safari Park, Bogor, a few hours south of Jakarta, which seems very well run. The owner has attempted to help the Surabaya Zoo but has now been rebuffed. See – and possibly support – Cee4life who has been campaigning to save the lives of these tigers.
ART: Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s exhibition ‘Falling Back to Earth’, is showing at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane, until 11 May 2014. See here for information on GOMA and the exhibition which consists of three huge installations. Heritage (above), described as a “fable of multiculturalism”, with incongruous pairings of animals around pristine white sand and water, was inspired by the artist visiting Queensland’s tropical islands. Head On (below) also has 99 animals made from polystyrene, but in this instance, they are all wolves.
AUSTRALIA: I am finding our new government as bad as many of us feared, and unnecessarily antagonistic, arrogant, secretive and without vision. Our espionage spat with Indonesia worsened through Tony Abbott’s inability to find the right words or actions. Not content, the government then picked a fight unnecessarily with our most important trading partner China – protesting to the Chinese about their actions over disputed territorial claims in the East China Sea.
More revelations from Edward Snowden have shown the extent of Australia’s espionage in the region, including spying on China. Apparently only 1% of a million classified documents have been released so far, and we are “to assume the worst”. It seems we may all have been spied on as well, with the collection of our megadata – mine would be a disappointment.
Not surprisingly, according to the polls, the government’s so called “honeymoon” is already over. A very bad look was the government’s clumsy attempt to break a major election pledge (a back flip on a back flip on a back flip) on education reform.
The implementation of a proposed education reform, which had been worked on over 4 years, was an election pledge by both parties. It was to balance the inequitable funding to schools, which under ex PM John Howard saw already very rich private schools given even more money, while public schools and their students remain disadvantaged, with less access to education.
I find it unimaginable that these days any government would deliberately disadvantage a section of the population, and we will have to wait and see the real intentions of this government. As discussed on an earlier blog, the opportunities for education in the US are also inequitable, cementing a less-educated under class. In 1974 Labor PM Gough Whitlam abolished university fees, and this emancipated many very clever people who were the first in their families to go to university, and have subsequently had an enormous influence on Australia.
Hard as it is to believe, our government seems to be anti-science, and is thoughtlessly dismantling expert bodies that should be consulted and utilised– especially in relation to climate change. The government should not be dismantling the Clean Energy Finance Corp which has been successfully finding and working in partnership with major national and international banks, for example, to research and develop renewable energy sources.
ROSS GITTINS: Ross Gittins has the respect of many people. He is an economist but writes more widely. In this heartfelt article, written as a letter to his (future) grandchildren, he expresses his disbelief that Australians have just elected a government “that wasn’t genuine in its commitment to combating the effects of climate change, and that even abolished the main instrument economists invented for that purpose”.
Ross was recently asked to speak at the government’s annual conference on resources and energy and decided to “tell the miners a few home truths”, also published here.
ROSS GARNAUT: In this article about his new book Dog Days: Australia After The Boom Ross Garnaut discusses what economic and policy reforms will be required in this post resource boom era. Neither party seems to have the courage or long term vision for necessary reforms, but “more of the same” is just not sustainable any longer, and will apparently lead to higher unemployment and recession.
ENVIRONMENT: As predicted, the Federal Government has already shown a cavalier attitude to the environment. It has created a “one-stop shop” process with State Governments for faster environmental approvals. Permission has just been granted to expand a coal port (to become the largest in the world), near the already threatened Great Barrier Reef. 3 million cubic metres of seabed – dredging sludge – is to be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but hopefully, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority may yet refuse to grant a permit.
Tasmanians have been bitterly divided for decades over the logging or conservation of their forests, although an historic Forestry Agreement from 2012 seems to be working and have support. This agreement is apparently also under review/threat from the Federal Government – presumably to now allow logging in heritage listed forests.
There has been a leak of 1 million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry from the uranium Ranger Mine beside Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, this is not the first accident at the mine.
After several fatal shark attacks in Australia in the last year, there is renewed debate about culling sharks, and making our beaches “safer”. I choose not to swim in the sea as I view it as their territory, not mine.
The Japanese whaling fleet has set out for their annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, and each year anti-whale activists protest in dangerous confrontations. Sea Shepherd consists of three vessels this year, and will again try to prevent this unnecessary slaughter of whales. Australia took a case against Japan’s “scientific” whaling practices to the International Court of Justice, but a decision is still to be made.
MEDIA: In this article Richard Ackland writes in the SMH how journalism has changed, and how some journalists just advocate for the government of their choice “… ranks of salaried writers believing it is their duty to cosy-up to and protect the government, particularly their preferred government, from any embarrassment”. I do read Murdoch’s The Australian on Saturdays and on my way through to often good articles, I glance at what Chris Kenny and Greg Sheridan are saying – and often laugh out loud at their partisanship. (Update: it was Dennis Shanahan in The Australian Dec 21/22 who got the loudest laugh from me with “Abbott: model of a cool, calm and collected PM”. He says there is “an unfair focus on its mistakes”. In this Murdoch parallel universe PM Abbott and his wooden and silenced Cabinet is performing wonderfully, unlike the Opposition, who is still being blamed for everything. Peter Harcher however, was more accurate in the SMH when he said over Indonesia, Abbott’s “toughness is exposed to be phoney, his judgement shown to be wrong, and the damage is not stemmed early but protracted”.
I don’t often read Murdoch’s The Telegraph which campaigned so unfairly and effectively against the Labor Party in the last election. It is a real tabloid, with the usual right wing ranters, but is also fun and a little tacky with many photographs, unlike the rather dull if worthy tabloid- in-size only Sydney Morning Herald.
Advertised in the paper was the National Geographic Photo Contest, just as entries closed. I know many of you are very interested in photography – and wildlife, and may want to enter in 2014. There are many entries to view at http://www.ngphotocontest.com. There are the categories of “people, places and nature”, and “real” images which “accurately reflect a moment in time”. The photo above is of a Little Owl (right) defending its feeding position from a Great Spotted Woodpecker (left) with both birds showing their full colours with dramatic full wing extensions.
Sony World Photography Awards 2014 is currently accepting entries until 6 January 2014.
ABC: Supported by an avalanche of critical articles on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the Murdoch press, quite a few members of the government are talking about privatising the ABC – the government funded but independent public media body. Every new conservative government tries to dismantle the ABC (and the trade unions), and allegations of left-wing bias are usually found to be unsubstantiated. I hope it hasn’t got so bad here that we have to again defend the ABC, and that intelligent and informative discussion should be curtailed or shut down. I am addicted to Radio National!
BOURKE: I loved visiting Bourke. It is an attractive town, with some handsome historical buildings, wide streets and trees and parks. It was hard to find a hotel room – there were some tourists, but regional conferences for National Parks, Health etc were being held. I stayed in “North Bourke”, a few kilometres out of town, and over the river. Historically, the town has been a major regional trading centre and transport hub, initially based on the beautiful, if faintly murky Darling River.
A local joke in Bourke – or rural NSW, is that “NSW” stands for the coastal cities of Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong. There are no longer any rail or air links to Bourke. The area is in drought, and summer temperatures hit 40 degrees. The population of around 2000, is forty percent indigenous, who speak up to 24 different languages. A complaint is that although there is access to various services, there is duplication, and it is not targeted. People I met loved living there and were optimistic about the future. Community leaders are working hard to deal with some of the problems. Most country towns are experiencing high levels of youth unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse, unfortunately leading to high crime statistics. See this recent feature article on Bourke The Lost Town.
I travelled to Bourke with a friend Jon Lewis, a well known Australian photographer. We both want to go back. He took some great photographs of people in the community. I think his photograph of me makes me look a bit haughty. See other photographs of Bourke by Jon Lewis at www.jonnylewis.org – go to Blog and Older Blogs (especially postings for November 15-19).
Jonny and I visited an ancient rock art site in the Gundabooka National Park, and Fort Bourke, with several traditional owners and Aboriginal community leaders. Talking frankly with them was a moving and emotional experience. Governor Bourke is, understandably to them, a symbol of colonial dispossession. No governor handled indigenous-settler issues successfully or with honour, and Aboriginal disadvantage from their dispossession continues to this day.
We visited the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre and the region has a fascinating history with often larger than life characters. At the Centre it was simply stated that the town was named after Bourke as he was Governor at the time. I imagine people are unaware and uninterested in who Governor Bourke actually was, and I realised that although I live in Sydney, I don’t know much about Lord Sydney either. However, it turned out many were fans of Christian, and I was interviewed by the local newspaper, The Western Herald.
When the surveyor and explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell was in this area on an expedition in 1835, “tensions” with the the local Aboriginal people led to Mitchell building a simple (and small) wooden stockade for protection. A replica exists today. As Richard Bourke was Governor, Mitchell named it Fort Bourke – always a good way to curry favour for the future. Bourke appreciated the beauty of the Australian landscape which was so different to Europe, and travelled on horseback extensively around the colony, although he never visited Bourke.
WORLD: Over 2 million Syrian refugees are now facing freezing winter conditions, while many of those remaining in Syria are besieged or starving – Syria has become the most dangerous humanitarian crisis for decades; Lebanon, like other neighbours, is drawn further into the conflict with all the refugees, and people transiting through the country to join both sides of the conflict (including hundreds of Australians); Netanyahu is apoplectic at the thought of any Iran-US detente; Australia “abstains” in the UN for an order to stop “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories” without informing the Australian public of the change of policy; dozens have been killed across Iraq, with December the bloodiest month for 5 years; very violent and dangerous conditions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan; the Philippines still in dire need of help, with 4 million people displaced; anti-government unrest in Bangkok and the Ukraine; wonderful Aung San Suu Kyi visits Australia; ex PMs Rudd and Berlusconi are hopefully gone for good; A.C.T. same-sex marriage legislation is overturned in an Australian court, but the decision clears the way for Federal Parliament to legislate; India (re)criminalises homosexuality; China lands on the moon; Pope Francis is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, while Edward Snowden came second.
MAIL: People love birds as I found out with the response to the last blog. Thanks to the indefatigible Sylvia Ross for her photographs of this birds nest 2 meters from her front door. Over weeks we have followed the drama in the life of the Willie Wagtail – the nest, the attack by a Currawong, a surviving chick (above) appears, and later, 2 more appear! I loved her recent exhibition Feral which was photographs she has taken of pigeons in many countries. They are a beautiful and varied family, and these photographs are used as metaphors for “cultural prioritisation and question the concept of feral”.
I really appreciate the variety of emails, comments, stories and images I receive from many of you, so thank you very much. Several of you unfortunately lost adored companion pets this year and I hope you are managing. I know I am sometimes a little late – or careless, in my responses. Indeed, if I have other things to attend to, my blog can read more like a summary of past events…..
I would like to thank my sister Lindy, and Hayley from HMMG, for their invaluable assistance.
WATCHING & READING: At the moment I’m adoring Andre Agassi’s fascinating autobiography OPEN. He seems to have hated tennis from the start and it was his father’s dream, not his, to be Number 1 in the world. Dad was yet another demanding and scary tennis parent. He expresses the pyschological torment he suffered very well, and envies his main rival Pete Sampras for being “dull” – and more focused. He repeats bitchy remarks directed towards him from McEnroe, Connors, Becker, Lendl etc., which actually reveals more about them. He discovers that famous people, and I presume this includes his ex-wife Brooke Shields, are as mundane as everyone else.
I’m enjoying the Australia-English cricket Ashes Test series. In a form reversal, Australia have now actually won the Ashes, although there are two more matches in the series to play.
VOICELESS: Voiceless is a non-profit organisation which is part of the animal protection movement in Australia, and is especially concerned with raising awareness of animals suffering in factory farming and the kangaroo industry. Recently I attended the 10th annual Voiceless Awards and I am constantly surprised and pleased by the very important work many people are doing on behalf of animals. Voiceless is to be congratulated for their impressive track record of advocacy, and generosity through Grants, Prizes and other support. The next day I met several of the dedicated staff, and was delighted to see three of them had their dogs at work.
The Animal Studies Group’s latest online edition of the Animal Studies Journal, has interesting articles reflecting current research in human-animal studies – from living with crocodiles – or owning dogs in Thailand, to animal grief.
MARTIN SHARP: Martin Sharp (1942-2013), another of Australia’s most influential artists, has died. His great friend Richard Neville, wrote a very comprehensive obituary in the SMH. A very clever and creative group of Australians had arrived in London a few years before me, and they were major contributors to the so called 1960s “Counter Culture”: from Oz Magazine to Germaine Greer. Martin Sharp made cartoons, collages, posters, psychedelic pop paintings, and album covers for Hendrix, Cream etc. When he returned to Sydney, Martin lived in his grandparent’s mansion in Sydney, with rooms devoted to his obsessions which included Tiny Tim, Mickey Mouse, Luna Park and amusement park memorabilia. Martin had a huge influence on many of us. He encouraged me to open my first gallery. In 2009, Louise Ferrier and I co-ordinated a survey exhibition at the Museum of Sydney: Martin Sharp Sydney Artist.
NELSON MANDELA: It is the end of an era with the death of Nelson Mandela. I can’t add to the deserved accolades for his extraordinary achievements, especially managing the transition from apartheid to democracy and reconciliation. It has made us all think about leadership – and the absence in most of our lives of visionary – or even practical, leadership. Mandela was a mystical combination of intelligence, resilience, charm, firmness etc, and it has been fascinating reading and learning more about him – the power he exerted from a prison cell!
It has also been a reminder of the many problems still facing South Africa, and many people obviously feel President Zuma has failed to improve their lives.
I was very interested in this quote from Mandela on leadership: “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind”.
In his oration at Mandela’s memorial service, Obama said that leaders needed to be filled with “the spirit of Ubuntu”, a Nguni Bantu word meaning “the oneness of humanity”. Let’s all strive for this in 2014…..
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!