Tony the Tiger, Birds of America, Arab Winter, Australian Stuff, USA, Sport, Gina Rinehart, Assange etc
February 11, 2012
TONY THE TIGER: Thanks for the immediate responses to the petition for Tony the Tiger. See the recent update on Tony from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (http://www.aldf.org/tony). Unfortunately Tony remains in his cage while complicated legal battles over him delay attempts to relocate him to an appropriate sanctuary. Is this case receiving media attention in the US?
I would like the blog to be primarily a notice board for animal welfare and rights issues and I rely on your contributions. I think we have put the spotlight on some of the more quiet achievers doing great work for animals or the environment, and the blog is now a Directory of many organisations and people.
Like many of you I support many of the campaigns of the ALDF (http://www.aldf.org/), GetUp! (http://www.getup.org.au/), AVAAZ (http://www.avaaz.org/en/), and http://www.change.org/. Internet activism is huge and will grow in influence and become more targeted. I remind myself clicking “sign” on a petition and pressing “send” is pretty easy. I think trying to be informed is a good start, and donations are always a practical contribution. I’m sure we all wonder how our efforts could be more effective, and I admire people who volunteer and give their time to organisations like BushCare, and visiting imprisoned asylum seekers.
AUDUBON: Two copies (out of only 200) of the first edition of Birds of America by John James Audubon (1785-1851) sold last month at Sotheby’s for $11.5 million, and $7.5 million at Christie’s. With beautiful life size colour plates, this classic work contains over 700 North American species.
SUMMER HOLIDAYS: It has been a relaxing time spent mostly with family and friends. There has been time to read, and to reflect on 2011, and what 2012 may bring. While many of you are in freezing temperatures, our weather has been erratic and courtesy of La Niña, quite a lot of rainfall and flooding again in the north east, for some the third flood in three years. I remember how dry, hot and endless summer holidays used to be, and people now seem to go back to work much earlier. My vegetable garden is a disgrace and was even overgrown before I saw a black snake.
The Year of the Dragon apparently promises to be unpredictable and exciting. With the EU and the Middle East, anything could happen. On a positive note, I think the momentum is swinging back to a majority of people (again) accepting that climate change is real and something has to be done about it. China, the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter (8.88 billion tonnes) is to set a price on carbon but a low $1.55 a tonne, to increase gradually. It must now be hard to argue that the weather is not changing. In the Maldives, 14 out of the 200 habitable islands are now uninhabitable. 2012 does carry some pretty dire predictions for the Euro Zone by the World Bank, IMF, and George Soros amongst many others, especially with such seemingly inept leadership. Many are questioning the calls for austerity measures (made by Germany especially), when it seems people should be encouraged to spend and generate growth and jobs.
ARAB WINTER: In Egypt, what accommodation will the military come to with the winners of their election, the Muslim Brotherhood? What is known about this very influential and well-funded organisation? Now in parliament the party will not be able to remain as secretive as it has had to be in the past. See Stepping out of the shadows by Ruth Pollard (SMH News Review Jan 28-29), an article that illustrates just how little is known about them or what the future may hold. After the recent soccer riots and deaths, questions are being asked about the failure, deliberate or otherwise, of national security.
SYRIA: A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald helped me understand the situation in Syria much more clearly, and all the regional repercussions. I realised it is in some ways a proxy war. In Every Middle East player has a stake in Syria’s sectarian showdown (SMH Feb 6), Jackson Diehl writes that this is “the most complex, volatile and momentous power struggles in the history of the Middle East”. The invasion of Iraq upset the delicate regional balance between the Sunnis and Shiites, and Syria “has precipitated a crucial test of strength between Sunnis and Shiites and between Turkey and Iran. It has also triggered existential crises for Palestinians, Kurds and the Shiite government of Iraq”. Syrians are being killed daily while the UN and the Arab League appear impotent, and the Russians and Chinese are recalcitrant and entirely self-interested. While Syrians are crying out for our help and being murdered, we watch helplessly.
Thanks to David for sending this beautiful selection of photographs of Iran from The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/01/a-view-inside-iran/100219/. It is important to see the human face and everyday lives of Iranians many of whom are held hostage by their government.
The sanctions and rhetoric against Iran – with talk of an Israeli attack against Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facilities as early as April must only stiffen Iran’s resolve to defend themselves with nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia was reported to be “shopping in Pakistan for a nuke”.
Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Hamish McDonald wrote very interestingly about returning to Israel after 13 years Life in Israel an ultra-orthodox paradox (SMH 21 Jan News Review) http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/life-in-israel-an-ultraorthodox-paradox-20120120-1qa2k.html. He questioned if a two-state solution was still possible “Or is all this negotiation and capacity-building simply a prelude to living together, somehow – two nations in one land – on better terms than the status quo, miserable humiliation for the occupied, corrosive for the occupier?” The best of luck to Fatah and Hamas with their recent reconciliation.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Some times last year I felt I lived in a parallel universe: Israeli government spokesmen saying new settlements were not an impediment to peace; Osama bin Laden located and assassinated after living for years in a suburb in Pakistan; the bizarre and so unlikely propaganda for the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un – described as a “joke” by his brother; the race in Australia to hand over high food producing land to Coal Seam Gas mining or sales to foreign investors; Australia handled the GFC better than any other country, yet the Opposition here say it is the worst government (or PM?) on record.
SPORT: Australian cricket has been in crisis, but suddenly there is the emergence of good young fast bowlers, although two have already succumbed to injury. The visiting Indian team were easily beaten in the Test matches. Tendulkar failed to get his elusive 100th Test century. Several older Australian cricketers (like Ricky Ponting) have had to perform, and have. Records have been broken. The Australian public has finally warmed to the newish captain Michael Clarke who was Man of the Series and scored 329 not out.
Both tennis and cricket have fast food sponsors. Their advertisements for their food on TV looked so totally unappetising and unhealthy; hamburgers, and chicken in batter and bacon sizzling in fat. You are encouraged to relax at home watching sport on TV, eating fattening fast food, drinking Coke (or beer) and we are now urged with frequent interruptions to bet online on every aspect of the unfolding games.
In Australia in January we have several tennis tournaments building up to the Australian Open in Melbourne. There were many highlights - like actually being there to see the best players in the world play the semi finals. It was especially thrilling to see Rafa play Federer, and I was surprised at the fanatical support for Federer. I do have to admit his record is extraordinary, and he is the most graceful player who always makes the game look effortless. Overall the standard of tennis in the tournament was very high, although too many points were lost by an error, rather than won. However, as the legend Rod Laver pointed out, returning is so good these days, that shots that would previously have been ”winners” are now being returned, in very long rallys.
Any number of girls could have won, and at least six of them have been number one. Many are attractive and healthy looking and are dressing much better. Serena Williams made a surprising comment that she “never liked sport or exercising” (knocked out 4th round). Men dress in a much cooler way these days although the Federer team uniform was a rather naff quasi-military jacket and cap he ( he lost). Verdasco wore a shocking red and yellow outfit (he lost) and Dolgopolov wore red shorty pyjamas (he lost).
Both lost to Bernard Tomic, Australia’s long awaited new tennis star who has developed into quite an extraordinary player at 19 and has the tennis world fascinated. One of quite a few players with parent coaches! Murray’s new coach Ivan Lendl seems to have banned Murray’s mother – I couldn’t spot her in the crowd.
Players have a punishing schedule, and many seem to be suffering or recovering from injury. It is very hot at this time of the year here and most games are played outdoors, and the final was over 5 gruelling hours. Tennis should not be such an endurance test. There were several matches where players “found a way to win”. The mental attitudes and psychological games were fascinating, and players confronting their particular nemesis – Federer failing again against Nadal, and Nadal against Djokovic.
Back home for the final on TV I was very moved to see a parade of the past Australian winners of the Australian Open –including Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Frank Sedgeman, Rod Laver, and John Newcombe. We seemed to dominate world tennis back then. Azerenka thrashed Sharapova, and Djokovic beat Nada in the longest, and possibly the best final ever. Both winners won $2.3 million.
AUSTRALIA: It was quiet over Christmas with the politicians on holidays – there always seems to be less news! But things hotted up quickly. The PM was dragged to her car by security from a protest by Aboriginals who were nearby marking the anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy erected on the lawns of Government House 40 years ago. I think Aborigines are remarkably sanguine under the circumstances about their dispossession and the poverty that so many of them still live with. There is a rare bipartisan approach to Aboriginal affairs so nothing is done. A report on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution has just been presented to the government.
Media driven leadership speculation is running hot. The deposed PM, Foreign Minister Rudd continues to stalk the PM, pretending he isn’t, and helping to destabilise an already unpopular government. Too many careless and strategic errors cloud what have been major achievements for the government in a hung parliament, and in many ways a good economic record.
CSG: The rampant mining of coal seam gas is a great issue facing Australia. Environmental activists who are protesting over Coal Seam Gas are being spied on by the government! Too many disturbing stories are surfacing from around the world about the effects of the mining techniques on the water aquifers, and other issues including the leaking of contaminated water. Ultimately it is not suitable as a low emission “bridging fuel” between coal-fired electricity generators and large scale renewable energy. According to a recent American report the amount of greenhouse gases released by unconventional gas drilling exceeds that of oil and coal.
Some of our best agricultural and food producing areas are at risk, and many other properties are being sold to foreign investors at an alarming rate, with all food produced likely to go off shore.
Other recent reports seem to conclude that wind farms do not cause illness. What does have to be considered with wind turbines as a clean source of energy however, is all the emissions from coal-fired power plants from producing the steel to build the gigantic turbines, and all the cement for the foundations.
GINA RINEHART: Australia’s richest person ($20 billion), and possibly soon to be the richest in the world, Gina Rinehart seems to be increasingly throwing her weight around. In the past it has been reported that Gina has proposed using cheap Asian labour in her mines, that the state of Western Australia secede, and that nuclear bombs be used for mining purposes and creating harbour facilities. Not surprisingly, she funds climate-change deniers.
In a bizarre spectacle in 2010 she and sundry other mining billionaires protested on the streets against a proposed Super Profits Tax. On the back of a flatbed ute, Gina shouted “axe the tax”. Up against a campaign that cost the miners $23 million, the government watered down the Mineral tax, losing billions of dollars.
Now Gina has begun buying into Australian media – 10% of a television channel, and just recently nearly 14% of Fairfax Media which owns my newspaper of choice, the Sydney Morning Herald.
View this “the video you were never supposed to see” and see how Gina’s move is most likely part of a strategy to control and influence aspects of the media.
I’ve complained at length about some examples of bias in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, which in many other regards is a very good newspaper. Luckily the Fairfax Board in my opinion is known more for its lacklustre performance,and not editorial interference.
BILL GATES: Leading by great example, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $US750 million to make up for the shortfall in The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
WHALING: The anti-whaling vessel the Sea Shepherd and supporters had the first skirmish of the season when 3 men boarded a Japanese vessel in the Southern Ocean. In a costly exercise they were returned to an Australian vessel, and they did put the whaling issue on the front pages briefly. All has been quiet since… or for the moment.
ELEPHANTS: Recently there was a suggestion that elephants, highly endangered in Africa as we know, be brought to Australia to eat and control the highly flammable introduced gamba grass. Oddly George Adamson advocated this when we spent time with him in Kenya. I would imagine there would be problems of immunity to diseases, damage to vegetation and soil, and be scary for an unprepared public, especially if the elephants went feral like the herds of camels and buffaloes. Other destructive introduced species in Australia include the cane toad, rabbits, foxes, cattle and sheep – and cats.
INDO-ASIA-PACIFIC: It seems Australia may finally be well positioned in the world with the global focus now on the Asian region. Obama’s decision to pull out from the Middle East and concentrate on the South East Asian region, is recasting international strategic thinking, although everything these days seem to be all about China! There will be a small US base in northern Australia. The Indian Ocean is the oil route to the Asian economies, and the navies in the region including the US, China, India, and not forgetting Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, will be keeping an eye on each other and these vital sea routes.
AMERICA: A while ago I received an irate email after I had made some complimentary remarks about President Obama. She “wanted her country back”. What did she want back I wondered, remembering the Bush years – a failure of intelligence over 9/11 and an inability to find Bin Laden, 2 expensive, deadly and unnecessary wars, and the GFC on their watch. That’s a lot of mess to inherit and to clear up.
John Howard, our fellow conservative PM of the time, rushed to join Bush in Iraq, without even advising Parliament, and subsequently and unnecessarily made Australia a terrorist target. An Australian passport can now be a liability although now we are to host a small American military base. A recent letter to the SMH editor said “I returned to Australia at the end of the (John) Howard years. I found Australia a colder, harder and more selfish society”.
My irate emailer also spoke very disparagingly about the participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is a very old-fashioned protest movement, and perhaps some are a little scruffy, but the movement keeps gaining momentum and has certainly entered international consciousness very quickly. In Ireland, protesters are occupying some of the many empty buildings for community purposes. In Sydney some protesters got arrested on a rainy night recently allegedly “contravening council notices” in what seems ongoing police harassment.
Income disparity is predicted by some to be the key issue for 2012.
Former venture trader Mitt Romney (worth $250 million) personifies the 1% and that this is an issue in the US election is more evidence of the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He pays a 14% tax rate and Obama is taxed at 26%. The concerns of the 99% have been put on the agenda, triggering a sudden feigned concern by politicians for the middle classes. Romney is wooden, insincere and subject to faux pas but the most presentable of a pretty bad lot – and he seems to have been an effective Governor. I don’t know what he believes in and I suppose it is a relief he is a “moderate”, which seems to be a dirty word in some Republican circles. Hopefully he will see off Gingrich with his “ethical violations” and a call to an America of the past, not the future, and the “Jesus” candidate Rick Santorum who has just been resurrected. In Australia most of us seem to accept – reluctantly, that a certain level of taxation is in the national interest, and while the Christian Right is also influential, it is not as powerful as it is in the US.
The tide may be turning for Obama. There are some encouraging if small signs – like employment figures of the 3 year low of 8.3%. A trump card could be Hillary Clinton running as Vice-President to Obama, while Joe Biden becomes Secretary of State, as has been suggested.
ASSANGE: Judges have adjourned to consider their judgement about Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden. He is soon to be a television host on Russia’s RT network, interviewing “10 key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries… who will be shaping the political agendas of tomorrow”.
MISC STATS: There are now more urban Chinese than rural; 5 million dogs are put down a year in the US; $US56.8 billion worldwide sales for McDonald’s from 33,510 restaurants; US national debt is $15 trillion; Mexico’s drug trade is worth $38 billion; a 21% increase in drive-by shootings in Sydney’s suburbs.
MAIL: Susan cheekily asked how my vegetarianism is going. It was Christmas and the holidays and I’ve eaten everything offered to me! I haven’t bought any meat except for my cats. As it has been summer it is lovely eating lots of fruit and salads. Overall I’ve tried to “graze” rather than eat big meals. I eat too much bread, drink too much tea, and I don’t have cakes, biscuits or chocolates in the house.
A Lion Called Christian has just shown on Danish television and thanks for the many emails from Denmark – I’m so glad you have enjoyed it. Friends saw the video in their hotel in India last year and emailed “we didn’t know you spoke such good Hindi”!
TJUKURRTJANU Origins of Western Desert Art is a superb exhibition, which I saw just before it finished at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. These were the first paintings produced in the desert in the early 1970s by Aborigines who brilliantly and effortlessly transferred their traditional designs and creation stories to a new medium of canvas board and acrylic. Look out for the exhibition in Paris later in the year at the Musee du quai Branly (http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/), running 9 October until 27 January 2013. Continuing at the NGV until 24th May is Living Water: Contemporary Art of the Far Western Desert, a colourful and comprehensive exhibition which illustrates how many of the desert Aboriginal artists like Ronnie Tjampitjinpa (below) have developed over the decades, in what has been described as one of the great art movements of the last century.
Mitchell Library, David Scott Mitchell, Global Animal, Jane Goodall, Jeffery Moussaieff Masson, Unity Bevis Jones, A Bloody Business, Aung San Suu Kyi, Amazon, Carbon Tax, A Lion Called Christian
July 6, 2011
MITCHELL LIBRARY: These images are from a recent purchase of early Australian natural history illustrations by the Mitchell Library. Six bound volumes and 741 “exquisite” drawings and watercolours were taken to London in 1795 and subsequently purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby. They are believed to be by the convict artist Thomas Watling. Europeans were fascinated by the exotic flora and fauna from the Pacific region.
DAVID SCOTT MITCHELL: The library is named after David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907) who donated what has been described as the world’s largest private collection of a particular region – Australasia and the Pacific, with over 60,000 books, maps, journals, pamphlets, paintings, and a bequest that still financially benefits the library today.
He appreciated the importance of collecting primary sources - ”Australia’s DNA”, from which we are still in the process of interpreting our past. Indeed, we are at the moment still debating whether to describe the European arrival in Australia as an “invasion” or “colonisation”.
I am reading the just published Book Life, the life of David Scott Mitchell byEileen Chanin. It is an exhaustively researched biography which paints a picture of the surprisingly sophisticated Mitchell and Scott families, cultural life in the small colony of Sydney, and the international literary context. This book is long overdue as very little is known about Mitchell, and the book reveals much more about a shy man who was not as reclusive as reputed, but who still remains elusive. He was my grandmother’s great uncle and she sometimes stayed with him on her school boarder’s weekends. Unfortunately I was too young to ever ask her what he was like. I only remember her saying he was always reading! Only much later have I appreciated the value of oral histories – and identifying people in photographs!
Family skeleton: D S Mitchell’s father James was an extremely energetic and entrepreneurial doctor and businessman and conveniently, his wife Augusta Maria (Scott) was wealthy. He was one of the first in the colony to mine for coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW, and this wealth from the now contentious coal primarily allowed David Scott Mitchell to indulge his passion for collecting books, and Australia has benefited from it as well.
GLOBAL ANIMAL: Later this week I am on a panel at the Global Animal: an Animal Studies conference at the University of Wollongong (UOW). I am fascinated by the amount of interesting and wide ranging research in this field in academia, especially about human/animal relationships. Click here for UOW details.
You may be interested to click on the Australian Animal Studies Group News eBulletin and see the range of activities, articles and national and international conferences and events. I was asked to contribute to this edition, and I wrote about my visit last year to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in India - where through the efforts of many people (but Christine Townend particularly), management of the community dog population has seen human rabies eliminated from both those areas. The editor insisted on using a grisly photograph of a dog still out cold from the operation – I wanted to use the pretty white kitten dressed for Diwali celebrations. OK – I seem to have lopped off some tail – last photograph it was her ears!
A BLOODY BUSINESS: But does gore sell more effectively? The footage of Australian cattle being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs has created a very effective public outcry and scandal. Exports of live cattle to Indonesia have been suspended. The Indonesians are offended. Our government has as usual seemed slow to respond constructively, and many cattle owners are left facing huge losses. The industry is worth $550 million (I read various estimates), and some small compensation to producers is presently being offered. Animal welfare is for now at least under overdue scrutiny.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: There has been no equivalent outcry against sending our asylum seekers or refugees to Malaysia, although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received many emails of protest. The shock jocks and irresponsible politicians who have exacerbated and exploited this issue are now being countered by a few serious and informative television programs that are actually putting a human face to the refugees and showing just what many of them have been subjected to. Most of them had to flee their country – they were not just setting off to look for a better life.
POLLUTION TAX: Much better to call it a pollution tax – who wouldn’t want to prevent pollution? I’m pleased Germany is stepping back from nuclear energy, retiring their 17 reactors by 2022. For years now we have been mired in our carbon/pollution tax debate, but the government is about to finally put a price on carbon. Compensation to coal producers has understandably been a sticking point. The Greens now have a balance of power in the Senate, and are working quite well in an “agreement” with the government. It may be a future direction as many disenchanted Labor voters (like myself) are now leaning towards the Greens instead. They won 12% of the primary vote last election. I wouldn’t want the Greens to be running the country on their own, they don’t have the experience for a start – but at times they provide the heart, compassion, integrity and conscience on social justice and environmental issues missing in our political discourse.
Incidentally, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers seem to be doing everything in their power to force out this government by constantly portraying them as negatively as possible and marshalling opposition at every opportunity - for example, oxygen given to climate change deniers and opponents of the carbon tax. His mother however, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s 102 year old mother was a signatory to a recent letter to a (rival) newspaper calling for action on climate change. A recent Productivity Commission report detailed various actions by many countries, including India and China, and stated that a carbon tax in Australia would not make us uncompetitive internationally. Some critics argue that because of our reliance on coal, comparisons to other economies are difficult. Worryingly, although 95% of scientists accept the scientific statistics on climate change, public support is slipping, with 39% of Australians now not prepared “to pay a cent” to combat global warming. This is indicative of how badly the government has handled this issue, how long it has dragged on, and how effective the shrill opposition to it has been – more rallies and expensive media campaigns are planned. Isn’t this issue so important that there should be bi-partisanship between the major parties?
JANE GOODALL: I recently had lunch at Taronga Zoo where Jane Goodall was the guest of honour. The Taronga conservation society is in partnership with a new chimpanzee rehabilitation centre – the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Point Noire, Congo. Over the fifty years since she began studying chimps their numbers have fallen from about 1 million to 300,000. “The most efficient and cheapest way of slowing down global warming is to protect and restore the tropical rainforests. Saving the chimpanzees natural habitat is extremely important….all these problems are so interconnected”. Last time I heard her speak she explained how local villagers need to have a certain guaranteed standard of living – food, water, education etc before we we can expect them to protect animals or their habitats. Tony Fitzjohn also emphasizes this with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust – the needs and involvement of the surrounding villagers are imperative.
Jane Goodall said Australia was not doing well – a failure so far on carbon emissions, a failure to protect water supplies, disappearing endemic species, and no overall environmental strategy to link the surviving patches of habitat. She reassured us however, that individual efforts “add up”.
I gave her a copy of A Lion Called Christian but she just said “Oh. Thankyou.”, and I wonder if the book was left in the hotel room!
I admire her work enormously and how hard she works. There are Jane Goodall Institutes all over the world, and I particularly like the very successful Roots and Shoots program for schools where groups plan and implement “service learning projects that promote care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community”.
Co-incidentally, I heard on a recent radio program that given the intelligence of chimps and their brain size, living in groups of 5 is the norm,and in a “village” of about 50, while for our brain size humans have a close group of 7 people on average, and a “village” of 150.
UNITY BEVIS JONES: I was recently interviewed by BBC4, and I mentioned Christian’s friend Unity Bevis Jones. She came to play with him nearly every day. I was contacted by a friend who said they had recently seen her, and all was fine with her. After the shop Sophistocat where Christian lived on the Kings Road closed, Unity did not know how to keep in touch with us, and was unaware the shop had relocated to Wandsworth Bridge Road where it still is today. I look forward to seeing her when I am next in the U.K.
MISC STATS: We are part of 2 billion users on the internet …. US involvement in Afghanistan costs $120 billion per year… 85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres from the coast…. 50% of the world population now live in cities.
BRAZIL: Now the 5th biggest economy in the world, Brazilians seem to be having their day – and with the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Earth Summit to come etc. Unfortunately their resources/mining boom will test their environmental credentials – and their forest protection laws are being “gutted”. The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen and 60% of our freshwater, and recently several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered! Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to protect the Amazon.
OF THE 1%, BY THE 1%, FOR THE 1%: A disturbing article in Vanity Fair (Rob Lowe cover) by Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses the implications of 1% of the population now owning 40% of wealth in the US, a statistic to frighten us all. They haven’t been benevolent in the past, and there is a corresponding under investment in infrastructure, education and research. They are pandered to with low taxation, and this nexus of politics/business/media preserves their privilege. It is hard not to view recent “wars” as business opportunities for arms and weapons manufacturers and companies like Halliburton, and there are spoils like oil to divide. In Australia we see many of our wealthy opposing the mining tax, the carbon tax, and the NBN national broadband network, and resenting and resisting environmental restrictions, and workplace reforms.
WORRIED ABOUT: …the PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Iraq is sounding more and more despotic… the despot in Syria is hanging on but the people bravely keep protesting… Greece and European debt…that 193 rhinos have been killed already this year in South Africa, many of them in the Kruger National Park…a rush to mine cold seam gas even in the suburbs of Sydney, with real concerns about environmental damage through “fracking” and damage to the water aquifers… the capabilities of Thaksin’s sister in Thailand…a released but restricted and silenced Ai Wei Wei in China… and if you are concerned for Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy in Burma click here to sign an AVAAZ petition.
JEFFREY MASSON: I just adored reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats. It is a most authoritative book and extremely well written and readable. As a fellow cat obsessive I luxuriated in it. Much of it reinforced my own feelings and my comparatively amateur observations, but there was a lot of new information and ideas to think about, especially about cat’s play and curiosity. Jeffrey Masson also refers to other obviously excellent books on cats – none of which I’ve read. I realised I didn’t really play with my cats much, and I never improvise or buy them toys, but I AM always talking to them and having fun with them. His cats go for walks with him! I am under no illusions – food is the foundation of my relationship with mine. The book made me analyse what I really like about cats. Briefly, I find them very soothing, very cool and so self contained. I like their diffidence, their quietness and their natural entitlement. Everything has to be their own idea. This behaviour can annoy some people, but I can find it amusing or challenging. The only thing I really don’t like is how totally irrelevant they make me feel after I have fed them!
Jeffrey Masson is presently researching violence in different species, lions especially, and how much killer instinct they have, and who it is directed at. I am hoping Tony Fitzjohn with his long association with George Adamson and his own experience and observations of lions may be able to contribute. I know that the wild lions at Kora waged a full-time war over many years against George Adamson’s introduced lions, and killed several of them, although they also mated with several of the lionesses. They were defending their territory which was inhospitable and had limited resources, against intruders. It was miraculous that Christian survived although he ultimately had to leave the area. On his blog Jeffrey Masson described our YouTube reunion with Christian as demonstrating “pure joy” and that “All in all, it remains the single most astonishing video I have ever viewed”.
April 23, 2010
NEXT WEEK: 2 FUNDRAISING AUCTIONS
27th April New York: this classic photograph of Christian by Derek Cattani has been invited to be in an auction to raise money for the Humane Society auction to raise money for an animal shelter and refuge.
“On Tuesday, April 27, 2010 from 6:00–9:00 pm the Humane Society of New York will be holding our Third Benefit Photography Auction at Diane von Furstenberg’s new gallery, DVF Studio, New York City. Photographers, participating by invitation only, include Nick Brandt, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Michael “Nick” Nichols, Gregory Colbert, Howard G. Buffett, Milton H. Greene, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt, Mikhail Baryshnikov, William Wegman and many more. We have just discovered your amazing images of Christian the Lion and all of us at the Society were overwhelmed! We would be truly honored if you would agree to donate one particular photo showing Christian lying on stairs in support of our work.” Humane Society of New York
Congratulations to Derek for deservedly being in such prestigious company, and good luck for the cause.
29th April Sydney: a reminder that the auction of artworks by leading Australian artists for voiceless is at the Sherman Galleries in Sydney.
AUSTRALIAN ANIMAL STUDIES GROUP
One of the many surprises of my re immersion in the world of animal and wildlife conservation over the last year, has been the fascinating and pioneering work being done at an academic level in relation to many issues relating to animals, their rights, the ethical perspectives on animals, and human/animal relations. I have mentioned that I spoke at the Minding Animals Conference in Newcastle last year. I was the light relief! I’ve just been reading the March 2010 eBulletin of the Australian Animal Studies Group, and it is very comprehensive and international. There are fascinating Conferences all over the world, mostly at Universities, on many different aspects of human/animal issues, and articles, profiles and book and documentary reviews. A website is underway. The many listed events include Global Animal: An Animal Studies Conference at the University of Wollongong 27-28 September 2010, and Animal Rights 2010 15th-19th July in Washington D.C. There is very useful information such as the World Animal Net – the world’s largest network of animal protection societies.
Sydney Harbour may be getting cleaner and healthier, but you would not want to live near a coal mine. Australia survived the GFC extremely well but this is primarily due to the demand for our minerals from China especially. We have lots of uranium, iron ore and coal. Our governments at Federal and State and Local levels (yes we are overgoverned, and it is expensive), are hostage to this income, and while coal mining is having a ruinous effect on the health of residents in previously idyllic rural areas, the government is reluctant to acknowledge the possibilities or even fully investigate. In one area alone there are 30 dusty open cut mines surrounding residents, and in Gunnedah, another very fertile area of NSW that produces a lot of food, some unlikely conservative/landed gentry landowners are mounting a serious blockade and protest, while some neighbours sell their properties for huge sums. Last month the NSW Supreme Court found in favour of these farmers who were blocking BHP Billiton from exploration, and the NSW Government with their usual cavalier attitude to planning regulations, has just changed the legislation to favour the mining industry. Google Tim Duddy and the Caroona Coal Action Group.
Two new coal-fired power stations have also been announced in our state – just as there were coal mine disasters in both China and the US, and at a time when we should be backing away from coal, and other countries are recognising the economic opportunities offered by alternative and more sustainable energy sources. One estimate has these power stations increasing the State’s total emissions of carbon dioxide by 22.9 million tonnes each year – a 15.1% increase.
This does raise the questions of both our aging city infrastructures – run down in relatively prosperous times by most governments around the world, and population numbers. I think we have about 22 million people in Australia – mostly huddled around the coast and in a few big overstretched cities. There is a projection of 36 million people by 2050. These debates often turn racist here as it concerns immigration targets and asylum seekers, who have been arriving lately primarily from Sri Lanka and Iraq in not inconsiderable numbers. Unfortunately the Federal Opposition has been predictably shrill (there are votes in xenophobia and racism), and our government has caved in and introduced tougher and less humane restrictions on them, and made the asinine comment that it is now safe to go back to their countries of origin!
UPDATE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Isn’t it hard deciphering the different opinion pieces about Climate Change, and whether Copenhagen was a success or a dismal failure. The skeptics are quieter, but worryingly so are the politicians ……. and the public are unaccountably less concerned than they were. But 114 countries have backed the Copenhagen Accord, 74 have submitted targets to cut or slow greenhouse gas emissions, and China and India volunteered to slow emissions. Our Prime Minister, after initial great enthusiasm for one of the great challenges of our times, failed to explain the complexities, and hasn’t uttered the word for months. I’m particularly offended by him at the moment anyway, after reading he had not attended an art event since becoming Prime Minister in 2007!
Unfortunately Australia is also dependent on uranium exports – we own 30% of the world’s resource. I just can’t embrace nuclear power, especially given the problem with waste disposal. A clan of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have been offered 12 million dollars for nuclear waste to be dumped on them. Fortunately neighbouring clans are opposing this, not wanting their land, shared Dreaming sites and water contaminated.
A baby elephant presumed to be still born surprised everyone by surviving at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. It has been named Pathi Harn which is Thai for “miracle”. It was fascinating watching the mother and other elephants have total faith and patience in the zoo staff working to save the calf, and their loving, casual touching and entwining of their trunks with each other and the staff.
There is a new rhino calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in central NSW. Their press release said only 4,230 black rhinos survive in the wild, and since the 1990s the Zoo has produced 11 black rhino calves. Other recent births include four cheetah cubs, three giraffe calves and a Przewalski’s horse foal.
I’M CONCERNED ABOUT
The conditions of designer puppy farming which should be under a lot more scrutiny; Australian sheep wool may be boycotted internationally if mulesing continues (a cruel practice that does however prevent deadly flystrike); the on-going slaughter of elephants in countries like Tanzania because of the black market trade in ivory, as the growing Chinese middle class, especially, want to buy ivory trinkets such as chop sticks; the annual seal “harvesting” in Canada, which is always highly emotive – their blood on the snow, and does raise interesting and difficult questions of culling, traditional practices and all the other animals we eat quite happily, let alone industrial chicken meat production; cruel experiments on animals; a giant new dam in the Amazon and the trees being cut down in the far south coast of NSW, the habitat for the last little colony of koalas there. Don’t we humans ever learn?
There were some excellent tips in the newspaper the other day for “sustainable eating”: buy local, buy seasonally, minimise packaging, choose unprocessed or unrefined foods, grow your own, eat less meat and consider organic. Easy! Also, think what we could do with all the water we just lose in the cities, and all the uneaten foods or scraps, especially fruit and vegetables, that could be used as compost. What is encouraging is that quite a lot of uneaten food is now distributed in a well organised way to the hungry.
Legendary David Attenborough has reached the North Pole for the first time, at the age of 83. He is filming for a BBC nature series highlighting the effect of global warming on the earth’s extreme regions. Apparently the Arctic winter ice has recovered slightly, but long term loss is continuing.
Beautiful People; Australian “psycho dog man’s” performance now on YouTube (I saw the original footage as I am uneasy about those Staffordshire dogs myself having had a “run in” last year with one; American Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich on Australian television – impressively bright and sophisticated - after the neo cons we have been sent in the recent past.
Last month was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Born Free first published in March 1960. I recently bought a copy (14th Impression) signed by Joy Adamson. I have never read it or seen the film, despite them being such huge hits at the time. Watch out for the upcoming documentary on Born Free, as Joy was a fascinating if difficult woman, and her work with George Adamson was so prescient, and I’m going to finally read Born Free…