October 27, 2010
TASMANIA: This historic photograph by Peter Dombrovskis (1945-1996) was taken in 1979 and was widely distributed in the early 1980s. It played an influential role in generating public support for the environmental cause of successfully preventing the damming of the Franklin River, and preserving some pristine Tasmanian forests. After a generation of conflict between timber loggers and environmentalists there has just been an historic agreement to protect high conservation value forests, and move to a sustainable industry based on plantation forests. This agreement however still requires Federal government support (and financial investment) to succeed so please visit GetUp! Action for Australia and sign the petition for the Australian Native Forests Charter.
Peter Dombrovskis’ photographs are a good example of the power of photography for environmental causes. See this link to an article about the effectiveness of photography in this context Sydney Morning Herald June 10, 2004.
RISING SEAS: Jon Lewis’s photographs in PORTRAITS FROM THE EDGE – Putting a Face to Climate Change have similarly raised awareness, in this instance, to the dangers the rising seas are presenting to countries such as Kiribati and many other island communities, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. Available to tour as an exhibition, these photographs are now available in a beautiful book. Contact Momento – 1300 799 764 and see the images at www.jonnylewis.org.
OCEANS: The first ever Census of Marine Life has been conducted over a decade and increases the number of known marine species to 250,000. However, about 20% of the ocean has never been explored and at least 750,000 species remain undiscovered. Scientists and researchers are hoping that the ocean is going to yield beneficial material and information, some of it, hopefully with huge medicinal potential.
FRESH WATER: We are having two interesting and complex debates about water in Australia – portents for the future everywhere with water such a valuable resource. In Queensland, the debate over the Wild Rivers legislation involves State and Federal governments, conservationists, and differing Aboriginal points of view. Noel Pearson for example, questions the limitation on indigenous economic opportunities through environmental protection, and has made accusations of theft of carbon credits by the governments. For further reading on this complex issue see “The wild rivers swindle” – The Australian 9 October 2010. Unfortunately, please bear in mind this is a Rupert Murdoch publication, and despite some very good journalists, there is increasing and widespread criticism of their partisan and anti-government coverage.
RIVERS: The Murray and Darling Rivers are in very bad condition through years of drought and an over allocation of water through irrigation. Much of Australia’s food is produced here, but do we really need to be growing water hungry crops like rice in quite arid areas? If the water allocation is cut – or rationalised, several river communities will undoubtedly be hard hit economically, and they have been very vocal in their opposition. But as the rivers under present conditions are unsustainable, major changes and readjustments are going to have to be made anyway. In Australia we have not really accepted that we live in a mainly arid land with poor soil, and with our low rain fall are always going to be vulnerable to drought.
I’ve often wondered about urban water catchment and the waste of all that water. Monash University is looking at alternative water systems and there is an online survey in partnership with the CSIRO on the risks of storm water harvesting. To participate in the survey click here.
MARI NAWI: Years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a brilliant researcher and historian Keith Vincent Smith. I was astounded that he could identify many of the Indigenous people in the early colonial prints, that the wider public – like myself, thought were “anonymous” subjects. Subsequently, based on Keith’s research, in 2006 we co-curated an exhibition EORA, Mapping Aboriginal Sydney 1770-1850 at the Mitchell Library, identifying many of the Sydney Aborigines. Keith is now staging another exhibition there, MARI NAWI Aboriginal Odysseys, which illustrates through colonial material including journals and prints, a sea-faring Aboriginal diaspora around the world – from London to the Californian gold fields. This again, is a previously unknown history of Australia. To view images of the exhibition click here.
CONSERVANCY: Colonial or victorious powers in many instances have arrogantly created many artificial national borders for people and wildlife, so it is no wonder we have the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example, tribal and religious tensions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and human/animal conflict. I think we should support trans- frontier conservancy for animals aimed at preserving where possible traditional and seasonal migration routes , and interconnecting tracts of land. But firstly, we have to try to stop the destruction of any more habitats.
CHINA: We have been witnessing a powerful China emerging on the world stage, but the reaction in China to the jailed writer and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize was predictably shrill, uncool, and just gave more “oxygen” to the issue. Didn’t the Chinese Premier himself recently say “the people’s wishes for and needs for democracy and freedom are irresistible”?
Visiting China was a highlight for me last year, and as I have said, China’s thinking and action about the conflicting pressures of such rapid economic development on conservation and wildlife issues is more advanced than I thought. The European Union, the UK, US and China, unlike Australia, have put a price on carbon, and China is at the forefront of a low carbon industrial revolution.
There has been a doubling of poaching for rhino horns in South Africa for the Asian market in the last year. The use of animal body parts for traditional medicines is endangering some species of animals, such as the tiger. I have the impression questioning traditional medicines would be taboo, but in Asia and China especially it is an overdue debate that has to happen.
READING: I initially found Jonathan Frantzen’s Freedom very funny, but I became depressed (about human behaviour) the more immersed I got, although it was still irresistible reading. It had an environmental context or back drop, complete with contradictions, hypocrisies and redemptions. One character is very anti cat – and Frantzen was amusingly awful about them, which I normally wouldn’t approve of. It did however, make me feel guilty about occasionally not always having my cats in at night…but I can’t always find them!
TONY THE TIGER UPDATE: Please view the latest campaign video for Free Tony The Tiger by Big Cat Rescue. For further information and to view a new comprehensive site for Tony click here . Please sign the petition or circulate!
GEORGE ADAMSON: Thank you to Michelle Johnson for kindly sending this link to a beautiful montaged tribute to George Adamson and his lions, by Mayra Bell. Click here to see photographs of Elsa, Boy and Christian and marvelous photographs of the camp at Kora. Enjoy!