Arctic, Japan & Libya etc, Nuclear, Assange, The Dog Whisperer, Knut, YouTube, Lions, Elizabeth Taylor, & Earth Hour

March 28, 2011

Shattered Diamonds by Emma Rowan-Kelly

I very much enjoyed the recent photographic exhibition innocentarctic in Sydney by Emma Rowan-Kelly, and you can see other marvellous images on  Although her photographs raise issues of climate change with melting glaciers and shrinking animal habitats, they were an antidote to the world’s news.   Like many of you, I have woken each day for months now and immediately and with trepidation listened to or watched the news.  How high did the flood rise?  Did the cyclone do as much damage as they feared?  Have they found any more survivors from the earthquake and tsunami?  How high are the radiation levels?  How many demonstrators in the Middle East have been shot?  Has Dictator X gone?  Is America actually supportive of  these pro-democracy uprisings?

I feel depressed by the unrelenting human (and no doubt animal) losses and dispossession through these natural disasters, and apart from making donations, feel totally impotent.  I am in awe witnessing the courage and sacrifices in the Middle East as these people struggle for freedoms most of us just assume.  And then I feel guilty for feeling down – I’m alive.  Those I love are safe.  I live in a beautiful place.  I’m not wet or cold or hungry or homeless, or being shot at.

JAPAN & LIBYA ETC: Japanese stoicism, bravery and calmness is extraordinary.  Over a quarter of a million people are still homeless.  Men are sacrificing their lives battling with the damaged nuclear reactors in the service of their country.  Their economy has been underperforming for decades – let’s hope the government has the will, innovation and resources to rebuild in a way that stimulates the economy.  The Japanese have done it before.

Wasn’t it nerve-wracking waiting to see if the United Nations would act in time to protect Libyan civilians?  The confusion over the  leadership and what the actual objectives are, is extremely disquieting.  The Arab League evaporated like the mirage they seem to be.  Tony Blair, who has championed Gaddafi’s international rehabilitation, is understandably quiet.  I fear a stalemate and “mission creep”, or worse.  Are we in another war?  Let’s not forget the people in Bahrain and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia sent in troops against the people. These governments are too useful for the US and any pro-democracy actions are not likely to receive any support from them whatsoever.  What happens in Syria seems to be a very influential factor in the US/Israel/Iran political complexities.  After the fiasco of Iraq, if America actually supported these popular uprisings against such repressive regimes, (rather than their hypocritical very calculated responses, like their calls for “stability”), they would have the opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Arab world.  My friend in Cairo is already depressed by what is looking like a continuation of the status quo in Egypt, with as little change as possible and real democratic change a long way off.  He reports that the Muslim Brotherhood are certainly active, but may be splitting into factions due to generational and ideological differences.

SAYONARA NUCLEAR: It will for the time being be much harder to argue in favour of nuclear energy.  I was surprised to read that the 55 Japanese nuclear reactors supply only 20-30% of Japan’s electricity, while oil provides 50%.  There are proposals for two new reactors to be built in the same earthquake zone, on the coast and one is beside an active volcano!  While nuclear is in some respects “cleaner” than coal – radiation leaks notwithstanding,  the issue of nuclear radiation waste is entirely unresolved.  Astoundingly, it has not even been mentioned lately.  Google tells me there are 507 nuclear reactors in the world, and it is estimated nuclear waste is estimated to remain hazardous for 240,000 years!  What an appalling legacy to leave future generations.  I live within 20 kilometres of Australia’s only nuclear reactor, but while nuclear energy is mentioned in the energy debate, neither political party in Australia has proposed building any more reactors at this stage, or dared specify a particular location.  Hypocritically, we are the world’s third biggest exporter of uranium which earns us a billion dollars each year.

 JULIAN ASSANGE: Julian recently tweeted that the article on him by Robert Manne  in The Monthly magazine was “easily the best” – and the site crashed!  Click here to read the article. Robert Manne is a highly respected academic  and he thoroughly examines Julian’s life, influences, philosophical development and ambitions.  Not surprisingly, Assange believes that Western political and economic elites offer “a counterfeit conception of democracy and a soul-destroying consumption culture”.  The state does “what it can get away with” but also “what we let it get away with”.  Manne says that WikiLeaks and the idea of whistleblowers from all countries passing on information (securely) is one of the few original ideas in politics, but Assange hoped for an “engaged analysis from the blogosphere” which hasn’t happened, and instead he thinks “indifferent narcissists” repeat “the views of the mainstream media on the “issues de jour” with an additional flourish along the lines of “their pussy cat predicted it all along”.  This sounds frighteningly like me!

Vanity Fair (the Justin Bieber issue) has an article on the difficult collaboration between Assange and newspapers such as The Guardian and The New York Times who published some of the leaked cables. These leaks have “changed the way people think about how the world is run” – and it would be fascinating to read some current US cables now!  While he is playing a very dangerous game and his life could be in danger, Assange appears dictatorial, manipulative and secretive – so much for “transparency”!  As this isn’t a gossipy blog, I haven’t confessed before to knowing Assange’s father John Shipton for years.

Poor Private Bradley Manning – in solitary confinement, stripped naked and woken regularly sounds like torture to me.  Wasn’t it more remiss of the authorities to allow a kid such easy access to such sensitive material?  I read there was a protest outside his prison with activists including Daniel Ellsburg arrested, and that a Bradley Manning Support Network has been created.

FAR RIGHT: In the same issue of VF, there is an article on the Far Right, called That’s Political Entertainment.  “The old punditocracy, grounded in facts, credentials, and rational debate, has been overpowered by a new breed of political entertainer, who deals in raw emotion”.  These people “aren’t trying to change the way people think… they don’t want their audiences to think at all”.  In France, Sarkozy has forced  the deportation of Romas, and Le Pen’s clever and more polished daughter Marine is probably more dangerous than her father.  Multiculturalism has now been declared a failure in other European countries including Germany, but fortunately,  a majority of Australians realise multiculturalism has been highly successful and beneficial here.  The US has the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Fox News amongst others.  In Australia, the shock jocks are getting noticeably shriller, encouraged rather than restrained by some conservative politicians.  Recently a small but vocal motley collection of people brandishing  and shouting ugly slogans were bussed to Canberra to protest ostensibly against a carbon tax. 

The Climate Change “debate” is very much back on the agenda here but it is extremely frustrating.  A few years ago a majority of people in Australia believed in human-induced global warming, and like many other countries, including China, we should now be discussing and implementing urgent changes and reforms, not arguing if climate change exists.

We have just had a NSW State election where the conservative party has had a historic landslide win after 16 years. They say governments lose elections rather than oppositions win them, and this government became blind to the effect on the electorate of their years of factional wars, cronyism, scandals and incompetence.  It has been government by spin, the 24 hour media cycle and focus groups, replacing real leadership, long-term vision, planning and the  maintenance of infrastructure. 

My grandfather Ulick Bourke with his Irish wolfhounds Biddy and Mick

 THE DOG WHISPERER:  This series has recently been shown on Australian television and I loved it. Cesar Millan certainly seems effective in identifying and curing psychological problems in dogs, but I would love to go back and see how the dogs and owners are faring after a few weeks or months.  I now have a better understanding of dogs, and the program raised many interesting questions.  Is it our stressed, busy urban lives creating these psychologically damaged dogs and are we looking after them properly?   Is the dog being treated inadvertently as the master of the house, or the baby, and is this appropriate?  Some dogs require much more exercise than others, while others want to be given a “job”.  Are we sometimes unwittingly rewarding bad or neurotic behaviour?  As a cat owner, other rules apply of course, but I certainly spoil mine.  Cesar got bitten several episodes in a row, and dog teeth are frightening.  I was badly bitten on my hands in 2009 when a Staffordshire got her leg caught in a fence, and I should have known not to attempt to rescue a dog on my own, despite the circumstances.

There is a boom in puppy farming in Australia – apparently 500,000 each year, often bred under very unnatural circumstances, yet 250,000 dogs and cats, most of which would make lovely family pets, are euthanized each year.  It is a metaphor for our lives unfortunately. 

Pure White by Emma Rowan-Kelly


 VALE: Knut, Berlin’s world-famous polar bear who was rejected by his mother and reared by hand has recently died, aged 4.  He was enormously popular, generating millions of dollars for the zoo, but the constant attention and the unnatural life in a zoo caused abnormal behaviour and probably premature death.  I think the zoo failed badly in their duty to care for him properly as he was constantly tormented in his enclosure by 3 older female bears, including his mother.  The suggestion of having him stuffed is so indecent I can hardly bear to mention it.

VALE:  Elizabeth Taylor was one of the great movie stars of the Twentieth Century.  I particularly remember Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Suddenly Last Summer, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  She was one of the earliest AIDS activists.  A friend sent me this link to a marvellous article by Camille Paglia who likened Taylor to “a luscious, opulent, ripe fruit”, and she very amusingly compares her to other stars past and present. Click here





CHRISTIAN THE LION YouTube: Click on the image for Christian’s Reunion.

I recently read many of the comments posted on this site.  We are grateful to Lisa Williams for originally posting the reunion footage on YouTube, and TadManly2 for reposting (twice) and adding the Whitney Houston back track which especially helped it go viral.  YouTube deleted his original account “because I’d posted a few of my favourite film clips” and we too regretted the 20 million plus hits and 20,000 comments that vanished!  Most of the comments were very touching, and in general so positive and life affirming.  A few people claimed the footage is faked, but I think the footage exists as one continuous take. I can assure everyone it is true – I was there!

I’m glad people enjoyed viewing Christian’s documentary again recently in Australia, and Danni Minogue tweeted it was being shown and was “one of my all time fave documentaries”.

LIONS: American hunters are emerging as a strong and growing threat to the survival of lions, killing them for sport and trophies.  One hundred years ago there were approximately 200,000 lions in Africa, and now estimates are between 23,000  to 40, 000.  There are 70% fewer lions since Christian 40 years ago.  Shrinking habitats and conflicts with local villagers are also factors, but between 1999 and 2008 64% of the 5663 lions killed for sport went to the US.

EARTH HOUR:  I think turning off the lights for an hour around the world is an admirable global initiative, and the chance to think about some of the implications of our increasingly unsustainable lifestyles.  I walked around Bundeena for an hour and I must say far too many lights were on!  With less electricity we would obviously watch less television, and spend less time on the computer.  We should insulate our houses more effectively, install solar panels and water tanks, grow our own fruit and vegetables, and use public transport.  I think we would have more time, and talk more to each other, and possibly be closer and more effective communities.  Lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our carbon emissions will be extremely difficult.  Why is there seemingly so little investment in research and development for alternative energy technologies?  Isn’t it time to really demonstrate our human ingenuity?  

Serrated Reflection by Emma Rowan-Kelly


15 Responses to “Arctic, Japan & Libya etc, Nuclear, Assange, The Dog Whisperer, Knut, YouTube, Lions, Elizabeth Taylor, & Earth Hour”

  1. George Says:

    Ace, can you please spread the word to help this lion and his medical care? I need to learn more about it but wanted to alert you.

    Secondly the crazy evil fool in Egypt fought the lion. Despite the lies of the Egytpian leaders and press he did have a lion, they had sactioned the fight, it did happen, and the lion is in danger and needs to be turned over to a rescue group. I am disgusted by this and even more so on how the combined efforts of the government and press covered for this until after it had happened. Fully authorized by the government there despite them tell the world, Born Free, International media that the man did have a lion, was crazy, this would not be allowed to happen etc.

    Is the blood over his eye from eating or from injury? He’s a gorgeous lion and needs to be saved from these monsters.

  2. George Says:

    Ace, this sociopath in Egypt bought an obviously hand reared lion with no fear of humans so he can fight it to the death with sword and shield. It is an endangered species and a living soul. The government has approved this barbaric and cruel act. Please help to get the word out to boycott all tourism to Egypt forever if this lion is not immediatley turned over to Born Free. Call for a total life long boycott of all products from there and for all governments to end assistance to Egypt. It seems every time there is turmoil and rebellion the animals and most innocent suffer. Reminds me of the slaughter in Meru & Kora of innocent animals and people when the Kenyan and Somali governments fell apart. Only a sociopath would do or allow this. I have already contacted my government officials, Born Free, and next I will start contacting government officials in Egypt.

    • acebourke Says:

      Thanks for informing about this and well done for your comprehensive efforts to do something about it. Organisations like Born Free have much more influence than I do. I suppose we do have to remember that Egypt, as you say, is in such great turmoil that no doubt many animals and humans are at risk on a daily basis. Let’s hope for a new, democratic society there that respects all living beings, as soon as possible. best wishes ACE

  3. George Says:–Truck-Stop-Tiger/

    Hi Ace,
    Potential great news for Tony the Tiger! If the “owner” allows him to go to a sanctuary, I am not sure though, I confronted the “owner” in person once. He seems like the type that might try to sell him to a circus or canned hunting operation. I stopped on my way to New Orleans years ago because I heard from friends about Tony (I believe there are others at different locations not associated with Tony). I pulled up and would not buy gas or anything from the store. I spent some time talking softly to Tony, letting him know how handsome he was and other words of encouragement. I noticed someone that was working around the cage (horrible conditions brutal). I asked if he was the owner of the station and he said he was. I said in a firm but friendly voice that Tony deserved a better life, the noise, the pollution, the hard concrete and the convinced quarters were terrible for a big cat. He told me Tony is very happy, I said he didn’t look like he was and he didn’t look very healthy for a tiger. I asked if Tony was transported any where where he had more room to roam and the guy asked if I had a receipt of purchase. I said no I did not and would not be supporting his business and the explotation of Tony and he told me to get the hell of his property. I did not until I was ready to. Didn’t seem like a kind individual but hopefully Tony will finally find a better home with love and respect.

    • acebourke Says:

      Nice to have a first hand accountthankyou. I’m glad you told him how handsome he was…they love that! Fingers crossed things turn out well for him and sooner rather than later. best wishes ACE

  4. Gabriele Jaitt Says:

    Hi Ace,
    I am deeply touched by Christian’s and your story. It will forever change the perception we have had about “wild” animals.
    But here I would like to comment to the energy crises which could be ended by implenting solarhighways.
    Please watch this clip and let us make a movement for it:
    I don’t like to have nature destroyed with even more concrete buidlings or windmills and using already paved streets for creating energy is brilliant. Whoever likes this idea, please circulate it so we don’t have to hear anymore that there are no good alternatives.

  5. Tanya Says:

    I just found out about the youtube video from my friend earlier today, my reaction wasnt original — I cried a lot.
    When I was a little girl I loved the Born Free book, and all these Christian The Lion videos are very nice and sensitive.
    And I want to say thank you for being an inspiration, you seem like a genuine kind man and I wish you all the best!!

    Cheers from Moscow,


  6. Matthew Says:

    Hi Ace,
    Our family thoroughly enjoys your work and thoughts on world issues. Your past with Christian is timeless and incredibly touching. We unfortunately missed your signings in the United States, but would love to know if it’s possible to get an autograph? Thanks, Matthew

  7. Stephane Sauve Says:

    Hmm my post was deleated.

    Only wanted to say that I really enjoyed watching the Story of Christian and that the reunion was very touching. It is truly inspiring to see man and nature get along so well.


  8. Stephane Sauve Says:

    I love that reunion between the three of you. Brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. I own the DVD as well as the book. To be honest that video is what started my cascade into the world of George Adamson, Elsa, joy, John , yourself and many more people. If you have the chance I would love to send you some information I have sent to Virginia McKenna. If you could send me an e-mail would be appreciated. I tried to sent to No-reply@world news so not sure if you will get the information I sent Mrs. McKenna.

    Stephane Sauve
    Platinum Member (Bornfree Foundation)

  9. Kassie Says:

    Ace–I am always pleased when my e-mail tells me you’ve written a new post. Thanks especially for the nature photographs — they are quite powerful.
    I wonder if you have ever seen a version of yours and John’s reunion with Christian that is on YouTube at” “. It is 4:44 long, and it tells with very nice editing and compassion Christian’s entire story with you, London to Africa, and the editing very cleverly follows the lyrics. Check it out if you haven’t seen it!
    Best, Kassie

  10. Michael Says:

    I loved Knut too!

  11. Judy Says:

    all great – all of it!!

  12. George Says:

    Dear Ace, hello, I hope you are well. You are such a lovely, kind-natured,and well meaning person. I admire you tremendously and will be forever grateful to you for all that you did for Christian and wildlife. Christian is such a beacon of hope and love to the world. I find myself enjoying your blog less recently as your focus has shifted to promoting a very one sided politicol agenda. I believe it is best not to join a gang because you always ended up feeling as if you have to defend their every move. It is best to be independent so you can decided issue by issue if you agree or not. You failed to mention with Wiki Leaks how they edited the footage and documents on more then one occasion to make certain groups look bad. The helicopter shooting footage in Iraq is one prime example. I might support Wiki Leaks if they didn’t try to manipulate all of us and were not responsible for endangering the lives of so many good people around the world for what now seems like the quest of fame and profit.

    You’ve frequently trumputed Obama but do you realize under his watch 100,000 plus birds in the USA were poisoned? What about the animals who feed off those poisoned birds or the environment where their corpses lay? It took much digging by private citizens after numerous government denials for them to finally admit they did it.

    How about all of his reckless spending? His crazy spending devalues the dollar making it harder for normal Americans to survive but it really makes things hard for the impoverished people around the world like in Africa (could lead to increased poaching) and the Middle East (economic pressures is what caused such dissatisfaction and the protest and that is a direct result of crazy spending by the Obama administration). Don’t misunderstand I hated when Bush did it and I hated when the Republican controlled Congress overspent but did you know Obama has borrowed and spent more money then George Washington to George W. Bush combined?

    He’s gotten us in another war, why? I feel this Libya thing is a war on BP’s behalf. France and UK have such strong economic concerns in Libya. how about just one missle before anything else directly targeting Ghadafi. Payback for all the innocents he slaughtered in European night clubs, the Pan Am bombing, and what he’s done to his own people. Perhaps they could have worked out the rest.

    Could you please join me in calling for Charlie Sheen to pitch his money and fame to securing the freedom of Tony The Truck Stop Tiger and the protection of endangered tigers in the wild and in the exotic pet trade? I believe he has used their image enough he needs to pay the debt.

    We need to put an end to canned and trophy hunting world wide.

    DO you know a poision made in the USA (Who knew we still made stuff here) is being exported to Africa and used to burn down animal environments. It is illegal to use it here. Also, Canada just decided to start manufacturing asbestos again!!! Not for them but for the rest of the world. It’s still illegal in USA and Canada. Despite numerous other cost effective building materials they want to bring asbestos back and infect millions more around the world with cancer. Not to mention what it does if not properly disposed of to the water table and soil.

    Tony Fitzjohn’s book is excellent! I still long to see the most mature photos of Christian that are available, like the DVD cover.

    Ace will you please shine a light on Everland Zoo? It is an asain zoo (barbaric). They crowd lions and tigers into very small areas and film a tv show of them fighting (sometimes to the death). They often arrange fights. Two tigers I believe drowning another. A six month old lion cub being harassed in their enclosure by tigers but with the support of his friends the issue ended until these sick people take the lion from the enclosure and put him in a fenced in parking lot/garage looking place and then release 2-3 full grown tigers on him! They claim he only had a few scratches but from the looks of it he had to have been killed. You should hear these freaks laughing it up as these poor animals hurt each other. I have contacted Born Free about it and got a response but they feel the Asian government will only protect this “Zoo”. I call for a boycott of the country. These videos are on youtube.

    Also, per Nat Geo there were about 450,000 lions in Africa in the 1950’s and 20,000-30,000 now.

    I feel for the people of Japan. They are facing tremendous hardships that I would wish on no one. I do wonder about Karma. What a blow the ocean gave them. Perhaps the Japanese will rethink their relationship with the ocean and it’s creatures and end illegal whaling, the fining of sharks, and the mass murder of Dolphins?

    I thank you for taking the time to read this and to take in my perspective as you move forward with your blog. We want all the same things for animals and the world but I refuse to join a gang. Gangs and political parties only serve themselves never their members.

    If you have a moment I believe you may enjoy my blog.

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