Christian the Lion, Art, Ai WeiWei, State Gallery Exhibitions, Grayson Perry, Aboriginal Art, Paris Agreement, Renewables, World, Islam, Australia, Animals, Ivory, Wildlife
December 19, 2015
CHRISTIAN: It is this time of the year again and thanks as always to Christian’s photographer Derek Cattani. Do see some of his other marvellous photographs of Christian here – I always enjoy looking at them.
Some of you may be interested in this article from the Good Weekend, Pets on E-Parade, on pet and animal-themed YouTube channels. Christian the lion was not mentioned but I think our reunion with Christian was the first really popular “animal themed” video phenomenon on YouTube – we stopped counting years ago when we topped 100 million views.
Australia’s most popular YouTube channel, Catmantoo has 133,000 subscribers and 40 million views. Many of these channels are “monetarised” and take months to prepare. In general I don’t like performing or dressed up animals. I can understand why cat videos dominate the internet and I am sent many cat videos – thanks to Mandy lately, and thankyou to Deb especially.
I recently reread a letter I wrote to George Adamson at Kora in Kenya in 1978 about our reunion with Christian in 1971: “and the footage of us returning to see Christian and him running down the hill is pretty amazing footage”. That has turned out to be quite an understatement!
ART: For anyone visiting or travelling around Australia in the next few months we have some very interesting exhibitions on at our State Galleries, and they all have extensive gallery collections.
Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei has just opened at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (until April 24th 2016), and is a “conversation” between the artists who did meet in New York years ago. They share a love of “social media” – Warhol was a precursor of celebrity and social media with his screen prints, polaroids, diary jottings, Interview magazine and ever present recorder – while WeiWei loves Twitter and Instagram etc.
Ai WeiWei’s passport was taken away for 4 years, and this is one of the few exhibitions where he has actually overseen the installation – the positioning of the artworks, the lighting etc. More poignantly, it is the first international exhibition of his work he has actually seen for years.
I met Eric Shiner, the Director of the Warhol Museum, in Australia for the exhibition. I asked him about both artists loving cats and he said the Children’s Education section of the exhibition is all about cats – with Ai Wei Wei drawing cat wallpaper, and the backs of chairs being cat tails! Warhol had 30 – all but one called Sam.
We were also celebrating the announcement of Tracey Moffatt being selected to represent Australia at the 2017 Venice Biennale. I can’t wait to see what she does and I intend to be there!
In Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art is The Pretty Little Art World of Grayson Perry, the cross dressing art critic from the UK. He is most amusing, but was in trouble in Australia for saying our Aboriginal art is not “contemporary” art and should be shown in an ethnographic context. He has apologised but then said that we “mix it in” with contemporary art….
Also in Sydney, at the Art Gallery of NSW there is the rare opportunity to see wonderful paintings in The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland until 14 February 2016. Another exhibition at the AGNSW includes fascinating C19th drawings by Aboriginal artists Tommy McRae and William Barak. Murruwaygu (following in the footsteps of our ancestors), are Aboriginal artworks from south-east Australia and include Roy Kennedy and Harry J Wedge.
Wollongong Art Gallery is showing SHIMMER an exhibition “exploring expanded notions of historical and contemporary shell-working traditions in indigenous Australia”. This is especially true of Garry Sibosado and I also loved the prints of Darrell Sibosado. These brothers, from the West Kimberley coast, both reference traditional designs through contemporary art practice. I love shells and other well known artists include Esme Timbery, Tess Allas and Julie Gough.
There is more Aboriginal art in Adelaide at the Art Gallery of South Australia. TARNANTHI is an Inaugural Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, described as a very ambitious exhibition that showcases the diversity of Aboriginal art.
A major Gilbert & George exhibition is at the privately-funded Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), in Hobart, Tasmania.
APT8, the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial is in Brisbane at the Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA until 10 April 2016. The APT was a great initiative and is always interesting. It has focused international attention on the artists of our region. I would especially like to see the contemporary tribal art from India and I have collected and exhibited Indian tribal and village artists over the years.
WORLD: A memorable and often scary year comes to the end. It will be remembered for extreme and catastrophic weather events, air crashes, mass migrations and displacement, and “terrorism”. One probably has more chance of dying from a car accident, smoking, or being shot – especially if you live in the USA. 30,000 were killed by guns there over the year – coincidentally about the number killed world-wide by terrorism.
The Middle East/Islam conflict seems as complex and unsoluble as ever and innocent people, mostly Muslim, continue to be killed.
At least a more informed debate about Islam is emerging – with the exception of Donald Trump, our ex PM Abbott, far right groups like the National Front in France, and various unattractive bogans in Australia supposedly fighting for “our values”.
I thought Waleed Aly’s article last blog was very informative – as is this more recent one. He argues “The Reformation is here. Theyr’e looking at it. The Muslim world -and indeed Islamic thought – is in crisis”. New voices have emerged here like Ahmed Kilani who thinks it is time for a new generation of Muslim leaders to speak up, and he was a co-founder of the website Muslim Village here.
Also see this article on Wahhabism to ISIS: How Saudi Arabia exported the main source of global terrorism. The article is extremely informative about this very narrow and very influential form of Islam, which only emerged in the C18th. There is a trade-off with the Saudi Royal family, and it was a break-though that some women were allowed to stand for, and vote in, recent municipal elections. Perhaps they may even be allowed to drive one day!
PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: The Paris Climate Agreement is a real achievement and cause for optimism about the human race, even if it is “aspirational” and not legally binding. They are aiming for a less than 2 degree rise in global warming – ideally 1.5. Progress will be tracked every 5 years, and target reductions increased. Of course there will be problems and recalcitrant leaders – thank God Tony Abbott is no longer our PM! Well done to host France, the USA, India and China especially. There will be $100 billion for poorer nations.
Another reason for optimism is that I hope we are seeing the end of the fossil-fuel era. Coal is a “stranded asset”, “carbon capture” seems to remain as elusive as ever, banks are reluctant to finance new mines, and shares in fossil fuels are being divested. Fuel subsidies should be abolished and no new mines should be approved – especially the huge Adani/Carmichael mine in Queensland.
There are those that argue that coal is necessary, for example, to provide power for the 300 million without it in India.
What about subsidised micro grids?
But it is the unstoppable growth and utilisation all over the world of renewables that is displacing coal, and effective battery energy storage is the game changer of the year.
Powerhive, based in the USA, is providing cheap power to poor and remote African villages through roof top solar paid for via ubiquitous cell phones as power is required or can be afforded.
Do you know what the best thing an individual can do to curb carbon emission? Become a vegetarian! Meat is responsible for 15% of emissions. I am very contented as a vegetarian and it doesn’t seem to be too inconvenient for my family and friends. This is not always true of vegans however, and their fundamentalism can be disruptive and even counter-productive.
My cat is now a piscatarian although I don’t think this explains her provocative behaviour with 2 snakes that have unfortunately appeared in my garden. I’m very frightened she may join her brother in “crossing the rainbow bridge”, as some say these days, and I will be completely broken-hearted.
At the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra there is the most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled of works by the “legendary” Australian artist Tom Roberts until 28 March.
Also in Canberra at the National Museum of Australia is Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum (until 28 March) which includes items such as an Aboriginal shield collected by Captain Cook in Botany Bay in 1770, one of many objects (and even body parts) that most Aboriginal people would like repatriated back to Australia.
AUSTRALIA: The gloss is going off our new PM Turnbull pretty quickly – from tensions within his own party, a defection, a Minister under investigation who won’t step aside, and Turnbull is wedged over climate change policies. He is as likely to be undone by the bitter conservative elements in his own party as he is by the Opposition. Our economic conditions continue to decline and the budget deficit is now $37.4 billion. In the absence of any proposed economic strategy or reform so far, he is hoping “innovation” will save us, but that takes time!
There is a recent biography on PM Malcolm Turnbull. His own mother described him as a child as “a bundle of demonic energy”. At school, a deputation went to the headmaster to say “anyone but Malcolm” for head prefect, but they were unsuccessful.
I can be mean as I don’t like many of the government’s unfair policies. But Turnbull is at least intelligent, personable, and has had a very successful law and business career – and he got rid of Tony Abbott. After breaking yet another promise not to “snipe”, the ex PM Abbott has gone feral and seems completely delusional, speaking out inappropriately on Islam, or “defending” his non- existent “legacy”. Some commentators have said we have replaced a “psychopath with a narcissist” – but most leaders probably suffer from one or the other.
Angela Merkel seems to be regarded as the leader of the year in 2015 – in a very weak field. While Greece has little chance of recovering economically through the “austerity” measures she supported, I admired her for her initial response to the refugees in Europe.
ANIMALS & WILDLIFE: After attending and speaking at several Animal Studies conferences in India, it is so encouraging to learn that there is such important and diverse research and work in relation to animal welfare and rights, and animal/human relationships. Information now is so easily shared, and petitions and suggested actions etc can be widely circulated.
What is Animal Welfare? Welfare v Rights? Welfare v Conservation? “Conservation” is caring about species (extinction), and “animal welfare” is caring about individual animals (and their suffering). For discussions about these definitions and questions see this site and the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare co-created by John Webster.
John Webster recently launched One Welfare an interactive portal for vets to keep them up-to-date on ethics and animal welfare.
There was an excellent review of the recent book by M.R. O’Connor which I have just bought for my Christmas reading – Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things. I’m hoping it will help me understand some of these complex issues.
I think we are seeing a changing of community attitudes and a growing support for animal welfare. Many of you are part of that. Looking at the last blog – chimpanzees were no longer to be experimented on in the USA, and PHASA was no longer supporting canned hunting of lions in South Africa. In Australia the horse racing industry is to limit the number of times a horse can be whipped (which is counter-productive anyway), and the worst aspects of the greyhound industry and live cattle and sheep exports have been exposed.
While people are also very concerned about a spate of shark attacks on our coast, many people now accept that the sea is the domain of sharks, and “smart” drum lines – and the netting of beaches, kill other marine creatures like turtles. Beaches need guards and aerial surveillance, and swimming in the early morning and late afternoons is regarded as dangerous.
The Japanese are resuming whaling in the Southern Ocean – intending to kill 330 minke whales. This is despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice, and the Japanese pretence of “scientific research”. Over many years only 2 articles have ever been “peer reviewed” and no-one really eats whale meat – if they can avoid it!
IVORY: The Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently been in Africa. The Chinese are the major consumers of ivory and 20,000 – 40,000 elephants are slaughtered each year. In September Xi pledged “to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory”. The Chinese also have to rethink traditional medicines that are driving animals to extinction. The Chinese have protected their giant pandas with numbers stabilising and possibly growing which is very admirable, but now this has to extend to other animals – and the prohibiting of the horrific and cruel practice of “milking” up to 10,000 bears for their bile.
Watch this amazing clip of The Elephants in the Room – a herd of elephants walking through a hotel in Zambia. They are walking on their traditional path – which now includes through a hotel lobby, to a favourite mango tree as it is spring and the fruit is ripe.
SHAME: Cardinal Pell did not come back from the Vatican to face the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Pell lived and worked with some of the most notorious clergy – and says he saw nothing and he certainly did nothing: the ZUMAMUSTGO protest in South Africa indicated the frustration and exasperation with the failure of leadership by the self serving Zuma (although he will probably be as difficult to dislodge as Mugabe in Zimbabwe): Syria’s Assad; and Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak is still refusing to explain the $700 million transferred to his private bank accounts.
Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings – whatever! Hope you have a holiday or a break with family and friends. I am very appreciative of the support I receive for the blog, and the interesting information many of you send me.
I’m going to India and I am hoping to see some more of their marvellous animals and wildlife which I will blog about on my return later in January. So wishing you all a Happy (and more peaceful) New Year.
Lions, Kevin Richardson, Christian the Lion, Mark Pearson, Lyn White, Kangaroos, Donkeys, William T Cooper, Climate Change, Australia, World, Dolphins, Asylum Seekers, Warlis Paintings, Petitions On Behalf of Animals
June 24, 2015
KEVIN RICHARDSON: I very much enjoyed the successful fund raising event in Sydney with guest speaker Kevin Richardson visiting from South Africa. There were many people keen to meet him and buy his book Part of the Pride so I didn’t really have time to ask my trite question “do you shampoo and blow dry your lions as they look SO gorgeous?” He answered most of my more serious questions when he delivered his talk – including the dangers he inadvertently faces even though the lions obviously adore him. Of course George Adamson is a hero of his.
Only approximately 20,000 lions are left in the wild. Kevin is a leading campaigner against canned hunting, and he explained how, despite the assertions of the South African government and others, canned hunting is NOT a contributor to wildlife management or conservation. Do beware of visiting or volunteering at wildlife parks that are ethically compromised and are actually part of canned hunting.
I was also very impressed with the work of our hosts Painted Dog Conservation Inc and their work and fund raising efforts to protect African Painted Dogs and other animals. They also support and work closely with local communities.
PETITIONS: An American recently paid US$440,000 to shoot a black rhino in Namibia “to help protect the endangered species”! Apparently only 5 Northern White rhinos are left. Please sign this petition against the “catastrophic” levels of Rhino poaching here.
One of Australia’s leading campaigners against canned hunting, Donalea Patman, has asked us to sign two petitions. The first is for the Australian Government to maintain the recent ban on the importation of lion trophies and body parts. There is a rear-guard action to overturn this. The other petition is to ask Qantas to stop the shipping of hunting trophies and follow the admirable example of Emirates, Singapore Airlines and British Airlines . Sign them here and here.
MARK PEARSON: The animal rights movement is changing and coming from the fringe into the mainstream. This was very apparent to me at the Animal Studies conference in Delhi this January. It is also heartening to see so many young advocates and activists, especially girls it seems. See this interview with Mark Pearson, the first Animal Justice Party member of a parliament in Australia. Mark has done his fair share of courageous direct action which he has found to be effective. He now feels he is a little too old to be entering a piggery or battery hen farm or cattle feedlot at night and chaining himself to a cage. Like my friend Christine Townend (and many others), Mark was initially influenced by the work of Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher and animal rights advocate.
LYN WHITE: Do read this interview in the SMH with Lyn White of Animals Australia. She has been prominent in the media over the last few years primarily exposing the cruelty in our live cattle industry – in Indonesia for example, and more recently in Vietnam and Israel. Animals Australia also exposed the use of live baits to blood greyhounds. It is the unnecessary suffering of animals that drives her. The undercover footage she obtains of the extreme cruelty to animals especially in abbatoirs, and the thoroughness of her investigations, makes her both feared – and respected, by our government.
KANGAROOS: I urge you to email the Minister responsible for the unnecessary culling (killing) of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Service – firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more information here and here.
DONKEYS: I know some of you think I ignore the plight of donkeys around the world. In recent flooding in NSW, the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary at Clarence Town in the Hunter Valley was badly damaged. Any donations to support these previously unwanted or neglected donkeys would be most appreciated – see donkeyrescue.org.au I am encouraged that so many people and organisations I have never previously heard of are doing such good work on behalf of animals.
WILLIAM T COOPER: the artist who David Attenborough described as “possibly the best artist of birds in the world”, died recently. As I live surrounded by bush I have slowly become more knowledgeable about the many birds I live amongst (cats notwithstanding), and understand why so many of you are very interested in birds! I’m also noticing many contemporary artists are painting birds…
William was undoubtedly a very good artist and he often placed the birds in context in relation to habitats and food sources etc – assisted by his botanist wife. Their work is an extremely valuable resource. I can sometimes find his paintings a little florid, or busy, and prefer, for example, the more understated work of Neville Henry Cayley (1854-1903) and his son Neville William Cayley (1886-1978) who published the definitive What Bird Is That? in 1931.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY: It was important that the G7 Group of Seven biggest developed nations recently declared that the world needed to phase out fossil fuel emissions by the end of the century. Australia has yet again been described as an international laggard for our inaction, and hopefully our government will just be dragged (or shamed) reluctantly along with the growing momentum. Encouragingly, a majority of Australians again want action on climate change, after support dropped off owing to a lack of resolution at the Copenhagen conference years ago, and no subsequent leadership on the issue.
Congratulations to Pope Francis for accepting the science on global warming and man-made climate change, and for speaking up in his encyclical. He gave quite a devastating critique of capitalism, our greed and consumerism, and the destruction and exploitation of our environment. Unfortunately he did not mention contraception and another major contributor to our plight – overpopulation.
The PM’s proposed “consensus centre” at the University of West Australia that was to be headed by Bjorn Lomberg, has been rejected by the UWA after the predicted outcry. Lomberg is the climate-change expert you use when you don’t want any action, or want to do as little as you can get away with. Read this story about him in the SMH if you are interested. I think he has received quite enough publicity myself.
See this interesting article “Progressives failing to tell the Big Story” by Alex Frankel from The Saturday Paper about how after decades of conservative political ascendancy, progressives “are yet to offer a simple counter narrative that critiques neoliberal values” or articulates “their vision of society”. Conservatives, complicit with big business and media controlled by people like Rupert Murdoch, are masters of controlling the Big Story. Progressives mistakenly think persuasion operates through reason, but “most things are shaped through stories rather than facts”.
Alex Frankel cites climate change as an example of how debates can be “managed”. Despite the evidence of 95% of scientists (and the extreme weather we are all experiencing), fossil fuel interests will delay any action for as long as possible, by “contesting the narrative”.
PM Abbott has been very successful in this debate, especially when in Opposition. The “Clean Energy Act” was renamed as the “carbon tax” which he then linked to increasing the “cost of living”, especially electricity prices.
Frankel quotes Frank Luntz who pointed out that “because the very expression “climate change” was scientifically focused, ambiguous and had no obvious story or villain, it could be manipulated by polluters”. The current debate is “normalising climate change” as “just part of life” which is exactly what the polluters want.
Frankel says it is “better to talk about industrial change than climate change, and to frame the conversation in terms of a big polluting villain and a clean energy solution”.
PM Abbott recently was brazen or stupid enough to claim “coal is good for humanity”. I suppose he meant that developing countries – especially India and China, will depend on coal for a long time. See the recent The End of Coal from ABC’s Four Corners which I think is a fair summation. Tesla energy storage will be the game changer!
Two thirds of our electricity in Australia still comes from coal, and the government’s antipathy to renewable energy was illustrated lately when PM Abbott said he found wind farms “ugly” and that they are probably health risks. Is there anything uglier – or more unhealthy, than an open-cut coal mine?
Norway, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has decided to divest itself of stocks with assets that are dominated by coal miners and coal burners, as have the Rockefellers. Valerie Rockefeller of the Rockefeller Foundation asked why Australia is “so stuck in the past and not looking to the future?”.
DOLPHINS: It is great news that Japan’s peak zoo association has announced that aquarium members will stop purchasing dolphins captured during the horrific annual Taiji hunt. Congratulations to Australia for Dolphins and CEO Sarah Lucas for their legal action that led to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatening to suspend Japan. Sarah Lucas says “This significant decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan”. Read more here.
AUSTRALIA: A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that many Australians are feeling bleak and gloomy about the future. There is declining optimism about our economic prospects. There is a greater sense of insecurity, with only 1/4 feeling “safe”, and terrorism a chief concern. Rather than making us feel safe, the government has really just succeeded in making us more fearful with Abbott recently saying to us “Daish are coming to get you”!!! His government has already proven to be incompetent when a letter the Sydney siege gunman had previously written to the Attorney General was “overlooked”!!!
Many people are depressed by the performance of both our major political parties and their adversarial and divisive conduct. We seem to be in permanent election mode and hostage to the 24 hour media cycle and polls, and policy reduced to 3 word slogans. Neither side has the courage to tackle any necessary reforms or have a strategy for increasing revenue (or employment) now that our resources boom is ending.
The Greens unexpectedly got a new leader, Richard Di Natale. He is more pragmatic than his predecessor and wants to turn the Greens into a progressive mainstream party.
WORLD: No, Palmyra in Syria has not been destroyed yet, but imagine if this 3rd century BC site was? Palmyra was a major trading intersection for China, the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Rome. With ISIS already having destroyed Hatra and Nimrud in Iraq, and the recent earthquakes in Nepal, we are losing so much of our priceless cultural heritage. It is hard not to feel worried about the world at the moment including the inept response of the West to ISIS and the territorial gains of the “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria. All eyes are nervously on Greece and the repercussions if they do default on their multi-billion dollar debts.
Even sport has been depressing with FIFA and Sep Blatter in utter disgrace, but I am looking forward very much to Wimbledon!
Australia is likely to be involved in any dispute over China’s claim and development of the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea which is creating tension in the region. Looking at a map the islands do look much closer to The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. The USA is establishing a base in Darwin, in our Northern Territory, and is apparently to host American B1 fighter jets, although we only found this out accidentally when an American official “misspoke”.
At least Tony Blair is no longer the Middle East envoy. He seemed oblivious to conflicts of interest or the appropriateness of his associations with dictators, and is now very rich. As apparently documented in the book Clinton’s Cash, it was stupid of Hillary to allow donations to Bill’s Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State.
The only positive from the recent race-hate shooting in the USA is the extraordinary forgiveness some have shown, while so many of us in the world wonder what is it about Americans and their guns?
ASYLUM SEEKERS: This of course is one of the most pressing concerns for the world with apparently 50 million people displaced. The ABC Four Corners has just shown a horrific report Journey into Hell on the fate of the Rohingas as the government of Myanmar attempts to expel them. The situation has created an asylum seeker crisis in our region. Our eloquent PM Tony Abbott said “nope, nope, nope” to any assistance, while our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop demonised them by describing them as mostly “economic migrants”. San Suu Kyi’s silence has been glaringly obvious as she has her eye on the next election, and the behaviour of the Buddhist monks has been appalling.
It seems to our government the “end justifies the means”. We are prepared to stop any asylum seeker trying to reach Australia even “by hook or by crook”. It appears Australia paid “people smugglers” US$30,000 to turn a boat at sea packed with refugees back to Indonesia. I’m not sure how this is meant to “destroy the business model” for people smugglers…and the Indonesian Government is yet again angry with us.
WARLIS: I am opening an exhibition of Warlis tribal art from India in Sydney on 27th June at Coo-ee Gallery – see here for the details. I have collected Indian tribal art over many trips to India and the Warlis painters were the first I collected and exhibited in Australia. Tribal people in India share their forests and habitats with wild animals (often part of their religion and mythology), and all are equally threatened by “development” and competition for resources. In January, while looking for lions in Gir National Park in Gujarat, I saw several tribal villages. Some had been moved to safer locations, and others had augmented their defences against lions and other animals. People in India, as they are in other countries, are working in a more enlightened way towards a more effective co-existence between animals and humans.
Born Free, Elsa, Kevin Richardson, Lions, Christian the Lion, Orangutans, Rhinos, Tony Albert, Australia, Climate Change, Ildiko Kovacs, George Gittoes, Wars, Jonathon Jones, Sebastião Salgado, World, Art Exhibitions etc
May 8, 2015
I am very much looking forward to meeting “lion whisperer” Kevin Richardson when he comes to Australia next month. See here for details of when he is appearing at fund raisers in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney (17th June) for Painted Dog Conservation Incorporated. I want to ask Kevin about the risks he seems to take with lions that I never would, and if he shampoos them – they look so fluffy and gorgeous. He is an active campaigner against the “canned hunting” of lions.
I have heard two interesting interviews relating to animals on our ABC Radio National lately. Jacqui Sunderland-Groves, a primatologist and Senior Advisor at Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia described “forest school” where orangutans are taught and prepared to be returned to the wild. 170 have been rehabilitated successfully to natural habitats and are forming viable populations.
The other interview was with Australian Damien Mander who brings his experience as an ex-soldier to the Anti-Poaching Foundation primarily working in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. He seems mainly concerned with the prevention of the poaching of rhinos, especially that rhino horn can now command up to $75,000 a kilo!
Christine Townend sent me this link to Psychology Today. There are many articles which illustrate the fantastic range of contemporary thinking about animals. Through a wide variety of animals and experts, there are many discussions and views on subjects as diverse as sentience, rewilding, compassionate conservation, and interspecies friendships.
In NSW we are celebrating that Mark Pearson won a seat for the Animal Justice Party in the NSW Parliament Upper House.
BORN FREE: I loved seeing Born Free again and it was a successful fundraiser for The Feline Foundation and Animal Works. The film was not dated and Africa looked so beautiful and fresh. Virginia McKenna, although more English rose than the volatile Austrian Joy Adamson, is an excellent actress. The lions were wonderful and Elsa was an amazing animal. The film portrayed Joy Adamson as the one keenest to keep the cubs, but it was George who relented at the last moment and did not send Elsa with the others to a zoo in Holland. George Adamson later said they should have kept the three cubs as this would have made Elsa’s lonely and precarious rehabilitation easier. This was why he created a pride around our Christian the lion, with Boy as the adult male. George gambled that Boy would not kill the younger Christian who was nearly old enough to be perceived as a threat. Only 3 out of 15 lions used in the filming of Born Free were rehabilitated, which angered Joy and George and Virginia and Bill Travers.
WAR: Tony Albert is a highly regarded Aboriginal artist and his striking memorial to the previously overlooked contribution of Indigenous soldiers to our armed forces was recently unveiled in Hyde Park, Sydney. Last month was the anniversary of 100 years since Australians and New Zealanders landed at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915. 8709 Australians and 2701 New Zealanders were sent to their deaths by incompetent British commanders. Those precious lives – great losses on both sides – should serve as a lesson against war, but they haven’t.
The $325 million spent on this anniversary could instead help many still struggling Vietnam Vets, or families of servicemen.
I think Australians were probably good soldiers: they were fit and brave, supported their “mates”, had a healthy suspicion of authority, were perhaps a little “crazy” brave and exhibited “careless behaviour”. Arthur Conan Doyle described them as “rude and rough, but honest, kindly and true”.
Australians seem to be sent to war by conservative governments or at the request of our allies who we hope will come to our defense sometime in the future. Conservative PM Menzies sent troops to Vietnam in 1965, but at least that war was in our region. Conservative PM Howard sent us into Iraq in 2003, and present PM Abbott has just sent another 300+ back to Iraq. On the day this “mission creep” was announced, our Minister for Defence could not name the commander of Islamic State although there is a $US10 million price tag on his head. Mind you, I couldn’t either. His name is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and he is now rumoured to be injured. He apparently planned his IS Caliphate while imprisoned in the notorious Iraqi Abu-Ghraib prison.
I’m thrilled that friend and fellow Bundeena resident Ildiko Kovacs has won the prestigious Bulgari Art Award. The painting has been acquired by the AGNSW, and includes a residency for the artist in Italy. Ex Bundeena resident George Gittoes has just won the Sydney Peace Prize 2015. He has set up a Yellow House (à la Vincent Van Gogh and Martin Sharp) in Jahalabad, Afghanistan, which he describes as “Taliban Central”. He is a very interesting and intrepid artist who has documented many wars and their aftermath, and believes that art is more effective than weapons.
AUSTRALIA: As Donald Horne said in his 1964 book A Lucky Country “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise”.
Unfortunately this remains quite true so many years later. I just can’t see any constructive strategy from the government for addressing our problems and changing economic circumstances. The looming May Budget next week will be a huge test.
I did love Tony Abbott’s frank answer to Angela Merkel who asked him what drove our relationship with China: “greed and fear”, although, unfortunately our resources boom and exports to China now seem to be dwindling.
I also loved this tweet from cricketer Shane Warne who I also criticised for talking about alcohol after the Australian World Cup victory: “Do gooders get stuffed. Straya (Australia) is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly!#thirsty
CLIMATE CHANGE: Australia has been criticised recently for inaction on climate change as 193 countries get ready for the conference in Paris later in the year. We are the highest per capita emitters in the world and we are not transitioning – or diversifying, out of our reliance on coal. Environment Minister Hunt has been hailing his Direct Action policy a great success. The government abolished the carbon tax as unfair on tax payers, (and emissions have consequently risen), yet this policy pays polluters (with our money) to stop! Already most of the money allocated for these projects has been spent, yet we are still well short of our targets.
While the government has scandalously slashed funding to science, climate change bodies and education, they have found $4 million for Danish Bjorn Lomborg to establish an “Australian Consensus Center” at the University of West Australia. Lomborg acknowledges the human factor in climate warming, but is a “sceptical environmentalist” and does not seem to actually want to do anything about it in case it affects the economy! He seems to have low academic qualifications (in political science!) and I think the outcry against him and the university will only grow.
This is unfortunately yet another example of the government’s shameless ideological bias. Other recent examples are a government “White Paper” on Energy which mentioned climate change ONCE, and a decade-long Intergenerational Report which also overlooked climate change. This report was described by respected economist Ross Gittins as a “blatant piece of political propaganda”. Is this the objectivity one should expect from our government as they supposedly plan our future?
Despite our considerable sun and wind resource base in Australia, the government has made investing in renewables as unattractive as possible. They are on “the wrong side of history” and recent advances like the Tesla Powerwall and Tesla Powerpack will revolutionise the potential for storage of electricity generated from solar panels, and will be cheap enough to solve the reliability of intermittent solar and wind.
There is an exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne entitled Nature/Revelation. It is a key component of the “Art+Climate=change festival” and seeks to “celebrate the unique capacity art has to cut through prevailing rhetoric to stimulate individually and emotionally in the face of current environmental issues”.
ECOMODERNIST MANIFESTO: A conservative group of international scientists has issued this manifesto and believe that “the next generation of solar, advanced nuclear fission and nuclear fusion represent the most plausible pathways toward the joint goals of climate stabilisation and radical decoupling of humans from nature”.
An ANU Report states that Australia’s abundance of renewable energy resources should make exiting fossil fuels possible by 2050, at a manageable cost to the economy. AGL – listed last blog as one of Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, is to exit coal-fired power plants by 2050, and not build new ones. I am cynical of this attempt to appear “green” as the announcement follows a recent stocking-up spending spree.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Salt of the Earth, the documentary about the great Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado made by his son and Wim Wenders. Salgado’s often beautiful and powerful images have been criticised for ennobling or romanticising the poverty or working conditions of some of his subjects, but they equally also garner necessary attention. See a review of the film here.
WORLD: In Australia we were recently shocked by the recent execution in Indonesia of 8 convicted drug smugglers, including two Australians. Capital punishment is appalling and has been proven not to be a deterrent. It was all handled in a very chaotic and cruel way, and unfortunately President Joko Widodo appeared weak. He was recently humiliated (again) by his Party chairperson, Megawati Soekarnoputri, herself a failed president.
Up to 10,000 people may have died in the recent earthquake in Nepal. The country is one of the poorest in the world and the devastation so comprehensive that they urgently need extensive international aid. Co-ordination of relief efforts and rebuilding does seem beyond the capacity of this government. Apart from all the lives and livelihoods lost, many historical and culturally important buildings have been destroyed. Animal victims are receiving emergency aid from the Humane Society International’s Vet Team.
I read reports that Egypt is massing large-scale ground and air forces along the Libyan border in preparation for a military campaign to capture eastern Libya from IS occupation. I suppose more will flee to Europe with 1500 lost at sea already this year, including the 750 people that drowned recently. 5800 were rescued last weekend! Apparently Assad’s grip on power in Syria is finally weakening.
I am glad Pope Francis, among many others, has spoken up on the centenary of the estimated 1.5 million Armenians who were killed by the Turks, and it is time Turkey faced up to this historical reality.
The UK election seemed to be very close with no party likely to win a majority in their own right, but exit polls today are however pointing to a Tory victory. While there has been some growth in the British economy, especially compared with most other countries, the general population do not feel they are sharing any benefit. Apparently Rupert Murdoch continued to interfere in the democratic process with his biased newspapers, while in Australia, his papers just blatantly back the government.
I suppose I hope Hillary Clinton wins the next US presidential election. She does carry a lot of “Clinton” baggage, but I thought she was a competent state secretary. All the Republicans seem too closely allied to that loony right wing Tea Party – and who could bear another Bush as president? Hillary has a $US 2.5 billion war-chest for her campaign.
The rioting and destruction in Baltimore followed yet another death of a black American at the hands of the police or while in custody. It is a breaking point in race relations, and long standing social problems and disadvantage remain unaddressed.
The stalling of growth in the American economy is concerning for us all.
The exhibition Indigenous Australia – Enduring Civilisation has just opened at the British Museum, UK. It includes Aboriginal objects, weapons, art etc. collected early in the white settlement of Australia, and includes a wooden shield and spears collected by Captain Cook’s crew in Botany Bay in 1770.
The annual exhibition Wildlife Photographer of the Year is at the Australian Museum, Sydney and runs until 5th October. It isn’t too late to enter the National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 – the competition closes on June 30th!
See more marvellous ocean and wildlife images by Matty Smith here.
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, 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…..