George Adamson and Christian at Kora, Kenya

George Adamson and Christian at Kora, Kenya

CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANNED HUNTING: The CACH campaign seems to be growing – and not surprisingly, as so few reasonable people would support the farming of lions to be hunted. I now ring travel agents when I see advertisements for tours to Africa and check they are sending their clients to reputable wildlife sanctuaries. Canned Hunting was also mentioned in a recent 60 Minutes story on Kevin Richardson and his lovely shampooed looking lions in South Africa.  Richardson is on the “reputable” list – but I do think he takes risks with the lions, even though they adore him. I did finally watch the story that was on Dateline SBS in January How Much Would You Pay to Kill a Lion?  I could hardly watch as lions were shot and the hunters gloated over their successful kills.

Lion, bear and tiger – once the pets of a drug dealer, and now still cohabiting.

Lion, bear and tiger – once the pets of a drug dealer, and now still cohabiting.

In Australia, a Liberal Party MP Jason Wood gave a speech in the House of Representatives about canned hunting and against importing lion and animal parts into Australia.  I very much appreciate his efforts. You can sign his petition here. This is what needs to happen in the USA and Europe. I received a formal (unsigned) response from The White House and Barack Obama to my email about the importation of lion and animals parts into the USA.  He “shared my concern for animal welfare”.  At least someone received it!

 

AVAAZ: They are running a campaign in South Africa against the trade in lion parts. They intend for this campaign to hurt South Africa as a tourist destination so sign their petition here. There is also a petition about the illegal sale of exotic animal parts – and ivory – on eBay – sign the petition here.  Whenever I say “sign here” rather bossily, I know you all make up your own minds, but I know most of you care deeply about many of these issues.

 

TONY THE TIGER:  Shamefully, the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has “quietly” signed a bill allowing the owner of Tony the Tiger to keep him as a roadside attraction.  The ALDF are filing a lawsuit for violating the State Constitution.  This is SO depressing – I do urge any Americans to ring the Governor and express your displeasure. This is completely unacceptable. Read more on the update here.

Angel the dolphine. Image sources Austalia for DolphinsAngel the dolphine. Image sources Austalia for Dolphins

Angel the dolphin. Image sourced: Australia for Dolphins

ACTION FOR ANGEL: Yet another story of an imprisoned animal for our “entertainment”. Angel, the albino dolphin calf is in a tiny indoor tank at the Taiji Whale Museum. Sign the petition here organised by Australia for Dolphins – and they ask for us to circulate it. The Japanese seem determined to continue hunting whales…and their annual slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. This Sunday 29th June there is a Whale of a Debate at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney (at 2.30pm) discussing historical and contemporary anti-whaling.  Speakers will include members of the Sea Shepherd and conservationist and photographer Jonny Lewis.

Alice Walker with Caroline Baum at The Sydney Writers' Festival. Image source: The Guardian. Photograph by Prudence Upton

Alice Walker with Caroline Baum at The Sydney Writers’ Festival. Image source: The Guardian. Photograph by Prudence Upton

ALICE WALKER: The Sydney Writers Festival was on recently and while I did not attend, I heard and saw various interviews on radio and television. It did make me think – we have so many intelligent, perceptive, compassionate and ingenious people in the world – why is our country (and the world) run by so many moronic people that just don’t get it? I know I can be slow onto some things, but I am now mad on Alice Walker – she get’s it!  I hung on her every word and will now start reading her intensively. I feel as if I know The Color Purple although I’m not sure if I read the book in the 1980s or saw the movie.

When asked for her advice for Obama Alice said “RUN”!  She hates the use of drones and that he is part of the “war machine”.  “Aren’t we smarter than buying weapons?”  “We have to change the system” – all presidents are hostage to it. The capitalist system is now part of the problem. She supports the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and thinks women would make more empathetic leaders.

While nature is for her a “balm” that we “abuse”, writing is a “medicine”. She listens to, and “only”works for her ancestors. Fiction has a “freedom”, while poetry is autonomous. It “descends”, you “can’t chase after it”, and the “muse comes at will”.  She named Tolstoy and Dostoevsky first when asked which writers she admires. She saw her mother and grandmother enslaved by their many children so didn’t particularly want to be a mother.  I thought she was amusing about her daughter who has been quite critical of her in the past, although I’m sure this was hurtful. She wants us to” turn to each other” and “talk things through”. Life’s purpose and why she isn’t sitting on her cushion meditating “or scuba diving” is “we exist to help each other”. “The deep joy is to show up for others”.   For her, this included being part of the flotilla that sailed to Gaza in 2010.

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer  Will Burrard-Lucas

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas

USA: Last month saw yet another senseless mass shooting in the USA. One of the victim’s father Richard Martinez was so articulate asking: “Why did Chris die?  Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians, and the NRA…. What has changed?  Have we learned nothing?  Where the hell is the leadership?…  Life doesn’t have to be like this”. When members of the US Congress rang him offering him condolences he said “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me.  Get to work and DO something”.

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer  Will Burrard-Lucas

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas

In Glenn Greenwald’s recent book No Place to Hide he describes his encounter with Edward Snowden. He had to put his mobile phone in the hotel mini bar – as now anything can be transformed into a listening device!  He says the Snowden cache reveals a regime seeking “the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide”!

Hillary Clinton was very articulate in an interview on our ABC promoting her book Hard Choices. Phillip Adams and his guests were not flattering about her on his radio program. They found the book  mostly tedious and boring.  Adams choked over the $14 million advance!  They acknowledged that she is very hard working and clever, but thought she was a better administrator than a politician. It appears as if she is already campaigning for the Presidency and certainly has a chance, especially as she has such good “name recognition”.  Adams prefers Elizabeth Warren.  Hillary and I are about the same age (and both Scorpios) and I have fantasised, as you do, wondering if I could physically and mentally do a big job like that now.  I don’t think I ever could have!  Americans are less ageist than we are in Australia, and I do think Hillary appeared quite good as Secretary of State, especially compared to John Kerry.

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer  Will Burrard-Lucas

Meerkats in Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas

CLIMATE CHANGE: Well done Obama for acting on climate change with the US cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2020. Our PM Abbott was recently in Canada and wanted to form a conservative climate change deniers club with PM Harper, but the UK and NZ did not want to join. Next day (after dinner with Rupert Murdoch) Abbott was star struck meeting Obama and said he and Obama’s climate change policies were very close, which is just a complete lie. Next day he was praising King Coal in Houston and saying the world would be dependent on coal “for decades”. What does this man actually believe?

Abbott has succeeded – so far – in ensuring climate change is not on the agenda at the November G20 meeting  of world leaders in Australia!

 

GOOD ARTICLES: Paul Krugman has written an excellent article on climate change in the New York Times. Krugman argues that the economic impact of carbon reductions is actually quite modest – despite the scare mongering, and the debate is a “toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism” which is very true of our conservative politicians and businessmen in Australia.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate change movement 350.org writes in an article that Abbott and Harper have put nations “on the road to disaster”.  He points out how Harper was a former oil executive and how he has been described as a bully, “intolerant of criticism and dissent”.  The development of the Canadian tar sands and Australia’s coal in the Galilee basin alone could ensure it would be impossible to ever bring the world’s temperatures under control. He notes, however, that their extremism is spawning “widespread resistance”.

There was an excellent summary about action on climate change in the editorial in the SMH June 24th see here.

Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive, recently wrote in the SMH that our federal government “is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free market ideology centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up-and-ship-it-out economic growth model”.  Dunlop goes on to say that the government’s Direct Action white paper has no scientific and economic grounding…and is “the climate policy you have when you don’t want a policy”.

Uncertainty is affecting – as was intended – investment and confidence in the renewable energy sector.

Encouragingly, the tide may be turning, and just when this government is about to remove our effective carbon tax, 63% of Australians are now increasingly concerned about climate change (again) and now believe we should be taking a “a leadership role in reducing emissions”.

In the most surprising move, our billionaire mining maverick politician Clive Palmer, who through several senators holds the balance of power in the Senate, turned up at a press conference with Al Gore by his side!  No-one is sure yet what this means for action on climate change, and if this was just a stunt and Gore has been played as a sucker. Palmer mines coal and nickel so will love not having to pay a hefty carbon tax.  We could be left without an emissions trading scheme and a plan to do nothing, but Palmer, apparently at Gore’s urging,  seems to now want to retain the Renewable Energy Target and oppose the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority.

forests

CELEBRITIES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: About to air in the USA is a television series, Years of Living Dangerously  which urges action on climate change and has the involvement of industry heavyweights and celebrities like James Cameron, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.

Leonardo DiCaprio recently spoke out about the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, which is at risk of being listed as “in danger”.  Leonardo has witnessed the changes for the worse since he first swam there 20 years ago.  This year he has donated $US10 million to ocean conservation, and $4 million to tiger and elephant projects.

Geoffrey Rush spoke up about our government’s attempt to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests which has just been rejected by the World Heritage Committee. Our government’s arguments for delisting were described as a “feeble justification”, while many people were shocked that the delisting had been attempted in the first place.

 

boy with fish

IPA:  I am only just beginning to comprehend the undue and insidious influence of the conservative “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia. This ideologically conservative group is our Tea Party, but smarter and therefore more dangerous. Abbott addressed them in April last year  and the audience included the unholy alliance of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal Pell!!!

Until I read this article I had no idea of the influence of the IPA on the country, and on Abbott who is implementing many of their policies.  I have already discussed the appointment of several of these climate change denying, older businessmen to key positions and reviews:  Tony Shepherd conducting the heartless Commission of Audit; Dick Warburton reviewing the Renewable Energy Target; and Maurice Newman, Chairman of the PM’s Business Advisory Council.

The IPA are skilled propagandists and work through fronts such as the Australian Conservation Foundation which is actually anti-conservation!  They “muddied the waters” recently over the attempt to delist part of the Tasmanian forest.  In what has been described as a “global conspiracy” the IPA have led an active campaign (courtesy Murdoch press) against the plain packaging of cigarettes, trying to make a case it has led to more smoking – which apparently it has not.  The IPA are funded by companies such as Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Esso and Caltex.

Our PM was recently abroad – his school boy French in France was excruciating – worse than mine, and he has a certain gaucheness which could be endearing if he was not our PM.  I liked the letter to The Australian newspaper which stated “I am confused – there appears to be two Tony Abbotts travelling around North America, one as described by the Fairfax and ABC media outlets and another Tony Abbott as reported by The Australian”. (from Michael Burd, Toorak, Victoria).

Australia does seem to be currently divided along these lines.  Murdoch controls over 70% of the print media and unashamedly and uncritically supports the government,  backed up by a few popular and shrill radio shock jocks. Their targets consistently include the Fairfax media and especially the ABC.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks as Jedda

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks as Jedda

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks starred in the film Jedda which was a very dramatic and tragic Australian film made by Charles Chauvel in 1955.  Jedda was about race and forbidden love, and was way ahead of its time.  After retreating to a convent, Rosalie emerged to become a respected Aboriginal elder and leader.

Recently on a television program (Q & A on the ABC) a fellow guest who I think was Peter Coleman, suggested that the “Aboriginal problem” could be “fixed” by assimilation into white society.  Rosalie responded with the most brilliant and emphatic declaration of her Aboriginality and who she was.  She was reported (inaccurately) in the press as saying:

“My language is (Arrernte) in spite of the whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem”. See the footage of her full response here.

 

UTOPIA: John Pilger’s documentary Utopia examines the present situation for Aboriginal people.  Rosalie actually comes from Utopia. The documentary is too long but devastating nevertheless.  Pilger has filed several stories over the decades on this subject, and very little seems to have changed.  One wonders if things have actuallyeven got worse in many respects for Aboriginal people: their housing; health; employment opportunities; incarceration rates; suicide epidemics etc. These days the Labor Government and the “left” are criticised with some justification for failing Aboriginal people. Many people like myself have supported Aboriginal “self-determination” and we have also been criticised for caring about digging up and trashing the environment. Apparently we have  held Aboriginal people back from economic development.  I would caution Aborigines from expecting too much from conservative governments and the mining industry…

Alice Walker: “The coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse – I don’t see it – even today”.

Ace in Michael Riley’s exhibition Strength and Beauty, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Ace in Michael Riley’s exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

MICHAEL RILEY: Michael Riley was a leading Aboriginal photographer who died in 2004. The National Portrait Gallery recently purchased a selection of his portraits taken between 1984 and 1989 and these photographs are currently on exhibition.  Michael’s subjects at this time were his extraordinary generation of attractive and talented Aboriginals that had emerged and broken the stereotypes in many ways – not least how they were represented.  They included artist Tracey Moffatt, politician Linda Burney and curators Djon Mundine, Brenda Croft and Hetti Perkins.  I was asked to speak at the NPG as I was a friend and had exhibited Michael Riley.  I am also on the Michael Riley Foundation.  More of Michael’s work can be seen at www.thecommercialgallery.com or www.michaelriley.com.au.

Darrell by Micahel Riley

Darrell by Michael Riley

Maria by Michael Riley

Maria by Michael Riley

Animals Category winner in the iPhone Awards, Michael O’Neal of San Francisco said that he came across this friendly fox in the Wyoming wilds. “I sat in the road for 10 minutes with him…no cars, not a soul around, just me and this red fox” he said. Foxes and cats are primarily blamed and demonised  for Australia’s extinction rate of native animals which is “the worst in the world”.  We are losing one mammal every decade and have lost 28 or 29 since colonisation in 1788, with 60 presently endangered.

Fox by Michael O'Neal in the 7th iPhone Photography Awards

Fox by Michael O’Neal in the 7th iPhone Photography Awards

AG-GAG LAWS: It is going to become an offence to film inhumane conditions for animals in Australia.  In the USA it is already an offence for any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility. Why is it not an offence to have animals cruelly confined in appalling conditions?

 

ISRAEL: The Australian government created yet another unnecessary problem for themselves by arguing that East Jerusalem was “disputed” and not “occupied”.  Israel is the only country in the world to articulate similar views. Our government argued that this was not a change of policy, but they have been changing their position over Israel by stealth, illustrated by several votes, or abstentions, at the UN.  Trade sanctions over our cattle, sheep and wheat exports were subsequently threatened against Australia by Arab and Islamic countries,  and 22 international diplomatic representatives demanded to meet our Foreign Minister in Canberra.

Israel is building 3000 more settlement homes in the Occupied Territories as a punishment for the reconciliation between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas, who control Gaza.  Many Palestinians are also being punished at the moment  because of  3 missing Israeli teenagers.  While  their disappearance is extremely concerning – what about the 7 Palestinians that have been killed in the search for them?  Israeli forces seem to have rampaged through many Palestinian houses, and harassed and detained hundreds of people.

Alice Walker on Israel: “The land they are taking is not theirs and they have to give it back”.  She actually made her remark that “the coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse” about Israel, but said it applied everywhere – Australia, USA etc.  She also said that with $3 billion a year coming from the US to Israel, “we can’t afford you”.  Her participation in the flotilla to Gaza in 2010 demonstrated her courage and commitment.

 

horse leap

 

MIDDLE EAST: Iraq is disintegrating and in the absence of any solutions it is tempting to just think Iraq and Syria should be left to unravel.   Their borders are an unnatural colonial construct and they should regroup along more natural tribal and sectarian lines. It is the humanitarian catastrophe for so many innocent civilians that is most concerning. Tony Blair is still in denial, blaming the Iraqi PM and inaction over Syria. I loved Boris Johnston saying  “Tony Blair has gone mad”. George Bush Jr and our John Howard have been VERY quiet.  Cheney is as cocky and without remorse as ever, and seems to blame Obama.

Many millions of us marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq, and we were right!  I did mention the threat and ambitions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) several blogs back – how has everyone been taken by surprise?  It is a complete intelligence failure. The thug in the suit, Nouri al-Maliki was an appalling choice as PM by the West and he has made no attempt to include the Sunnis or Kurds.  Even now he is refusing to consider a unity government. One of many disastrous decisions by the USA was to de Baathify Iraq as it left no-one with any experience for administration or the army, and just created many disaffected and resentful enemies. The Sunni-Shiite split goes back to the succession to the prophet Muhammad after his death in 632!  Shiities say Ali, the prophet’s cousin was the rightful successor and was cheated by the Sunnis “Rightfully Guided Caliphs” Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali!!!!!

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

READING, LISTENING & WATCHING: Wimbledon is on and I was thrilled of course that Rafa won recently in Paris. This was his 9th French Open.  It was a great victory and he is now equal second with Pete Sampras on 14 Majors. Elizabeth Wilson has recently written a book LOVE GAME A History of Tennis.   Her book sounds very informative historically and unlike most sports, women participated from the start.  Like many people today, she prefers Federer’s graceful style to Rafa grinding his opponents down in a “python strangle”.

NSW has finally won the State of Origin rugby league after Queensland won for 8 years straight. I am sort of watching the World Cup but prefer the news reports of the few spectacular goals. This sport is building in Australia, especially as there are serious injuries – especially concussion, in the rugby union and league codes. Soccer officials will have to do something about the blatant corruption, like awarding the World Cup to Qatar.

OK, I confess I have been watching The Voice.  I don’t care too much about the contestants but I love the judges: Ricky Martin is, well, Ricky, Kylie Minogue has been surprisingly engaging, Joel Madden goes down very well in Australia and will.i.am is brilliant!

I haven’t read anything by the serial novelist (4 books a year) Alexander McCall Smith. I heard a repeat of his interview at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2013 and he was hilarious and laughed along with the audience at his own jokes and the madness of life. I’ve just bought his book on his favourite poet What W.H. Auden Can Do For You.

pups

JEFFREY MASSON:  I’ve just read Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s latest book  BEASTS – What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil.  I think Jeffrey combines all of his experience, knowledge and intelligence in this book, examining the huge question of violence in humans and animals and the “search for the origins of human violence”.  It is a complex debate, and I found the book very thought provoking as he argues, for example, how agriculture, property ownership and the domestication of animals changed human behaviour.  The book contains fascinating information about many different animals and species, and the effects of human intervention in the natural life of animals.

Christian the lion is mentioned as an illustration of a wild animal expressing friendship and love for another species – especially a predator, and how Christian’s wild lioness friends “indulged” us which we also found astounding.  This made me think about Christian and the other lions in George Adamson’s man-made pride, as they were an “intervention” into the territory of wild lions already established at Kora.  These lions mostly tried to kill most of George’s introduced males and cubs, but mated with the lionesses.  Christian, however, seemed to come to what has been described as an unusual “truce” with them, but he ultimately had to look for his own territory elsewhere.  BEASTS  also made me think very deeply about the behaviour of cats!

 

WORLD: China is being quite confrontational/active/defensive in the South and East China Sea offending Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and the USA. Russia is getting more actively involved in Asia and cooperating much more with China (suppyling natural gas etc). 6 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan, thousands of survivors are still without homes in the Philippines. Military leaders seem to be on the move and are usually bad for the economy – and for press freedoms and democracy.  In Egypt an Australian journalist Peter Greste working for al-Jazeera has just received a 7 year jail sentence.  He and two other journalists have been caught in the machinations of the Saudi Arabia vs Qatar enmity.  al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and is regarded as the “mouthpiece” of the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood.  Many of the Brotherhood are still facing imprisonment and even the death penalty in Egypt.  Saudi Arabia is now giving Egypt $12 billion, compared to $650 million in aid from the USA. The military are installed in Thailand and  Frank Bainimarama  is bound to win in Fiji. Ex general Pabowa Subianto, who has a terrible human rights record is gaining momentum for the next presidency in Indonesia, while the running mate of his opponent Joko Widodo also sounds pretty frightening.  Papua New Guinea’s PM Peter O’Neill is fighting corruption charges, and while we are not entirely innocent in Australia, corruption does seem endemic in our nearest neighbours PNG and Indonesia.

 

MAIL: Thanks to Scott, MoonieBlues, Bob, Tim, Aidan, Jeffrey, Sylvia and others for sending me interesting articles and images.  My thoughts are with William who lost his beloved cat O’Malley,  and Ines who takes in cats from shelters and recently lost another one called Bonnie.

To keep up to date with interesting articles and animal related activities all over the world see the latest Minding Animal Bulletin No22 here, especially about a Documentary Festival in New Delhi 13 -20 January 2015, and interesting articles and reviews in Vol 3 Number 1 of the Animal Studies Journal  here.

Possession Island by Gordon Bennett. Courtesy Museum of Sydney.

Possession Island by Gordon Bennett. Courtesy Museum of Sydney.

VALE: One of Australia’s leading artists Gordon Bennett has died unexpectedly. Many of his works concerned his identity as an Aboriginal person, but his subject matter and styles were wide ranging.  He could out post-modernist the post-modernists!  I was lucky to have known him and curated his work into several of my exhibitions.  He summed up what I wanted said so eloquently about colonisation – the way Daniel Boyd has more recently. He was highly intelligent, attractive and quite shy and private.  His work is currently in the Berlin Biennale.  See Richard Bell’s article on Gordon Bennett in The Guardian here. My condolences to his mother, his wife Leanne and daughter Caitlin.

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Jon Lewis Echidna – Damien Minton Gallery

Jon Lewis Echidna – Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney until 26 May 2012

JON LEWIS: It is the annual Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, and there have been photography exhibitions everywhere.  I love this echidna image by Jon Lewis from his exhibition From the Ranges at Damien Minton Gallery.  He has lovingly and poetically photographed the land around where he lives in country NSW.  His Classic Bondi portraits from the mid 1980s are also on show at the Bondi Pavilion until June 3rd.  Jonny is a well known photographer and conservation activist of long standing. See his website here.

THE INTERVENTION: I wrote about the Intervention in Aboriginal communities last time – you can protest against it here, especially as the Stronger Futures legislation to extend the Intervention is currently being debated in the Senate.

Noel Pearson is an influential Aboriginal leader and the Intervention seemed to emerge from his unexpected relationship with John Howard in his last year as PM.  He has been an articulate critic of indigenous welfare dependency, but the cancellation of Community Development Employment Projects ( a form of subsidised employment)  has left many in remote communities without employment and the ability to make a much needed contribution to the community.  Noel Pearson writes regularly for The Australian – on a wide variety of topics, and I did wonder why academic Marcia Langton, another influential Aboriginal leader, thought it was necessary to recently write  her defensive “Why I continue to be inspired by Pearson” article for the same paper.

The Intervention is very unpopular with few positive results so far.  In some respects it contravenes human rights, and was an opportunistic and clumsily implemented unsuitable one-size-fits-all paradigm.  Aboriginal community leaders who were not initially even consulted, need to be listened to about their particular priorities, ideas and solutions. The challenge is to create an economic basis for these remote communities – and not relocate them off their traditional lands to “growth centres”.

Buyku 2011 - Natural Earth pigments on incised laminate board

Buyku by Gunybi Ganambarr at Annandale Galleries.

I think some of the most exciting Aboriginal art being made today is by the painters on bark from North East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory.  Among quite a few very talented “young guns” is the innovative Gunybi Ganambarr.  He is true to his traditional values and beliefs but imaginatively uses new conceptual approaches and mediums to express them. For example, Buyky (above) is natural earth pigments but on incised laminate board.  See more dazzling paintings from his exhibition from my mind online at Annandale Galleries, Sydney  and Ganambarr is one of 20 artists in the overdue and just opened UnDisclosed, the second National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra until 22nd July.

TONY THE TIGER UPDATE: The case was back in court recently but I can’t quite decipher the result or the next step. It seems it’s at the discretion of the state government whether or not they enforce Tony’s relocation.  It just drags on and on.  Does the local press follow Tony’s case sympathetically – if at all?

ROSS GITTINS: I often read (and quote) Ross Gittins, an economics journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, as he appreciates we live primarily in a society, rather than an economy.  He has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.

Gittins recently wrote about some fundamental differences between European and American approaches to life.  It helped me understand some of the very occasional emails I get about “infringements of my freedoms”, and complaints about “big government” etc.

A sample of Europeans and Americans were asked: “Which was more important – being free to pursue your life’s goals without interference from the state, or for the state to play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody was in need”.

In the US, 58% favoured individual freedom, and 35% favoured ensuring nobody was in need.  It was the reverse in Europe where in Britain, for example, only 38% favoured individual freedom.

Interestingly, despite the American belief in the opportunities open to all citizens, and President Obama’s example, Americans actually have the lowest degree of social mobility.

Gittins accepts, as I do, “the need for the community to pull together towards common objectives, for us to be led by our elected leaders and for the better-off to be required to assist the less-well-off.  I don’t resent having the taxman redistribute a fair bit of my income to those less fortunate”.  He concludes that overall the ideal attitude to life lies somewhere in the middle. Read the full article here.

SURVEYS & REPORTS: In other recent surveys:  apparently we worry most about our careers; the majority of people think at the end of their lives that they worked too hard and should have spent more time with their families; and at present there is only a “middling” concern in the community for the environment.

There have been recent reports on how the education system is failing to engage with many indigenous and non indigenous teenagers alike, and the judicial system is failing them with high rates of incarceration and recividism.  There is an epidemic of marginalised and quite fearless young people – a danger to themselves, and the community.  Sydney has also had nearly nightly drive-by shootings in the suburbs.

Jenny Kee

Jenny Kee shone at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

JENNY KEE: Unusually for me, I attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia to see my friend Jenny Kee’s showing of her famous silk scarves – draped extravagantly around motionless models that we walked around.  It was both reminiscent of the excitement of her fashion parades for Flamingo Park (with Linda Jackson) decades ago, and something new – and a new younger audience who have discovered her. See her scarves here.  I’m not sure if Fashion Week drew many international heavyweights – but bloggers got a lot of attention – especially Bryanboy – who interpreted a tweet from one of our local glamazons as a real death threat.  Checking out their sites, I loved Tommy Ton’ photographs in  The Word on the Street and his pick of the best off-runway fashion statements of 2011.

In New York an exhibition of the work of two Italian fashion iconoclasts Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli (who could not be more dissimilar) has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Typically Miuccia Prada has said she does not like fashion and wishes she had found a job doing something important!   She is a very interesting woman and hopefully her $6.8 billion fortune may one day go towards something she regards as “important”.

AUSTRALIA: We have just had a rather clever sleight of hand (projected) return to surplus budget.  It seemed to compensate people for the upcoming carbon tax and supposedly spread some of the mineral wealth.  A return to surplus was a foolish, inhibiting promise at a time when economies around the world need stimulation for growth – particularly in Europe.  Two tacky sex scandals involving parliamentarians continued to get most of the media attention however, as their votes are crucial in the knife-edge hung parliament.

Despite the endlessly negative (and policy free) commentary from our Opposition, our economy is the envy of the world, especially in comparison to the extremely alarming eurozone crisis, which is already having global repercussions for us all.

I like the cultural diversity (and number of women) in the new cabinet in France, and M. Hollande’s call for more economic stimulation and growth rather than more austerity.

CSG: A recent rally outside Parliament House NSW called for tougher restrictions on the epidemic of coal and coal seam gas mining.  It seems no area, even prime agricultural land, is off limits.  Interesting to see usually conservative country people protesting and seeing, as the new leader of the Greens Christine Milne pointed out, that they have a lot in common with environmentalists.

Koala at Taronga Zoo. Images sourceed from Taronga Zoo.

Koala at Taronga Zoo

KOALAS:  Koalas are now officially “vulnerable” and  “endangered” in various parts of the eastern states of Australia.  I’m not sure just how much environmental protection this will provide, but in twenty years numbers in NSW have fallen from 31,400 to 21,000 in 2010, a decline of 33%.

In NSW, the government is considering allowing minors to hunt feral animals with knives, dogs and high-powered hunting bows in the National Parks – so the government can secure necessary votes from the Shooters Party on other legislation.

BEES: It is of great concern that bee numbers seem to be declining dramatically globally and this would of course be disastrous for the food chain.  65% of our agricultural production in Australia depends on pollination by European honey bees.  AVAAZ recently began a campaign against the use of pesticides by Bayer, and a link has been found between another common agricultural pesticide (containing imidacloprid), and colony collapse disorder in which adult bees abandon hives.

PRINCE WILLIAM: Nice to see a new patron for conservation and in a recent speech Prince William wanted to “sound a rallying call”  that in Africa there are only 600,000 elephants, 25,000 lions (halved from 20 years ago) and 12,000 cheetahs left.

MISC STATS: 7000 languages are now spoken in the world but only 600 are expected to survive until the end of the century; in the UK despite double dip recession and record unemployment the richest 1000 people are $643.5 billion richer; in Australia under 1% of the population are problem gamblers, but they contribute 40% of poker machine revenue; 37% of Australian people with taxable incomes of $1 million or more make no donations at all; 31.96% of us sign up for organ donation however; there are fewer than 200 violins made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and 650 by Stradivarius – all worth many millions of dollars.

OBAMA: Congratulations for “evolving” into your support for same-sex marriage, the first American President to do so.

Jon Lewis Dooloogool

Jon Lewis Dooloogool

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN:

How many times did you both visit Christian in Africa and when was he last seen?

When we were revising and updating A Lion Called Christian in 2009, even we were sometimes confused about some details of particular visits especially 40 years later!  Luckily my mother kept all my letters from that period and that helped us as did subsequently published books.  We returned Christian to Kenya in August 1970. After a few weeks we left him with George Adamson to get him used to us not being there, and went on a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania.  We returned to Kora where Christian was very happy to see us.  Although the big lion Boy was still not fully accepting Christian, there had been an improvement and we were confident enough to leave him and return to London.

We returned one year later in July 1971 to a marvellous and enthusiastic reception from Christian that has become known as the  “YouTube” reunion and became an internet sensation. We returned again in August 1972 for another visit with Christian. He was now three years old, and was growing more independent and into one of the biggest lions George had ever seen. He had cleverly and courageously survived those early dangerous years. The relentless opposition from the local wild lions at Kora meant George’s male lions increasingly spent extended periods away from the camp.  John returned to Kora again later in 1973, but Christian had not been seen since earlier in the year. George last saw him heading off in the direction of the more hospitable Meru National Park which was a much more conducive area for Christian to establish his own territory and pride.

Presuming this happened, Christian would not have been able to leave his pride unattended and return to Kora to see his friends George Adamson and Tony Fitzjohn who he loved. There were never any news or sightings of Christian again. He had grown into such a big and strong lion we hope he may have lived at least another 8 years, and that his progeny may be in Kenya today.

CHRISTIAN: See this recent interview on the BBC – John is interviewed in London in Christian’s garden, and the relocated Sophistocat furniture shop. I loved Virginia McKenna, star of Born Free saying that Christian was “one of the most beautiful young lions I had ever seen. There was just something about him….” I agree!

For a more detailed description of our return visits to Christian – and answers to other frequently asked questions, see our 2009 edition of A Lion Called Christian which can be purchased  here.

Christian is mentioned in the excellent books I know some of you have been reading: My Pride and Joy by George Adamson (Collins Harvill 1986); The Great SafariThe Lives of George and Joy Adamson by Adrian House ( Morrow 1993); The Life in My Years by Virginia McKenna (Oberon 2009); and the Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust Tony Fitzjohn’s Born Wild (Viking 2010).

Perth November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Perth November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

SUMMER:  I have been in Perth and the photograph (above) is of the beach at Scarborough, opposite my hotel.  Tempting as the water looks there have been several recent shark attacks on Perth beaches.  I always say I haven’t been in the sea since seeing Jaws, now many years ago – and it is virtually true.  The Australian native flowers in Perth gardens and parks, and at home in Bundeena, have been especially beautiful and already the temperatures are quite hot.  Apologies to everyone going into winter!

OCCUPY WALL STREET: I was away and missed the most recent Sydney Occupy Wall Street rally.  Responses by the police removing ostensibly peaceful protesters from their sites everywhere are getting more heavy-handed.  There is an attitude “OK you have made your point, now go home”.  Sorry, but I don’t think it is going to work like that. I don’t know if the Sydney group has set up a new camp. Their absence of “leadership” and specific objectives is quite fascinating, and the organic growth of the movement still seems to be gaining momentum. They have certainly made the world – and presumably politicians – take notice.

JULIAN ASSANGE:  Australia does not seem to be assisting this Australian citizen in any way and I imagine Julian will appeal after losing his High Court battle in the UK against his extradition to Sweden.  I’ve been looking up some of the economic and political websites and blogs mentioned at the Occupy rally or by WikiLeaks sympathisers.  Most have been very informative, but some are quite scary.  I try not to be into conspiracy theories but then again I think I’m often very naive.  Fascinating and enigmatic as Julian is, I’ve only read edited sections of his “unauthorised autobiography” in newspapers.

Rafa

RAFA: While Julian may have disowned his autobiography, Rafael Nadal said he hadn’t even read his own “autobiography!  I found it very interesting.  The exceptional natural abilities, mental and physical toughness, and the unavoidable discipline and hard work required to make a sports star.  Then there are other  factors like luck, the other competitors (Federer ahead of him, and Djokovic emerging behind him), and the ever present risk of injury. Rafa is very tough mentally and can exclude all superfluous thoughts – like losing the last point. He is surrounded by a very good team and family. He has an effective if prickly relationship with his coach his Uncle Tony, who has taunted him as a “Mummy’s boy”. Every morning, no matter how late to bed, Rafa is on the court , or in the gym. I’m looking forward to the Australian Open in Melbourne in January – Rafa was injured last year.

TONY THE TIGER:  The victory in his court case has been the best news.  I have been trying to ascertain from the ALDF if he is still in his cage at the Truck Stop, and I fear he is.  What will the “owner” do with Tony, and can he appeal the decision?  Who will decide Tony’s subsequent future?  The ALDF and Dee de Santis will keep us informed hopefully.

Copyright WSPCA

Copyright WSPCA

ANIMAL NEWS: Read WSPA’s latest bear news here.  Also, you can read the new Minding Animals Bulletin #8.

BIPARTISANSHIP:  In Australia we have political bipartisanship only about “hot” and often difficult issues.  Aboriginal issues are often bipartisan, with both parties at the moment supporting an ill conceived and uninvited “intervention” in remote Aboriginal communities some of which are admittedly facing seemingly insurmountable social problems.  It suits both political parties to acquiesce with each other in these failed policies.

Because of our alliance with the US, both parties also agree over war, with our involvement in Afghanistan (and Iraq).  However 72% of Australians want our troops to come home – 32 Australian deaths in Afghanistan, and the last few have been killed by rogue Afghans from troops they have been “mentoring”.

Obama has just whizzed through Australia charming everyone and now we are to have American troops stationed here in a few years in northern Australia. Obama is trying to extricate America from the Middle East, and has committed America to the Asia-Pacific region and its growing economic opportunities.  Does this enhance Australia’s security or make us more of a target?  How will China, who has been keeping the Australian economy afloat, react to this? The move has been interpreted as an attempt to “contain” China, and we have been reminded “Chinese strategic missiles can reach Australia”.

Israel is also a bipartisan issue and our government was one of only 14 countries that recently voted against Palestine’s admission to UNESCO.  Although 107 countries supported Palestinian membership, the move has been described as “detrimental to the peace process”.  What “peace process” one may ask?  The US is now refusing to pay their $60 million contribution to UNESCO. Israel as a punishment is withholding at least $US100 million in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority and fast-tracking new settlement development.  It was refreshing to hear just how frustrated Obama really is with Netanyahu.

I wish there was a humane bipartisanship in Australia over asylum seekers and refugees rather than the blatant “race to the bottom” playing to the worst and most uncharitable instincts in the Australian population.  There have been yet more recent drownings in an unsafe boat setting off from Indonesia.

Up to 30 Indonesian children, who were possibly unwitting crew members on these “people-smuggler boats”, are languishing in our jails, while our media is hysterical over a 14 year old Australian busted for buying marijuana and boasting about it in Bali.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

CLIMATE CHANGE:  Australia’s Clean Energy Bill has passed the Senate.  Al Gore sent a message:

“With this vote, the world has turned a pivotal corner in the collective effort to solve the climate crisis… Today we celebrate.  Tomorrow, we do everything we can to ensure that this legislation is successful.”

Rupert Murdoch has assumed Chairmanship of News Ltd in Australia, and appointed a new CEO.  I was amused to read in his The Australian, that a prominent US physicist and global-warming sceptic in trying to disprove climate scientists were wrong, discovered that they were right – temperatures were rising rapidly.  However, true to form, another report in the newspaper found “an international statesman” who described international carbon trading as “halfway between a fantasy and a fraud”.

The US Department of Energy has calculated the global output of carbon dioxide has jumped by the biggest amount on record, and a draft UN report finds that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of floods, cyclones, wildfires, heat waves etc., and this is likely to increase.

As I have previously mentioned, China is acting on climate change and their emissions, but they are also being forced into action because their air is so polluted.  I remember the sky was brown in Shanghai when I was there just before their EXPO in 2010.

Our own inimitable Cardinal Pell says it is “immoral” to spend money attempting to prevent climate change. I would say future generations will say it was “immoral” to do nothing about it.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

CSG:  Both coal seam gas and liquefied natural gas are expected to benefit in the short term from the price on carbon, because they generally emit fewer greenhouse gases than coal and at present they are cheaper than solar, wind or geothermal power. There are 4,000 coal seam gas wells sunk in Queensland already, and plans for as many as 40,000 more!  However the technique used (known as “fracking”) apparently caused a small earthquake in the UK recently, and the long term effects on water tables through this process and the use of chemicals etc., are still unknown.

In Queensland, dredging in ports to facilitate CSG export facilities is endangering The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area ecosystem.  You can show your concern by signing this GetUp! petition.

MINING: The Government is still trying to implement a Mining Tax against great opposition from most of the millionaire miners.  Apparently most companies pay as little as 14% taxation, and 83% of the companies are foreign-owned.  Shamefully, Canada is selling vast amounts of asbestos to countries like India for cheap (and possibly life-threatening) housing (Foreign Correspondent 8 Nov ABC).  The Australian Government seems to be about to overturn our ban on uranium sales to India which was based on the fact that India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  This has been a long running impediment in our relationship with India who, despite what happened in Fukushima, Japan, is aiming at a total of 65 nuclear reactors.

RHINOS: As I have previously blogged African elephants are in an “extinction vortex”.  Africa’s Western Black Rhino, however, has been declared extinct and other sub-species may also be facing extinction. Read more in this LA Times article.

A LION CALLED CHRISTIAN:  I send a copy of the book or DVD of A Lion Called Christian to any children’s hospitals I read about and I received a letter back from one saying that Christian’s story was proving to be effective “distractive therapy” – an expression I hadn’t heard before.  I’m so pleased to think this can sometimes help those children facing often dire medical procedures or futures.

The books are available in digital versions and I have included links below.  I’m sort of  surprised that Christian’s story continues to inspire people – except his life was so exceptional!

iBooks: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/a-lion-called-christian/id437005297?mt=11

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Lion-Called-Christian-ebook/dp/B0038LB3Z4/

Waterstones: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/anthony+bourke/john+rendall/a+lion+called+christian+28ebook29/6449728/

WHSmith: http://www.whsmith.co.uk/CatalogAndSearch/eBooksProductDetails.aspx?productID=KB00104739541

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/A-Lion-Called-Christian/book-OMXKLakmSEyu5TnRXJn31w/page1.html?utm_source=whsmith&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=detailpage

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke

BLOGGING: I finally caught up with the film Julie & Julia which I enjoyed despite Meryl Streep’s no doubt good impersonation of Julia Child’s voice.  I was interested in the blogging – Julie was at it day by day, which I am not, and much more personal.  I don’t want to inflict on you my daily feelings, mood swings and neuroses.  Over a two or three week period what I want to comment on emerges – even if some of it is quite dated by then.  Blogging offers all of us the chance to express what we feel about the world, as many of us feel a certain impotence.  I’ve let you know I’ve had a life after owning a lion when I was young, and had a career in Aboriginal art which I have found fascinating.  In a blog I’m able to talk about other things that I find important or that interest me and I like the way it ends up a sort of diary.

Primarily, however, I hope the blog is a valuable global noticeboard about anyone doing interesting work or campaigning in relation to conservation and animal rights and welfare issues.  This very much also depends on your contributions.  If we together have helped in any way to free Tony the Tiger, for example, I think that is just wonderful.

I get many more emails than “comments” on the blog – perhaps many of you are rather like me and prefer a one-on-one communication, rather than a more public discourse.

MISC STATS: nearly 4000 protesters dead in Syria so far (and thousands of defecting Syrian soldiers joining the protests); 800 million Facebook users; Justin Bieber’s over 2 billion hits on YouTube overtaking Lady Gaga (his voice is breaking); 7 billion people in the world and 30 million millionaires; Chinese artist Ai Weiwei accused of owing $2.27 million in back taxes ( people are throwing money over his wall); 500 have died in the floods in Thailand; George Soros’ accurate prediction that the deal to fix the Eurozone/Greek financial crisis would last between 1 and 30 days – it lasted 4 days (good luck to the new governments in Greece and Italy); Brazil overtakes the UK as the world’s 6th biggest economy; Australia judged the second best country to live in after Norway!

I’m reading and loving The Colony: A History of Early Sydney by Grace Karskens, uncomfortably watching The Slap on TV,  loved k.d.lang’s great voice at her concert, and I was in awe and humbled in the presence of many of Picasso’s own Picassos at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.