Occupy Wall Street, Martin Place Sydney 22 October 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Occupy Wall Street, Martin Place Sydney 22 October 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

OCCUPY WALL STREET: The Occupy Wall Street movement began on 17 September in New York when 1,000 protesters marched on Wall Street, protesting about the failure of the government to crack down on the practices that led to the financial collapse, the government’s bail out of financial institutions and a financial system that has allowed 1% of Americans to hold more than a quarter of the nation’s wealth.

The movement has spread to many cities around the world and has become a metaphor for many things that decent ordinary people, the 99%, are feeling.  I went to the rally in Martin Place, Sydney last weekend.  The protesters who were camping there were bundled out at 5am the next morning and this had happened the day before in Melbourne, where the protest was broken up, with ensuing violence, by over 400 police.  The Lord Mayor of Melbourne spoke very disparagingly about the protesters, and some commentators are confusing what they interpret as a “sense of entitlement” with a legitimate “sense of outrage”.  It was a small crowd at the Sydney rally, and in Australia at the moment there is not the middle class following (and celebrity endorsement) that the movement has in the US – but the current economic and employment situation in the US is much more dire.  Another rally is scheduled for 5 November – presumably in Martin Place.

I asked some of the mostly young protesters how one could support them.  They don’t seem to be into internet activism, they aren’t targeting businesses or politicians – I think they are creating a space for people to think about and debate “corporate greed”, and they presume politicians will be paying attention.  Before being disbanded, people were invited at 6pm each evening to talk about related issues and everyone voted on any suggestions or recommendations.  They weren’t even especially interested in my donation.

At the rally I ran into an old friend John Shipton – Julian Assange’s father.  It must be quite worrying to have a son described as “the most dangerous man in the world”, and Julian has certainly changed the world and made us aware of just how much information is withheld from us by our governments.  WikiLeaks is facing a financial blockade from US based financial companies and the publishing operation will be suspended until the financial crisis is solved.

Last time I saw John he was very interested (and amused) by the Christian the Lion internet phenomenon that we were caught up in – but our experience seems pretty tame and Walt Disney in comparison with Julian.

John was at the rally to listen to Steve Keen, an Associate Professor at the University of Western Sydney and author of Debunking Economics.  Keen is described in Wikipedia as a “post-Keynesian criticising both modern neoclassical economics and (some of) Marxian economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported.”

Occupy Wall Street, Martin Place Sydney 22 October 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Occupy Wall Street, Martin Place Sydney 22 October 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

The “trickle-down theory” that everyone would benefit if the rich got richer, has been disproved.  There are now apparently 1,210 billionaires in the world with a total worth of $US4.5 trillion.  With this year’s annual reporting season beginning, for the first time Australian shareholders will be able to exercise their right to protest over the obscene level of pay some executives are receiving.  From this year on, if 25% of shareholders vote against the salary packages of executives and directors two years running, the entire board will be spilled.

Our airline Qantas seem to be locked in a fight to the death with 3 different unions.  Is CEO Allan Joyce’s attempt at a major restructure of Qantas and expansion into Asia worth his $5 million salary compared to the CEOs of Cathay Pacific ($1.4 million), Singapore Airlines ($982,000) and China Southern ($153,000)?

In Australia median pay for the CEO’s of our top 100 companies has rocketed by 131% in 10 years, with bonuses up by 190%.  But the stock market value of those companies has increased by just 31%.

Summer whale migration. Source: SMH, photo by Liina Flynn

MANNERS:  I think my primary school motto was “Manners Maketh Man”.  The very successful writer Alexander McCall Smith has been in Australia to talk at a Festival of Dangerous Ideas.  Various factors have contributed to social dysfunction in “The Broken Society” and the recent riots in England, including absent or hard working parents, Blair’s education policies, Cameron stripping back services, police powers to stop and search people etc.  McCall’s “dangerous idea” was the absence of manners in society these days!  He argued that manners act as a social lubricant and without them society and the community have suffered.  Children especially are having less meaningful conversations and communication and have very little civic respect.

Alan Moir, SMH

Tony Abbott Opposition Leader by Alan Moir, SMH

CARBON TAX:  Although it is not to be implemented until July 2012, our carbon tax legislation has been voted in, with a price of $23 per tonne.  However we have a very successful and totally negative Opposition Leader (see cartoon above) who has threatened to rescind the carbon tax and this is robbing business of the certainty they require – from investment in aging power stations to alternative energy sources.  India and China are referred to as the new polluting economic giants – and they are in some respects, but India has a carbon tax and China plans to have an emissions trading scheme in six regions by 2013 and nationwide by 2015 and is positioning itself to benefit from new green economic opportunities.

Unfortunately there have been solar panel scams in Australia and the US.  However, Chinese investment in solar has seen their market share increase from 5% to 54% in six years – compared to the US which has gone the other way – from 42% in 1997 to just 6% today.

Experts have been taken by surprise as to the extent of glaciers melting because of climate change from the Andes to across the Himalayas where lakes are forming which could cause catastrophic flooding.  In Australia there is also noticeably less snow on our ski slopes.

DEMOCRACY:  While people are taking to the streets and actually dying for “democracy” in some parts of the world, it may be inappropriate to question the effectiveness of democracy.  However, the 24 hour media cycle, constant polling and focus groups, marginal seats, and the power of the shock jocks are all contributing factors to a dumbing down of the political discourse.  Interestingly at a recent debate in Sydney on the State of Democracy the majority of people did not believe democracy is failing the world and that its disappointments should not be confused with its shortcomings.  Arguments included: “democracy has defeated science” in relation to climate change for example; “democracy had reached a point of paralysis and inefficiency”; other models could include “a citizens senate or Confucian democracy”; and others argued democracy keeps “government accountable” and “fostered peace and innovation”.

BUSH HERITAGE:  In my last blog I mentioned the work of The National Conservancy (TNC).  The organisation Bush Heritage also successfully buys and rehabilitates land – like clearing it of sheep grazing and protecting threatened animals and plants.  It began in 1990 with a grant from Greens leader Bob Brown to buy a property.  Bush Heritage now owns almost a million hectares and over 33 reserves, and is aiming to protect 1% of Australia by 2025.

2011 Nyapanyapa Circles at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery Sydney

Nyapanyapa, Circles 2011 at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


2011 Nigel Milson Untitled Judo House (Golden Mud) at Yuill-Crowley Sydney

2011 Nigel Milson Untitled Judo House (Golden Mud) at Yuill-Crowley Sydney

Petrina Hicks Excalibur at Stills Gallery Sydney

Petrina Hicks Excalibur at Stills Gallery Sydney

GALLERY IMAGES:  I had a run around some Sydney galleries last week and loved some exhibitions and works in their stock rooms.  My favourite was the bark paintings by Aboriginal artist Nyapyanapa at Roslyn Oxley9 and I bought one.  I have long admired Robyn Stacey, and her luxurious photographs in the exhibition House at the Museum of Sydney make us look at 19th century domestic life in a new way.  There is an accompanying book, and I recently bought the book Museum, which contains Stacey’s equally stunning photographs based on the Macleay collection of entomological specimens.

Nigel Milsom’s scary paintings of dogs at Yuill/Crowley were inspired by reading Hess’ Steppenwolf and living near a greyhound racing track.  You can see more images here on smh.com.au.

At Stills Gallery I saw an image of a dog by Petrina Hicks which has always rather haunted me.

ARAB FALL:  An unpleasant, if not totally unexpected end for Gaddafi, and illustrative of the difficulties ahead for a transition to a better future.  Difficulties include the interests of the various tribes that make up the Libyan people, and so many weapons in the country.  Luckily oil will provide an economic base.  The Tunisians, who have a very different history, have successfully held their “free and fair” elections, won by a moderate Islamic Party.  It is a relief to have Gilad Shalit finally back home in Israel, exchanged for the 1,027 Palestinians released, or to be released, from prison.  I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the Israel/Hamas/Fatah/Syria/Iran/Hezbollah/Sunni/Shiite histories, strategies, agendas and alliances – but I hope for some progress, any progress, towards a more peaceful and secure life for them all.  Protesters are still dying in Yemen and Syria, but footage that has been smuggled out is going to make convincing evidence against authorities for their crimes against humanity.

I see that Condoleeza Rice is trying to rewrite history and claim that the invasion of Iraq has contributed to the Arab Spring popular uprisings.  This war has cost $US800 billion and 5,000US lives, and many many more civilian deaths. I think we will see just how “democratic” the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki is once the US withdraw all troops by the end of the year.

Interestingly, Noam Chomsky believes that the role of technology in the Arab uprisings has been exaggerated.  “The core of the Arab Spring was really labour organisation.  Take a look at Egypt; that was attributed to tech-savvy young people with Twitter.  That’s not false, but there is a close correlation between long-term labour activism and the effectiveness of democracy movements.”

SHAME:  Amnesty International recently visited the ironically named Utopia, a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia, and was appalled by the living standards.  The community feel they are being deliberately starved off their traditional land and being forced to relocate to other centres.

We should also be ashamed that in Australia we are detaining our relatively few asylum seekers (including children) for so long – some for over 2 years, that there are scandalous levels of mental illnesses and self harm.

2011 Jupiter kissing Ana Julia Torres Luis Robayo, AFP Getty Images

2011 Jupiter kissing Ana Julia Torres. Photo by Luis Robayo, AFP Getty Images

LIVE CATTLE EXPORTS:  The Government has accepted the recommendations of the review into Australia’s $1 billion live export industry.  Exporters will have the responsibility for the welfare of animals (to World Organisation for Animal Health standards) from departure to the point of slaughter.  Animal lobby groups object that stunning before slaughter is still not mandatory, and that the review did not address the conflict of interest of vets on board export vessels.

2011 Tigers from Animals in the News - Reuters, photo by Ilya Naymushin

2011 Tigers from Animals in the News - Reuters, photo by Ilya Naymushin

OHIO:  The slaughter of dozens of lions, tigers, bears and wolves set free from a private farm in Ohio has sparked calls for restrictions on the largely unregulated ownership of exotic pets in several US states.  Eighteen Bengal tigers were shot – and there are only 1,500 left in the wild in India.  There are approximately 2,884 pet tigers in the US but there is a certain amount of genetic manipulation with interbreeding between different sub species.  I have been emailed recently about caged tigers and panthers used recently at extremely noisy sporting events in the US, with cheerleaders even performing on the roof of the cage, and of course Tony the Tiger’s predicament weighs on most of our minds.  Read the SMH article here – http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/ohio-exotic-animal-slaughter-sparks-outrage-20111020-1m9wq.html.

Three Sumatran tiger cubs have made their first appearance at Taronga Zoo as part of the captive breeding program.  Only 400 survive in the wild, their habitats and lives threatened by the palm oil industry and hunting.

DONKEYS:  I’ve got several friends very concerned about the welfare of hard working donkeys.  The Brooke has been working for over 75 years to help working donkeys, mules and horses in countries like Egypt, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and Kenya. For more information see www.thebrooke.org/littledonkey.

2011 Kevin Richardscon copyright Barcroft Media

2011 Kevin Richardscon copyright Barcroft Media

MAILBAG:  Thanks to David for sending the beautiful, interesting and sometimes appalling images from Animals in the News from TheAtlantic.com, George for the email about the improper use of animals at sporting events, and Christine for the superb photographs of Kevin Richardson with his animals – especially the lions.

Thanks for sending these stories in. We post most of them on the www.alioncalledchristian.com.au website and we are building a great archive which people are enjoying.

Vanity Fair listed ways to support the protection of elephants and other endangered species.

CHRISTIAN THE LION: Thanks to Matthew for this YouTube link with a new version of Christian’s story reedited from the original footage.

MY PHOTOS:  Some people sweetly commented on my photographs last blog.  Bundeena is so beautiful and on my afternoon walks armed with my small trusty Lumix it is hard to go wrong – even without my glasses!

Reflections, Bundeena 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Reflections, Bundeena 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

 
 

Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

SCHADENFREUDE:  Yes, there is an element of this for many of us towards Rupert Murdoch.  I love Moir’s cartoons – he is one of our best.  Murdoch is the classic example of the 1% owning 40% of the wealth I blogged about last time – those 200 jobs were the first to be sacrificed at the News of the World.  Politicians do his bidding as we know – and I read he encouraged Blair to join the invasion of Iraq.  Hopefully his influence on them will now diminish.  The complicity of the police was particularly shocking, but then, not so surprising.  He owns 70% of the print media in Australia and unashamedly pushes his own right-wing agenda – virtually calling for regime change no less at the moment.  The Government or important issues are not given balanced coverage in his newspapers.  I could give you many examples but that would be boring.  There are some very good journalists working for The Australian, and they must often feel compromised.  Perhaps we readers are also complicit – Rupert’s touch has been identifying what his readers want – gossip.  John Dean, who spent 4 months in prison over his involvement in the Watergate cover-up years ago in the US, says that the scandal will keep running until Murdoch resigns – as President Nixon had to.  He quotes a source that says that money, not ideology, is Murdoch’s prime motivation.  See John Dean’s The Essay,  “Murdoch’s dilemma: himself” Sydney Morning Herald July 23-24.

 

Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

We white Australians have only relatively recently begun to address our real history.  Respected historians such as Henry Reynolds have researched extensively and revealed for the first time the scale of the massacre of Aboriginal people as we took over their land.  The anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner called this in 1974 “the great Australian silence”.  Guess who campaigned in his newspapers seemingly daily for years through a very controversial “historian”, to dispute and minimise the numbers of Aboriginal deaths?  This is why I will never forgive Rupert Murdoch. Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to end Murdoch’s media monopoly in Australia.

 

Drawing on Memory, Michele Elliot, 1992 (detail)

  

GLOBAL ANIMAL:  I was on a panel recently at this very interesting Global Animal conference at the University of Wollongong.  Human-animal relationships are a fast growing field in animal research, and I suppose Christian is a symbol of that!  In this academic environment I felt like the light relief.  Our YouTube reunion footage with Christian was shown and one participant expressed annoyance at the “disconcerting” Whitney Houston backtrack, and that the “greeting card” sentiments about forwarding the video to “someone you love”, detracted from the human-animal relationship.  I was a little taken aback as people are usually so pleasantly uncritical!  I said I personally get swept along with Whitney’s song “I’ll always love you” (actually written by Dolly Parton), and that I didn’t mind the footage being co-opted as a general message of love. But I acknowledged the point that was being made, and should have replied, “without Whitney and the viral “love” nature of the video, would it have reached so many people, and would I actually be sitting here?” Do see fellow panelist and artist Michele Elliot’s blog –michelelliot.blogspot.com. It is one of the most interesting and elegant ones I have seen. She is one of the growing number of artists who are interested in human-animal relationships. Click here to see her story behind the Tiger image.

 

The Gift, photograph by Michele Elliot 2009

 

CARBON TAX:  Pollution tax! I know I sound like a cracked record…but this saga rolls on here and is still Topic A, and it should be an issue in most countries.  Indeed in many countries the debate has moved on to solutions and the economic opportunities presented.  The Government’s policy was finally released and I respect the Sydney Morning Herald’s economist Ross Gitten’s assessment in his article Gillard’s imperfect carbon plan is just that little bit better.  The price for carbon emissions starts at $23 a tonne, the 500 major polluters will have some incentive to reduce emissions, households will be compensated, and there are billions of dollars for the development of renewable energy sources.  

I thought the tide was beginning to turn in the Government’s favour, although a recent poll gave them only 26% of the primary vote.  Luckily the election is 2 years away. This is the government that got us through the GFC better than any other country in the Western world, but who just can’t sell this achievement.  Today’s headline however was “Big Business has declared war on the Federal Government”.  Like the Republicans at the moment over the US debt ceiling, they seem to view all taxes as against the national interest and a form of wealth redistribution.

 However, a majority of economists back the Government’s economic policies and direction, and at a recent conference 79% backed the Government’s carbon tax over the Opposition’s faux Direct Action plan and 74% also backed the Government’s equally controversial Mining tax. The conservative Opposition just says “no” to everything, and with the support of the Murdoch press, ensure there is no considered debate about many important issues. Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is down.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

THE GREENS: We would have had a similar carbon emissions scheme by now if the Greens had not blocked the last one.  This is an example of why I have some reservations about them, and I have had mail about both my endorsement and my concerns. I think the Greens vary from country to country, although they obviously share many policies and philosophies.  As we have a hung parliament, and the Greens have the balance of power in the Senate (Upper House) they have considerable bargaining power.  There is now a formal alliance between the Greens and the Government, and they insisted Australia must price carbon, which has led to the PM being accused of breaking an election promise.  This is an on-going and serious credibility problem for her, and many people also dislike her for replacing Kevin Rudd as PM.

The Murdoch press hate the Greens needless to say.  For example, there was a recent article by Andrew McIntyre in The Australian on the commissioned book The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences .  He writes “In these (Green) policy formulations there appears to be a profound lack of appreciation or understanding of why our society is the way it is” and that their policies would have “catastrophic unintended consequences for this country”.  As Andrew McIntyre was the editor of the book, how could this be an objective review or article? 

COAL SEAM GAS:  there is rising opposition – on all sides of the political spectrum – to mining for coal seam gas which seems to be rapidly expanding everywhere from the suburbs of our cities to our prime agricultural land.  There seems to have been little research into how the chemicals or methods used are contaminating or damaging the water aquifers and the effect this will have on food production in our increasingly valuable “food bowls”.

CATTLE LIVE EXPORT:  this trade to Indonesia has resumed as suddenly as it was suspended, although no new export permits have yet been issued.  There are new animal welfare requirements, but this does not include stunning before slaughter.

MISC STATS:  South Sudan is the world’s 193rd nation and good luck to them although I don’t know what their economic base is… there is a substantial increase in the number and ferocity of natural disasters – 60 in 1975 and 321 in 2009 with 75 million people affected in 1980, and 250 million in 2007… the Queen cost $48.05 million for the year… 161,653,000 pounds was won by a couple ina lottery in the UK…Sydney is the 6th most expensive city in the world (after Tokyo, Oslo, Osaka/Kobe, Paris, Zurich)… 95% refugee applications in Australia are approved, and make up only 2.5% of our migrant intake.

 

Photograph by Glenn Campbell, Sydney Morning Herald

 

ABORIGINES:  They have been fighting many years for the repatriation of tens of thousands of aboriginal body parts from museums around the world that were ostensibly for “scientific purposes” but were mostly “trophies”. Most of these bones in the photograph were collected in 1948.  They have been in the Smithsonian Institution in the US who have resisted for a decade, like many others, their return.

Aboriginal elder Thomas Amagula said in 2009 “When I hear about the efforts and money the American government (like the Australian government) is spending trying to find and identify the remains of their soldiers who have been lost overseas, I wonder how the Smithsonian Institution can justify its refusal to return all the remains who were taken without our permission.  We think this is very arrogant”.  Aboriginal people are connected to the remains and spirits of their ancestors in ways non- Aboriginal people mostly don’t understand.  R.I.P.

 

Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House until August 20, then touring nationally

 

Aborigines make up 3.5% of the Australian population, but 25% of the prison population.  But between 1994–2008 Aboriginal employment has risen from 31% to 51%.  School retention rates are increasing, as is home ownership.  There was a depressing program recently on the ABC featuring one of Australia’s richest men “negotiating” with a remote Aboriginal community to mine iron ore and which would spoil areas of their sacred and beautiful country. Billionaire Twiggy Forrest didn’t want to pay them too much as it would be bad for them! “Mining welfare”!!!   It showed the uneven playing field for aboriginal claimants, the inequity of the Native Title Act, and Twiggy has dangerously divided the Aboriginal community.  Another wealthy 1% person showing his largesse… see the ABC Four Corners program Iron and Dust.

HORN OF AFRICA:  It certainly looks like a horn which is ironic given the shrinking number of rhinos. More than 10 million people from southern Somalia are under threat by the lack of rainfall, failure of crops and the doubling of food prices.  The Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya is expecting 10,000 new refugees each month.  It is now designated a “famine” and we can donate through:  savethechildren.org.au; UNHCR’s unrefugees.org.au:  Medicins Sans Frontieres msf.org.au or various other agencies.

In South Africa, although whites are only 9% of the population, they own 55% of the land.  With 50% of young black South Africans unemployed and very slow progress in people’s standard of living, it is not surprising, but scary, that leaders are emerging who are calling for the resumption of this land, without compensation, Mugabe-style.

WORRIED ABOUT:  the Bank of America’s share price… the US National Debt ceiling being $14.3 trillion and if it will be increased in time… the  strategy of the EU for the support of countries like Greece who according to one recent commentator “cooked the books” to gain entry originally…the secret sale by Germany of 200 tanks to Saudia Arabia despite their action against protesters in Bahrain, and the proposed new law to jail anyone criticizing the King…and Egypt not allowing international monitoring of their election later in the year.

MAIL:  Thanks for your emails… Fabienne is going to let us know more about the Bali Villa Kitty and how we may support the cats in Bali…WSPA emailed that generous donations have funded the first stage of the Bali Dogs Vaccination Program aimed at the eradication of rabies with 210,000 dogs in 4,126 villages treated… click here to watch this beautiful video about penguins sent by Hélène… I’ve been very interested in your own family histories and stories… and thanks Barb Heath for reading  back through my blogs and your comments… many of you are helping  the blog  become a good resource and directory of so many people and bodies genuinely concerned about animal welfare and the world we live in, and I thank you.

Our thoughts are with the people of Norway.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, Sydney Morning Herald

 

 

 

 

MITCHELL LIBRARY:  These images are from a recent purchase of early Australian natural history illustrations by the Mitchell Library.  Six bound volumes and 741 “exquisite” drawings and watercolours were taken to London in 1795 and subsequently purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby.  They are believed to be by the convict artist Thomas Watling.   Europeans were fascinated by the exotic flora and fauna from the Pacific region.

 

 

 

DAVID SCOTT MITCHELL:  The library is named after David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907) who donated what has been described as the world’s largest private collection of a particular region – Australasia and the Pacific, with over 60,000 books, maps, journals, pamphlets, paintings, and a bequest that still financially benefits the library today.

He appreciated the importance of collecting primary sources – “Australia’s DNA”, from which we are still in the process of interpreting our past.  Indeed, we are at the moment still debating  whether to describe the  European arrival in Australia as an “invasion” or “colonisation”.

I am reading the just published Book Life, the life of David Scott Mitchell byEileen Chanin.  It is an exhaustively researched biography which paints a picture of the surprisingly sophisticated Mitchell and Scott families, cultural life in the small colony of Sydney, and the international literary context.  This book is long overdue as very little is known about Mitchell, and the book reveals much more about a shy man who was not as reclusive as reputed, but who still remains elusive.  He was my grandmother’s great uncle and she sometimes stayed with him on her school boarder’s weekends.  Unfortunately I was too young to ever ask her what he was  like.  I only remember her saying he was always reading!  Only much later have I appreciated the value of oral histories – and identifying people in photographs!

Family skeleton: D S Mitchell’s father James was an extremely energetic and entrepreneurial doctor and businessman and conveniently, his wife Augusta Maria (Scott) was wealthy. He was one of the first in the colony to mine for coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW, and this wealth from the now contentious coal primarily allowed David Scott Mitchell to indulge his passion for collecting books, and Australia has benefited from it as well. 

 

 

GLOBAL ANIMAL: Later this week I am on a panel at the Global Animal: an Animal Studies conference at the University of Wollongong (UOW).  I am fascinated by the amount of interesting and wide ranging research in this field in academia, especially about human/animal relationships.  Click here for UOW details.

You may be interested to click on the Australian Animal Studies Group News eBulletin and see the range of activities, articles and national and international conferences and events.  I was asked to contribute to this edition, and I wrote about my visit last year to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in India – where through the efforts of many people (but Christine Townend particularly), management of the community dog population has seen human rabies eliminated from both those areas.  The editor insisted on using a grisly photograph of a dog still out cold from the operation – I wanted to use the pretty white kitten dressed for Diwali celebrations. OK – I seem to have lopped off some tail – last photograph it was her ears!

 

Darjeeling Animal Shelter

 

A BLOODY BUSINESS:  But does gore sell more effectively?  The footage of Australian cattle being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs has created a very effective  public outcry and scandal.  Exports of live cattle to Indonesia have been suspended.  The Indonesians are offended.  Our government has as usual seemed slow to respond constructively,  and many cattle owners are left facing huge losses.   The industry is worth $550 million (I read various estimates), and some small compensation to producers is presently being offered.  Animal welfare is for now at least under overdue scrutiny.

ASYLUM SEEKERS:  There has been no equivalent outcry against sending our asylum seekers or refugees to Malaysia, although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received many emails of protest.  The shock jocks and irresponsible politicians who have exacerbated and exploited this issue are now being countered by a few serious and informative television programs that are actually putting a human  face to the refugees and showing just what many of them have been subjected to.  Most of them  had to flee their country – they were not just setting off to look for a better life.   

 

 

POLLUTION TAX:  Much better to call it a pollution tax – who wouldn’t want to prevent pollution?  I’m pleased Germany is stepping back from nuclear energy,  retiring their 17 reactors by 2022.  For years now we have been mired in our carbon/pollution tax debate, but the government is about to finally put a price on carbon. Compensation to coal producers has understandably been a sticking point.   The Greens now have a balance of power in the Senate, and are working quite well in an “agreement” with the government.  It may be a future direction as many disenchanted Labor voters (like myself) are now leaning towards the Greens instead. They won 12% of the primary vote last election.  I wouldn’t want the Greens to be running the country on their own, they don’t have the experience for a start – but at times they provide the heart, compassion, integrity and conscience on social justice and environmental issues missing in our political discourse.

Incidentally, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers seem to be doing everything in their power to force out this government by constantly portraying them as negatively as possible and marshalling opposition at every opportunity – for example, oxygen given to climate change deniers and opponents of the carbon tax.  His mother however, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s 102 year old mother was a signatory to a recent letter to a (rival) newspaper calling for action on climate change.  A recent Productivity Commission report detailed various actions by many countries, including India and China, and stated that a carbon tax in Australia would not make us uncompetitive internationally. Some critics argue that because of our reliance on coal, comparisons to other economies are difficult.  Worryingly,  although 95% of scientists accept the scientific statistics on climate change, public support is slipping, with 39% of Australians now not prepared “to pay a cent” to combat global warming.  This is indicative of how badly the government has handled this issue, how long it has dragged on, and how effective the shrill opposition to it has been – more rallies and expensive media campaigns are planned.  Isn’t this issue so important that there should be bi-partisanship between the major parties?  

 

Jane Goodall’s Lunch at Taronga Zoo

 

JANE GOODALL:  I recently had lunch at Taronga Zoo where Jane Goodall was the guest of honour.  The Taronga conservation society is in partnership with a new chimpanzee rehabilitation centre – the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Point Noire, Congo.  Over the fifty years since she began studying chimps their numbers have fallen from about 1 million to 300,000.  “The most efficient and cheapest way of slowing down global warming is to protect and restore the tropical rainforests.  Saving the chimpanzees natural habitat is extremely important….all these problems are so interconnected”.  Last time I heard her speak she explained how local villagers need to have a certain guaranteed standard of living – food, water, education etc before we we can expect them to protect animals or their habitats.  Tony Fitzjohn also emphasizes this with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust – the needs and involvement of the surrounding villagers are imperative.

Jane Goodall said Australia was not doing well – a failure so far on carbon emissions, a failure to protect water supplies, disappearing endemic species, and no overall environmental strategy to link the surviving patches of habitat.  She reassured us however, that individual efforts “add up”.

I gave her a copy of A Lion Called Christian but she just said “Oh. Thankyou.”, and I wonder if the book was left in the hotel room! 

I admire her work enormously and how hard she works.  There are Jane Goodall Institutes all over the world, and I particularly like the very successful Roots and Shoots program for schools where groups plan and implement “service learning projects that promote care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community”.

Co-incidentally, I heard on a recent radio program that given the intelligence of chimps and their brain size,  living in groups of 5 is the norm,and in a “village” of about 50, while for our brain size humans have a close group of 7 people on average, and a “village” of 150.

 

 

UNITY BEVIS JONES:  I was recently interviewed by BBC4, and I mentioned Christian’s friend Unity Bevis Jones.  She came to play with him nearly every day.  I was contacted by a friend who said they had recently seen her, and all was fine with her.  After the shop Sophistocat where Christian lived on the Kings Road closed, Unity did not know how to keep in touch with us, and was unaware the shop had relocated to Wandsworth Bridge Road where it still is today.  I look forward to seeing her when I am next in the U.K.

MISC STATS:  We are part of 2 billion users on the internet …. US involvement  in Afghanistan costs $120 billion per year… 85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres from the coast…. 50% of the world population now live in cities.

BRAZIL:  Now the 5th biggest economy in the world, Brazilians seem to be having their day – and with the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Earth Summit to come etc.  Unfortunately their resources/mining boom will  test their environmental credentials   – and their forest protection laws are being “gutted”.  The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen and 60% of our freshwater, and recently several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered!   Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to protect the Amazon.

OF THE 1%, BY THE 1%, FOR THE 1%:  A disturbing article in Vanity Fair (Rob Lowe cover) by Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses the implications of 1% of the  population now owning 40% of wealth in the US, a statistic to frighten us all. They haven’t been benevolent in the past, and there is a corresponding under investment in infrastructure, education and research. They are pandered to with low taxation, and this nexus of politics/business/media preserves their privilege. It is hard not to view recent “wars” as business opportunities for arms and weapons manufacturers and companies like Halliburton, and there are spoils like oil to divide.  In Australia we see many of our wealthy opposing the mining tax, the carbon tax, and the NBN national broadband network, and resenting and resisting environmental restrictions, and workplace reforms.

WORRIED ABOUT: …the PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Iraq is sounding more and more despotic… the despot in Syria is hanging on but the people bravely keep protesting… Greece and European debt…that 193 rhinos have been killed already this year in South Africa, many of them in the Kruger National Park…a rush to mine cold seam gas even in the suburbs of Sydney, with real concerns about environmental damage through “fracking” and damage to the water aquifers… the capabilities of Thaksin’s sister in Thailand…a released but restricted and silenced Ai Wei Wei in China… and if you are concerned for Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy in Burma click here to sign an AVAAZ petition. 

 

 

JEFFREY MASSON:  I just adored reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats.  It is a most authoritative book and extremely well written and readable.  As a fellow cat obsessive I luxuriated in it.  Much of it reinforced my own feelings and my comparatively amateur observations, but there was a lot of new information and ideas to think about, especially about cat’s play and curiosity.  Jeffrey Masson also refers to other obviously excellent books on cats – none of which I’ve read.  I realised I didn’t really play with my cats much, and I never improvise  or buy them toys, but I AM always talking to them and having fun with them.  His cats go for walks with him!  I am under no illusions – food is the foundation of my relationship with mine.  The book made me analyse what I really like about cats.  Briefly, I find them very soothing, very cool and so self contained.  I like their diffidence, their quietness and their natural entitlement.  Everything has to be their own idea.  This behaviour can annoy some people, but I can find it amusing or challenging.  The only thing I really don’t like is how totally irrelevant they make me feel after I have fed them!

Jeffrey Masson is presently researching violence in different species, lions especially, and how much killer instinct they have, and who it is directed at.  I am hoping Tony Fitzjohn with his long association with George Adamson and his own experience and observations of lions may be able to contribute.  I know that the wild lions at Kora waged a full-time war over many years against George Adamson’s introduced lions, and killed several of them, although they also mated with several of the lionesses. They were defending their territory which was inhospitable and had limited resources, against intruders.  It was miraculous that Christian survived although he ultimately had to leave the area.  On his blog Jeffrey Masson described our YouTube reunion with Christian as demonstrating “pure joy” and that “All in all, it remains the single most astonishing video I have ever viewed”.

 

Watercolours courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales