Brent Stirton, Sylvia Ross, Tony the Tiger, Australia, Climate Change, ACF, Divestment, IPCC, Tracey Moffatt, Richard Flanagan, Ebola, Whitlam, Mail, Kakadu, Melbourne Cup
November 8, 2014
Wildlife photographer Brent Stirton has won the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year award for 2014, for the second year in a row. See here for a selection of Stirton’s work including Living with Lions, a series of photographs addressing the contentious issue of farming lions for Canned Hunting in Africa. A warning: some of these photographs are very graphic and upsetting.
TONY THE TIGER: See this recent “raw video” of Tony the Tiger in his cage at the increasingly notorious truckstop in Louisiana filmed 22 October 2014. Tony eats in a desultory way…and then quietly moves to a more shaded (and hopefully more private) part of his cage. How much longer will he be in this cage? He deserves a better life and we have to keep fighting for him.
WILLY: Again this year some of us have been anxiously following the lives of Willy the wagtail and her chicks in the garden of Sylvia Ross in Sydney. Luckily Sylvia is an excellent artist and photographer and she is going to publish a small book of her daily photographs (or post on Facebook) entitled in Plain Sight – 28 Days. The mother tries to protect her three chicks from various dangers – from extreme heat to other birds such as currawongs, for 14 days as an egg, and 14 days after hatching.
AUSTRALIA/ CLIMATE CHANGE: Our PM recently declared to the world that “coal was good for humanity”. Predictably, the Renewable Energy Target is to be lowered. A climate change denier (Richard Warburton) was selected to head the review into the RET, and PM Abbott is doing his best to destroy the renewable energy market. This is at a time when there is a new wave of international momentum to act…
It is very depressing having a government in denial about climate change and proud of abolishing a carbon tax while many countries in the world are moving in the opposite direction. The government has invented a pretend solution “Direct Action”, where the government PAYS the big polluters to cut emissions if they want to! This has now passed parliament. I have not read one reputable economist, scientist, expert, or commentator – excluding some journos working for Rupert Murdoch of course – that support this scheme. There has been no modelling, no costings, no explanations….
During intense and dangerous bushfires last year our PM even disputed the fact that fires and extreme weather conditions were becoming more frequent and intense.
ACF: Geoffrey Cousins has just been appointed head of the Australian Conservation Fund, the country’s largest environmental lobby. He sees the primary purpose of the ACF at the moment is to lead the opposition to the government’s “shameful” lack of action on climate change and environmental issues. Cousins is interesting – a successful conservative advertising/business man who even advised John Howard in office, but who cares deeply about the environment. He has shown in the past to be a formidable opponent – he led the successful campaign against a pulp mill on the Derwent River in Tasmania, and against the Woodside gas hub in the Kimberley, West Australia. He was a young teacher at my school but has erased this from his CV….
DIVESTMENT: There was a furore when the Australian National University decided to divest their shares in fossil fuel companies from their portfolio. This is growing as a movement – from the Rockefellers to Stanford University. Let’s hope coal becomes a “stranded asset” soon. Apparently coal still supplies 82% of the world’s energy needs and is regarded as “cheap” – although the infrastructure surrounding it is actually very expensive compared to some other energy sources.
In a recent survey of Australian business company directors, 50% rated the government’s performance as “poor” or “very poor”. This is a very alarming statistic for a government supposedly close to business. The ill-conceived and very badly received budget is still struggling to get through parliament.
IPCC: The latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change states unequivocally that fossil fuels must be phased out by the end of the century. I think a majority of people believe urgent action is required. With Obama, the EU, China and many other countries now seriously committed, and UN meetings coming up in Lima then Paris, Australia is very much “on the wrong side of history”.
Despite Australia’s best efforts to exclude it, climate change just made it on to the agenda for the upcoming G20 meeting of world leaders in Brisbane next weekend. This meeting could be interesting in many ways – from various protests to our PM’s juvenile threat to “shirt- front” Russia’s Putin.
TRACEY MOFFATT: I recently went to Brisbane for the opening of Tracey Moffatt’s exhibition Spirited at the Gallery of Modern Art. I follow her career with fascination. Many of the art works referenced places and memories from Tracey growing up in suburban Brisbane, Queensland, and her family connections to land. She has a new video series Art Calls where she interviews artists or people that interest her by skype. The interviews are very informative and often amusing and will soon be on ABC online.
CATS & KAKADU: There are apparently 20 million feral cats in Australia, and it is claimed they kill 75 million mammals each day (that’s 4 mammals per cat). The new Commissioner for Threatened Species is turning his attention to the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory where the loss of so many animals is attributed to feral cats, foxes and fires. Apparently fire management is completely out of date, and there are too many weeds contributing to “inappropriate” fires which then leave threatened species exposed and unprotected. I can foresee a time when cats are going to be banned or are to be entirely kept inside – watching cartoons on television!
RICHARD FLANAGAN: Congratulations to Richard Flanagan for winning the Man Booker prize for his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North. In his acceptance speech he said the environmental record and support for the coal industry by our present government made him “ashamed to be Australian”.
Well done champion cyclist Cadel Evans for supporting wind farms in South Australia, a state that is serious about renewable energy.
Also congratulations to that extraordinary young girl Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi from India for sharing the Nobel Peace Prize. Asylum-seeker/refugee advocate Julian Burnside QC from Melbourne has just won the 2014 Sydney Peace Prize.
EBOLA: Ebola has to be tackled at its source which is the three African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The still inadequate global response has been yet another failure by the international community, and even initially by the World Health Organisation. While the Australian Government was itching to go and drop “humanitarian” weapons in Iraq, it has equivocated over responding to this terrible disease. The government has finally been shamed into donating a field hospital in Sierra Leone. The government still seems reluctant to send Australian medical personnel although hundreds have volunteered. It now emerges that we were asked months ago by the USA,UK and some African countries to do more…
Mark Zuckerberg has generously given $27.05 million and Paul Allen (Microsoft) $100 million.
WHITLAM: A former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam recently died at 98. He reformed the Labor Party and won power for them in 1972 after 23 years in opposition. He initiated many policies and reforms that we take for granted today. There are too many to list but they include free tertiary education (which transformed many lives), free healthcare, Aboriginal land rights and he was one of the first leaders to visit and recognise China. Whitlam changed Australia.
On his death both sides of parliament spoke graciously about him, and many of them seemed to have been politicised by him – either way! His achievements in a few short years make our current leaders and representatives look timid and mediocre. We have been reminded of what real leadership looked like. Words commonly used to describe him were “brave”, “courageous”, and “visionary”. Whitlam was dismissed by the Governor General in 1975 and this remains highly controversial today. He was replaced by Malcolm Fraser who I did not regard as a good Prime Minister, but who has seemingly become less conservative and been a more effective and engaged elder statesman than Whitlam.
Unfortunately there was a world economic downturn as Whitlam implemented many of his reforms and policies, and while Whitlam is justifiably criticised for his haste and economic management, the next (Fraser) government inherited a zero net government debt.
At the recent memorial service Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson’s spoke very eloquently about what Whitlam initiated and achieved for Aboriginal people. Pearson also noted that Whitlam who had an upper-middle class background was intent on giving everyone more equal opportunities. The actress Kate Blanchett said it was Whitlam’s changes to education that allowed her to discover acting, and that she also benefited from his enlightened attitude to the role of women in society, Australia’s cultural life and our place in the world. The painting Blue Poles is a good example of Whitlam’s contribution to Australia’s cultural life. It was a huge scandal when he permitted the National Gallery of Australia to purchase Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles for $1.3 million in 1973. The painting has since become a “destination” at the NGA, and is now valued anywhere between $30 to $100 million dollars.
I love this photograph of Melanie Griffith who grew up with this lion Neil in the 1970s. Neil is so beautiful,and I love all the photographs of course (see here), especially her sleeping with the lion – or the lion tail hanging down from the bed! Her mother Tippi Hedren (who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds) founded The Roar Foundation in 1983 to support the Shambala Preserve in California to educate about the “dangers of private ownership of exotic animals”.
MELBOURNE CUP: We have just had the running of the Melbourne Cup, described as “the race that stops a nation”. Horses are so beautiful and magnificent and my sister and I enjoyed riding when we were young. As I watched the races during the day I wondered if the horses liked racing and were naturally competitive. I suspect some do love it. While some horses before and after their races looked around and appeared to enjoy the crowd and the attention, others were more skittish. There are always love stories, like the 2 men who always accompany the 9 year old Red Cadeaux on his world travels and who said he is the nicest, loveliest horse. He came second for the third time!
The German horse Protectionist won very convincingly, but the favourite Admire Rakti from Japan, after a very fast first half of the race carrying the top weight, faded to last place. He returned to his stall, sank to his knees and died. He had had a heart attack. Like many other people I am still very shocked and quite depressed by this. Another horse Araldo was “spooked” after the race by a flag waved in his face and he broke a leg and had to be put down. A horse also died after this race last year.
While some of the horses are loved and pampered, my main criticisms are: many horses never succeed or break down from being raced too young (or in inappropriate races) and are sent to the knackery; the use of the whip is cruel; and “jumps” racing is just too dangerous. Is horse racing just yet another example of us using animals cruelly for our own entertainment?
Racing is also highly dangerous for the jockeys and two female riders have died in Australia in the last few weeks.
On a cheerier note, my sister recently found this photograph of my first cat. I found him in the vacant allotment next door when I was about 10. He was probably “feral” and was quite rough and tough. I loved him and admired his independent spirit. We always had dogs in our family, but my favourite book when very young was Orlando the Marmalade Cat. This cat was my introduction to the wonderful world of cats and I have had at least one cat in my life ever since!
Thanks to Deb, Tim, Francois and Sylvia Ross especially for sending some of the images used on this blog, and to many others for your emails, news and images.
October 4 – World Animal Day, FIAPO (Jaipur Conference), Christian the lion, Minding Animals Conference 3, United Nations, Bengal Tigers etc
October 2, 2014
OCT 4th World Animal Day: According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, half the world’s wild animals have been lost in the last 40 years from habitat destruction,hunting and deforestation. On this World Animal Day let’s work together and combine our efforts to reverse these terrible statistics – their survival is at stake.
SYDNEY: People are meeting beside Sydney Town Hall at 11am on Saturday 4th October. Organisers seem to be a coalition of Lobby For Lions, Animal Works and felinefoundation.org – see their sites for information. The March is for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions primarily…but let’s salute all animals!
MELBOURNE: fortheloveofwildlife is staging a fund raiser, primarily for a documentary exposing the cruelty of farming lions for the canned hunting industry in South Africa. Apart from the entertainment, the evening will feature Ian Michler, a well-known wildlife journalist from South Africa.
Please consider signing this petition to ban lion trophy imports into Australia – this is a very effective way of discouraging hunting.
FIAPO: The Federation for Indian Animal Protection Organisations staged a very informative and effective conference in Jaipur. A federation can combine all our voices and efforts and be very influential. People were eloquent advocates on behalf of a wide variety of animals and issues. In attendance were esteemed elders, generous patrons, dynamic individuals and groups, and many concerned and enthusiastic young people.
There are strong laws to protect animals in India – it is the implementation that is problematic.
My Opening Address, illustrated with photographs, seemed to be quite well received – they love Christian’s story! As the auditorium was full of animal lovers, this was not surprising. The audience clapped when Christian jumped up on us – and some shed a few tears – it was beautiful!
This is the link to the original and my favourite Youtube clip – as it includes Whitney Houston’s emotive back track I’ll Always Love You.
At the conference there were many dedicated and hard working people (including some interesting foreigners that came to India on holiday and stayed). Many run animal shelters where dogs, donkeys, camels, snakes, birds etc are rescued and cared for. Sessions ranged widely from dealing with the packs of dogs and rabies in communities, bears that have been rescued from a life of “performing” with gypsies, to the huge tracts of land required for elephants that have been “rescued” from miserable lives performing or working.
Listening to many of the speakers made me think deeply about animal rights, and how we use animals selfishly for our own purposes. We farm them cruelly for our food, work them hard, and use them for our “entertainment”.
We can visit animals in the wild and observe them appropriately…we can walk in our national parks full of birds…swim under water in our oceans….visit reputable wildlife sanctuaries, “open air” zoos, and conservancies where vast tracts of land are protected.
Incidentally, behavioural ecologist Justin O’Riain who is currently visiting Australia, has said electrified fencing can reduce the vexed issue of animal/human contact – from the baboons in the suburbs of Cape Town, to deterring lions and elephants from local villages.
We can stay home and watch the most beautifully filmed and educational nature documentaries. We can donate to causes we believe in. Most satisfyingly, on a daily basis we can look after the dogs and cats in our lives – preferably rescued from shelters.”Companion pets” so aptly describes the roles they play in our lives…
Fellow Working for Animals committee member Jeannette and I visited the Camel Rescue Shelter established on the outskirts of Jaipur. Camels and a donkey were recuperating, and a cow was on a drip watched by the anxious owner. It was a reminder of just how tough village life remains for most Indians. While India seems to get easier to visit, and the middle class expands, one can’t forget that for the majority of Indians life remains extremely hard. Many live on the street, or in slums, and life remains precarious. The weather is extreme –hot and cold, monsoonal rains caused flooding in Kashmir (blamed on climate change, deforestation and unsuitable over development), and temperatures I would find unbearable (45!). Overall I love the vitality of Indians and many have a great sense of humour. The new PM Modi seems energetic but it is too early to judge him.
MAC3: I’ve now been asked to show the 2009 documentary A Lion Called Christian at another important conference – the Minding Animals Conference 3 in New Delhi 13th January – 18th January 2015. Minding Animals furthers the development of animal studies internationally and helps to establish legal and moral protections.
After three days of the conference I looked forward to a walk around the attractive City Palace, and dinner at the luxurious Rambagh Palace.
BENGAL TIGERS: I was deeply shocked to find out there were only 1500 Bengal Tigers left in the wild in India. Indians were equally shocked that only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa. I was asked by people at the conference how to protect tigers – and a starting point was this petition on my last blog (sent to me by Francois) which most Indians were not aware of. 96,300 acres of forest are to be cut down in the state of Maharashtra for bamboo and teak – but it includes vital tiger habitat. Please sign the petition and circulate.
UNITED NATIONS: By abolishing our carbon tax Australia should have been embarrassed at the United Nations summit on Climate Change. 300,000 marched in New York and Obama is certainly talking about climate change with much more urgency. On the other hand our government is in denial and we are now on the wrong side of history.
We have no designated Minister for Science and funding for science and innovation is at a 30 year low.
Our PM sidestepped Climate Change to give a banal speech at the United Nations about joining the Coalition against the Islamic State. Our indecent haste to rush to war has “added to” making Australians more of a target to extreme Muslims. Our politicians (and some Murdoch journalists) are still in denial about the repercussions from the 2003 Iraq invasion and are no doubt in danger of making the same mistakes all over again – such as having no exit policy. War has conveniently taken the attention off the government’s inept handling of the budget and I still can’t think of one major initiative that gives me any confidence in the government. Often I’m shocked at their behaviour: like the recent decision to send our asylum seekers to Cambodia for resettlement. Cambodia is one of the worlds poorest nations with an appalling human rights record.
I liked the break in India from our newspapers…the conservatives in the Murdoch press here are still blaming “ the Left”, the ALP budget deficit, or imaginary “bias” at the ABC.
EBOLA: Isn’t this an emergency the world is inexplicitly slow to respond to?
HONG KONG: The world is admiring the bravery of your citizens as you demonstrate for your democratic rights and we wish you well.
READING: I adored reading Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest memoir and Alice Walker’s unsettling and often funny In Love & Trouble. I find them fascinating individuals but I also enjoyed the more cerebral and interwoven stories in Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell. I’m listening to music by our composer Peter Sculthorpe, who died recently. His collaboration with William Barton on the didgeridoo is hauntingly beautiful.
Looking forward to celebrating WORLD ANIMAL DAY with you all around the world.
CACH, AVAAZ, Tony the Tiger, Action for Angel, Alice Walker, World, Climate Change, Environment, Aboriginal Culture, Animals, Jeffrey Masson, Australia, Edward Snowden, Obama, Institute of Public Affairs, Christian the Lion, Gordon Bennett, Michael Riley etc
June 28, 2014
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.
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.
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: 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
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.
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.
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.
CACH, Tony The Tiger, Birds, Australian Budget, Ross Gittins, Elsa, Art, Daniel Boyd, Faroe Islands, William T Cooper, Neville William Cayley, Christian, Mugie, Jumbo,“Feral” Control, Energy, Climate Change etc
May 25, 2014
CACH: (Campaign Against Canned Hunting). I really believe in this cause, and I think we all have the chance to make a difference. The practice of breeding lion cubs to be petted, then shot by “hunters” horrifies all reasonable people.
See this very recent educational presentation video from CACH and we can help by circulating it as widely as possible.
On the video they have a Call to Action on how we can contribute. I gathered from reading the CACH website that they seem to hold little hope for appropriate action from the South African Government. But we are still urged to contact the South African Government and their representatives in our countries. Despite their growing unpopularity (we all heard the boos at the Nelson Mandela service), President Zuma and the ANC were recently re-elected.
This quote from President Zuma is chilling (and untrue): “compassion for animals is “unAfrican””.
CACH is also very concerned for lions in the wild – and Chris Mercer from CACH has confirmed for me that there may be only approximately 20,000 lions left in the wild in Africa. Owners of lion farms kill adult wild lions to capture the cubs to prevent in-breeding and replace depressed animals in their lion farms.
There were 2 petitions in circulation (Care2 and Change. Org) to have lions listed as Endangered in the USA, so let’s hope the USA Government acts. This would act as a disincentive to would-be American hunters. Apparently many of you signed the petitions and there was an observable lift in numbers – so many thanks!
CACH is by-passing World Lion Day in August and putting considerable energy and global organisation into World Animal Day on Oct 4th. CACH will soon be listing ethical travel agents on their website. People around the world are contacting travel agents and explaining how cub petting and walking with lions is often synonymous with canned hunting. I too will be contacting travel agencies about this and explaining how tourists would love to be contributing to the greater good for wildlife – and not, often unwittingly, being part of the problem. I think it is important to be able to recommend reputable wildlife sanctuaries as an alternative.
VOLUNTEERS: Quite a few people ask me where they could volunteer to help and work with animals. I usually recommend inquiring about helping animals locally – at animal shelters, and to Google animal organisations. Perhaps ask your local vets. I have tried to list many reputable animal organisations on this blog over the years.
Alison Lee Rubie who I met at the Sydney Global March For Lions has forwarded me a link from Facebook for Volunteers in Africa Beware listing reputable wildlife sanctuaries. If you don’t have Facebook, you can access the list here. Well-intentioned volunteers have also been unwittingly used by the lion farmers.
CHEETAHS: See this cute cheetah video. I have a friend Barry who is obsessed with cheetahs, so this is for him especially.
The vote earlier last week was adjourned and is now scheduled for next week May 28th. Louisiana residents are URGENTLY asked to contact your House Members!
One has to wonder just what sort of influence Tony the Tiger’s cruel “owner” has?
FAROE ISLANDS: The Faroe Islands are an autonomous country within Denmark. These photographs are sickening. Copy and paste the photos and petition into an email and forward to others to show your support against this absolutely appalling annual slaughter of whales, dolphins and porpoises. It happened in August last year so it will probably happen again at this time. We don’t care if it is a local tradition going back centuries, and what sort of bloody “right of passage” is it for young men?
BIRDS: I have to admit I’m getting more and more interested in birds and I know many of you are. We grew up with a Neville Henry Cayley painting, and last year Penny Olsen published Cayley and Son: The Life and Art of Neville Henry Cayley and Neville William Cayley. This book looks at the lives and work of this father and son and demonstrates the generational changes in attitudes to natural history, conservation, national ornithology, bird art, Australian publishing and commercial art.
Neville William Cayley wrote and illustrated the hugely successful 1931 book What Bird Is That? Unfortunately, and unfairly, both father and son died impecunious. I am advised by my friend Madeleine that the best Australian bird apps are Michael Morcombe’s Australian Birds which is easy to use, has all the calls, distributions, list making and the text and illustrations from his book. Pizzey and Knight is a more expensive app but has more options. I love the way that bird sightings and locations are now immediately registered, making estimates of populations etc. much more accurate.
Penny Olsen has also written the recently published An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William. T. Cooper. I heard an interview with Penny and William and apparently David Attenborough has described him as the “best ornithological illustrator alive”. He grew up near Newcastle, NSW where I too enjoyed growing up surrounded by the bush. His paintings are excellent, and while his background landscapes are atmospheric, they can be for me, a little florid. His work certainly puts the birds (and other animals) in context with their habitats and food sources etc.
EXTINCTION: There is an ongoing debate here – and no doubt in many other parts of the world, about the extinction of so many species. Some argue about saving “key” species – The Eastern Barred Bandicoot and koalas may be “out” for example, but bees are “in” because of their essential pollination. Incidentally, 30% of our bees have been wiped out by drought and bushfires, although Australia is still mite-free at this stage.
Our beautiful Kakadu National Park in northern Australia, has been described as a biodiversity “basket case”. We have lost 90% of our small native animals and about 100 marsupial species are at risk. Various introduced species or “pests” are usually blamed, including cane toads who are continuing their march across northern Australia, and the usual suspect, feral cats.
FERAL CONTROL: People are now beginning to question the cruelty with which these “feral” “pests” – cats, foxes, rabbits, pigs, dogs etc are controlled or eradicated. They are often poisoned and die agonising deaths. Dr. Clive A. Marks has written an important article: How much suffering is OK when it comes to pest control? He questions why cruelty to “feral” animals remains largely sidelined in the clash between conservation and animal welfare over “control” of these animals.
I especially object to the vilification of cats who are always photographed in this context snarling – who would not snarl under the circumstances? It is hardly their fault if they were introduced to deal with the plague proportions of rats…….
CATS: Meanwhile, some other cats are laughing all the way to the bank! Maru has had 175 million monetised views and Grumpy Cat will soon be starring in his own feature film and has his own agent. William Braden’s marvellous French cinema spoof Henri le chat noir has been viewed more than 15 million times and earned more than $US25,000.
Deb sent me the most wonderful collection of vintage photographs of celebrities and I have reproduced three here. They are mostly not studio or posed photographs, or paparazzi – just celebrities with each other, and often an interesting cross-generational mix of some of the most dazzling or interesting stars.
MEDIA: I have the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning, but it is so slim these days and there has recently been even more sackings of at least 30 photographers. I have to confess that I now buy Murdoch’s The Daily Telegraph and The Australian on my afternoon walk. Despite their brazenly partisan conservative views, they are undoubtedly meatier. The Daily Telegraph is a trashier tabloid which can be fun – and is also more likely to have photographs of animals and wildlife exhibitions etc that I can use on my blog. The Australian remains obsessed with the opposition ALP and long past sins – a pity they did not subject our PM Abbott and his mere 3 slogans to any scrutiny while in opposition.
It is fascinating watching the Murdoch journalists now beginning to turn on this unpopular government and actually doing their job examining the policies and broken promises. It is getting harder to defend the indefensible.
The Letters to the Editor in both Murdoch papers are often shockingly cold hearted and completely lacking in any compassion for…humanity.
I did love the account of the Murdoch divorce in the March Vanity Fair – his mother (yes, she died at 103 and was rather marvellous) warned him about the Wendi Dengs of the world. What an incorrigible opportunist Tony Blair appears to be.
ENERGY: Australian households are being conned over electricity. Not the carbon tax! It is the power of the fossil fuel industry and “gold plating” (where unnecessary poles and wires are built) that is affecting our electricity costs. Peak demand is actually falling. Many people face “energy poverty” – with 10% of their disposable income spent on energy. Winter is coming with additional heating costs, but we have actually been having the most lovely warm and sunny weather.
Storage of solar energy in batteries is hopefully going to be developed soon which will de-link people off the grid.
Our Treasurer recently attacked wind farms and he particularly referred to the wind turbines at Lake George (on the way to Canberra) which I have also criticised as a blight on a rather beautiful landscape. I confess I think wind farms should be located where they don’t ruin a great view….
There has just been a victory for a local community in the Northern Rivers of NSW with the suspension of gas drilling at a well. The company, Metgasco, apparently “misled” the public and “did not consult” with the community. Social media helped build and galvanise an effective if unlikely alliance of landowners, locals, and environmentalists.
The current low price for iron ore and coal (especially low grade coal), will hopefully make it not viable to develop some new mines, and they will become “stranded assets”. Deutsche Bank have just announced that they will not be funding the expansion of the coal port at Abbot Point,Queensland, ostensibly over the dangers to the Great Barrier Reef from the dredge spoils.
CLIMATE CHANGE: I find it fascinating that the climate change deniers have been squealing that they are treated “unfairly” by the media. They have been amazingly successful in the debate although virtually unable to produce any credible evidence to back up their arguments. This is what happened with the tobacco industry and their lobbyists (some of the very same people) which caused many many unnecessary deaths by warding off any action against smoking for decades.
We can’t expect the 97% of scientists that agree that global warming is happening to “sell” the proposition – that should be the job of our political and community leaders.
So it is up to us more than ever to keep emphasising the urgency – and as Annie commented on a recent blog – we live in a very polluted planet regardless…and it is a health issue. In parts of China it is dangerous to breathe the air on certain days and in many other cities around the world. Even in Sydney more people are dying from pollution- related illnesses.
In Australia, rather than earning $4 billion in needed revenue from polluters with the Carbon Tax, the government wants to abolish it – and reward the polluters with tax payers’ money. Does this make any sense?
My friend Christine recently heard Clive Hamilton discuss his book Earth Masters which is about climate change. I do want to alarm you – he said it is already too late for action!
President Obama is at last speaking up for urgent action. The Republicans are of course not supportive as it is a “threat to the economy”. I thought we lived in a society WITH an economy? Obama has been briefing weather presenters, hoping people will believe them more than politicians or scientists.
Black bears usually have 2 cubs. So it was very exciting when people in northern New Hampshire spotted a bear with 5 cubs. A photographer, I presume to be Tom Sears, waited patiently for over six weeks until he managed to photograph them. He could not believe it the following year when the family emerged after hibernation and he could take such a rare family portrait again.
LION DOCUMENTARIES: Recently the documentary Martin Clunes & A Lion Called Mugie was shown on UK television. Mugie was the first lion returned to Kora in Kenya after George Adamson’s death in 1989. As The Guardian commented, Martin Clunes is certainly no David Attenborough and seems to have no natural affinity with animals. It ends very badly – with Mugie tragically killed by hyenas. It was great however to see some of the footage of Kora, especially some images of Christian. I was reminded just how dangerous Christian’s return to the wild in 1970 was, and I did wonder if George Adamson would have taken a different approach to Mugie’s rehabilitation. I did think it was discourteous (putting it mildly) that footage of us with Christian in London and the famous reunion in Kenya with him in 1971 was included in the documentary, but we were not even identified!
Also recently shown on Australian television was ELSA, The Lioness That Changed the World made in 2011. I loved all the old footage used, especially of Elsa. She did illustrate for the world that, like Christian, an emotional connection was possible with humans, and that every animal is unique. The book Born Free was translated into 25 languages. Again I thought there was a certain amount of rewriting of history or a shift of emphasis.
Elsa’s documentary seemed to me to imply that George Adamson’s camp at Kora in Kenya was established to rehabilitate Boy, one of the lions used in the filming of Born Free, and who was recovering from injury. Christian seemed to just turn up from London! In fact Kora was allotted to George Adamson by the Kenyan Government primarily for Christian’s rehabilitation, and paid for through the success of the two documentaries which starred Christian. This was thanks to Bill Travers,Virginia McKenna and Morningstar Productions who made the two documentaries. Despite the huge success of Born Free Joy Adamson did not give George any money towards his projects. Boy was the adult male lion conveniently available for George Adamson to build a pride around Christian. George in fact described Kora as a monument to Christian – not Boy.
For the record, Christian’s initial introduction to the wild at Kora in 1970 was entirely overseen by George Adamson. Christian was very young and inexperienced. He had to survive his introduction to Boy who finally accepted him, and negotiate the wild lions in the area. We first met Tony Fitzjohn, now Field Director for the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, on our final visit to see Christian in 1972, and Tony was of invaluable assistance to George and his lions.
ELEPHANTS: Mark Shand, a well known supporter of elephant causes especially through Elephant Family, sadly died recently after an accident.
There is a recent book by John Sutherland called JUMBO The Unauthorised Biography of A Victorian Sensation. Jumbo’s mother was killed in the Sudan and he was taken as a young calf to Europe, ending up as the star attraction in the London Zoo in the 1860s where he and his keeper Matthew Scott became alcoholics! Jumbo’s story is both disturbing and fascinating. He was bought by P.T. Barnum for $10,000 to be part of The Greatest Show On Earth in the USA. Jumbo seemed happier in the US as there were 31 other elephants in Barnum’s travelling menagerie. Jumbo was tragically killed in 1885. He was the template for Walt Disney’s Dumbo, and I still have my Dumbo ornament!
DANIEL BOYD: Congratulations to Daniel Boyd for winning the 2014 prestigious Bulgari Art Award. This painting references a found photograph of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Daniel’s great great grandfather was captured and brought to Australia as a slave to work in the cane fields, like many others. It is a largely untold and unacknowledged history. It is a quite mesmerisingly beautiful painting and technically brilliant.
In 2008 I staged an exhibition Lines in the Sand: Botany Bay Stories from 1770 which examined the arrival of Captain Cook in Australia in 1770 and then the First Fleet in 1788, through colonial material and primarily contemporary indigenous artists. Daniel is one of the most talented and interesting commentators on the Eurocentric perspectives of Australian history and his installation and paintings were a major contribution to my exhibition.
AUSTRALIA: We have finally had our budget delivered from the new government and they have shown their true colours. They have broken many election promises and hit the most needy the hardest while insulating the wealthiest. The budget was foreshadowed in the Commission of Audit and do read Ross Gittins response to that here. The dystopian view of these extreme economic rationalists is of a “harsher, less caring world, where daily life was more cut throat, where the gap between rich and poor widened more rapidly and where the proportion of households falling below the poverty line increased each year”.
As Gittins, the son of Salvation Army officers also says “The report fits with the wry observation “The rich need more money as an incentive and the poor need less money as an incentive”.
The book Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty is getting worldwide attention – although I’m hardly surprised post the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It illustrates that “progressive inequality is inherent in modern capitalism” with the remedy a return to steep progressive taxation and taxes on capital through inheritance taxes etc.
The Australian Government is arguing that it inherited a budget “debt and deficit” “crisis” or “emergency”. Most agree this is largely confected, although there are undoubtedly middle to long term budgetry problems and sustainability to be addressed.
However FOR THE RECORD, with the ALP (the previous government), Australia survived the GFC better than virtually every other country and did not go into recession. This incoming government inherited an economy with a triple AAA credit rating, record low interest rates and inflation, the third lowest debt in the world, and low unemployment.
The previous government did think big and spend on a National Broadband Network, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and attempted to reform the scandalously inequitable education funding. I agree that much of this was not properly costed.
The downturn in the resources boom is a major factor in our present budget situation and the “middle class welfare” the previous conservative Howard Government used to buy votes, spending with “epic profligacy”. Unfortunately this was matched by the incoming ALP Rudd Government.
See more of my Australia rave and some back up statistics here.
A disturbing article in The Monthly The Abbott Club May 2014 details how Tony Abbott has surrounded himself with rich, older businessman. He depends on them for advice, and several are tasked with conducting key reviews. These people have no idea about the lives of ordinary citizens and represent only the business big end of town. Several of them are avowed climate change deniers – Dick Warburton for example has been given the job of reviewing the Renewable Energy Target!
So the budget was predictably mean, unfair, narrow and littered with broken promises. See Ross Gittins for his very fair summary of the budget which gives credit – and criticism where due… “the truth is most of us have been left unscathed…only those right at the bottom of the ladder have been hit hard”. Low-income families on benefits will lose as much as 10% of their incomes, an Australian earning three times the average wage will lose 0.9%, while a childless couple on $360,000 will lose nothing!
See this follow up article by Ross Gittins on the budget which seems to be getting even more criticism as the details are closely examined. In addition the Prime Minister and Treasurer are selling it to a cynical public very badly.
I am particularly worried about what will happen to some young people who are already facing high unemployment levels and will have NO benefits whatsoever – a recipe for homelessness and a crime wave. The States were swindled unexpectedly and without warning and have to find $80 billion to fund Health and Education. The government intends building more roads rather than public transport, and supports the fossil fuel industry, particularly the coal-fuelled power sector, at the expense of renewable energy.
Unforgivably, climate change action has effectively been halted with big cuts to research and renewable energy which will make further investment difficult, and will set us back decades.
The Prime Minister, never popular in the polls, is even more unpopular, and it is one of the worst received budgets ever. Students, who have been docile for decades are protesting nearly daily at changes that will make tertiary education at least twice as expensive, and similar to the inequitable “”two tier” system in the USA.
My sister and I – with up to 10,000 others, attended the March in May in Sydney which was full of mostly young, bright, angry people who despise this government, but also don’t trust the ALP or the mainstream media. The Daily Telegraph described us as “ferals” and “delinquents”!
MAIL: Thanks to Deb, Maura, Sylvia, Melissa, Madeleine, Lindy and others for sending images and information. I love the emails that keep coming thankyou…about Christian, about your animals (especially cats), families and lives etc. Hi to Tiger aged 7 making her own Christian-based iMovie. Yui in Japan thought he didn’t like animals until he read Christian’s story and now wants a pet. Also from Japan, Rei tells me he is very against whaling – and the Japanese have resumed whaling already.
I haven’t forgotten about the world at large: both sides now seem as bad each other in Syria; the worrying future of Ukraine; missing school girls in Nigeria; the loss of many miners in Turkey; catastophic floods in the Balkans with a huge displacement of people, the risk of disease, and all the unexploded landmines from the 1990s; a coup in Thailand – the 22nd since 1932; dissidents disappearing in China with the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square coming up; and the corrupt Congress Party thrown out decisively in India.
ART GALLERY OF NSW: The exhibition Afghanistan Hidden Treasures from the National Museum in Kabul is currently in Sydney at the AGNSW until 15th June. It is full of absolutely exquisite items and a reminder of another side of Afghanistan and their rich cultural history that we have perhaps forgotten or overlooked in the last few years.
Christian, Lions, Australia, NSW Bushfires, Climate Change, Politics, Great Barrier Reef, USA, Espionage, Sylvia Ross, Birds, Art etc
November 12, 2013
This is another still from my footage of our 1972 visit to Christian in Kenya, which was the last time we saw him. Some of you have inquired about my short, unedited home movie. In The Final Farewell on YouTube you can see equivalent (and more professional) footage from the same visit, while mine is just a little more close up and loving.
This, surprisingly, was the last time I was in Africa and I’d love to go back soon. I later discovered India and visited many times, including staging exhibitions and cultural exchanges in India on behalf of the Australian Government.
LIONS: You can sign the AVAAZ petition here to ask President Zuma in South Africa to protect lions by banning the trade in lion bones. There is of course no evidence these these “potions” have any efficacy. This trade, like ivory, especially to Asia, just has to be stopped and urgently. Depressingly, a subspecies of black rhinos, the Western Black rhino has recently been declared “officially extinct”.
NSW FIRES: Thanks to many of you who were concerned about the bushfires around Sydney. They are terrifying and to date, it is unbelievable that no-one has died. The fire fighters – many of them volunteers, are heroic. Some fires are still burning and new ones have broken out, but seem “contained” for now. I have a National Park at the top of my garden, and many many people will be on alert all of this summer. Apparently people are better prepared about evacuating their pets than they are about themselves. Horses are a logistical nightmare to evacuate quickly, and they can smell the fires well ahead of humans. Organisations like WIRES do an amazing job of treating and caring for injured wild animals.
Christiana Figueres, the UN Climate Change Negotiator, stated that extreme weather and the frequency and intensity of bush fires are a result of human induced global warming, and our PM responded by saying she was “talking through her hat”. The most common causes of fires are fallen power lines, and arsonists. New suburbs have always been spreading into bushland, but hopefully tighter regulations and more fire resistant houses will offer more protection in the future.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Apparently the extreme weather is, once again, making Australians more concerned about climate change, and the government will appear more and more out of step – with the world. Our thoughts and sympathies for the many people in the Philippines and region who have died or lost everything because of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst typhoons on record. The scale of the catastrophe is still unfolding, with at least up to 9 million people effected.
With Rupert Murdoch owning 65% of our media, and the media exposure of climate deniers like the ubiquitous Andrew Bolt, it is hard to move the discourse beyond “is climate change real?”, to “what do we do about it?”. There is a very good article News Goes Feral by Robert Manne on Rupert Murdoch and his insidious influence in The Monthly. An analysis of articles and reports about climate change in the Murdoch media indicates very clearly scandalously unbalanced reporting. Ex PM John Howard has been in England addressing a group of climate sceptics. Howard obviously lied to us when he pretended to support action on climate change, when he was trying to win the election in 2007. Now, rather than believe scientists, and after reading only one widely discredited book (by Nigella Lawson’s father!), he says he would prefer to rely on his instinct, which told him predictions of doom were exaggerated!
The first budget cuts by the government were bodies concerned with climate change and science, no specific Minister of Science was appointed, and 1/4 of the scientists at the pre-eminent CSIRO science and research institution have been among the first of many expected job losses.
Although in danger of being “wedged” by the government over climate change, and held responsible for high electricity charges, the Labor Party has affirmed support for a carbon trading emissions scheme. The government never seems to be able to produce a reputable scientist or economist to endorse their alternative Direct Action plan where we tax payers pay the polluters to pollute, and presumably, to encourage them to stop. This scheme will now hopefully be examined for its likely effectiveness – or as widely suspected, will be found to be completely inadequate, which is probably the original intention.
Our current bi-partisan target of a 5% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 is widely regarded as inadequate, which should apparently be around 15 -25%. Although we are a small economy and population, we are the 3rd highest polluter per capita in the world, and we dig up and export so much coal.
I think Australia is now embarrassingly on the wrong side of history over climate change, and the government is not even bothering to send a Minister to the international climate change negotiations in Warsaw. Our Minister of the Environment, who seems to consult Wikepedia for advice rather than scientists, cannot attend as he is so busy “repealing the carbon tax”!!!! It is very Monty Pythonesque and would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
GET UP! The SYDNEY DAY OF CLIMATE ACTION is on Sunday 17th November in Prince Albert Park, Sydney at 11am – see full details here. This protest is Australia wide, and I hope many people attend to demonstrate our concern and dissatisfaction with a government that does not listen to the conclusions based on research and examination of empirical data, by impartial scientists.
POLITICS (AUS): Our PM recently invited several leading Murdoch journalists to dinner – reputedly as a “thank you” for their efforts helping him get elected, and Abbott recently dined with Alan Jones – one of the worst shock jocks. Apparently Murdoch also wants his “pound of flesh”, and would like the government to make it easier for him to acquire Channel Ten.
Even Coalition supporters are surprised by the new government’s secrecy, lack of transparency, and disregard for accountability. Abbott, who has only spoken in slogans for the last three years, seems to be having difficulty stringing whole sentences together. While hungry for publicity in Opposition on a daily basis, the government is refusing to give information on nearly anything! In comparison, the now Opposition have three very formidable, reasonable and professional spokespeople in Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen.
For a scathing assessment of Tony Abbott and why many people are very worried about him, see Victoria Rollison’s Open Letter to Laurie Oakes. Oakes is one of several journalists complicit in the Labor Party election loss, and Coalition win.
The media is getting restless and angry with the government for starving them of material, and with parliament resuming this week, it will not be so easy to hide. Wealthy Clive Palmer finally won his seat in Parliament, and through a few senators in his newly formed party will have a balance of power. He is a rogue conservative who makes outlandish accusations, and should prove to be a headache for the government.
After the hottest summer, winter and decade on record, this year many plants have flowered at least four weeks early. Complex and fragile natural cycles are consequently getting interrupted. I love the grevilleas especially, and at this time of the year all over Sydney one can see colourful patches of the mauve/violet Jacaranda trees.
GREAT BARRIER REEF: There will be an early test for the government in regard to the Great Barrier Reef, which UNESCO has listed as already “in danger”. The Federal and State conservative governments seem to regard environmental regulations and protections as just an obstacle to business. Decisions are expected from these governments in relation to 5 new or expanded coal ports along the Queensland coast. The subsequent dredging (and dumping) will put the Reef at even greater risk. The nearby Galilee Basin holds so much coal that if it is mined, it alone could push global temperatures up past 2 degrees. This is also true of the Tar Sands in Canada where the transportation to the Alaskan coast (en route to China) also puts this area in great danger.
There are many factors threatening the health and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, including the destructive crown of thorns star fish, and it is inconceivable that we let it be destroyed. A recent book The Reef by Iain McCalman, is a “passionate history” which includes the dangers the reef posed to early navigators such as Captain Cook, the formation of the coral, and the future the reef faces.
USA: It was almost a relief to know that Obama was spying on world leaders like Angela Merkel, and not just us ordinary citizens. Hacking into Google and Yaho0! has angered many people. There seems to be no end to Edward Snowden’s fascinating revelations. Australia is part of a US-led global espionage network, and we are spying on our neighbours. While this should not surprise anyone, countries in the region have expressed appropriate indignation. The Abbott Government’s relationship with Indonesia is particularly uneasy at the moment, and their initial attempts at diplomacy described as “inept”.
Congratulations to the extraordinary Serena Williams who had a 78-4 win-loss record in 2013, won 11 titles, and earned $US12,385,572. Unfortunately up to 50% of Americans are not so lucky and are living with “financial insecurity”. One in five children live in poverty. In Australia we are staggered by America’s low minimum wages. The esteemed Joseph E Stiglitz has said America is a “rich country with poor people” He wrote an excellent article in the New York Times earlier in the year titled Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery.
The $20 billion cost of the Tea Party-led shut down of the US Government was an inexcusable waste of money, and trashed their own reputation. Perhaps the Republicans should have put the media spotlight on the many inexcusable teething problems over the introduction of Obamacare, rather than themselves.
WEALTH: 35% of Russian wealth is in the hands of 110 billionaires, which is the highest level of inequality in the world. Putin was recently named by Forbes magazine as the world’s most powerful man – through the power of the office he holds I gather and the largesse he can distribute. Some are predicting however that Russia’s economy is faltering and this will change everything.
The median wealth of adult Australians is the world’s highest at $233,504 (US$219,500), although the Swiss beat us when measured by average wealth. In Australia the richest 10% have gained almost 50% of the growth in income over the past three decades. In America the richest 1% gained almost half the growth in individual income over the same period.
The New York Times recently had an article with the headline: Rich People Just Care Less. Apparently research has found the wealthy to be more selfish, less empathetic, less generous, and less compassionate. It is an interesting and thought-provoking article, especially about what this social and economic inequality means for the future. Americans however, do have a great tradition of philanthropy, which is, sadly, not very evident in Australia.
MIDDLE EAST: Poor Secretary of State John Kerry zig zagging around the Middle East with such volatile issues to negotiate: Syrian chemical weapons, Iran’s nuclear future, Mursi’s trial in Egypt and much else no doubt. Israel’s decision to build 1500 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem is extremely unhelpful to the “peace” negotiations with the Palestinians. I/3 of Syrians have left their country and we won’t forget those images of Syrians finally escaping from their neighbourhoods where they had been imprisoned. Some had resorted to eating cats, dogs and grass. Australian soldiers are finally leaving Afghanistan which has cost us $7.5 billion, the deaths of 40 Australians and many injured, and an unknown number of civilian deaths.
BIRDS: In a recent poll the Fairy Wren was voted Australia’s favourite bird. Magpies and Kookaburras (see images above) were the runners up. I particularly like Kookaburras – they have lots of attitude.
MISC STATS: In Australia: 65% of Queenslanders are overweight or obese; many of our trainee apprentices are illiterate and enumerate – as are a truly alarming % of Tasmanians; 25% of jockeys, and 40% of apprentice riders are now women; 30% of women in their 20s have tattoos.
SHADOWS: We are all appalled by the level of corruption by some Labor politicians in NSW over the last decades which has been exposed at recent inquires, and should result in criminal prosecutions. Also extremely depressing are inquires here into child abuse in institutions, with the Roman Catholic clergy the principal, but not the only, offenders. The reputation of the church is being fiercely protected ahead of concerns for victims. There are estimates that 50% of Roman Catholic clergy (worldwide) enjoy active consensual sex. So much for celibacy. In Ireland ¼ of Irish women have been abused as children, and 1/3 of men.
This image from the exhibition FERAL by Sylvia Ross (co-exhibiting with Emanuel Raft) shows the beauty of a pigeon, widely considered a pest in Australia. Sylvia Ross is an artist, long time Head of the School of Art (COFA UNSW), social activist and dedicated animal lover.
Sylvia sent me these dog photographs which are amusing.
MAIL: I have been asked lately where to buy the A Lion Called Christian DVD and the best source is via Amazon or Blink Films, and via Amazon for the book. I am encouraging anyone to write and post their animal stories, or their feeling about Christian, on www.alioncalledchristian.com.au. It is my fault that it is not as up to date as it should be and I’m checking back for stories I have overlooked. It will be a marvellous archive of your touching and interesting animal stories.
READING: Ashamed by my confession of my lack of reading last blog, I threw myself into the biggest book I could find – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Often named by people as their favourite book, it was extremely readable, and it provided a very thorough context for what was to happen in Russia in the early 20th century. Anna was a fascinating character beautifully created by Tolstoy, although I could not quite conjure a mental picture of how she looked or her age. I became a little exhausted by the spell of her beauty and her melodramatic life, and I was always quite relieved to read about the duller Levin in the country, thinking about seemingly lost love, farming, labour, the landscape and the seasons. He thought he had “lived well but thought badly”.
QUOTE: Winston Churchill apparently said “A dog looks up to you, a cat looks down at you, but a pig looks at you as an equal”.
ART: The Art Gallery of NSW is currently holding an exhibition entitled America Painting a Nation. I attended the crowded opening and can’t really yet say how successful I think it is as an overview, especially in comparison with the curation of the Australia exhibition in London which has been extensively criticised. America certainly has many superb paintings and I always love seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings especially. I was unexpectedly surprised by a stunning blue painting by Lee Krasner in the exhibition, and I am more attracted to the contemporary American artists.
Edmund Capon, ex Director of the Art Gallery of NSW has hosted a comprehensive three part series The Art of Australia which has just been aired. It illustrates with some of our most interesting art, how art and artists have helped shape Australia’s national identity.
VALE: Recently the Australian art world has lost three important and influential artists: Marea Gazzard; Roy Jackson and John Peart. They were much admired and dearly loved.
BOURKE: I’ve come to Bourke for a few days with a friend, the well-known photographer and fellow conservationist Jon Lewis. Bourke is in a remote corner of NSW, the so called Gateway to the Outback. There are 24 indigenous languages spoken here. I have found it surprisingly attractive, with some beautiful historical buildings, and wide streets and green spaces. Everyone has been very friendly and we are loving it. It is a little strange seeing my name everywhere…..more next blog!