Broken Cats by Britta Jaschinski winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist Award

Broken Cats by Britta Jaschinski. Winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist Award.

The winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year have just been announced. This annual competition is run by London’s Natural History Museum and attracted 42,000 entries from almost 100 countries. A selection of entries tour internationally. Broken Cats by Britta Jaschinski won the Wildlife Photojournalist Award.  The deadness in the faces of these humiliated animals performing in China, reminds me of the depression I saw in the lions bred for canned hunting in the recent documentary Blood Lions. I was horrified by the recent photograph of another animal being dissected in front of school children at a zoo in Denmark – this time a lion.

I suppose my blog is a sort of diary of what I have found interesting – or scary – over the last few weeks. I think most people would find the present times uncertain and this blog articulates many of my worries! In addition to family and friends, I know many of us find great solace in animals: as companion pets; working for their welfare and rights and to protect their habitats; or just for their sheer beauty and company. I always look forward to the Wildlife Photographers Awards touring to Sydney (usually early in the year), and the beauty of most of the photographs is extraordinary – and very contemplative and soothing. The winner of the Wildlife Photograph of this year (below) is both beautiful and rather grisly, and reminds us, as we learnt with Christian the lion and his on-going battle with the local wild lions, life in the wild can be tough!

 A Tale of Two Foxes by Don Gotoski - winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year


A Tale of Two Foxes by Don Gotoski. Winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

While many of you have winter approaching, in Australia our spring, like autumn, can be fleeting, and we have already had summer temperatures of 30+. Native plants like grevilleas and bottle brushes are flowering and gardening is even more of a pleasure. Bush-fire warnings have already begun.  The sea looks inviting – although none of the protection measures suggested recently to protect against sharks convinces me yet.

The Company of Three by Amir Ben-Dov - winner of Birds category, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards

The Company of Three by Amir Ben-Dov. Winner of Birds category, Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

WORLD: I suppose we have all been concerned post GFC that our leaders are failing to properly address both the old fundamental problems and weaknesses in our global economic and financial systems and structures, but also new challenges, transitions and necessary reforms.  There is even more inequality. Most leaders seem to be floundering on most fronts, and some are confronted with the many millions of displaced people at present on the move and overwhelming Europe on a scale unseen in the life times of many. Read my extended view and comments on the Middle East, ISIS, Russia, China, and other anxiety-inducing topics HERE.

Flight of the Scarlet Ibis by Jonathan Jagot, France. Winner of Young Wildlife Photographers 15- 17 years old.

Flight of the Scarlet Ibis by Jonathan Jagot, France. Winner of Young Wildlife Photographers 15- 17 years old.

TECH REVOLUTION: It is obvious that we are going through a technologically driven social and knowledge revolution – apparently this sort of movement happens every 50 – 60 years. The potential for sharing knowledge, education, the global connectivity, the shaping of opinion, the changing of laws etc, is very exciting and transforming.  For various reasons I resist Facebook and I know I miss excellent articles, and more concerning, the dates of protests, or marches in support of animals. It will be so interesting to see the ramifications of this new – and not face to face, changing social interaction.

I love the potential of “citizen science” – from the reporting and data collection on bird populations, to “nodders” who, for example, are at present tracking forest fires in South East Asia online. I also believe in the power of “aggregate voices” – and clickitivism, and some of us have contributed to the success of some animal campaigns via this blog.

Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger

I have to say, despite efforts by so many people, the campaign to free Tony the Tiger has so far failed, and his continuing imprisonment haunts me.  He is now 15 years old. Dee de Santis tells me she visited Tony twice last month. This must be so heart breaking and I admire Dee enormously for her commitment to Tony. She says “Sorry there are no updates concerning his case, his petition remains open”. If you haven’t already, sign THIS PETITION to help free Tony.

By the way, it was a very successful March for Rhinos, Elephants and Lions on a recent lovely sunny day.  We were addressed by Mark Pearson, the first member in the world for an Animal Justice Party.

Other implications of the internet concern espionage and cyber warfare. Apparently the Chinese are very active hackers politically, militarily and economically.  State-backed theft of Western Intellectual properties is on a huge ‘industrial” scale and is bankrupting many companies.

But some people are also warning about the “undemocratic” power and monopolies of Facebook, Google and Amazon etc – so called “economic choke points”.

Edward Snowden informed us that as of last week, in Australia “everything you do online is being tracked and retained for two years”.

Aurora australis from Bells Beach, Victoria. Photograph by Pete James Photography.

Aurora australis from Bells Beach, Victoria. Photograph by Pete James Photography.

AUSTRALIA: We have had great news in Australia!  A cloud has lifted. Tony Abbott was thrown out in a surprise coup and Malcolm Turnbull is our new Prime Minister.

In his challenge for the leadership Turnbull said Tony Abbott “has not been capable of providing the economic leadership the nation requires”. Abbott was very unpopular – he broke election promises, he was inept and gaffe-prone, and tried to inflict unfair policies.  His world view was very out of date, like another dinosaur, Stephen Harper in Canada who has also just been thrown out.  Harper has been replaced as PM by the refreshing Justin Trudeau.

In The Saturday Paper editorial Abbott was described as the “worst prime minister ever”. See – it wasn’t just me!  Read my extended view and comments on Australian politics HERE.

ADANI COAL MINE: Despite the enchantment with our new PM, the government still has many distasteful policies, and has been especially shocking in relation to action on climate change. The government has just given permission for the huge Adani coal mine to go ahead in Queensland.  Immediately the Australian Conservation Foundation announced a nation-wide People Climate March – see here for details in Australian cities.  In Sydney we meet in The Domain at 1pm on Sunday 29th November.  This mine just cannot go ahead as it will be an environmental disaster.  Coal will be a “stranded asset” and several banks have already refused to finance the mine. As for the Indians without power who are supposedly the beneficiaries, they are off the grid, and domestic solar panels with battery storage is a much cheaper and cleaner option.

A Whale of a Mouthful by Michael AW, Australia. Winner, Underwater category Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

A Whale of a Mouthful by Michael Aw, Australia. Winner of Underwater category, Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

SHARKS: Eight Great White sharks have recently been tagged to try and understand the “spike” in shark sightings and attacks along the 2000 kilometres of our NSW coast. While those sharks have now scattered far away, there are still plenty of other shark sightings close to shore. The recent Sydney Shark Summit discussed netting (which some Sydney beaches have) and other physical and visual barriers, electric deterrents, physical aerial surveillance, and sonar, satellite and acoustic technologies. At this stage none are 100% safe – but are preferable to culling.

A recent report by researchers at the University of Adelaide states that warmer and more acidic oceans will lead to a food change collapse with large ocean animals like sharks, the most vulnerable.

Koala

KOALAS: Many of our koalas are suffering from a chlamydia infection that can result in infertility, blindness and death, and there is an alarming proposal to dramatically cull koala populations in the hope of eliminating the disease. Koalas “moderately” sick could be treated with antibiotics, but the others would be euthanised. Apparently the population would recover in 5-10 years. Koala populations also face the threat of deforestation, habitat reduction, and the dangers of cars and dogs.

SOUL SEARCHING: In Australia we have lately had to confront some very frightening statistics and home truths. There has recently been a spate of deaths of women through domestic violence which has illustrated the horrifying extent of this with one in four women having been the victim of domestic violence. The government has just allotted what seems to be a lot of money to fight DV, and while it has been welcomed, in general, funding to many essential front-line services such as Legal Aid, the Courts, shelters etc has been reduced. Drug addiction, and we are in an ice epidemic, is also under resourced. We have just had Mental Health Week which again highlighted the failure to adequately deal with the extent of mental health problems within the community.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has continued to reveal the equally horrifying extent of this abuse. The Catholic Church has just described its own history regarding child abuse in Australia as “shameful, corrosive and complicit”.

This treatment of women and children has finally made more Australians also outraged about the women and children (and men) we imprison on our off-shore detention centres.

A 15 year old boy shot and killed a police worker here recently which has heightened the debate around terrorism, the tightening of security laws, and the radicalisation of youth. The new PM’s much more moderate and considered language (compared to Abbott’s fear mongering) has led to a more productive cooperation with Muslim leaders. We did not need the divisive Geert Wilders, the ultra right MP from Holland, to come to Australia to support the formation of an Anti Islam party.

Rebellious teenagers, especially from Middle Eastern backgrounds could feel marginalised in Australia – because they are. They do not feel they belong here, and they could find ISIS attractive – until they get there I imagine. Parents, church figures and schools often have very little influence on youth going through these stages – that’s the point of rebellion! The most insightful and realistic article I have read about teenagers and the “radicalisation” of Muslim youth was by Hussain Nadim in the SMH – see it here.

Casual champion Johnathan Thurston returning home with the League Trophy. Photograph by Brendan Esposito, sourced from The Herald.

Captain of the Cowboys champion Johnathan Thurston returning home with the League Trophy. Photograph by Brendan Esposito, sourced from The Herald.

Racism in sport has also been a huge debate here. It is interesting the role sport plays in the national psyche, especially in the absence of an as yet defined Australian national identity. The Rugby League Final (NRL) was thrilling – a match none of us will forget. Both teams were led by charismatic Indigenous captains and the NRL is about to be dominated by Aboriginal, Islander, and Pacific Islander players. In comparison, while the Australian Football League (AFL) also has many Indigenous star players, a champion Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, was booed by opposing teams and ended his illustrious career on a depressing note. He has lately also had to endure racist insults on social media for his promotional role with a leading department store. Adam was an articulate and outspoken Australian of the Year in 2014, and I hope he plays an important public leadership role in the future….

Thanks for reaching the end of an over-due and over-long post.  I appreciate your interest and patience.

Snow leopards at Brookfield Zoo - Only 4000 to 6500 remain in the wild. Photograph by Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society.

Snow leopards at Brookfield Zoo – Only 4000 to 6500 remain in the wild. Photograph by Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society.

VEOLIA ENVIRONMENT WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2011: I love this annual exhibition of Wildlife photography which travels widely. It is now at the Australian Museum, Sydney until 18 March 2012.  We are reminded how beautiful nature is, but fragile, endangered and at risk, like these pelicans rescued from the oil spill in Louisiana.

Photo by Daniel Beltrá Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

Photo by Daniel Beltrá Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 Winner

THE WORLD:  What a difference a few weeks or even a day can make.  More people killed by their own governments in the Middle East,  the illegal invasion of Iraq over and US troops withdrawn, protests begun in Russia, and the unknown future of North Korea and the region with the death of Kim Jung-Il in North Korea. Those crocodile tears!  But the EU are still unable to solve their problems and ease global financial uncertainty.

DURBAN:  One hundred and ninety four countries including the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters DID sign up to a 2015/20 agreement of sorts in Durban at the United Nations Climate conference.  Emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production grew by 5.9% last year to a record high of more than 9 billion tonnes of carbon.  There are reasons for some optimism however – even if driven by factors such as unsafe urban air pollution levels.  China is positioned to benefit most in the renewable energy economies.  9.6% of Australian energy comes from renewables, but there are plans to export even more coal, enough to drive carbon emissions above world targets.

EU:  If it wasn’t so serious, it has been fascinating learning more about the EU – such as the dominance of Germany with France playing second fiddle.  How marginalised could the UK become and what are the implications?  Germany has obviously benefited most from the EU – it has been a good export market for them, and  if low on profitability, it has provided good employment as they recovered from their reunification.  The Germans don’t like the debt of their profligate neighbours and do not want to compensate them for their perceived laziness.  Other smaller EU countries have found it harder to benefit.  Suddenly there are echoes of their not so recent wars and histories, like the German fear of hyperinflation from the Weimar Republic days.

Photo by Jack Salzke Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

Photo by Jack Salzke Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

PUTIN:  Good to see that posturing Putin put on notice and an Arab Spring come to Russia although it is a potentially very dangerous confrontation – Putin is a very formidible opponent.

MIDDLE EAST:  My friend emails from Egypt, in one long sentence: “The Muslim Brotherhood will be good for the general population and give them again a sense of dignity after having none under Mubarak, they are really only interested in business and money so their religious fervour will be curbed by that, the army will not leave but act in the shadow to give an impression of a civilian state, it might be a slight improvement, but the liberals and artists and intellectuals, the ones who started the revolution will in fact gain nothing and might lose again.”  In recent days however, protesters, including women, are being beaten and shot at and killed by their government.

In Tunisia there has been a successful election and the Opposition installed, but unpopular leaders are hanging on in Bahrain and Yemen. In Syria Assad is living in a parallel universe accepting no responsibility for the killing of his citizens, and in his interview with Barbara Walters he said words to the effect “No ruler would shoot his own people”. It has become a family tradition.  I suppose the big news is the US troops leaving Iraq but one can only feel sad – hundreds of thousands of deaths, a trillion dollars, sectarian violence and an unstable future.  A warrant for the arrest of the Vice President was not a good start to “democratic” Iraq.  Like many others around the world I marched against the illegal invasion of Iraq, but it gives no satisfaction to still believe we were right!

I read in the SMH 20 Bedouin communities between Jerusalem and Jericho are to be relocated (again) close to a municipal rubbish dump on the edge of Jerusalem.  The report said this had been described as part of a strategic plan for a ring of Jewish settlements that would cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and would make a contiguous Palestine state impossible.

I hope it is a reason for optimism that Hamas in their rapprochement with Fatah, while still not acknowledging the state of Israel, has said it is shifting it’s emphasis from”armed struggle to non-violent resistance”.  Hopefully this means no more rockets and mortars will be fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.  550 more Palestinians have been released as promised from Israeli jails.

Iran is angry that the  Hamas leadership in exile are relocating from Syria, and have consequently cut their funding – an example of the many changing scenarios and allegiances in the Middle East.

Obama, Mr Cool, has seen his approval rating among US Jewish voters fall from 78% to 54%.  Luckily for him the Republican Presidential candidates to date have been a circus.

Photo by Hui Yu Kim, Veolia Environment Wildlife Photograph of the Year 2011

Photo by Hui Yu Kim, Veolia Environment Wildlife Photograph of the Year 2011

UK RIOTS:  It was interesting to read a report into the riots – the background was a pervasive sense of injustice, and for some this was economic, with a lack of money, jobs or opportunities, but also a significant factor behind the riots was a “widespread anger and frustration at the way police engage with the communities”.

AUSTRALIAN ISSUES:  The PM survived a tough year with a hung parliament (described by some as episodes of Survivor).  Just as abysmal polls rise slightly, the unhelpful distraction of Gillard/Rudd/Shorten? leadership tensions emerge.  The Government handled the GFC extremely well, in my opinion, but will be tested again.  Our current national shame is the months old stalemate between both parties over the processing of asylum seekers off-shore. Both agree with it, but not which countries to do it in. Meanwhile people are dying in their attempts to reach Australia – possibly 180 drowned last weekend which may finally force some action. The Indonesian Government has halved the number of Australian live cattle exports as pay back for the temporary ban after the footage of conditions in Indonesian abatoirs were shown on Australian television. There has not been an equivalent public outcry over the 180 asylum seekers who have just drowned.

Our conservation issues should be uranium mining and sales to India, and coal, with mega mines planned in the Galilee Basin in Queensland with 375 million tonnes of coal a year capacity which by 2035 would be eating up 4% of the world’s carbon budget and 9% of the emissions set aside for coal.

“If this goes ahead, it will destroy our chances of keeping global warming to 2 degrees.” John Hepburn from Greenpeace commented.

There is finally a debate about the wholesale embracing of coal seam gas mining without any definitive environmental impact studies as yet. “Wind turbine” syndrome is being discussed – do wind farms actually affect health?  Perhaps if you live near by, but are not being paid well to host them!  Water management, particularly in the Murray –Darling River basin is being fiercely fought over with the impossible task of pleasing local communities, farmers and irrigators.  From an environmental point of view, 4,000 gigalitres (GL=a billion litres) of water needs to be returned to the river, and the current proposal is for 3573 gigalitres by 2019.

A court decision has for the time being blocked plans for a big $30 billion liquefied natural gas terminal in the Kimberley region. The clearing of the site may have been in breach of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act, and unresolved issues include sacred Aboriginal sites, a divided Aboriginal community, and environmental and heritage concerns.

Photo by Marc McCormack Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

Photo by Marc McCormack Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011

WHALING: The Japanese Antarctic whaling fleet has set out with a target of 900 whales in 3 months for “scientific data”.  There are bound to be confrontations with the Sea Shepherd who last year kept their total number to 17% of their target.  The hunt has been described as an expression of national pride – or that the Japanese are sick of being lectured to.  It is now however as provocative as it is anachronistic.  To protect the expedition the Japanese Government have given the project $28 million from earthquake/tsunami relief money!

MISC STATS:  China has $US3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves; Chinese trade with Australia is worth $105 billion; 271 (US dollar) billionaires in China (this has doubled since 2010), 400 in America, 57 in India, 35 in Australia; 600 million mobile phone users in China, 500 million in India; 40,000 Irish nationals left Ireland in the 12 months to April 2011; 150,000 Russians left home as well.

PREDICTION:  Hong Kong to emerge as the world’s financial centre.

HIV:  34 million people live with HIV.  There are 2.7 million new infections each year.  Fortunately drugs are prolonging lives but of the $22 billion funding required now, only $16 billion is available.

BRADLEY MANNING & ASSANGE:  It is interesting watching the Bradley case unfold, with the portrait being painted of his unstable behaviour something his superiors should not just have ignored.  Some people think that the US Government would like him to plead guilty, get a reduced sentence and be used as a witness against Wikileaks and Assange.  Julian has won the right to appeal against his extradition to Sweden.  I hope the treaty between the UK and Sweden prevents him from being extradited to the US. In the absence of any support from the Australian Government, quite a few prominent Australians have written an open letter to Foreign Minister Rudd asking him to protect Julian Assange from rendition to the US.

CONGRATULATIONS:  “The Protester” TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2011.

OCCUPY WALL STREET:  The small Sydney contingent are still camped in Martin Place.  There seems some sort of tacit arrangement with the police, but with on going harassment – like taking away some items of “public hazard”, and just recently, tents and sleeping bags.

JOHN DARLING:  John Darling, poet, artist and film maker was farewelled in a moving ceremony in Perth that brought together the cross cultural influences of Aboriginal, Christian and Balinese Hinduism customs and belief.  I spoke, and quoted an academic who said “John’s contribution to Australian understanding of Indonesia was unique” – although John had asked that he would prefer to have his “essence” discussed. He was indeed a beautiful person.  Tjokorda Gde Mahatma Putra Kerthyasa oversaw the appropriate Balinese rituals with grace, and when he spoke, conveyed moving words from his father, the Prince of Ubud. There was a Memorial service in Melbourne, to be followed by a ceremony in Bali.

My thoughts are with those that have also lost family members or friends, and those living with illness.

Tjokorda Gde Mahatma Putra Kerthyasa in Perth for John Darling's ceremony

Tjokorda Gde Mahatma Putra Kerthyasa in Perth for John Darling's ceremony. Photo by Made Wijaya

VALE:  Christopher Hitchens.  I am reading Arguably, a marvellous collection of Hitchen’s essays and articles. My friend Mandy said I should read his memoir Hitch-22 first.

VOICELESS WRITING PRIZE: To advance public understanding of the relationship between humans and animals – see www.voiceless.org.au.

MAIL:  Thanks for the emails, Christmas wishes, and sharing your stories on the blog and on the A Lion Called Christian website. Some people have had trouble leaving a “comment” on the blog – please email me directly if you are having trouble with this.  A Lion Called Christian showed again on Saturday night and I get such nice emails or messages each time.  This year Christian’s story has become better known in India and I’ve loved receiving emails and stories from there.  Thanks to Therasa, my sister Lindy, and Kylie for their help with the blog.

CHANEE: See Chanee’s latest video Sounding off about the forests about the deforestation caused by palm oil plantations. As I write this now, the tallest tree I can see from my windows, is being cut down. I wonder what the offence is – too old? Too high? Blocking someone’s view? I feel guilty that I never walked to the base of the tree and admired it up close and now it is gone.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS:  One can probably still buy online practical and useful Christmas presents from various Aid organisations.  From pigs, cows and goats to fruit trees, clean water and immunisation and educational needs.  I can’t really personally vouch for them but see CARE www.caregifts.org.au – gifts.  Also see www.worldvision.com.au/gifts and www.oxfamunwrapped.com.au. WSPA also have gift suggestions.  At this time many unsuitable pets are given as gifts and later discarded. This year it is “Red Dog” kelpie puppies (after the movie), but these dogs are sheep dogs and belong in the country.

SEASONS GREETINGS:  Merry Christmas if you celebrate it,  and hopefully some happy and relaxed time with family, friends and pets!  Happy New Year – some have predicted next year will be big, but the scientists have assured us it won’t be the end of the world! Good luck for the undoubted challenges and delights that lie ahead in 2012.