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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Moir, SMH

Tony Abbott Opposition Leader by Alan Moir, SMH

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

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

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

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

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

2011 Nyapanyapa Circles at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery Sydney

Nyapanyapa, Circles 2011 at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


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

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

Petrina Hicks Excalibur at Stills Gallery Sydney

Petrina Hicks Excalibur at Stills Gallery Sydney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 Kevin Richardscon copyright Barcroft Media

2011 Kevin Richardscon copyright Barcroft Media

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections, Bundeena 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Reflections, Bundeena 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

I have been thinking a lot about this blog, but not rushing to publish.  With the social media facilitated revolution unfolding on a daily basis in the Middle East, the world seems to have shifted.  It has been fascinating, exciting, scary and unexpected.  This is against the new context created by WikiLeaks: seemingly endless revelations that have confirmed our suspicions, and sometimes our worst fears.  We have lost even more confidence in our governments to govern us effectively, ethically, or with transparency.  And the world has literally shifted, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and the survivors of the earthquake around Christchurch, New Zealand.  Is the natural world trying to tell us something?
 
I wonder how the victims of the Queensland floods and cyclone are managing – it is alarming how quickly and easily they have dropped out of the news.  I have been meaning to comment on the still appalling situation for many people in Haiti a year on, after what seemed such well organised promises of aid and assistance.
 
 

Bundeena, Sydney NSW

  

BUNDEENA:  I have been living in Bundeena, a small community on the southern edge of Sydney for several years.  It has beautiful beaches, coastal walks and drives, and is surrounded by the Royal National Park.  There are many varieties of birds (my favourites are the kookaburras), possums, and the occasional wallaby, snake or goanna.  I am aware of the environmental damage cats can cause, and I promise I attempt to bring my very well fed cats in every night.  Bundeena is just over an hour from the city, so I am close – and far, enough.  Originally a fishing village, the community of a few thousand is seeing an increasing gentrification– and Vanity Fair is now for sale in the newsagent.  People like myself are viewed as “city blow ins”.  Bundeena is however low-key, and it is possible to be pleasantly reclusive with no social pressures.  Quite a few artists live here (there is an Art Trail to many artists’ studios on the first Sunday of each month), and some are very well-known.  It has been hot (often in the mid 30s), but it has been very relaxing here over summer, reading, gardening, working on some upcoming projects and exhibitions, seeing family and friends, and of course, just being with the cats.  There has been time to reflect on the world, and try to digest the momentous events of the last few weeks and months. 

  

Grand Pacific Drive towards Wollongong, NSW

 

EGYPT:  Congratulations to the Egyptian people.  Their revolution was more organized than it appeared – by an internet savvy group, and was secular and largely non-violent.  We had not questioned or even thought about their decades of repression and it suited our governments to turn a blind eye for a useful ally.  The USA funded the regime with an annual US$2billion.  The revolution is not complete: the military is not going to relinquish their influence easily. Nor will the US!  No-one can really predict the outcome and the wider implications for the Middle East – least of all me.

The Egyptian revolution appeared to be led by a youthful, educated middle class, supported by a down-trodden and repressed general population.  Leaders are emerging in the vacuum.  Islamic fundamentalists seem a small minority voice at this stage.  I have had a friend visiting Egypt who said Facebook was finally useful.  I urged him to take care and wondered – how would I have responded if I lived there – and would I have had the courage to be in Tahrir Square?  Good luck to the Libyans – Gaddafi will go down with guns blazing (or chemical weapons) on his own population it seems.  The West watches impotently – and the Libyans ask legitimately: “why isn’t anybody helping us?”

LEADERSHIP:  Poor Mr. Obama.  No wonder he is going grey: inherited problems of the GFC, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Republican obstruction of his legislation and attempted reforms.  Now their repressive allies in the Middle East are all vulnerable in a shifting landscape.  The US are trying to juggle their support for their long-term  alliances, AND  be seen to be supporting emerging democratic movements and human rights in the region. Democracy is fine – as long as it doesn’t threaten their strategic interests it seems. Hard for them not to appear hypocritical.  For the record: US annual funding – Egypt $2 billion, Israel $3 billion, Pakistan $7.5 billion.

The SMH Chief Correspondent, Paul McGeough, has been writing comprehensively, and I think insightfully, about the Middle East.  For example, see his article SMH February 21 2011: “Lip service is all US pays in the drive for democracy”.  The US veto of a UN Security Council resolution to examine the legality of Israeli settlement buildings in occupied Palestine would not have gone down well on the “Arab street”, especially at the moment, and is a good example of the USA’s conflicting interests.  However, the unrest has not been particularly aimed at the USA – except in Pakistan at the moment over the presumed CIA operative that has been arrested.  Australia has also just been paying cautious “lip service” in support of these historic changes as well, despite the usual flurry of hyperactivity by our Foreign Minister – the ex PM Kevin Rudd.

I would like to see a very representative and uncorrupted United Nations type body with very strong international powers!  I think many of us have realised our leaders are, well, only human like us after all, but it should make us all the more determined to effect change through our own personal, often local, efforts. 

McGeough has written scathingly about Tony Blair who he likens to a “drowning sailor”.  Blair’s quotes in defence of Mubarek did not look good – or the re-release of those photographs of him helping to ease Gaddafi back into international acceptance in 2004.  Still in denial about Iraq – how has Blair got any credibility left in relation to the Middle East as “special representative” of the Middle East Quartet (UN,US,EU and Russia)?  I would think some of his reported “consultancies” and relationships would normally constitute a conflict of interest.  He is soon to visit Australia to earn even more money on the speaking circuit. Equally shameless it seems, the British PM David Cameron is visiting the Middle East with British arms dealers, looking for sales.

 

Water from the Queensland floods flowing into Lake Eyre, photograph by Kelly Barnes

 
  
POLITICS:  Yes, obviously I’m pretty passionate, which can be very boring for people who aren’t!  Obviously politicians play such a comprehensive role in our lives and futures we can’t just ignore them.  We have to rely on them, for example, to respond to Climate Change, and the formulation and implementation of environmental and animal and wildlife conservation policies.  They are susceptible to complaints from their electorates so I try to keep up the questions and pressure, especially by email.  I try to read as widely as possible and it is often hard to get to the truth or a deep understanding of a subject.  I view myself as a “trying to be informed” average citizen.  I do wonder why some of my more conservative friends and acquaintances don’t read anything much about subjects they have strong opinions about, or care about context. Why is there seemingly much more informed commentary from the Left rather than the Right, and why are “shock-jocks” on radio always from the Right ?  I know I must appear biased, but I promise I try and keep an open mind!  

LOCAL AUSTRALIAN ISSUES: (but with global echoes)

NBN:  National Broadband Network.  This is an example of a subject I find difficult to understand (like GM crops), especially given my own technical ignorance.  I believe in essential national infrastructure, but is fibre the right option – especially as the US has opted for wireless?  From recent articles it seems that a mixture is the answer.  With wireless subject to range limitations, and slowdowns with too many subscribers, fibre should be “the work horse of the data downloads”.

SURPLUS vs DEFICIT:  The Opposition here in Australia has got the government very defensive about financial management – “waste”, “big new taxes” etc.,  but unfortunately their criticism does not extend beyond these few effective but clichéd slogans.  They fail to acknowledge that Australia was the only developed nation that did not go into recession during the GFC, unemployment is at 5%, but they endlessly squeal about the deficit.  The government – already on a knife-edge with numbers, is hamstrung to actually govern and make some tough economic decisions – rather like Obama.  I don’t know why the conservatives are claiming the ascendancy on economic management here or in the US – the GFC developed on their watch, and in Australia the Liberal Party politicians haven’t yet explained the $7 – $11 billion hole in their last election budget.  In an article by the excellent economist Ross Gittins in the SMH February 14 2011: “Fiscal heaven is pollies worrying about deficits”, he traces this relatively new obsession with surpluses.  Our mining boom (and being the world’s largest coal exporter), will take care of the deficit.  But the Liberal Party were good hoarders, even though it was at the expense of infrastructure which was allowed to run down.  Shouldn’t an Opposition be offering constructive criticisms, and  alternative policies?  We are constantly in election mode and a 24 hour media cycle, and the government is too defensive to make any hard if necessary decisions.

“BIG NEW TAX”:  Last year we had people power Australia style when a group of mining millionaires and billionaires actually took to the streets with placards in a demonstration! It was surreal.  They backed this up with a $22 million advertising campaign against a proposed mining super profits tax on our non-renewable resources.  The tax was going to “ruin Australia” – investment would go elsewhere etc.  These people have been made to look ridiculous with the recent publication of their company profits or personal wealth.  Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart $9 billion, Andrew Forrest $6.9 billion, BHP $10.5 billion half-yearly profits, and huge profits for Rio Tinto and Xstrata.  The tax, which was watered down, will probably now be passed.

“STOP THE BOATS”:  Our scandalously inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by both sides of parliament has been in the news lately.  This “race to the bottom” as it has been described, has been fuelled and possibly led by the Shadow Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, and his electorate was the scene of the Cronulla race riots several years ago. He seems to think Muslim demonisation is a vote winner, and it has been reported that he recently suggested his party capitalise on public unease about Muslim immigration.  His party has also recently recommended cutting Australian aid to Indonesian schools  – a highly successful counter terrorism scheme started by his own party when in office.  I used to send him critical emails – he has a long and unattractive track record in my opinion, but lately he has been generating enough negative attention of his own.

CARBON PRICE:  I have been trying to chart on this blog the mixed fortunes of the Climate Change debate.  From the heady, optimistic days of Copenhagen and a consensus by a majority of people for urgent action, to leaders being deposed, flaky climate change deniers effectively slowing the momentum, and policies subsequently dumped. Both parties have lost credibility on this issue, and this contributed to the Greens doing unexpectedly well at the last election.  Despite promising not to introduce a carbon tax at the election, with the increased influence of the Greens, the Government has put Climate Change unexpectedly back on the agenda. They are going to set a price on carbon by July next year, which will lead on to an emissions trading scheme in due course.  Many in the Opposition are climate change deniers, and their party has a pretend policy, but this issue which should have bi-partisan support, is going to be, again, a very ugly and divisive debate.  This will test our PM’s considerable negotiating (and compromising) skills.  The Greens want much more ambitious cuts to our emissions, and no compensation as previously canvassed for the worst polluters (power, energy and transport industries).  Those mining zillionaires will be back on the streets protesting!

 

From Penny Tweedie's book "Spirit of Arnhem Land"

Tom Noytuna, photograph by Penny Tweedie

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
  
 
PENNY TWEEDIE:  Penny Tweedie (1940 -2011), an internationally admired  photographer died recently.  I am mostly familiar with her often extremely beautiful and intimate photography in Arnhem Land where she first visited in 1975.  I staged an exhibition of her photographs in Sydney in the mid 1990s.  For the invitation I used the photograph of Tom Noytuna decorated for a traditional ceremony on the telephone (above).  Google her, or look out for her books This My Country (1985) and Aboriginal Australians: Spirit of Arnhem Land (1998).  The Australian photographer, writer and blogger Robert McFarlane has a tribute to her on his very informative photography blog  www.ozphotoreview.com.

MY PHOTOS:  When I was angling for a compliment about some of my own photographs taken in India on my new Lumix DMC-LX5 which I adore, a friend replied: “you can’t miss with a mountain view like that”, “with digital anyone can take a good photograph these days” and “pity you cut the cat’s ear off”. 

  

From Penny Tweedie's book "Spirit of Arnhem Land"

 
  
WHALES:  Congratulations to the Sea Shepherd for terminating the Japanese whaling season in the Antarctic.  Let’s hope the Japanese are losing their taste for whale, and their pretend “scientific” expeditions.
 
WATCHING:  The indefatigable David Attenborough’s First Life documentary series about the origins of life, is starting on television here.
 
CAT NEWS:  I love it when cats or dogs are named and in the news in their own right.  Many others surreptitiously slip into photographs with their owners.  Larry a tomcat has moved into Number 10 Downing Street in London, from Battersea Pound.  The WikiLeaks leaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg, recently wrote that when Assange was staying with him in Germany “Julian was constantly battling for dominance, even with my tomcat….(He) would constantly attack the animal”.
 
CHRISTIAN:   The French edition of A Lion Called Christian, Un lion nommé Christian in paperback has just been released.  I was recently interviewed for French television, and as I had been told previously that our story had been co-opted in defence of performing animals in circuses in France, I was of course anxious to refute this.  I can’t wait to see the footage of the very unexpected cameo of my shyest cat emerging from under the sofa!

Happy Birthday Christian

August 12, 2010

Last visit to Christian 1972

Christian was born 12th August 1969. This is my favourite photograph of me with Christian, and I don’t think it has ever been seen before. I was not aware of it until a friend gave it to me in London last year. I cried. As it is 1972 it was probably taken by Tony Fitzjohn, now the Field Director for the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust.  It turned out to be my last visit and we never saw him again.

Sometimes I could read Christian’s eyes and mind and I could feel extremely connected to him, and sometimes I found him totally impenetrable, and I was completely irrelevant. This photograph for me sums up the bridge or link between humans and animals that Christian has now come to represent to many people. It also illustrates other factors that many of you have written to me about – “love” and “trust”, both in relation to Christian, and your own animals.  I’m very grateful for you expressing your emotions so beautifully and sharing them with me.

I’M READING: Christine’s Ark by John Little about an extraordinary Australian woman Christine Townend, a founder of Animal Liberation in Australia (with Peter Singer), and who then ran with her husband an Animal Shelter in Jaipur, India, for over 17 years. I have been lucky enough to meet her lately and I am going to visit their two animal shelters near Darjeeling in India in early November. I will blog much more about their marvellous work, and help if I can. Check them out – www.workingforanimals.org.au.  I think Christine Townend is an example of what the world needs badly – individuals that do not just accept the status quo and do something  personally about it, and make an extraordinary difference.

I have been fascinated by another Australian, Julian Assange, who also decided to act – against government dishonesty and the misrepresentation in the media of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He created WikiLeaks – and recently uploaded many thousands of confidential US Government reports to show the real situation and the number of civilian deaths. Perhaps people, so badly failed by our leaders, are taking action themselves – and much of it through the opportunities the internet provides. In this case I fear his disclosures will have people killed in retaliation, and that he will be killed himself.

A mother Australian Sea Lion sniffs her pup. Photo Benjamin Pitcher SMH

I’M WATCHING: everything on our nerve- wracking if nearly farcical election, and David Attenborough’s new documentary series Life – a welcome antidote. My cat particularly liked the snakes, unlike me. Her brother prefers the computer and the mouse to television.

ETS

In the election we have the choice between an Opposition leader who is on record as saying “climate change is crap” with a pretend policy, and a dithering Government who did try and get the ETS legislation through parliament (blocked by the Opposition and the Greens can you believe), and now want to create “community consensus” through a Citizens Assembly! This was greeted with the derision it deserves. In fact 62% of the community WANT action and ex PM Rudd’s credibility crumbled on his shelving of this legislation.

Delay just means everything will be much harder and more expensive to turn around in the future. Other countries like Germany and China are seizing the new economic opportunities that are presenting themselves and a price on carbon is essential to stop uncertainty and to encourage investment in alternate and renewable energies.

I did secretly wonder, given the precarious global financial and economic situation, was it a good or bad time to introduce an ETS? A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald (4/8/10) did quote the Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz as saying while he was pessimistic about the prospects for the global economy, strong policies to curb carbon emissions and a high carbon price could also help restore growth, and provide certainty for investment.

Bushfires in Russian, floods in Pakistan… and the recent State of the Climate 2009 Report illustrates how we have just had our hottest year in 2009 here in my State, and Australia’s second warmest year since 2005. It was good to see the exoneration of the scientists crucified by the climate skeptics who successfully stalled the global momentum for action over a few careless inaccuracies in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

GOOD NEWS: the BP oil well seems capped in the Gulf of Mexico, although the damage will remain for decades, and remember the threat to the Ozone layer and the hole above Antarctica? With the banning of CFCs, there is now optimism about slow long term recovery.

DON’T MISS:  We have been very fortunate to have  a unique exhibition of photographs by Alfred Stieglitz  from the Lake George years at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Described as “America’s greatest photographer” these beautiful photographs from the 1910s-1930s rarely travel, and include of course photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe, New York, and fascinating photographs of exhibitions at Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery including the first exhibitions in America of Picasso, Braque and Brancusi. The exhibition closes 5th September.

ANIMAL RIGHTS

The visit to Australia by American lawyer Joyce Tischler has focused attention on the huge growth and interest in Animal Rights. There seems to be a growing concern especially about the conditions pigs and chickens endure in relation to food production, and a determination to end some very cruel practices.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/this-little-piggy-went-to-market-20100806-11oi8.html

STATISTICS: 3000 pygmy hippos are left in the wild (and a new baby at Taronga Zoo), and the most exhaustive stocktake of life in the world’s oceans so far, the Census of Marine Life, found more than 230,000 species lived in 25 marine regions around the world, and Australia contains more than 33,000 known species of which 58 are threatened.

GARMA

One year I must attend the Garma Festival in northern Australia, where this year there is a stated commitment to education for indigenous people. The festival is a good reminder of just how strong traditional Aboriginal culture remains in central and northern Australia, and the difficulties inherent in biculturalism and living in two often competing worlds. How do you fully participate in mainstream Australia as entitled when you live in very remote small communities with a strong traditional culture and few economic opportunities? Fortunately, many Australian Aborigines are  extremely good artists and this has provided livelihoods, and their best ones, like the late Emily Kngwarreye and Rover Thomas, have been fascinating the global art world for several decades.

Aboriginal dancers at the Garma Festival last year