Archive | March 2014

Children are like animals

Cover for Anne Manne's book, Motherhood


Anne Manne, in Motherhood, How should we care for our children? points out that children are small, weak and powerless. Just like animals. What is justice as it applies to any living thing that is smaller and weaker than ourselves?

…it is worth reflecting on [the Victorian] era’s pervasive attitudes to life. Children were thought of as resilient, shallow creatures only a little above animals in the great chain of being, incapable of deep feeling, which meant they could settle happily with anyone as long as they were kind. Such myths served the interests of an adult centred world.  (Pg 132 Motherhood)

She describes the ‘good old days’ when kids were farmed out to wet nurses, raised by nannies and sent off to boarding school. She reminds us that authors like Roald Dahl, or Charles Dickens or George Orwell have no trouble slipping inside the skin of a child because their own childhood experiences were so horrific.

Society’s attitude to children has changed.

I felt this echo today as I watched Edgar’s Mission‘s latest video requesting help as they move premises. How can our attitude to animals change?

Edgar's mission's pig

There’s exciting news that the ACT will ban factory farming: battery hens, debeaking and sow stalls. Woolworths will phase out eggs from battery hens.  Animals Australia helped rescue 150 dogs from a puppy factory.

Perhaps we don’t just see animals as products any more?

Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the people of 2088

what we know

In today’s Guardian, an article entitled Climate Change is putting world at risk reports a new study, What we know.

The world is at growing risk of “abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes” because of a warming climate, America’s premier scientific society warned on Tuesday.

In a rare intervention into a policy debate, the American Association for the Advancement of Science urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.

These scientists are trying to get past the deniers by not engaging with them, rather, they wish to get on with the job; encourage Americans to get moving to protect life as we know it.

It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred. Nor are we seeking to provide yet another extensive review of the scientific evidence for climate change. Instead, we present key messages for every American about climate change.

1.  Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.

2.  We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.

3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

(from the report, What we know.)

Do you think the fossil fuel industry will give up soon?

What did Kurt Vonnegut know about the environment? A lot.

Kurt Vonnegut

A wonderful website, Letters of Note has a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the Ladies and Gentlemen of AD2088. Ironically it was for a Volkswagon ad campaign. Ironically because Mr Vonnegut isn’t advocating more cars. It’s well worth a read in full here.

First, he discusses how terrible nature is and then points out that nature just wants to cut a deal with humans. Here’s the deal:

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

  1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
  2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
  3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
  4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
  5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
  6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
  7. And so on. Or else.

If we won’t hear it from 2,000 highly trained scientists, if we won’t hear it from millions of activists around the world, then maybe we might hear it from one of the most smart communicators ever. And so it goes.


What we know video - We Brake 4 Climate

Watch the AAAS video here!



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Jay Griffiths, Wild

One of the people interviewed in Project Wild Thing is writer Jay Griffiths.

Close up of Jay Griffiths
She spoke such good sense about children needing to be in touch with nature I sought out her books. The first I’m reading is Wild and it’s fantastic. The language is dense and lush. It’s a jungle of a book; a tramp through fecund vocabulary, an evocative trip into the wilderness of an awesome intellect. She’s our guide to wilderness and our perception of it; she’s a kind of literary David Attenborough.

wild cover

I have not been so excited about an author scince I stumbled upon Under the Sea Wind by Rachel Carson. Jay Griffiths is another learned, poetic writer exploring the world, seemingly without fear, creating an incredible reading experience for those of us in our armchairs. She delights in language and her lucid explanations of etymology of words in different languages underpins much of the book.

‘The Peruvian Amazon was called a Tower of Babel by early Spanish missionaries. Intended as an insult, it was actually a compliment, testimony to the luminous and tumultuous diversity of jungle languages, not just one tree of knowledge but millions, a forest of knowing. But the Church, the state and the education system together have deforested the human mind, forcing people to speak Spanish and aiding logging companies and others in a corporate land theft. If you take people out of their land, you take them out of their meaning, out of their language’s roots. When wild lands are lost, so is metaphor, allusion and the poetry that arises in the interplay of mind and nature. To lose your land is to lose your language, and to lose your language is to lose your mind … ‘ pg 26 Wild

She begins in Peru, seeking healing with the drug ayahuasca. (Slight detour here by way of a rambling podast – Simon Amstell chats to Marc Maron about his ayahuasca experience.) Jay Griffiths is the sort of person who will get up from the depths of depression, go to Peru with a total stranger and then wander around the Amazon continually drinking a hallucinatory drug untill she gets it right – realises she’s a jaguar – and then heads of to the next section of the book – an obvious flight into remote Canada to hang out with the Inuits. Wild? Certainly.

I’m still exploring her Wild mind and journey as well as looking forward immensely to reading Kith.

Kith cover


Here’s an excerpt on her website first published in the Guardian. She speaks of the horror of controlled crying and the political necessity for it in modern ‘civilisation’ and the need for children to have their own time.

In 2011, Unicef asked children what they needed to be happy, and the top three things were time (particularly with families), friendships and, tellingly, “outdoors”. Studies show that when children are allowed unstructured play in nature, their sense of freedom, independence and inner strength all thrive, and children surrounded by nature are not only less stressed but also bounce back from stressful events more readily.

This all makes such sense to me, particularly because my own child was schooled in an alternative environment at Preshil which, theoretically at least, allowed children freedom to explore their own choices, to develop their own minds and unleash their imaginations. My child was left alone to get on with his own business and although he’s had his fair share of teenage angst I believe he’s resilent and capable, living in another country at eighteen and learning what he needs to know to grow up and get on with the job of living.

Much of Jay Griffiths’s thinking resonates deeply and personally with me. Seek her out, check out her videos and learn from her immediately!

Jay Griffiths outside