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So, the POPE!! Goodbye Australian Renewable Engergy!

http://paxchristiusa.org/2015/02/11/reflection-anticipating-the-attacks-on-pope-francis-and-his-environmental-encyclical/

http://paxchristiusa.org/2015/02/11/reflection-anticipating-the-attacks-on-pope-francis-and-his-environmental-encyclical/

That our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is Catholic is no surprise.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/tony-abbott-linked-to-priest-in-web-of-intrigue/story-e6frg6n6-1226573435456

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/tony-abbott-linked-to-priest-in-web-of-intrigue/story-e6frg6n6-1226573435456

What is slightly surprising is his reaction to El Papa’s encyclical on the environment. Instead of moving to protect the environment our government has not only further crushed Australia’s chances of building a renewable energy industry but also intends burning our native forests!

BREAKING: Liberal and Labor parties voted to gut our Renewable Energy Target.

They voted for legislation that not only slashes our RET from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh; but that burns down our native forests and calls it clean energy.

This news emailed from the Greens today and ABC news.

Independent Queensland senator, Glen Lazarus, a few days ago held the deal to be beneath contempt, thank you Senator, but generally there is quiet on the deal online as yet.

We see the Senate in confusion over the idea that there should be any reaction to the Pope’s letter.

So, in conclusion, what seems to be Laudato Si‘s effect on Australian parliament? That would be summed up by the Green’s gratitude and the murder of Australia’s embryonic renewables industry. Doesn’t sound very Catholic, does it?

http://econews.com.au/news-to-sustain-our-world/ret-cuts-see-wind-tower-maker-shed-100-jobs/

http://econews.com.au/news-to-sustain-our-world/ret-cuts-see-wind-tower-maker-shed-100-jobs/

As usual, though, here is a handy reminder there are people working to change attitudes. (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/planetary/121840700)

Beasts; Good, Evil and Agriculture

A reader, Jenny McCracken, commented on my post on bullfighting, referring to Beasts by Jeffery Moussaieff Masson. I thought I’d better read it, quick smart. I recommend it to you, too.

cover of 'Beasts'

http://wamc.org/post/beasts-Jeffrey-moussaieff-masson

Subtitled What Animals can Teach us about the Origins of Good and Evil, Beasts explores what humans have in common with animals, myths about the relationship between humans and animals and starts to suggest what might be a way forward.

The passage about bullfighting that Jenny alludes to describes the way the beasts are prepared for the ‘fight’.

‘To create the show of a fight, the bull is wounded and disabled before entering the ring, and is given large amounts of salt to make sure he drinks to the point of being bloated and will move slowly. On the day of the “fight”, Vaseline is rubbed into his eyes so he cannot see clearly, and newspaper is stuffed into his ears so he cannot hear properly. Horns are shaved to make them less dangerous and to throw the bull off balance. The muscles in his neck are cut so that he cannot raise his head in a normal fashion, wich would allow him to see his adversary. His kidneys and testicles are beaten. He is given laxatives, tranquilizers and drugs to induce paralysis, and other drugs to disorientate him. He is kept in a tiny cell for at least twenty-four hours, dazed and confused, without food or water (except sulphates, which give him severe diarrhea).’ pg 71

As readers of the previous blog may note, the book that inspired that post, Death in the Sun by Edward Lewine, corrects our notion of the bullfight. Clearly the bull has no chance. It’s not a fight in Spanish eyes. In that book, Lewine denigrates horn shaving, as casting aspersions on the skills of the toredor, and I wonder if this sort of bull tampering is done in less salubrious places where the condition of the bull is not so closely examined as it was in the corridas of the famous bullfighter, Francisco Rivera Ordonez, featured in the book. There’s nothing in the Appendices or notes of Beasts to say from where this information was gathered so I’m assuming it’s not commonplace – I may be wrong.

Doesn’t matter, really, does it? The bull suffers. Lots of animals (billions … ?) suffer at the hands of humans. But that’s a taste of Beasts, provoking and sometimes untrackable. Luckily, there is plenty of thoughtful, attributed information to consider.

The preface kicks off with a quote from Stephen Hawking, ‘We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.’

Stephen Hawking floats

http://ultraculture.org/blog/2014/12/03/stephen-hawking-ai-could-spell-end-human-race/

Masson returns again and again to the self-destructive violent behaviour of humans. Why are humans so keen to find ‘the other’ in our own species and kill it? He points out that although there might be evidence of other species (chimpanzees, elephants, wolves… ) attacking one another, those examples are generally proven to be in the context of human-induced stresses (capture, torture, loss of habitat, interference in food resources, pollution etc etc) Even Jane Goodall admits that fighting and battles she witnessed amongst chimps may have started when her staff set up a banana feeding station. (pg 60)

chimp munching on bananas

http://www.lessonsforhope.org/scrapbook1.asp?sec=5&pgid=92

So why did humans start their own violence against each other? Perhaps because they interfered with their own lives when they stopped being nomadic and started agriculture? In the notes (pg 188) Jeffery Moussaieff Masson says,

‘My friend Sherry Colb reminds me that Plato predicted this in The Republic, where Socrates responds to Glaucon’s insistence that the ruling class must eat animals. Then, said Socrates, there would have to be armies, to guard the large amount of land needed for livestock, and the lawyers for disputes surrounding land boundaries, and the doctors to handle the sickness that comes from eating that way!’

sculpture of Plato

http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Plato.html

Good old Plato! And so it seems that what we gained when we stopped being hunter-gatherers was violence, disease and suffering. Not only for humans, but also all the other species. GREAT!!

Jeffery’s Appendices are informative. Human traits unique to us include: animal sacrifices, blood feuds, unbridled greed, mass murder, suicide and threatening the survival of all life on earth. (pg 163) Traits humans have in common with animals (pg 169) include: sexual infidelity, compassion, dignity, gentleness, protectiveness of young, yearning for freedom.

Many times throughout the book Masson states that predators do not choose to hate, hunt or hurt humans (unless as previously stated, stressed/maddened by us). But what do humans do to animals? (pg 174)

We raise them for food.

We experiment on them.

We use their fur and skin.

We take their eggs.

We take their children.

We use their milk.

We hunt them.

We lock them into cages.

Let’s add, we use them for entertainment. The chapter on ‘Hatred’ begins with this quote: ‘I couldn’t possibly write Jaws today. The notion of demonizing a fish strikes me as insane.’ Peter Benchley.

Sharks don’t hate people, they don’t even particularly like people, especially if wrapped in neoprene. Scientists surmise sharks mistake people for seals.

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/do-sharks-really-mistake-humans-for-seals-researchers-test-mistaken-identity-theory-20150405-1meqwf.html

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/do-sharks-really-mistake-humans-for-seals-researchers-test-mistaken-identity-theory-20150405-1meqwf.html

But in their turn, how many sharks are killed by people?

How many other animals? Cows? Pigs? Sheep? Is any of this killing necessary? Jeffery says,

‘My position is that we no longer need to kill animals at all, whether for food or for any other reason. Today we can recognise that whether we kill with reverence or with indifference, the result to the animal is the same. In the past we would justify this killing as necessary for our survival. No longer.’ pg 101

So in conclusion, I think Jeffery Moussaieff Masson in Beasts is telling us that animals are not moral creatures. They do what has to be done, mostly avoiding human contact when they can, not seeing good or bad in killing for food or protecting territory. Humans, it seems, have come up with evil all by ourselves.

 

 

Simran Sethi – For the love of coffee!!

Simran Sethi

Simran Sethi (image from the Asia Society blog page)

Simran Sethi, Environmental Messenger, is part of the barrage of the Wheeler Centre‘s 2015 questions to Melbourne. She gives a talk entitled ‘Endangered Pleasures; the slow loss of food we love’ on March the first. Simran is a petite woman with shining black hair that swings around her like a mobile halo. Her generous smile is a brilliant white. She gestures with her hands, moulding meaning into the air in front of her, giving, exuding, impressing influence into her audience.

cup of coffee

image taken from Bings Boba Tea site

The focus of her speech, as best suits cafe-cultured Melbourne, is coffee. A few years ago, on a research trip to Rome, she was side tracked by a novel concept (to her). She’d been writing a book about seeds when she discovered scientists were actually concerned with teetering bioagrodiversity. Remember the beginning of that very scientific film Interstellar? Where that geeky science boffin, Michael Caine, points out the blighted corn? Not so fictional after all.

It seems many of our staple food crops are at risk of extinction. Wheat. Cows. Chocolate. And coffee. (Simran didn’t mention bees.) Of course we know the threats. Loss of habitat, pollution, climate change, disease …

Only 30% of all species are used by humans. Basically we don’t care what happens to stuff we can’t eat, drink or wear. If it doesn’t act like a pest, we ignore it. If it’s a crop we choose the best of the best, breed it up and maybe add some spicy cells to a test tube to improve it further. Then we only farm that one species. All across the world. The same species of banana. And when that one species falls prey to one disease? All gone.

farmer in banana farm

(image from http://agrobiodiversityplatform.org/)

Where the scientists see genetic erosion Simran sees cultural erosion. She became animated as she described her fantastic global research project to understand the web of coffee making. To seek the hands that make the coffee.

farmer's hands with coffee berries

(image taken from http://blog.yellow-seed.org/65/)

From the calloused farmer to the tattooed barista, it is the sweat and toil of humans that intrigues Simran. Her coffee guru comes from Seven Seeds, a Melbourne coffee roasting cafe, educator and specialist. His coaching leads her to understand the taste of coffee for the first time. Now more than just wet brown stuff, along with flavours of lemon and hints of peach, she can discern the soil and the weather of Ethopia, or Columbia perhaps. The flavour of her coffee is mixed with farmers’ sweat and the swirl of dryers’ rakes. There’s packers, drivers, container loaders, ship crew, unloaders, more drivers, roasters, grinders, and the hiss of steam at the end. All endangered.

Simran pointed out that scientists use a combination of strategies to save plant species from extinction. There’s ex-situ conservation such as seed banks (struggling for funding in the main). There’s in-situ conservation such as leaving the plant to grow in the wild or at a farm. And there’s in-vivo conservation where humans eat it, drink it and keep it alive because humans like it. Love it.

l love coffee picked out in coffee beans

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/coffee/images/34484500/title/coffee-photo

If we all learn more about our foodstuff, Simran says, we will give thanks. She believes we can save our favourite plants by our very dependence. If we consider our coffee, we will save our coffee. Her reply to the question about an individual’s ability to affect the food chain was that we should all be kind, learn the provinance of our produce and revalue what is important. If only that was all it took, Simran.

The final question about population caused her to bridle a little. As an Indian she did not think that millions of brown people in subsistence living standards damaged the planet as much as the millions of fat people living in America, consuming fossil fuels as though they are going out of style. (Which they are.) According to Simran, consumption, not population, is the real problem.

frantic shoppers

Black Friday Sales Frenzy (image from Business Insider Australia site)

Simran is an extremely highly regarded academic, journalist and eco-activist. She is working hard to activate the audience’s ‘green brain’, the part of our brains that imagines the future, that might act to save our planet if it cares about something. I’m sure her book about Bread, Wine and Chocolate (due Nov 2015) will be very well received and completely ineffective. People in the Fair Trade and Slow Food movements have been saying these things, DOING these things, for decades. In my own files I have a report dated 1986 by the World Wildlife Foundation called The Wild Supermarket: the importance of biological diversity to food security.

I can’t believe that anything Simran can add, (even if she is The Environmental Messenger and an expert on engagement) will cause millions of people to stop buying cheap food from Woolies and rush to their nearest farmer’s market. I fear those under the verdant green plastic globule that is RMIT’s entrance to Storey Hall Lecture Theatre on Sunday are already converted.

If only Simran wasn’t busy flying all over the world taking photos of hands with her great big carbon footprint. Just because it’s self-confessed doesn’t make it right. Many activists now use Skype to deliver just such communications. (People such as Professor Mary Wood, the lawyer fighting for Nature’s rights.)

Simran’s pat reply to the inevitable population question stems from her heritage and from her heart, I fear, rather than her head. Any parent, anywhere on this beleaguered planet, will raise up their children as high as they can. It is in our genes. If they are in a tent in Somalia, a slum in Mumbai or the Dakota building overlooking Central Park, that parent will try to ensure their child can afford a fridge and a car and a mortgage. And a nice secure share portfolio with an eye to growth. Consumption is of course part of the problem. Human’s need to improve their lot drives it. Human greed drives the use of fossil fuels, habitat loss, climate change …

And, as no there is no effective action to slow any of it, then the species of greatest risk of disappearing is not coffee, or bananas or wheat.

It’s humans.

And you’d think people would care enough about them, wouldn’t you.

Click here to go to WWF’s footprint calculator so you can see how many planets your lifestyle is using up!

The woman who warns us about propaganda in zoos – hilarious or scary?

How did they work all this out woman!

Incredulous woman can’t understand how theories of science appear on printed signs!

Go to the zoo with creationist Megan Fox and learn that zoos are failing in their duty towards humans. She loves the animals, why, she even got married in the zoo, but the notion of humans being apes is just hilarious. She reads ecologically informative signs in the various enclosures in an outraged tone – ‘Oh, humans are baaad!’ Megan thinks children should be entertained and informed about the eating habits of all the marvellous animals instead of learning critical information about destruction of habitat and loss of species. Megan says not all humans are bad. Hunters, for example, give all sorts of money to protect animals. Hunters conserve. Like in Zambimbia. (SIC) Hunters feed hungry people. The EPA buys weapons and donuts. They don’t clean up streams. It’s all political nonsense.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/06/brookfield-zoo-science-mom-audit_n_6271800.html

You really want more? Here is her incredulous visit to the American National History Museum with commentary from someone who actually thinks. Thank you, AnswersInEddas.

It’s a fairy tale. She’s just making it all up!!

My only comfort is when her children become teenagers they will revolt and start learning just to spite her. Oh, I cannot wait.

Megan Fox doesn’t want a relationship with nature. She is unnatural.

Interstellar. Is it about human nature?

farmhouse

A clear day at the corn farm before the flight of fancy blasts off.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar begins in dust and dirt and gritty reality at an American farmhouse – could be anywhere, anytime. Reality gets grittier, we find we’re in the future and feeding people, lots of people, is getting tougher. A neighbour burns his okra and we’re down to corn and the wind blows the dirt off the world. The atmosphere is making people sick and the educators are making children ignorant. And from there, off we blast into a flight of fancy, rocketing Kubrick’s 2001 into 2014 with marvellous space spectacle and far-fetched wonder.

For fully corn-fed people these humans are able to wormhole through logic into a terrific entertainment. But. What of our relationship to nature? Why is blight about to eat all the corn? How comes the planet Earth to be in such a sad state? Any thoughts Dr Brand? “We must confront the reality that nothing in our solar system can help us.” Okay, let’s not go there. What hope can you offer Life, Dr Brand? “We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it … ”

Planet trashed, move on. Oh, I can’t stop thinking, wouldn’t it have been good to get some understanding so that when the humans go out to find a new world, new solar system, new galaxy, they’re going to take with them some wisdom? Like maybe, don’t trash the next one? “Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.” Huh? Why not? Every other species is expected to! Where is it expected to die? The next one or the one after that?

Where is the sense of humanity learning from past mistakes? Oh, the fruit loop teacher who is the tool of anti-science revisionism gets to say, “And if we don’t want to repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th Century then we need to teach our kids about this planet, not tales of leaving it.” How stupid and dull is that?

Instead Interstellar glorifies the continuing push to explore and conquer and leave a bunch of litter at every planet we can. Could it be ironic? Maybe. There is one appositely named character who gets his moralistic comeuppance but generally, the human species looks set to continue as it always has. Trashing this world, trashing the next world, trashing the next galaxy. Trashing through the wormhole. Looks cool, sounds amazing but Interstellar turns our backs on nature – apart from human nature and I guess that counts for something – but really people – pick up after yourselves!

I could go on complaining about the script, the casting and the nonsense but go see Interstellar – at the biggest screen possible – it’s surely not educational but it is extremely entertaining!

interstellar poster

Is cruelty part of our relationship with animals? Any animals?

I’m a big fan of Tim Flannery.

Tim Flannery wearing a hat

image from Guardian

 

He’s incredibly clever, learned and wise. He speaks, and writes, a lot of sense.

BUT

not this:

‘The fact is that animal rights issues, such as opposition to the culling of feral species, can sometimes get in the way of environmental stewardship, and concerns about animal suffering need to be treated separately.’ page 48 Tim Flannery, After the future: Australia’s new extinction crisis, Quarterly Essay Issue 48 2012

Suffering by any species of animal is part of the equation. If human attitudes towards nature allows any part of nature to suffer, then that attitude is questionable. Until we fix human attitudes to each individual creature, then, I got to tell you, Tim, environmental stewardship will go hang.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report – It’s happening

I’m sorry but isn’t the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

which begins by saying

“Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems”

important? Urgent? Shouldn’t Australia do something about it now?

Prime Minister Tony Abbott quotes from My Country:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

Dorothea Mackellar started writing My Country in 1904. Climate change not an issue then, Prime Minister.

Now?

What’s the worst that could happen? Remember that physics teacher? The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See? He’s still going strong.

Lord Deben is the chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, the government’s statutory adviser. He is a former environment secretary and Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal. He writes in the The Guardian reports that the government should committ to halving its emmissions at 1990 levels before 2027.

Australia is aiming for between 5 and 20 percent.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry says costs of inaction on climate change will be “catastrophic”.

George Monbiot finds an allegory in Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People where Dr Stockman must lash out angrily at those who do not believe him, like Cassandra.

And in Australia there’s a gentle, chatty piece in The Age, enquiring about the level of risk we’re happy to live with.

I wish I could roar like a lion.

When does Australia stop digging up coal and start building a new, clean renewable energy industry? Beyond Zero Emissions has a plan ready to go right now. What are we waiting for?

You’ve been wondering what the Blue Man Group think of Global Warming, haven’t you?

I’m roaring like a lady. As much as I can.

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!

 

 

Continue reading

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