Archive | February 2014

Project Wild Thing – a fun film with a serious heart

During the Sustainable Living Festival we called in to see a film called Project Wild Thing. The documentary follows a Dad, David Bond, frustrated his two small children only seemed to like television, as he tries to promote Nature as a viable alternative.

Marketing Manager for Nature

He begins a marketing campaign promoting Nature to children. He interviews experts, including his own mother, about the fact we’ve lost the ability to ramble through wilderness because there’s less places for kids to play, kids are overprotected and there’s computers to keep them absorbed. There are scientists who rate children’s health concerns and advertising gurus wonder what the benefits of nature might be.

Apparently the project began because of a growing interest in what’s been termed the nature deficit disorder. Richard Louv coined that term and was also here for the festival but one can’t be everywhere. Here’s a link to a video about his book, Last Child in the Woods, instead and here’s a picture of his latest book. I think I shall read this one!

Cover of The Nature Principle.

Richard Louv’s most recent book.

Research and analysis around the world has proved that people, more importantly, children, are spending much more time inside and hardly any time outside. When David Bond interviewed teenagers they said that wildness was boring. One girl said she never goes to the park near her because lots of people walk their dogs there and dogs can maul you to death. Mind you, when he took a few of them on a walk in the local park they became animated, interested and quickly made a daisy chain.

In a delightful animation, made by the same film makers, a young voice explains we were better off before there were things with buttons to push (at 1:15) ‘They didn’t have the virtual quests, they had, like, the world was their quest.’

The Project Wild campaign really ramps up when the filmmakers hook up with Good For Nothing, a group of advertisers and marketers who donate their time and expertise to workshop ideas. As a result there’s an amazing spread of activity from billboards to flyers and an app giving kids ideas about what to do in Nature. It’s all super!

Trailer for Project Wild Thing movie

When I was searching Project Wild Thing for this blog I found an American group called Project Wild. Apparently there’s been many groups formed as a result of Richard Louv’s work. There’s even been attempts at legislation with the No Child Left Inside movement.

What will happen to future generations if kids don’t get outside?

picture of creek with the slogan 'Original Playstation'

Art Climate Ethics – What role for the arts?

Found plastics on Robe beach altered by Victoria Osborne and Philip Millar

I wove these different coloured ropes into this handbag shape as a container for plastic items we found on Robe beach in South Australia.

“Art, nature and I became vital and inseparable companions.” GUY ABRAHAMS: AN ART DEALER’S EPIPHANY

I’ve been working on an adult literary novel called Man of clay for fifteen years. I’m hoping to put it up on this website shortly. In the book a character called Willliam wonders whether to take over his mother’s art gallery, just like Guy did. In the above mentioned article, Guy, the CEO of Climarte, speaks eloquently about art and nature and recommends we go to a discussion called Art Climate Ethics: What role for the arts? So we did.

Found plastics arranged as if stuffed into a toy bird

Plastics found on Robe beach – an homage to Chris Jordan by Philip Millar and Victoria Osborne

And what a wonderful discussion it was. Not only did we get to see Fiona Hall, Mandy Martin, Damon Young and Peter Cristoff but also Chris Jordan.

Damon Young is a philosopher and writer who set his discussion, or provocation, about the Anthropocene Age in a sea of jellyfish.

Mandy Martin is an artist, a painter, who has decided to go for her activism. She doesn’t care if there’s negative consequences. She’s too busy getting her message out in delicious landscapes, colours and textures. She showed us some of her work painted around powerstations and mines. One was called Vivitur Ex Rapto, or Man lives off greed. She told us we are all implicated because of our need for resources.

Peter Christoff is an academic. His most recent book is Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a hot world. He believes the public knows about climate change. He thinks they have had the information but they are angered or frustrated or made helpless by the knowledge of impending doom. Generally, he said, they think someone else will look after the problems some other time. He thinks we have an ‘imagination deficit’. I totally agree with this notion. I think most Australians cannot imagine anything much further in the future than the next footy season. Is that just human nature?

Fiona Hall is an eloquent artist but her speech was marred by her use of arrrr and ummmms … Her work is brilliant.

Chris Jordan is the man behind the shocking images of plastic-stuffed albatross. He’s also made a film about Midway, the island of the albatross, here’s the trailer for Midway. He spoke about the need for a shift in consciousness. Humans must become more radical, as in the word origin from ‘root’. We must go back to our roots. He talked about how our society has placed our thinking in the amygdalla – the place of fear – the lizard part of our brain. Everything humans, particularly the West, seems to do comes from reacting to fear. Like America, rushing off to war for no apparent reason. He believes art has the ability to take thinking out of fear and put it in the limbic part of the brain or our feelings. We need to feel anger and grief because of the loss of our charismatic fauna – ‘artworks of God’ – the sacred miracles of our world. We need to acknowledge our collective sadness, move through the grief and become activists.

Here’s a link to his TED talk which focuses on his Running the numbers work.

Whale tale of plastic spade handle

We took several bags of plastic bits and nylon rope away from this beach holiday.

Kate Grenville’s environmental pep talk


Kate Grenville in the wilderness

Artists and Climate Change

Kate Grenville’s lecture was presented at the “Festival of Ideas” at the University of Melbourne in June 2009. The theme of the festival was “Climate Change / Cultural Change”.

Writers in a Time of Change

I read Kate Grenville’s very inspiring speech some time ago. It was reprinted in The Age newspaper, I believe. It resonated strongly with me. I too popped in to a conference around 1993-ish at Sydney University. It was about Biodiversity. I went to a public forum where scientists spoke frankly from the floor after a panel discussion. One of the subjects raised was the need to translate science talk into public understanding. We all know how that can go awry given the denialists or the climate change counter movement. How can greed and wealth so easily beat science and truth?

It’s easy to remember your fellow school mates who liked science. They were generally not the outgoing types, were they? The scientists at that forum were at a loss as to how to get their messages out to the general public, as was the despairing scientist who approached Kate Grenville.

I’ve been trying! Much of my efforts in writing Ektek and my adult novel have been to translate some basic science into fiction. Just wait until people get to read them!

Publishers’ comments, when rejecting the first book, include the following:

‘There is much to love about Last chance to eat, which is so imaginatively conceived, with plenty of action and humour.’ Davina Bell, Penguin

‘You have a challenging and original idea in Ektek and the nemesis scenario provides a horrifyingly vivid focus for the drama.’ Jennifer Castles, Allen and Unwin

‘…there’s some very interesting (dare I say it, original) ideas in here — I’m quite interested in the idea of a group of animals tackling ecological terrorism.’ Marisa Pintado, Hardie Grant Egmont

But no publisher can find a spot for Ektek on their list. It’s certainly benefitted from constant reworkings. I cannot deny my writing has improved over the years. I’ve had a lot of help from Clare Renner and Lucy Cotter and Philip Millar and Petra Poupa to make the trilogy a lot more readable.

We do have to change. We do have to learn in a different way. I’d love to get involved in this debate. But if I can’t get my books into readers orbits then I can’t join the conversation.

It’s up to you! If only you would read my books and comment. That way I might be able to improve them! Thanks in advance!

And, if you’re an artist, get with Kate Grenville and start talking about change.




What have we in common with animals?

You’ve seen the elephant painting pictures on You Tube. Is it a trick? Is the trainer driving the elephant to make the marks? Has the elephant suffered for their art? How else can these sanctuaries raise money to look after these abandoned creatures? It’s well known that elephants are intelligent, sentient beings. Maybe they wouldn’t choose to paint pictures if they didn’t have to but a beast’s gotta eat …

You know that chimpanzees can recognise themselves in a mirror. You’ve heard dolphins are retiring from the USA navy and you’ve heard about The Great Apes Project. You know that some chimpanzees have been taught sign language to the level of a normal four–year-old human. In a controversial remark Peter Singer pointed out that whatever test we propose as a means for separating humans from non-humans, then some humans will fail as well.

cover of In Defense of Animals by Peter Singer

Infants are neither rational nor autonomous. They do not use language and they do not possess a sense of justice. Are they therefore to be treated like non-human animals, to be fattened for the table, if we should fancy the taste of their flesh, or to be used to find out if some new shampoo will blister human eyeballs? …[…]… those unfortunate enough to be born with brain damage so severe that they will never be able to reason, or talk or do any of the other things that are often said to distinguish us from non-human animals. (Pg 5 In Defence)  ( … but they are still awarded the rights and privileges of our species.)

In contrast to Singer, American legal scholar, Gary L. Francione, states in his blog discussing the Great Apes Project, that using any animal for the benefit of humans, is repugnant. Although he was involved in setting up the project, he has come to think that The Great Apes project is elitist. He prefers the Abolitionist approach which means humans should not lean on our animal cousins at all. We should all be vegan.

Although chimpanzees are more like humans, perhaps, like humans, they have certain psychological mechanisms that allow them to “shut down” in the face of stress that rats, mice, and other sentient nonhumans do not have. In any event, it is very dangerous to play the “X suffers more than Y” game. This is precisely the mischief that has led us to think that the use of chimpanzees in research is justified in the first place—we supposedly suffer more than they do because we have even more of the “special” mental characteristics so it is acceptable to use them so that we can suffer less.

Clearly we have much in common with animals; our biology, our sentience and our devotion to others. We are all part of nature.

           ‘But it’s unfair,’ cried Fern. ‘The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?’

Mr Arable smiled. ‘Certainly not,’ he said, looking down at his daughter with love. ‘But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a runty pig is another.’

‘I see no difference,’ replied Fern, still hanging on to the axe. ‘This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.’ (Pg 8 Charlotte)

Cover of Charlotte's web by EB White

I guess humans are animals too!

Nothing in common?

Continuing thinking about anthropomorphism. Could it be that humans have absolutely nothing in common with animals?

Cover of Primates and Philosophers

Philosopher Franz de Waal says:

I still remember some surrealistic debates among scientists in the 1970s that dismissed animal suffering as a bleeding-heart issue. Amid stern warnings against anthropomorphism, the then prevailing view was that animals were mere robots, devoid of feelings, thoughts or emotions. With straight faces, scientists would argue that animals cannot suffer, at least not the way we do.’ (Pg 76 P&P)

Frans de Waal called this separatism ‘anthropodenial’ and it has hopefully withered under Darwin’s theories of evolution. (It may, however, be quite popular in modern creationist America.)

Another philosopher, Christine M. Korsgaard, in an essay about the evolution of morality, discusses the vested interest we have in our dominion over the animals:

I think it is fair to say that we are more likely to be comfortable in our treatment of our fellow creatures if we think that being eaten, worn, experimented on, held captive, made to work, and killed, cannot mean anything like the same to them that it would do to us. (Pg 104 P&P)

Jared Diamond concludes in The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, that it is basically our human capacity for genocide and the basic human desire to take drugs to get off our faces that marks us as different from the rest of the animal kingdom. In the prologue he says:

Among the…[se] characteristics unique to us are the abilities to talk, write, and build complex machines. We depend completely on tools, not just on our bare hands, to make a living. Most of us wear clothes and enjoy art, and many of us believe in a religion. We are distributed over the whole Earth, command much of its energy and production, and are beginning to expand into the ocean depths and into space. We are also unique in darker attributes, including genocide, delight in torture, addictions to toxic drugs, and extermination of other species by the thousands. (Pg 1 Third Chimpanzee)

The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee by Jared Diamond

So does it seem to you that us humans are not actually very different to our animal cousins after all?