Archive | June 2015

So, the POPE!! Goodbye Australian Renewable Engergy!

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

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?

As usual, though, here is a handy reminder there are people working to change attitudes. (

Heartlands, aim and reach …

What have Greenpeace and John Wolseley got in common? They’re both hanging around Fed Square in Melbourne, inside and out, trying to communicate their love of nature. Why?

Do they succeed? Can you share this love or just walk right past?

In their latest campaign, Greenpeace fight to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Last Thursday half a dozen young activists learned basic circus skills and swung themselves over the wall outside at Federation Square to dance/swim in projected animations to a jazzy whale sound track. They encouraged us to end the age of coal and ‘Take another look.’

It was sold as a ‘spectacular’ and Greenpeace fans were encouraged to book tickets. Spectacular in comparison to what? A basic banner unfurling? Or Legs on the Wall? Not fair? How many people did Greenpeace want at this event? There may have been a hundred and fifty – including innocent bystanders – entertained and encouraged by Rod Quantock. Is that enough to Save the Reef?

Half the reef has died in the last thirty years.

What can Greenpeace, anyone, do to Save the Reef? How can activists grab attention and create action? You could look at some pictures online? Are you moved? Will you act?

In contrast you could wander inside to the NGV at Fed Square and check out Heartlands and Headwaters. This show is supposedly laid out in the shape of a tree, with big works on the walls surrounding the trunk. Well, it’s a nice attempt but there’s no getting away from the white box and clean lines of an urban modern art gallery. (Next time think Herring Island or Heide, perhaps?)

The most dramatic piece for me was ‘Dystopia – the last wetland Gwydir 2184’. In this work, Wolseley attempts to show cotton farms engulfing nature. Dystopeia-01

You can see the dead pelican print (lower right) more closely below.


You can see Wolseley making this work here. And here are the cotton farms:cotton farms

He is trying to get inside nature, show his connections, his own nature. Inside the rythyms and tensions, the cycles and evolution. He is certainly ambitious. The works around the walls are extensive, like this ‘From the edge of the great floodplain Garrangari and Garrangali’ in the Northern Territory.


Inside this luminous paper work are smaller collaged worksfloodplain-detail-02

bringing such detail and evoking such life and depth that the piece seems to breathe.

floodplain detail 01

Floodplain took three years to make. In the words on the wall Mr Wolesley describes learning from an elder, also artist, about the use of some of the plants and mentions ‘deep time’ as compared to shallow time where humans are present.


In ‘Natural History of Swamps III’, a heron examines CO2 at Loy Yang Power Station. Wolesley makes no demands on his audience. We are not expected to sign a petition. We are invited to wonder and perhaps to wander as in ‘Simpson Desert Sandunes moving across the Finke River’ in South Australia. Simpson-desert

You can see the smaller more detailed collages inviting closer examination.audienceHere you get a sense of the attempted tree down the middle of the space.


These are examples of the paper he rescued from the burnt mallee – some he’d left there for months, one is even marked by roots after a burial. These papers are bent and stiffened by the elements and marked by the charcoal fingers of the scrub. Some are trapped in perspex boxes and turned into precious objects by their presentation. Others, like these, fly loose across the walls like china ducks. Am I influenced by his art? His skill? His humanity? Does his love for Nature get beyond the paper?

If we know not Nature, then how can we protect it? 

If we only see Nature writ large on the wall of a gallery, then how can we love it? Can our love be enough to save Nature?

How can we be moved to change?

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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'

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

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

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

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.

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.