Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

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Hate whaling?

January 16, 2008

Fair enough. So do I. But why not the killing of cows, pigs, chickens, fish? I mean, what’s the difference? Lots of people in Australia are getting in a fuss about Japanese ships hunting whales in and around Australian waters. People are getting outraged at the way in which whales are harpooned, hauled aboard while alive and then cut up… After this, the Japanese groups with vested interests claim that the whales are scientifically studied and catalogued. However, some Australian groups with vested interests claim that it is sold in Japan as whale meat and that this is the primary reason that some Japanese ships are hunting whales. Either way, why not object to other animals being treated in this way? I love whales and think they are beautiful. But they are no more worthy of our respect and protection than other animals.

There was some indignant reaction in Australia last week when a video, produced by an anonymous person from Japan and distributed on YouTube, made claims that Australians hunt kangaroos and other animals for both sport AND to eat and we kill other animals such as cows and pigs to simply eat them. The video went on to claim that Australia’s objection to Japanese whaling is simply a reflection of Australia being racist and acting with overtones of cultural imperialism. It’s not my intention here to address the particular points made by the video. I just want to ask a few other questions while the issue is out there.

So, why are whales so special? Why is it more appropriate to eat a cow, pig, chicken or fish than a whale? What about a kangaroo? a beautiful, majestic deer? A moose?

We compartmentalise, steralise, lactate, torture, abuse, neglect and then eat cows, pigs, chickens, fish, kangaroos, deer etc. everyday as a society. But, when whales are hunted, a double standard of outrage surfaces. Is it simply because some species of whales are endangered? If this is so, then why not make as much noise for any other species of animal or plant that is endangered?

The way whales are treated by the Japanese is a direct reflection of the way that we as a society treat the cows, pigs, chickens and other animals that we raise with the explicit intention to chop up their bodies, wrap them in plastic and sell them in supermarkets for x amount of dollars per kilogram. It’s an outright double standard. Different cultures kill and eat different animals. Both exploit the animal, who has vested interests of their own: their right to life and their right to freedom. Humans of all cultures are guilty of robbing all animals of their right to life and freedom. Whales are one example of this… and many more can be found in among our own culture as well as in most others.

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Spring

September 13, 2007

Yikes! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. But I have a good excuse. I started a new job (which I absolutely love) and it’s been quite a challenge – so I hit the ground running and haven’t really had time for anything else until this week. It has been grand watching the implosion of the Liberals and John Howard. To watch him squirm and beg to be re-elected on the 7.30 report last night was funny. How the mighty have fallen. Waiting now for the election to be called. My bet is a 50/50 chance between November 17th or 24th. I think anything after that is a little too late – although with the prospect of an interest rate rise in early November, these dates could be the final pitfall for Howard and his “team”… We’ll see.

Anyway, Canberra is almost in full bloom at the moment as Spring thrusts itself upon us with flowers blooming everywhere and people sneezing their grey matter out through their noses. It is very pretty to walk around any suburb here at the moment. Our own backyard is blooming and now that it’s warm enough, I’ve been spending quite some time out there. I snapped these yesterday afternoon… Enjoy.

More politics soon when I take a well earned two week break!

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Surprised?

July 10, 2007

There has been a somewhat surprised reaction to revelations this week that Canberrans generate the largest ecological footprint in Australia, consume the most water per household and that the city’s per capita greenhouse pollution level is 18 per cent higher than the national average. I personally was surprised at the surprise. I’ve only lived in Canberra for six months and one of the first things I noticed about the place is the extravagant taste and excessive consumerism of many who live here. In keeping with Canberra’s image of being a privileged city, census data released two weeks ago tells us that Canberra’s populace is also richer and more educated than the rest of Australia, with over 30 per cent of Canberrans having completed a university degree.

One could be forgiven for assuming that the high rate of education among Canberra’s populace would lead to people consuming less so as to lighten their ecological footprint and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After all, the connection between consumption and the steady destruction of the natural world isn’t that hard to make or understand, is it? Is it that people aren’t making or understanding this connection or that they simply don’t care? Is it that they need to be shown something more tangible to be convinced that our very existence as a species (not to mention the millions of other species we share the planet with) is under threat? Surely an “educated” person has come across this evidence and has made the connection between consumerism and the destruction of our environment with some ease.

However, it seems that this assumption is made in haste. For the rate at which the most educated and privileged city in Australia is consuming natural resources far outstrips the rest of the country – not that their level of consumption is ideal either. While there is justifiable anger at how slow our politicians have been in reacting to environmental destruction (to use a very broad term that covers problems such as resource depletion and climate change), the fact remains that it is each person’s everyday choice that directly impacts on the natural world.

Every time you or I decide to buy a new lawn mower, a fancy new leather sofa, a top of the range coffee machine, order a 400g steak (for those of you who eat meat), drive down the road to work instead of walking or taking public transport, leave an electric blanket on instead of just throwing on another layer or travel around in a tank-like 4WD, we are making a huge combined impact on the natural world. As David Suzuki has pointed out so many times – everything we see around us has come from this planet and this planet only contains so much. This is not to say that business and government don’t play their part in impacting on the natural world – but they are also driven by what we as consumers and voters do and decide to care about.

The political action that needs to be taken to respond to the many different environmental challenges that we face is only one key element in the equation. In addition to pressuring our leaders, we as people need to stop kidding ourselves that we can keep living the excessive consumer-driven lifestyles that many of us have become accustomed to. The choice doesn’t just rest with John Howard or Kevin Rudd to do something, it rests with all of us.

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Aching thighs from the top

March 18, 2007

OK, it’s not the best idea to go on an intense bushwalk when you’re not in the best shape and you have a serious chronic illness with symptoms that tend to strike without warning. But, I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me. Today, S and I wandered into Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and walked the Gibraltar Trail (pdf) which is in the “challenging” category of the Tidbinbilla walks.

It started off as an overland trail which was quite easy. As we got up the first hill, about 30 kangaroos greeted us with inquisitive looks and ears pricking up in every direction. We pushed on to the tough part. It was steep – really steep – and it took quite a while to reach the summit at 1040 metres, but we got there and boy was it amazing. At several points along the way, we paused to pick different types of Eucalypt leaves which all smelt wonderful. When we got to the top, we were struck dumb by an amazing rock formation and a view that will stay with me forever. My thighs were aching and I felt buggered, but hell – the complete (and I mean complete) silence, the wafting smell of the Eucalypts and the satisfaction at having climbed all the way to the top made everything else seem to fade into the background in a prolonged moment of pure bliss. Next time, I shall remember to bring my camera. But for the moment, here is a picture (that someone else took) of what greeted us when we reached the top:

Image from here.

If you’re ever down in the southern reaches of the ACT and you’ve got a day, head into Tidbinbilla. It’s well worth it. We have resolved to return during the year (although not in the freezing winter) to have a crack at the rest of the walks there. I can’t wait!

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Water water every… … where?

February 1, 2007

Mike Rann, Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard have all been exchanging verbal diarrhea about the Murray-Darling Basin. The pathetic incompetence of all state governments and the federal government in relation to water conservation and global warming has really been shown up in the last six months. I must say, as belated as it is and as politically motivated as is seems, Mike Rann’s response to the Howard/Turnbull grab for control over the Murray-Darling Basin does seem to be a good idea and I’ll tell you why I think so.

John Howard has said today in relation to this: “I was elected to try and solve the nation’s problems, I’m trying to solve one of the nation’s problems with this proposal.” Indeed, Howard was first elected 11 years ago this year. 10 years ago, the Kyoto Protocol was drafted and for the last 5 years, most conservation and community groups have been screaming their lungs out at both state and federal governments to get off their arses and do something to stem the tide of global warming and to act NOW to conserve water not only in response to what has been one of the worst droughts in Australian history, but for a common sense approach that will at least attempt to secure our water supply for the future by not engaging in some of the ridiculously wasteful practices of the past. Only over these past few months have I even heard John Howard acknowledge that global warming exists – whilst a majority of the world actually listened to the scientists who were giving warnings about this 15 years ago and got off their arses and drafted the Kyoto Protocol in response in 1997 – when Howard had been in power for a full year. Howard was a still a non-believer this time last year – at the beginning of 2006!

Now, the states don’t get off easily either. I’ve read a few responses over the last few days to Peter Beattie’s decision to scrap the referendum on using recycled water in south-east Queensland and simply go ahead with it. Some of the responses praised Beattie for his vision and leadership (including John Howard). This wasn’t visionary leadership at all. True leadership in this matter would have seen Beattie and every other Premier taking this step at least 5 years ago. Beattie, by his own admission when asked by Tony Eastley on AM the other day about why he was doing this now said “Because we have no choice”. Yes, true visionary leadership there. “Because we have no choice”? Recycled water is a common sense approach to take anyway in one of the driest countries in the world. It’s always puzzled me as to why the hell we flush our toilets, water our gardens and and wash our cars (oh, how we love our cars!) with fresh, clean water. For Morris Iemma and Steve Bracks to still turn down suggestions that their respective states start using recycled water is outright bloody stupid!

And this brings me back to Mike Rann’s suggestion that an independent body be created to manage the Murray-Darling Basin. Politicians, both state and federal have had at the very least 10 years to get going on creating responses and solutions to global warming and securing a safe, clean and sustainable water supply in this country – and for the last 10 years they have failed us. As overall water storage in south-east Queensland heads down towards 20% and hovers around 35% in NSW and the ACT, politicians have FINALLY realised that this is a serious matter and we need to act NOW to respond. If an independent body were created to manage not only the Murray-Darling Basin, but all matters regarding water in this country, the squabbling between the state and federal government would perhaps give way to decent policies being drafted on the basis of independent advice with the single purpose of using what little we have wisely – so that we can finally move foward on global warming and have a better way to deal with the inevitable droughts that we will have to face in the future.

The federal and state governments have had ample time to respond to these issues. If there was ever a time to quit playing politics and give way to an independent body on this matter, it’s now. They’ve failed us for too long on what are the two most pressing issues facing this nation today.

UPDATE: Andrew Bartlett has issued a press release saying much the same thing.