Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A drink in the pub with mates

"But you don't know who you have a drink with down in the pub and what they might have been doing."
– Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer

Now we know the government's excuse for its utter incompetence in the AWB affair: it runs government like having a drink in the pub with mates. Yep, right from the horses mouth: that's Alexander Downer's argument for why the government was
not incompetent for failing to act earlier against AWB. It didn't know what the AWB would do or was doing.

Didn't you
see it coming? Of course the Cole Inquiry was going to hang the corporate honchos of the AWB, and let the Howard Government off the hook in the Iraq bribes for wheat scandal. As the story broke earlier this week, Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Kevin Rudd returned to his claim that the terms of reference for the Cole Inquiry into the Iraq oil for wheat scandal were rorted to keep the government from being found to have acted illegally or with impropriety.

Of course, the Howard government trumpeted Commissioner Cole's findings that it didn't know of the wrong-doing carried out by AWB executives (despite the numerous warnings from public servants!) – leading us to the only conclusion possible:

This government is utterly incompetent. It's failure to investigate the warnings about AWB's shenanigans in Iraq were entirely due to the failure of its ministers to read, heed or act on the warnings by public servants about the AWB's activities in dealing with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

It relied on the 'word of a mate' – its cosy business partners in the AWB, rather than the words of its public servants. It backed-up a business operating in the worst traditions of the excesses of Australian corporate greed and corruption of the 80s – the culture that saw the Alan Bonds and Christopher Skases of Australia operate frontier-style businesses with corrupt practices and greedy hood-winks.

But want can you do? You just don't know who you're drinking with at the pub.

[Image credit: 'Three Men in a Pub', by
John Luce Lockett]

Correction and Apology: The image I've used above is from a painting by John Luce Lockett. I apologise to John that I didn't provide the appropriate credit to him for the image – I was being sloppy (because I believe in giving credit for the images and text I use, but this time I wasn't being thorough), and didn't mention his name or offer an appropriate link to acknowledge him when I first published this post. I have fixed that up now. Corrected: 12 December 2006

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Aboriginal Land Rights - stop government pressure on traditional owners!

I got this message by email, with a plea to circulate it as widely as possible, and I thought I'd post it in part here because I believe the issue is crucially important, and I'd rather get the news out than worry about editorialising it:


`Basic services such as education and health care are the right of all Australians and should not be used as bargaining chips to pressure traditional land owners to hand over their land on 99 year leases.' James Ensor, Oxfam's Director of Public Policy.


On November 30th, traditional land owners are expected to make a decision about the future of their ancestral land. Amendments to the Land Rights Act 1976 will see some of the last standing traditionally owned and occupied lands taken away from Aboriginal people across Australia under harsh Government reforms already underway. Four traditional Aboriginal communities are being targeted in the Northern Territory, (one of which I am currently working and living in, Elcho Island in Arnhem Land), are being heavily pressured to give up control of their lands to a Government body called the ICC on a 99 year lease.

This is an urgent matter, traditional owners and community members have a right to more time and less pressure from the Government to make this decision in just 5 weeks. Most community members and council members are ill-informed about the Bill, due to the heavy use of legal jargon as well as basic literacy barriers. How can we expect these people to make an `informed' decision when they do not understand even the most basic concepts of the Bill?

The proposed lease provisions will effectively take away the rights of the traditional owners to decide who and what takes place on their ancestral lands for 99 years. Companies, services and non-traditional owners will be able to lease land from the government rather than obtaining consent from the land-owners on a case-by-case basis. In effect, the land owners will lose control of their land for four generations.

"The provision for extension of the 99-year leases means that the land may never be returned to my people should this experiment fail," said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma. "While I believe that economic development opportunities are essential for the well-being of Aboriginal communities, I don't think 99-year leases will provide that economic opportunity."

Under these amendments to the Land Rights Act 1976, what will most likely occur is that previously Aboriginal owned townships such as Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, will be leased to non Indigenous people, and the subsequent leases internally may - if they are lucky or fortunate - go to Aboriginal residents. It is highly unlikely that any Aboriginal from such townships will be able to afford the primary lease. It will provide many white people previously without the opportunity for commercial success to gain it at the expense of Aboriginal communities. It will also make things a lot easier and quicker for the mining corporations to wheedle more pristine land out of Aboriginal communities

Agreement to the lease is voluntary in the sense that it does not have to be taken out, but the conditions resemble the current Government's rules of 'wash the kids' faces or you get no petrol.'

In other words, if they don't do it, they will lose services such as education, health and housing provided as an integral right to all Australians.

In contrast, if they agree to 99 year leases, they will automatically be given...

"Around fifty houses [...] and real jobs [and] if the community is safe and signs up to full school attendance, a no-drugs no-violence policy and agree to a 99 year lease to support home ownership and business development opportunities."

According to the Bill, there appears to be no safeguards to ensure that leases and headleases are approved with ministerial AND land council AND the full understanding of traditional owners and residents who may be affected. The Bill outlines that these things must take place, but goes on to say that the subsection which insists upon these requirements is irrelevant to the legitimacy of the lease should they not take place, as long as 'fraud' is not committed. It seems like a convenient loophole included to be just that; an easy way out of such implicit dealings with the actual people affected.

Commissioner Calma said: "I urge the government to postpone the passage of this Bill until there is more detail regarding the impact of the implementation of the legislation and until land owners have been informed and given the opportunity to provide input into this process." "The federal Government has not consulted with Aboriginal land owners on significant aspects of the legislation.'

We are asking for MEDIA ATTENTION on this issue, as it has received very little so far, probably due to the controversy it would ignite.

- That these traditional communities have the right to more time and more assistance in understanding the legalities of the Bill before deciding on the future of their land.
  • That these traditional communities should not be pressured, bullied or used as bargaining grounds.
  • That these traditional communities have a right to be part of the legislative process of making laws about the use of and entry into their communities.
  • That these traditional communities have a citizen right to the decent housing, health, education and business enterprises that are being promised in return for the 99 year lease.
From Sinem (on Elcho Island), via Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (Victoria)

Those involved in this want lots of media attention on this issue, which has been terribly missing.

More information on the Government's attacks on Aboriginal land rights, via its ammendments to the Land Rights Act, is available from ANTAR Victoria.

Another mainstream group campaigning on the Land Rights issue has been GetUp! Australia.

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Even in death must we have certainty

I can imagine it now: 'Is that, or isn't it, Uncle Willy's…?"

The University of New South Wales has had its licence for storing body parts revoked and "its surgery training has been disrupted", for "not complying with the requirements for the storage and labelling of body parts."

I remember when 'donating your body to science' was one of those rare but highly noteworthy acts. But I never really thought about what happens to the body after the scientists are done with it. It didn't really occur to me that they would take the body to bits! Let alone putting it all back together again! What was I [not] thinking?

"It's important when the period of use is finished that the body can be disposed of again as as person," said the anatomy inspector for south-eastern Sydney Health, Dr Mark Pherson. (Wow, I didn't even know they still had such job titles!)

Let's just hope that the end-of-year anatomy finals at UNSW are over.

[Image from Wikipedia]


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Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekend wrap

I hate it when I am so busy that I don't get to blog – and I miss on writing about all this cool stuff before hand! But then I'm told that it's a sign that:
  1. I had a good weekend
  2. I have a life
  3. I have something to blog about.
Well, in case you missed it, Saturday 25 November was 'Buy Nothing Day'. Damn. I so wanted to blog about it since I started my little obsession with consumerism. Two Peas have some nice graphics from the initiators of the day, AdBusters. But I did remember that I didn't want to buy anything that day. However, I succumbed to buying one sausage at my son's school sausage sizzle, which was trying to make a buck from those pouring in to the Polling Station on their school's grounds.

Oh, yeah. In case you missed it, Victoria had an election. In case you hadn't heard, the ALP won. Again. And the much lauded 'protest vote' against the Labor government going stale after two terms didn't really materialise – either for the Liberals, or the Greens (which was a shame for the Greens – they had their hopes up for this one).

Can you believe that they are still counting the votes for the Upper House? Can it be that difficult to tell us whether or not there will be more of an alternative to the two-party system in the Upper House – preferably the Greens, rather than the ultra-conservative Family First!

Oh. And Barista has a very cool image of optical fibres embeded into a concrete wall. Way cool.

And yes, I did have a very nice weekend, thank you, and a good couple of days off late last week too!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alternatives to nuclear

The nuclear debate invariably initiates discussions of what alternatives would make for more economic/environmental/greenhouse reducing sense. I accept that there certainly are alternatives, which we must invest in and use. I don't believe, however, that this will happen under the Howard government. Unless their hand is forced.

I was inspired by one of the
comments to my previous post on the Ziggy report – I decided to turn what started off as brief remarks in the comments into this post, as it captures some other issues I've been thinking about.

commenter suggests that the Australian economy would be far better off – i.e. make far more money – investing in 'clean coal' technologies and exporting them, than they would from nuclear power. The expansion of this technology would also make more of an impact reducing greenhouse gas emissions that going nuclear, if I understand correctly. This is on top of the obvious benefit to reducting Australia's greenhouse emission levels.

The problem is I think Australia – under the Howard government – is too short-sighted: we are enamoured with the get-rich-quick economy of the resources sector (mining coal and uranium amongst other things) rather than with high-tech industry exports. The Howard government's poor record on funding for industry R&D and the underfunding of university research speaks volumes for this. As does its failure to adequately support the development of renewable energy industry.

Tim Flannery has argued that Australia is in a position to lead the world on solar power – with photovoltaic cells esp – but I think that our failure to invest in this area threatens this industry: we lost one of Australia's leading photovoltaic cell scientists to Germany, and we are on the back foot in terms of the big export markets opening up.

Recently Spain did what Howard was too lazy, craven, or compromised to do: they made the installation of solar power on all new housing/building projects mandatory from next year, "with the aim of turning Spain from a straggler to a European leader in the use of renewable energy". According to the Times Online report:
Spain lags far behind Germany, Europe’s current solar energy leader, where 5.4 million sq metres of solar panels are currently in use. But in spite of its low domestic usage, Spain is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of solar panels.
Now, if demand outstrips their production, who will all those Spanish builders be importing their solar panels from? The Germans, with their advances in and support for solar, or the Australians, who are struggling to get our technology advanced and commercialised?

If you're interested in also making clear what a majority of Australians are saying – No to nuclear power – the Ziggy
Taskforce is inviting 'feedback on its draft report'. The deadline for feedback is 12 December 2006.

[Image by clickykbd]

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ziggy - you are wrong!

The cat's finally out of the bag: the ABC reports that the Howard government's review of uranium mining and nuclear power, under former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski, has found nuclear energy 'a practical option' for Australia. Hah! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The big environmental groups came out fighting this morning, before the report's release, to reject the nuclear option because they anticipated the report's pro-nuclear stance very early on.
Many believed that the inquiry was a forgone conclusion, considering what Howard's been saying up to now. And they were right.

Arguing that nuclear power could effectively deliver power to our grid in 10 to 15 years, the Switkowski report also talks up the contribution that nuclear processing and enrichment could make to the economy.

ABC Online has published an
opinion piece by Ziggy Switkowski (is this part of the new 'anti-bias' editorial push in the ABC?) where he spruiks, and pre-emptively defends, his arguments in favour of expanding uranium mining, and introducing uranium enrichment and nuclear power in Australia. He tries to short-circuit his critics by arguing that nuclear power is safe:
Nuclear weapons proliferation is another issue of concern to the public. Increased Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle would not change the risks. It is clandestine activity that is likely to lead to the production of nuclear weapons, not civil nuclear activities.
Compare this to what Al Gore told The Age in an extensive interview in last Saturday's paper:
"For eight years when I was in the White House, every problem of weapons proliferation was connected to a reactor program."
Gore also pointed to 'the problems of long-term waste storage, danger of operator error and vulnerability to terrorist attack' to show that nuclear is not a viable alternative.

Who are we going to believe? The man who helped run the largest nuclear power – in both military and domestic senses – in the world (no matter what we think of how well they did it or not), with access to the most extensive intelligence reporting available to any country?

Or a jumped-up corporate honcho who helped run a telecommunications company – into the ground in rural Australia (albeit whose claim to legitimacy on the nuclear issue is having a nuclear-physics PhD), and whose inquiry is seen by so many as a rubber stamp for Howard's neclear agenda?

The report indicates that nuclear power will be between 20 to 50 per cent more expensive than conventional power. How on earth does that make it viable?! Especially in light of what Gore says:
"And the uncertainty in the future of energy demand, especially when prices are rising, means that utility executives want to keep more of their options open; they don't want to bet their entire construction budget on the most expensive, largest increment that takes the longest time to build."
But I think this finding illustrates what is potentially one of Howard's real purposes behind his apparent 'greenhouse coversion'. Dr Switkowski says nuclear energy would only be competitive in Australia if there were a recognised cost for greenhouse gas emissions. So, by Howard claiming to acknowledge the seriousness of global warming, he can now talk up the 'real' cost of coal-fired power production – in terms of CO2 emissions, not just dollars – in order to make the incredibly expensive nuclear alternative more pallatable to the public.

However, the extent of public antipathy towards nuclear power cannot be underestimated. Too many of us don't want nuclear power plants. This can be capitalised upon, however, by the government. When the dust settles after this report, and after the campaigns to oppose nuclear power, it is possible that expanding uranium mining and introducing nuclear enrichment to bulk out Australia's already resources-driven economy will be offered as the more pallatable options over nuclear power plants. (Not surprisingly, the mining industry has welcomed the report.)

Unfortunately, this taps in to the selfishness of the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality in the Australian public: they don't mind if uranium is dug up, carted around, and nuclear waste stored, on Aboriginal land, dispossessing Aboriginal people and poisoning heritage listed places like Kakadu National Park in the process, but they don't want nuclear power stations or dumps in their neighbourhoods. Not surprisingly.

According to the ABC, the Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has rejected the report's recommendations:
"That is one of the few things on which I can say in recent times I've absolutely agreed with George Bush - there should be no new uranium enrichment facilities anywhere."
This is a promising start, but it's piss-weak considering Beazley's (and his supporters') support for reversing the ALP's Three Mines Policy limiting uranium mining.

We need more. Fare more, if we are to stop the Howard nuclear agenda. And we can't expect it from the federal ALP.

The only good thing in the inquiry's report is an acknowledgement that nuclear power will not be the panacea to global warming, and that other efforts to reduce carbon emissions from coal and gas will be required.

That is one are where we must focus - to discredit the bankrupt claims by nuclear's proponents that nuclear power can in any way offer a solution to global warming. But it is a start.

[Image from a photo by Sprol of the imploding cooling tower during the decommissioning of the Trojan nuclear power plant in US]

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Week's end

It's been a busy (couple of) week, and I haven't been able to write on a number of stories bubbling away. So I'm doing the next best thing and sharing a bunch of links and comments with you so that you can follow up the stories yourself. Thanks to the readers who sent some of these tips (including David and Stephen):
  1. New Matilda had an interesting article speculating (and analysing) why Howard has wandered down the nuclear track (thanks David).

  2. The 12th of November was the anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre, where hundreds of young East Timorese independence activists were massacred by Indonesian policy, military and intelligence officials. I forgot all about it until I read Axis of Evel Knievel (thanks to Barista for the introduction), which covers the massacre in good detail. You can read my perspective to the massacre and the anniversary I missed in the comments. (Thanks Barista and 'Axis')

  3. The anti-capitalist protests are gearing-up against the G20 meeting here in Melbourne, amid the usual media who-ha about expected activist violence at these demonstrations, which has not materialised. From my observations, the violence usually comes from the police, and the media who like a good beat-up (in all its varieties). Some of the posters advertising the anti-G20 rallies slated for Saturday have resurrected a clever twist on the 'Make Poverty History' slogan: 'Make Capitalism History'. Nice. (Thanks ABC and posters at tram stops).

  4. And apparently, if the anti-G20 protesters can't deliver, capitalism will eat itself. According to the Stern report, the 'World economy 'faces ruin' from climate change' (thanks Stephen). Interestingly, the news that the capitalist world economy will dry up along with the water has turned John Howard into a born-again climate change crusader. And is taking his new zeal to APEC. However, instead of advocating compulsory greenhouse emissions reductions, he's pushing for a technological fix – that will essentially allow polluters to keep going with their energy consumption on the fiction that the fix will capture their emissions. Oh, and a trading scheme that he can control.
This will end in tears, I tell you.

And just to remind you that the conversation about your favourite and recommended children's books around environmental themes (or not) is continuing in the comments to my previous post on Uno's Garden. Thanks to those who've shared, and please keep the suggestions coming.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On a bad day

With rain lashing down on us, snow in Ballarat this morning, as well as in the Alpine region, and a cold wind a blowing down the street, I'm a bit thrown by this day's weather … As you can see.

Can this really be the tail end of spring?

Go play with Mr Picasso Head. It is really good.

Thanks to Ampersand Duck for the idea.

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What does American democracy look like?

The US Congressional election has certainly inspired reflection on the nature of our democracies – both in the US and in Australia and elsewhere. For instance, WorldChanging asks the question on many minds: What Does Democracy in Action Look Like?, and points to the Polling Place Photo Project, which
is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that seeks to empower citizens to capture, post and share photographs of democracy in action. By documenting their local voting experience on November 7, voters can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.
Some of the photographs (such as the one above) are fascinating. But most of the ones I had time to look at are hardly celebratory or glamourous. In fact, they are predominantly plain-old shots of what polling stations, and the ephemera that accompanies them, look like, and a few of people in them – working, volunteering or voting. Very pedestrian. But that is what democracy is like.

As Emily Gertz, in her WorldChanging post on the project, says,
the idea is to create an alternative to the typical images that glut the mainstream media during an election day, and also to make transparent what this most basic of American actions looks like. By the very nature of creating a photograph of it, that action gets elevated into something noteworthy…
The voter backlash against the American right, George Bush and the war in Iraq has led a great deal of hand-wringing, back-peddling, blaming, and sour grapes amongst American right-wing pundits, who I suspect hate or fear the 'people' whom they've realised they can't control - forever. At the heart of it, though, is the fact that people in America walked into polling booths around the country and cast their vote (or tried to, as the case may be where they had trouble with voting machines etc). And this is also laudable in spite of my, and other 'left-wing' or 'progressive' misgivings about the Democrats taking power and the poverty of America's two-party system.

In its post-election rallying cry to its conservative faithful, right wing website Eject! Eject! Eject! (thanks to Stephen for that link in the comments to my previous post) at the very least acknowledges that the people have spoken:
"And most especially do not blame the American people. They are not idiots and they are not sheep."
Amen for that.

[Image from Polling Place Photograph Project, taken in North-West Pasadena, California]

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

With this change, will it be any better?

There's a great deal of jubilation at the result of the American elections – with the Democrats winning control of Congress and scraping-in to sieze the Senate with a two-seat majority. It is particularly apparent in the blogs I read, including Barista and Emunctory, and the coverage of the elections in The Age treats it as a trouncing of the Republicans, and a strong rebuke to Bush's policy on Iraq.

For me, however, the initial satisfaction at the Republican's loss gave way to missgivings as I wondered if things would be very different with the Democrats in power in Congress. Mike at Peasants are Revolting shares some wariness as well, including a concern that the Democrats will fall prey to the lure of power.

My concerns are that the Democrats are still a mainstream political party with only some semblance of a social welfare/pro-labour platform. Yes, they may be against the war in Iraq, they may act more quickly to tackle global warming, and they may reverse the decline in working conditions and social equality in the US. Our jubliation that they are NOT the Republicans, and NOT under Bush's thumb should not cloud our capacity to assess them critically. Somehow, the Democrats' record on foreign policy does not fill me with great hope.

After all, the Democrats – under Clinton – gave us the US prevarication over Somalia (which led to the half-aresed invasion and withdrawal, leaving a crazy situation there), ignored the bloodshed and genocide in Rwanda and Bhurundi (until it was too late, virtually), and the NATO bombing of Kosovo and Serbia (because they couldn't think of how else to tackle Milosovich before he went on the warpath). And if you look at it closely, the Democrats, under that much lauded Kennedy, are the ones who go the US into the intractable messes in Vietnam and the rest of Indochina in the first place. And the Cuban missile crisis!

I'm feeling better already.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jericho and American exceptionalism

My partner and I have been watching Jericho these last few weeks, and as the series continues and the plot develops, or not, we have grown frustrated. My partner comments that what started out as an intriguing TV programme that we enjoyed watching together - our replacement for West Wing for our Thursday TV night once the kids are in bed – has lost its appeal. She reckons its not the programme she thought it would be.

In The Road to Nowhere, Tim Sterne has done a far better job of reviewing Jericho for Sarsaparilla than I ever could, so I highly recommend it. He captures all the things I've found troubling about the series:
There are two intertwined fantasies at work here. First is that of American exceptionalism. When the bombs begin to fall, the rest of the world may disintegrate or descend into anarchy but there is something inherently orderly and democratic about American society that will prevail no matter what you throw at it. The second fantasy is that of America – or at least Middle America, at which Jericho is so clearly pitched – as the embodiment of the small-town values that in turn reinforce America’s exceptional status.
There's more where that comes from, and well worth reading, if only it tells us much about how America views itself in the face of 'adversity'. I'm still not convinced that I should give up watching though. I still want to see what – or rather who – is coming over the horizon.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Walk against warming was huge!

Last Saturday's Walk against Warming in Melbourne was huge! Some estimates put the numbers of people marching at over 30,000. It struck me as a lot more, as you can see from the photographs. The shot above was taken from the Flinders and Swanston Sts junction, and show that the march extended quite a way back down Swanston St.

When I was at the starting point at the Town Hall in Collins St – still waiting to start marching – it looked like the front of the march had extended up to Flinders St Station, with the bulk of the protesters still congregating along Swanston St.

There were some very interesting home-made placcards, including this one (left) calling for a Carbon Tax, and another calling for the Victorian government to fund/provide solar hot water heaters for all households in the state! I could live with both ideas, myself!

The rally finished up at Birrarung Marr, the park along the Yarra's banks. The photo below only shows a small portion of the crowd, gathering in front of the stage set up for the musicians and speakers.

The crowd extended along the bank, and ranged up the grassy slope that forms an ampitheatre to this space you see in the shot above, which is where I was. Some of the crown also sood on the pedestrian bridge that crossed the Yarra River near the park, with their banners stretched along the railings (see below). Unfortunately, I was too far away to really see or hear what was happening on stage, bar one of the speakers.

Yet, it was clear as day that so many thousands of people are concerned with global warming, and want some concerted, strong action on the part of our governments to introduce effective measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and reverse the effects of global warming! And they were truly a cross-section of our community.

I heard that the walks in other Australian cities were also quite successful, though I haven't heard specifics of the Sydney or Brisbane rallies. Paul at Two Peas, No Pod, has posted on the walk in Canberra, and links to a number of round-ups of the day.

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Thanks to a heads-up from Christy at Two Peas, No Pod, I had fun playing 'condemnation' at Lavartus Prodeo.

Not a bunch I normally play with online, I was inspired by the sheer humour, ludicrousness, and insight (*ahem*) of most of the comments, and the gratuitous Audrey Hepburn photos and comments, like mine. No, Audrey Hepburne can't sing. It looks like the wave of fun has kinda petered out, but it's worth reading.


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Environmental issues for kids through story telling

One of Jacob's birthday presents is the new book by Graeme Base, Uno's Garden, which was from my parents. (It was my suggestion actually…) I think it is a lovely book, and want to share it with you. I haven't had time to think it through enough to write my own review, so I'm quoting from the review of Uno's Garden from the ABC website arts blog, Articulate:
[Base] has turned his attention to the balance between humankind's development and the environment; using numbers, puzzles and his fantastical illustrations to explore the issue.

Base told Articulate he believes the book, though sad in parts, is ultimately an optimistic story about how human beings can learn to live within their environment.

"There is a sad moment but in any tale in any story, you do tend to go to a sad or a dark place before you begin that ramp back up to the end and this is no exception. The important thing about that moment in the book is that it is the garden that lives on. It's Uno's legacy and it's very, very empowering and it's all to do with Uno's children and grandchildren taking that legacy and then discovering the animals again and making sure that when they rebuild their city, that the numbers are in control."
For a while now, my partner and I have been talking about how to introduce environmental issues to Jacob. We want him to know about the drought and the importance of saving water, and about global warming and saving electricity, but we want to do this in ways that don't scare him with end-of-the-world scenarios and paralyse him with fear. We want him to be part of the solution - to know how we can act to reverse this.

I think that children's stories, such as Uno's Garden, are a great way to do this because they are fun, entertaining, and engage all their senses. If you're interested in other children's writers and illustrators who tackle environmnental issues, I suggest Jeannie Baker, whose books (Where the Forrest Meets the Sea, Rosie Dock and others) introduce kids to environmentally ideas very subtly, and Allison Lester, whose Are We There Yet? (which I've reviewed here previously) introduces kids to the natural wonders of Australia through the adventure of travel.

The key things to remember are kids don't want to feel they're being preached to or that they are 'learning' something, or that their environmentally-conscious actions, such as turning lights off and taking shorter showers, are onerous. Make it fun, as these books do.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Walk against warming this Saturday

This Saturday 4 November, there will be a 'Walk Against Warming' in all major cities in Australia. The day is slated as the International Day of Action on Climate Change (though I don't know whom by).

If you are in Melbourne, as I am, the walk starts at 1pm at the Melbourne Town Hall, walking to Birrarung Marr park on the Yarra River.

More information, including details of what's happening in other Australian capital cities and regional centres, is on the website for Walk Against Warming, who've billed the event this way:
The Australian Government doesn't care about climate change.

We know you do.

The Government will only take real action on climate change and protect our kids' futures if you to tell them to. Join thousands of other Australians in a peaceful walk urging action on climate change now.

Get Up! Australia are also plugging the event as a major initiative to demonstrate public demand for stronger government action to reverse climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Check out their criticism of the Howard government's poor response to global warming here.

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