Caged

I went to the zoo in Melbourne this week, it goes against every grain of my being, I believe the zoo is a sign of our inhumanity – animals hunted or brought to the brink of extinction for tusks, skins, fur and palm oil – given sanctuary in glass cages and concrete tombs. We champion our conservation skills rather than focus our attention on the destruction of their habitats and the desire of people to hunt for sport.

It was only my second visit to a zoo in about 20 years, the last coming 6 years ago with my two nephews, as I wanted them to see some of the majestic creatures that inhabit this world before we make them extinct. I feel a little conflicted by it as I appreciate the work and the ethics of the staff that work in zoos but I cannot fathom why we are not more angry that these spectacular animals are kept in such cramped conditions because of our actions and inability to coexist with them. There are  also those people who claim that it provides valuable information by studying them in captivity but that is like saying an alien race can gain valuable information studying humans by sticking them in a broom cupboard with artificial light.

Watching bears and tigers pace up and down, wolves that chase down buffalo for over a mile being fed pedigree chum (not literally) leaves me with a deep sadness as men, women and children rattle their keys, chains and scream – banging on windows to gather their attention. I think I could stomach it more if zoos were designed with the animals in mind and not us, the consumer. We have larger areas to sit and eat than an elephant. Minimising the area and aesthetics for humans would maximise the space for animals, the addition of sound proofed glass tunnels would be a good move too, in trying to alleviate the sensory overload these animals must face daily.

So what was my point after all of this? I guess that we should be trying foster a world where we don’t drive species to extinction through land management practices, manufacturing  and hunting, thus making the need for zoos either obsolete or, at the very least, significantly reduced. Until then I shall work on building my own army of the twelve monkeys.

   

                 

#SocksOff

More than just a saying amongst friends “socks off” is a real philosophy that we should all embrace. In my first post 4 weeks ago about life back down under, I mentioned that the pace of life used to be chilled and relaxed. After almost 10 years gone, what would it be like today?

Well that largely depends on where you go. I guess that much was true back then too.

As I head north through to Cairns from Melbourne on a short break before I get stuck in to what I’m here for, I see a range of lifestyles and outlooks on life. Some good, some not so good. 

Big City Life

Melbourne is to Sydney as I found Chicago to New York – one is a hub of culture and quirky bars, the other a victim of its own razzmatazz. There are, for me, striking similarities between Chicago and Melbourne in the way they do what they do, glam but without the bells and whistles, where as Sydney and New York feel like they just try too hard. Life in Melbourne is relatively fast paced (for Australia) but is positively laid flat out when compared to the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Sydney has some amazing features, but for me, Melbourne just has something more and if you whisper about it too loud, it disappears on the breeze. 

The streets are busy, the shoes are snazzy and the style is chic. But is there another way?

 

 

  

Big Hippie Life 

The Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast as it is called, moving north along the East Coast is chocked full of amazing spots, none more so than Byron Bay, a throw back to life in the 1960’s and 70’s. Here you will find street performers of a wide range of arts, from singing and guitars to dancing and jewellery makers. Here, people wear their thongs (flip flops)  off and they beat the street with their bare feet, reconnected to the earth. 

It’s hard not join them and feel a sense of freedom. 

   

 

It’s now I remember my first time in Australia, where shoes were the furthest thing from my mind, thongs were optional and the pace of life slowed right down. I came to think of shoes as being a symbol of our global oppression, the golden ball and chain slapped on us, so to speak, forcing us to live an ever faster pace of life, stepping up and over each other in the pursuit of happiness through superior purchasing power.

We place such a high standing on foot wear that there are now companies thriving, through their philanthropy of giving shoes to people without any, for every pair that’s bought, to bring them more in line with our way of living. 

But is our way really any better? 

Oneness

We have lost what one woman described to me this week as “our oneness”, our oneness with each other and the land around us. Without shoes we are forced to take life a little slower, to see the world around us, the people we interact with and the land that provides for us daily. Your feet were born free, keep them that way. So do yourself a favour and have a socks off day, take it slow and you’ll feel the difference.

  

  

Lock the gate

The madness of society is not restricted solely to the goings on in the UK; where we have fracking and lobbyists, EDL and UKIP, so does Australia with Coal Seam Gas (CSG), Reclaim Australia and Tony Abbott.

But more about the fascists another time. Today I want to talk about mother Australia – my third trip here and a place I feel at home in. It’s the place that rekindled my human spirit and desire to forge a better life for those that come after us.

  

Australia, home to 25 million or so people mainly dotted around the sublime coastline, has some of the most diverse eco-systems and landscapes of anywhere on this world. It is home to the worlds largest living organism, the Great Barrier Reef, it truly is a beautiful place but also the bearer of scars of a rough history of indifference and violence towards aboriginal people and the land. 

Australia has seen a boom of engineering and colonisation over 200 years that have left it with some delicate issues with its eco-system, exacerbated in the last 6 years by the mining boom which staved off some of the economic pressures faced by the rest of the world since the recession of 2008. The trade off has been a strain on natural resources.

 

The CSG issue is what the UK call ‘fracking’ – the process of using some water to hydraulically fracture the earths crust to get some fossil fuel. In Australia, people have been launching a campaign called ‘Lock the Gate‘ to ward off would be drillers as land owners shut the doors on these vultures,  the government however, are currently in the process of changing legislation to remove the requirement for these drilling companies to ask a land owners permission to conduct exploratory drilling. As a result they get to keep what they find and the land owner gets nothing but dead land. 

Now, when I say they use ‘some’ water when fracturing, I mean 9 MILLION litres of water or more, depending on the rock formation. 9 million litres, when only 3% of the worlds water is fresh water or drinking water. 9 million litres when the South East of England is water stressed and water companies are considering pumping in water from the north to cope with the strain. 

What of Australia, one of the driest continents on the planet? Victoria recently completed a multi billion dollar desalination plant off the back of a 15 year drought to combat the situation in advance, only for it to rain a little and put off that particular problem for now, but they still recommend showers be kept to less than 4 minutes and public conveniences are supplied from collected rain water. Why, then, would they use a resource as important as water to fracture the earths crust in pursuit of an antiquated fuel source??

  

Aside from the fact that using water to fracture the earth for fossil fuel is out right madness and a sign of desperation from the energy companies to hold on to power, there are the well documented issues around what happens to the land once the earth has been fractured. There is also the issue of increased seismic activity as a result of these exploratory drills and pumping sites. 

A country with as much solar activity as Australia, it’s huge desert plains and tidal sources should be investing heavily in renewable and sustainable energy. When you consider the little things done to preserve the beauty of the country, it is amazing to think that the government are pushing CSG as a real alternative.