Anniversary

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of myself and John arriving in Australia, though as John pointed out, I arrived on the 21st and himself and Gail arrived the following morning. We headed down to J’s Mum’s for the weekend and caught up with himself and Sarah in Brunswick Heads for a few quiet Saturday afternoon ales to reminisce about old times, where has the time gone, and all the usual questions when you realised your immigrant story encompasses almost half your life.

The following morning myself and J went in to Byron for breakfast and a stroll on the beach. I detoured to the local bookshop to pick up my copy of Snowden’s autobiography. Released this week, the US Govt. decided it would sue for all the profits, claiming he didn’t seek NSA/CIA approval of the manuscript! The move backfired somewhat as the book went straight to No.1 on Amazon and they’re at risk of selling out. I wasn’t sure if the LBS would have a copy but they didn’t let me down.

Snowden on the beach at Byron

Back in Brisbane now and have just watch Ireland demolish Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opening game.

Good weekend 🙂

The Sixth Extinction

This article, The Sixth Extinction was written just over ten years ago and has since been expanded to a book, which is on my to-read list. In it, Elizabeth Kolbert uses the die-off of amphibians to illustrate how we’re causing a mass extinction by various means, from transporting animals/plants/insects and their associated viruses/bacteria to places not adapted to them, to reshaping the environment for our accommodation or food, to pollution and climate change.

Amphibians are among the planet’s great survivors. The ancestors of today’s frogs and toads crawled out of the water some four hundred million years ago, and by two hundred and fifty million years ago the earliest representatives of what became the modern amphibian clades—one includes frogs and toads, a second newts and salamanders—had evolved. This means that amphibians have been around not just longer than mammals, say, or birds; they have been around since before there were dinosaurs.

and…

Griffith said that he expected between a third and a half of all Panama’s amphibians to be gone within the next five years. Some species, he said, will probably vanish without anyone’s realizing it: “Unfortunately, we are losing all these amphibians before we even know that they exist.”

Which brings to mind Niemöller’s quote:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I wonder how far things will have to go before we as a species decide to seriously address the issue?

Black Americans and Democracy

Long article, but worth a read - America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One

From 1619, when the first African slaves were sold to American settlers, to the present day, the article looks not only at the injustices done to black Americans, but also their contribution to the democratic ideals that America was founded on, even if the founders really only meant white people.

No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it. And to this day, black Americans, more than any other group, embrace the democratic ideals of a common good. We are the most likely to support programs like universal health care and a higher minimum wage, and to oppose programs that harm the most vulnerable. For instance, black Americans suffer the most from violent crime, yet we are the most opposed to capital punishment. Our unemployment rate is nearly twice that of white Americans, yet we are still the most likely of all groups to say this nation should take in refugees.

The truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today, it has been borne on the backs of black resistance. Our founding fathers may not have actually believed in the ideals they espoused, but black people did. As one scholar, Joe R. Feagin, put it, “Enslaved African-Americans have been among the foremost freedom-fighters this country has produced.” For generations, we have believed in this country with a faith it did not deserve. Black people have seen the worst of America, yet, somehow, we still believe in its best.

Adapting to Climate Change

A good article from a few years back, looking at how some US farmers are adapting to climate change while still being deniers that it’s happening in the first place.

It’s an interesting read, but this passage towards the end stands out…

For the next two hours or so, Ethan and I talked. It wasn’t an interview anymore. It was a conversation between two old men who, while we may come from different ideological camps, have each managed in our lives to cheat catastrophe long enough to learn to listen to each other.

And at the end of the conversation, I rolled a final cigarette, and Ethan took a deep breath when I lit it. “You know what, Ethan?” I said. “We’ve just sat here for the better part of four and half hours, a good old-fashioned rock-ribbed conservative like you and a good old-fashioned dyed-in-the-wool liberal like me, and we’ve touched on most of the major hot-button issues in the culture wars — abortion, same-sex marriage, guns, even climate. On about 85 percent of those issues, you and I could find enough common ground to find a shared purpose. On another 10 percent or so, we could at least reach an understanding. There was maybe about 5 percent where the differences were just too great. But we could set those aside, at least for now.”

He agreed.

“So why is it,” I asked, “that when I hear people talking about you, and you hear people talking about me, the only thing they ever talk about is that 5 percent?”

Unfortunately we’re still only talking about the 5 percent.

Malaysia

After Singapore we continued on to Malaysia, with the rest of the family meeting us in Batu Ferringhi for our usual visit to the Golden Sands. Anna & Michael were on the way back from Italy, Mark, Jess and Emily were on the way back from a visit to Jess’s folks in London, Nikki flew in from Sydney and Richard & Esther came down from Kanga.

I’ve been here a few times now and it’s always nice to kick back and relax with the family for a few days. Days are bookended by the breakfast buffet at the hotel and evening meal at the local hawker centre, with lounging by the pool taking up a fair proportion of the rest of the day. What’s not to like?

A trip into Penang is always worthwhile too, especially since the old streets obtained World Heritage listing in 2008, coincidentally also the year of my first visit. It’s quite interesting to see how the city is changing, developing a bit of a hipster culture in places while keeping the hawker aspects alive and well. The amount of street graffiti continues to grow too.