Tag: South Africa

Sister Eleanor and Zina

This is a very special guest post from a very special person.

My father died on December 20th., 1956. I had turned twelve some six weeks before this day.

My mother, some eighteen years younger than my father, in due course remarried a professional musician, Richard Mills, and in 1959 my mother gave birth to a girl who was named Eleanor. Those who can do the arithmetic will calculate that I was fifteen years the elder brother to Eleanor. Indeed, almost to the day for I was born on November 8th and Eleanor was born on November 16th.

Thus followed a very special relationship as Eleanor grew up regarding me as her big, protective brother. I am so fortunate in having close relationships with both my sisters: Eleanor, who lives in Johannesburg, and Elizabeth, who lives in Tokyo. (Happy Birthday Elizabeth for today, the 21st February.)

Thus it is with very great pleasure indeed that I offer a guest post from Eleanor.


Zine: The Lover of Many Species

by Eleanor Hamilton, February 21st., 2017

Zina, now well past the puppy days!
Zina, now well past the puppy days!

We bought Zina as a puppy just over 2 years ago. She was the most adventurous of the litter and a “liver nose” Ridgeback, which is a silky type with no black markings on her face.

We knew from the onset that she was a bright dog, but usually for her own benefit.

She quickly learnt that if she was shut out of the house she should run around the house trying every door in case one was unlocked. She did this by stretching up so her front legs acted like arms on the handle. She also managed to prise open our sliding patio doors to get in on one occasion.

We soon realized and made sure that all doors were locked.

Living in South Africa we have some extra security measures you might not be familiar with. Obviously most people are aware of high walls and electric fences, but some houses have internal security gates (often called slam gates). We use one at the bottom of the stairs just as a precaution as we don’t activate any alarms. Sometimes if we want the dogs downstairs (and off the beds!) we lock this security gate.

We were mystified to find that after a few minutes Zina was jumping up and opening our bedroom door after obviously negotiating the security gate! On one occasion we thought we’d hide and look over the stairs to watch. She had learnt that if she put her paws inside the door frame she could shake the metal and gradually work the lock loose. We hoped the burglars weren’t as clever!

Her intelligence also spreads to her understanding of the other animals in our house and the need to look after them and make sure they are happy. She is quite enthusiastic in licking everything to say hello, which doesn’t always go down too well. Her friend, Dylan the Jack Russell, is well used to her large boisterous nature and puts up with these slobbering kisses!

Our cat usually tolerates the first kiss then decides to gently warn her with a little pat of her paw. After that Zina is a very polite dog.

What is most unusual is her attitude to my bearded dragon. I rescued it from an owner who was mistreating it and although I would never choose one as a pet, I couldn’t bear to see it badly neglected.

23cbb964-083c-46b9-b799-1cc849d6205cZina always goes over and gives him the usual kiss, which strangely is accepted by Blizzard (the lizard!)

I usually discourage Zina from going on too long with this greeting as although Blizzard is tolerant he can also get fed up.

9183b689-52fb-43e4-be87-243cd1bfcbccSince developing her newfound maturity and maternal urges, she has become very loving to all our family of pets. It is lovely to see how caring this dog has become and how she definitely puts herself as alpha female and keeps her pack happy and safe.

[Ed: Those feet bottom right look strangely human!]
[Ed: Those feet bottom right look strangely human!]



What a heart-warming account of yet another special, loving dog.

Thank you, Eleanor.

I asked Eleanor if she wanted to offer you dear readers a little of her background. This is what she sent me:

As you may know, I’m Paul’s younger sister. I grew up with cats, as mum never liked dogs. I secretly always wanted a dog and always loved those models of the Labrador which were used to advertise the guide dog association.

After moving to South Africa it was very common to have dogs, frequently 2 or 3, so my first dog was a Labrador, closely followed by a rescue Jack Russell, another rescue Jack Russell then our Ridgeback.

[Ed: I added the following]

Eleanor Hamilton
Studio Music Teacher, Redhill School
Website: http://www.redhill.co.za
The school’s mission is to be a world-class, South African learning community, building leaders for their time.
Redhill School is a Member of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA).

I’m sure that I voice a hope from me and many others that there will be more animal stories from sister Eleanor.

More on those poor rhinos

Awareness is the only way to go.

Two days ago, I published a post under the title of Reflections on pain and peace. The pain aspect was as a result of a shocking photograph of a rhino that had been slaughtered for its horn.

Subsequent to that piece coming out there has been more information that I wanted to cover.

I had an email from Avaaz that needed circulating:

Thanks for joining the campaign to protect the world’s rhinos. To win this campaign, we urgently need to build a massive outcry — every voice who joins us makes a difference!

Help spread the word by sending the email below to friends and family, and post this link on your Facebook wall.


Thanks again for your help,

The Avaaz team


Dear friends,

The rhino is being hunted into extinction and could disappear forever unless we act now. Shocking new statistics show 440 rhinos were brutally killed last year in South Africa alone — a massive increase on five years ago when just 13 had their horns hacked off. European nations could lead the world to a new plan to save these amazing creatures but they need to hear from us first!

Fueling this devastation is a huge spike in demand for rhino horns, used for bogus cancer cures, hangover remedies and good luck charms in China and Vietnam. Protests from South Africa have so far been ignored by the authorities, but Europe has the power to change this by calling for a ban on all rhino trade — from anywhere, to anywhere — when countries meet at the next crucial international wildlife trade summit in July.

The situation is so dire that the threat has even spread into British zoos who are on red-alert for rhino killing gangs! Let’s raise a giant outcry and urge Europe to push for new protections to save rhinos from extinction. When we reach 100,000 signers, our call will be delivered in Brussels, the decision-making heart of Europe, with a crash of cardboard rhinos. Every 50,000 signatures will add a rhino to the crash — bringing the size of our movement right to the door of EU delegates as they decide their position. Sign the petition below then forward this email widely:


So far this year one rhino has been killed every day in South Africa, home to at least 80% of the world’s remaining wild rhinos. Horns now have a street value of over $65,000 a kilo — more expensive than gold or platinum. The South African Environment Minister has pledged to take action by putting 150 extra wardens and even an electric fence along the Mozambique border to try and stem the attacks — but the scale of the threat is so severe that global action is required.

Unless we act today we may lose this magnificent and ancient animal species permanently. Some Chinese are loudly lobbying for the trade in horn to be relaxed, but banning the trade in all rhinos will silence them. With the EU’s leadership, we can bring these international gangsters to justice, put the poachers in prison, and push for public awareness programmes in key Asian countries — and end this horn horror show for good.

In the next few weeks, the EU will be setting its agenda for the next big global meeting in just a few months — our best chance of turning the tide against the slaughter. We know that rhinos will be on their agenda, but only our pressure can ensure they challenge the problem at its source. Let’s build a giant outcry and deliver it in a spectacular fashion — sign now and together we can stop the slaughter across Africa:


In 2010, Avaaz’s actions helped to stop the elephant ivory trade from exploding. In 2012, we can do the same for the rhino. When we speak out together, we can change the world — last year was the worst year ever for the rhino, but this can be the year when we win.

With hope,

Iain, Sam, Maria Paz, Emma, Ricken and the whole Avaaz team

More Information:

Few Rhinos Survive Outside Protected Areas (WWF)

South Africa record for rhino poaching deaths (BBC)

‘Cure for cancer’ rumour killed off Vietnam’s rhinos (The Guardian)

British Zoos on Alert as Rhino Poaching Hits the UK (International Business Times)


Then as a reminder that sitting on our hands and doing nothing must be resisted, Chris sent me this link to a recent item in the British Telegraph newspaper, from which I include these portions:

Last rhinos in Mozambique killed by poachers

The last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique have been wiped out by poachers apparently working in cahoots with the game rangers responsible for protecting them, it has emerged

7:46PM BST 30 Apr 2013

The 15 threatened animals were shot dead for their horns last month in the Mozambican part of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also covers South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They were thought to be the last of an estimated 300 that roamed through the special conservation area when it was established as “the world’s greatest animal kingdom” in a treaty signed by the three countries’ then presidents in 2002.

Aislinn Laing finishes off her report, by writing:

Dr Jo Shaw, from the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the rhinoceroses had probably crossed into Mozambique from Kruger.

Whereas killing a rhino in South Africa can attract stricter punishments than killing a person, in Mozambique offenders generally escape with a fine if they are prosecuted at all.

“Rhinos being killed in Kruger are mostly by Mozambican poachers who then move the horns out through their airports and seaports,” she said. “With huge governance and corruption issues in Mozambique, it’s a huge challenge.”

Boy, do we have so much to learn from dogs!

If only we had an alpha dog!

Yearnings for a new start!

You may wonder about the title of this post?  Stay with me for a moment.

As has been written before on Learning from Dogs, when dogs were living in the wild just three animals had pack roles.  The leader of the pack, always a female animal, was the alpha dog. Second in command was the beta dog, always a dominant male, and the third role was the omega or clown dog.  The wild dog pack was thought to have consisted, typically, of about 50 animals.

The wisdom of thousands of years showing clearly in Pharaoh’s eyes, our very own beta dog.

As leader of her pack an alpha dog had two primary functions .  One was having first choice as to the male dog she was going to mate with – thus demonstrating how women always choose! 😉

Her second important duty was deciding that her pack’s home range was insufficient for the needs of her ‘family’.  As wolves still do, wild dogs lived within small, well-defined territories when food was abundant.  When food became less abundant then it was time to move to more fertile grounds.  As an aside, research in South Africa as to the area requirements for a small pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) shows they require from 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) to 150 sq. km. (58 sq. mi.). (See footnote.)

Dogs, like all wild animals, instinctively live in harmony with nature.  So the call from the alpha dog to find a new range didn’t mean they left their old one as a barren disaster area.  You can see where this is heading!

Wild dogs were in contact with early man at least 50,000 years ago. (Just reflect for a moment on the length of that relationship between man and dog.) So each specie has had plenty of time to learn from the other.

Thus, as mankind is on the verge of discovering that our existing ‘territory’ is becoming unsustainable for the healthy life of the species,  one fundamental learning point from dogs appears to have escaped us: Mankind doesn’t have a new range available to our species.

This preamble came to mind when I recently read a short but powerful essay on Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way.  The essay was called A global leaky bucket.  Alex has very kindly given me permission to republish it.

A global leaky bucket

Global weather extremes will force people to hard choices.

Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.
Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.

I write this in despair, it is snowing again here in Colchester UK.  I admit envy for those of you who live in California or Hong Kong area, I see your photographs where the seasons always seem to be warm and sunny.  The northern Jet Stream refuses to move, Greenland enjoys growing strawberries as the lambs die in the fields of Britain from the winter that refuses to let go.

The extremes of weather are noted in the South of the world as well as the North.  Argentina has had the worst floods in decades last week.  The cause is that the systems such as the Jet Stream are paralysed in one place, thus everyone suffers flood, drought or winter in excess.  Nobody is sure why this paralysis is going on with systems like the Jet Stream, some say it is climate change, the point is that we are experiencing this, and it appears to be more than a temporary issue.

My opinion is that these weather extremes are here to stay for the long duration.  One is then left with a harsh reality of does one seek to control the weather or adapt to the weather? How does one control the weather, a chaotic energy system where even a small change can have great consequences? Perhaps adaptation is the better option, but does one know how huge those adaptations will have to be where drought and flood could be lasting decades?

Lets say food, water and energy are all contained in a bucket.  We take a jug and scoop out from the bucket what we need.  There is a tap that is constantly running filling the bucket with the food, water and energy.  We waste those resources so the bucket leaks.  We disrupt or destroy the renewal systems in the ecosystems so the tap is no longer running as fast as it should.  We are greedy consumers so we take more than we need from the bucket with our jug.  How will the bucket look now? Is this a sustainable future to you?

If our global weather extremes continue as they are it will be like a storm rocking the bucket spilling its contents, will our bucket future look even less sustainable? Extreme weather destroys harvests, kills animals, sends already distressed ecosystems into the abyss.  What happens when the bucket is so empty that people can no longer enjoy their lifestyle of wasteful excess, or worse that people grow cold, hungry and thirsty? Do they sit there and do nothing but die? Will they fight? Who will fight who? As the bucket contents get ever smaller, who will win in the fighting for what is left?

Copyright (c) Alex Jones 2011-2013.

Colchester has a place in my past as I started and ran a business there between the years of 1978 to 1986.  More about that some other day.

Back to Alex’s essay.  It strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I will refer to tomorrow.

So I will leave you with this tragic, emotional thought – where, oh where, is our alpha dog?

Footnote:  The figures for the ranges of wild dogs were taken from a fascinating paper published by Lindsay, du Toit and Mills that may be read here.

Welcome Home

Sharing the truth of who each of us really is!

I subscribe to Christine’s blog 350 or bust.  As the home page declares, Christine is “a mother, an educator, and a former registered nurse, concerned about climate change.”

Being a follower of Christine’s blog I automatically received an email on Tuesday about her latest post.  This is what that email said,

It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. Here’s a fascinating TEDx talk by South African trainer and speaker Bruce Muzik whose “passion is having people experience unprecedented freedom and happiness, through being Authentic.

To be perfectly honest, it didn’t strike me as something that I would watch anytime soon.  However, fate decided to intervene!

Because yesterday, Wednesday, I went up to Portland for an interview today to convince the authorities that I was safe to have my US Residency renewed (aka Green Card).  So last Tuesday, when I was writing these words, I thought I would just grab something quickly for today’s post.  Christine’s TED talk seemed an easy answer.

I started to watch the video and within just a few minutes was overwhelmed with Bruce Muzik’s story.  At the 7 minute mark I paused the video and wrote these words.  The title of today’s post comes from the video just a moment after the 7 minute point.

While the video is about Bruce confronting his inner fears over his racial prejudices, and is no less moving for doing that, there was another message surfacing in parallel in my consciousness.

As I wrote not so long ago under the title of Going beyond the self, “the human psyche lives in a bubble of delusion.”  In the same way that Bruce had to cast aside his delusions and embrace the reality of black people, we have to cast aside our delusions about the way the world is heading.  Which is why Christine’s title How Our Secrets Steal Our Lives was just perfect.

So without further ado, here is that speech by Bruce Muzik. Twenty minutes of pure, gorgeous inspiration.

Want more? Bruce has a blog here.

The instinct of trust.

Yet another learning message from our animal kingdom.

As I wrote in Monday’s post, this week I was going to “Enjoy the beauty of the world around me and offer a few essays on the meaning of life.

Hopefully the subsequent essays on Carl Sagan and how our beautiful planet can change our consciousness, under the title of To see is to understand, have partly achieved that aim.

We hear so much that is unsettling that it is easy to lose sight of the core qualities of a sustainable society.  And one of the most fundamental requirements is that of trust.

A loving dog owner will most likely take their dog’s trust for granted.

However, think of the incredible differences, at so many levels, between man and dog.  Then reflect on how a dog learns to trust a human.


This picture is of Dhalia taken less than a couple of months ago.  She was found by Jean in 2005 running wild in the Mexican desert with a companion dog.  As Jean explains,

With friend, Suzann, I was driving out to a fishing village to medicate and feed the many starving dogs.  The two dogs were in a very desolate part of the desert prowling the roadside for road-kill. We stopped to feed them and give them water.  One of the dogs ran off but as I put down food, I saw the smaller brown dog walking slowly towards me.

She was emaciated and full of mange. She looked up at me, ignoring the food.  I reached out with my hand and she gently nudged it with her nose.

The food was irrelevant to her at this moment. She just seemed to know that I was there to help. I scooped her up and took her home, curled up in my arms as we drove away.

No better example of a dog instinctively trusting a human, almost immediately.

OK, from dogs to elephants.

I recently became aware of Lawrence Anthony.  Here’s a brief extract from WikiPedia:

Lawrence Anthony (17 September 1950 – 7 March 2012) was an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer, and bestselling author.

He was the long-standing head of conservation at the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, South Africa and the Founder of The Earth Organization, a privately registered, independent, international conservation and environmental group with a strong scientific orientation. He was an international member of the esteemed Explorers Club of New York and a member of the National Council of the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science, South Africa’s oldest scientific association.

Anthony had a reputation for bold conservation initiatives, including the rescue of the Baghdad zoo at the height of the US lead Coalition 2003 invasion of Iraq, and negotiations with the infamous Lord’s Resistance rebel army in Southern Sudan, to raise awareness of the environment and protect endangered species, including the last of the Northern White Rhinoceros.

Lawrence Anthony died of a heart attack at the young age of 62.  In just a short time that will be a year ago.

In doing research for today’s post, I quickly came across this story.


Lawrence Anthony, a legend in South Africa and author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons and numerous elephants.

Two days after his passing, a remarkable thing happened! The wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs. Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say ”goodbye” to their beloved man-friend. A total of 20 elephants had patiently walked over 12 miles to get to his South African house. [my emphasis.]

Was this true?  A quick web search came across this video, (overlook the last few seconds!)

Françoise Malby-Anthony, wife of the late Lawrence Anthony, talks about the entire herd of elephants returning to the main house to pay their respects to their rescuer and friend ‘The Elephant Whisperer’.



We humans have so much to learn from our animals.

Common sense!

Some people seem to have a knack for saying it how it should be!

My sub-heading, above, applies to many people right across the world.  But the reason that this was triggered in my mind for today’s post, was a recent item on Christine’s excellent Blog, 350 or bust.  Read more about that Blog here.  I subscribe to that Blog.

A couple of days ago, there was an article with the title of Live Long And Prosper, Already.  It started thus,

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the amazingly popular Star Trek series, was a man ahead of his time. Here is one of the things he  had to say about humanity and our problems (with one editorial comment from me!):

“I believe in humanity. We are an incredible species. We’re still just a child creature, and we’re still being nasty to each other [Stephen Harper: are you listening?].  And all children go through those phases. We’re moving into adolescence now. When we grow up, man, we’re going to be something!”

But what caught my eye were these comments to the Post.

The first one from a Mickey Haist that read,

It’s a nice goal, but would clenching our teeth and willing progress be of any effect? After all, children don’t spontaneously mature – they’re raised.

Have to say that I was left unsure by what Mr. Haist was trying to convey.  But not so Christine!  This was the first of her two replies,

No teeth clenching allowed! Robert Kennedy once said “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

It’s not about everyone doing everything, it’s about each of us doing what we can. Not taking action because the problem is too big is not the answer.

And her second reply,

And Mickey – if the challenge of climate change/ocean acidification/biodiversity loss that we are facing as a species (taking the rest of the natural world with us) doesn’t make us mature, then nothing will.  But I believe it will – as Paul Gilding says, humans are slow but not stupid!

Paul Gilding’s excellent website is always a great read, by the way.

But do reread those words of Robert Kennedy, they are powerfully inspiring.

Robert Kennedy

Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Despite the fact that these words were said in response when South Africans suffered the tyranny of apartheid, the words are, perhaps, even more relevant today.  Mankind has to combine the many ‘ripples of hope’ and build that current that will sweep away the crazy selfishness that is preventing us from living in harmony with this beautiful planet for hundreds of years ahead.

Thanks Christine.

Reaching out across nations.

An unanticipated reward from Blogging.

When I started writing Learning from Dogs, way back on July 15th 2009, I didn’t have a clue as to the world I was entering, figuratively speaking.  But there have been many unanticipated rewards including the great pleasure of the way that this strange virtual world of the Internet brings people together.  One connection recently made was with a young Bangladeshi living in the city of Dhaka, more of his background here.

Nakib recently published a powerful and moving Post and has been gracious in allowing me to republish it, as follows:

The vulture that waited for the child to die

Given below is the 1994 Pulitzer price-winning photograph taken by Kevin Carter during the Sudan famine of 1994.

The photo shows a famine-stricken child crawling towards a United Nations food camp, which was located at least one kilometer away from the place shown. The vulture on the other hand is waiting eagerly for the child to die so that it can devour it.

I do not know what message the photograph revokes on your head but every time I look at it I feel blessed that I have been provided enough at least to satisfy my hungry stomach and keep me energetic enough to write blogs. I feel small and humble when I think of all the people suffering out there— homeless and starved— yet trying their best to make some sense of the complex notion known as life. It tells me that I have been blessed for a reason, for a purpose, and whatever I have been provided with should not go in vain. I can infer that my powers should be used well, at least for that little kid on the above photograph for whom Fate had sealed a quicksand of reality too hard to acknowledge for many of us hedonists out here.

Most importantly, to me the photograph conveys an emotion; a reality that many of us are too blind to grasp. I think of how people throughout the world are suffering to no ends yet amidst everything trying again and again to find the silver lining associated with the black cloud. I realize that there is a lot happening outside my comfortable apartment and Biology textbook that needs looking after, that there is a lot of people who strive hard yet achieve nothing in return. It amazes me when I try to ponder God’s sense of justice and egalitarianism.

So is it okay for the blessed 25% of the population in this world to waste everything that life has given them while the the rest 75% live amidst severe poverty, oppression and inequality?  Is it okay to go overboard with New Year parties while exactly at the same hour millions of people across the globe are suffering from the fangs of social deprivation? Is it okay to let things be as they are and forget about everything so as to harmoniously embrace useless ambitions and lustful desires?

Have we all truly forgotten to share our wealth and about the latent human being that exists inside everyone of us? Have we truly gottten rid of all those emotions that make us human beings? Is this what the world is for: for some to live lavishly while for the rest to suffer endlessly?

Three months after he took the photograph Kevin Carter, after suffering from several periods of depression, committed suicide.

Dated on the day the photo was taken, the following note was found from his diary:

Dear God, I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests. I hope this picture will always serve as a reminder to us that how fortunate we are and that we must never ever take things for granted.

As for the child, no one really knows what happened to him; not even the South African photographer who had left the place immediately after the photo was taken. I try to appease myself by saying that the child never existed in the first place. God simply intended to provide us with a glimpse of the truth of life, to remind us how blessed we are. I hope this is true.


Very, very moving and beautifully expressed.

Make a difference – now!

A plea to sign a global call not to delay action on global warming

How many of you in Europe watched the final episode of Sir Peter Attenborough’s Frozen Planet series, entitled On Thin Ice?

Did you watch the short video in last week’s post, The power of truth?  If not, it’s below.

Here’s a piece from a BBC news item from yesterday,

A hungry polar bear

It is an image that is sure to shock many people.

An adult polar bear is seen dragging the body of a cub that it has just killed across the Arctic sea ice.

Polar bears normally hunt seals but if these are not available, the big predators will seek out other sources of food – even their own kind.

The picture was taken by environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross in Olgastretet, a stretch of water in the Svalbard archipelago.

“This type of intraspecific predation has always occurred to some extent,” she told BBC News.

“However, there are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change.”

Re-read that last segment of that last sentence, “completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change.

So with all that in mind, please read on.


What if someone told you we should abandon all hope for global climate action until 2020? Well, that’s exactly the proposal that the United States is pushing at the UN Climate Talks taking place this week in Durban, South Africa. The 2020 delay might well be the worst idea ever.

Waiting nine years for climate action isn’t just a delay, it’s a death sentence for communities on the front lines of the climate crisis — and it could slam the door on ever getting carbon pollution levels below the safe upper limit of 350 parts per million.

It’s not too late to stop this delay from going through. Over the next three days, our team of 350.org activists in Durban will be working with our partners at Avaaz and allies from around the world to isolate the United States — and build support for the African nations that are fighting for real climate action. But it will take a massive grassroots outcry to demonstrate that people everywhere are taking a stand to prevent the United States negotiators from signing away our future.

If we raise an international alarm before the talks end on Friday, we can convince the US to get out of way of progress and help unlock the global process that can lead to bold climate action all around the world.

Click here to add your voice to a global call to action we’re delivering in Durban: www.350.org/durban

The climate talks in South Africa end in just 48 hours, and it’s vital that we ramp up the pressure now. To make sure the US gets the message, our team on the ground here in Durban will deliver your messages directly to the US negotiating team at a high-impact event we’re helping to pull together on Friday. We can’t say much more about it now, but suffice to say our message will be unavoidable.

This year, the 350 network has shown that people power can truly move the planet in the right direction. We mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to push for climate action in nearly every country on earth. We beat back the Keystone XL pipeline when no one said it was possible. We took over the radio waves to spread a message of hope and action on the climate crisis. And through our actions, we helped keep the hope of saving our planet — and reaching 350 ppm — alive.

The UN Climate Talks here in Durban aren’t going to get us back to 350 by themselves, but they can keep the option open by making progress on a legally binding, international framework to help nations make serious cuts in carbon emissions. In 2012, we’re going to need to do all we can to challenge the fossil fuel companies that are the real obstacles to progress. Breaking their stranglehold on our governments is the only way to really unlock these negotiations.

But right now, the most important thing we can do is keep the possibility of a strong international climate deal alive by pushing back on the United States negotiating team. In recent months, President Obama has shown that he’ll stand up for the climate, but only if he’s got a movement to back him up. On the Keystone pipeline, he’s been doing the right thing by blocking Republican efforts to push it through — now we need him to do the right thing on the international stage.

There’s no guarantee that we’ll be successful, but we owe it to our allies across the planet — many of whom are already feeling the impacts of climate change — to resist the chorus of cynics and keep hope alive. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The 350 network has pulled off the impossible before — now’s the time to step up the pressure again.

Please add your voice today: www.350.org/durban

Let’s do this,

Jamie Henn for the whole 350.org team

P.S. We have just 48 hours to build a huge groundswell of pressure. Please help make it go viral with a few clicks on Twitterand Facebook — tag your popular friends, and post it again and again.

The Two-sided Coin of the World Cup

Football’s World Cup – a review

It is probably a bit non-PC [PC = politically correct, Ed] to say anything negative about the World Cup, but I sense that the importance of being PC is beginning to wane; not that it ever bothered me anyway.

Let’s look at the positives, since almost everything has some positives somewhere; Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and the North Korean regime being obvious exceptions.

  • They built world-class stadia on time.
  • The foreign visitors who were there generally got to venues on time and the matches all started on time.
  • Inside the stadia (despite the obvious occasional sillinesses for which we can blame FIFA), everything went tickety-boo. According to some pundits, the atmosphere was “the best ever”, despite (or because of?) the hideous vuvuzela.
  • There was no major crime wave, no terrorism, no significant disasters of any kind.
  • The South Africans were reportedly very hospitable.
  • Opposing fans celebrated together; the England fans totally restored their reputations; reports of drunken English mobs were distinguishable by their absence. (they probably couldn’t afford to get there.)
  • South Africa took pride in its ability to put on the World Cup, which many had suspected it incapable of.
  • For a month the nation forgot all its problems; most people had a big party, even if the South African team (and Africa in general) was made to realize the enduring gulf between its standard of football and that of the other continents.

So, all’s well that ends well, then? Unfortunately not ….

  • The country paid around 10 billion rand to put the event on, three times more than original estimates. Where did all the money go?
  • The country is left with giant stadia that may never again be filled, the so-called “white-elephants” typical of almost all these major events. Apparently even the wondrous “Birds-nest” stadium in Beijing used for the opening ceremony of the Olympics has only been used once since 2008.
  • Only half the number of expected foreign tourists came, as the organisers over-priced everything. Organisers claim the extra income generated will pay for the costs, but nobody believes them …..
  • Preparations for the World Cup provided jobs, but those workers are now back on the street. The ordinary people of South Africa benefited little from the event, except in terms of “national pride”.

And there of course is an interesting animal; “national pride”. In a grown-up world, you’d have hoped that national pride would be best achieved through one of the following:

  • the building of suitable housing for the population
  • the setting-up of an affordable and accessible national health system (fat chance, even the USA hasn’t got that!!)
  • the diminution and ending of corruption
  • the creation of a fair society
  • the development of the economy to provide jobs and create wealth to allow ordinary people to live decently and comfortably

Any of these and other things could be seen as deserving of “national pride”, but the ability to put on at vast expense a four-week jamboree that mostly benefited the political elite, other nations, FIFA and the international television networks is a dubious contender for “pride”.

But of course it depends which side of the coin you are looking at. For some, all the expense justifies the “putting of South Africa on the map.” The politicians as usual will have been the most happy; four weeks in the spotlight strutting about on the world stage, loads of media coverage, hundreds of journalists hanging on their every word …

As for the real ethos behind the World Cup, the bits that don’t hit the glitzy headlines, two in particular struck me as symbolic of Man’s capacity for self-delusion; Africa’s attitude to its poor and the obscene power of international non-governmental monopolies such as FIFA.

These have been variously described in excellent articles written by proper journalists. The first example is from Globalpost. I find it pretty depressing.

Green Point Stadium, Cape Town: In Cape Town, Green Point Stadium is covered in a sheath of woven fiberglass so that it glows at night like a floating bowl. But its location on six city blocks in a prime real estate area has also created controversy. In 2006, the city’s government published a study that found the stadium’s location offered the least amount of economic gain to Cape Town’s resident. In fact, repairs to several older stadiums in the surrounding area could have led to savings that could have paid for 250,000 new homes for the city’s poor, according to researchers.

But FIFA wanted a stadium that would sit between South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain and Robben Island, according to reports, causing the football federation’s president, Sepp Blatter, to come under fire.

“I really think that we’re going into Green Point because Sepp Blatter says: ‘I like Green Point,’ not because it is the best thing for South Africans,” Cape Town’s then-mayor, Helen Zille, said in 2006.

Sepp Blatter will take his $2 BILLION profit away with him to some lush office somewhere, while the ordinary residents of Cape Town pick up their lives as before. How long “national pride” will sustain them is a moot point.

Roadside waterseller in Gabon, West Africa

The Marketing Bonanza: If you’ve been to Africa and driven around a bit, you’ll know that there are street traders everywhere. These are desperately poor people who will try to flog you anything and everything. They wander up and down lines of cars carrying their pathetic wares. In the ferocious midday heat women often carry large heavy  buckets full of water bottles on their heads. Many do this all day every day to earn a pittance.

But of course, like beggars in the big city, they don’t really create the right “image” and “ambiance” for a major international event with its glitz and invasion of well-off foreigners. So, as reported in “The Guardian they were simply banned whenever the authorities considered it appropriate. So much for the World Cup “improving the lives of ordinary Africans”.

But not just anyone will be allowed to participate in what President Jacob Zuma calls “the greatest marketing opportunity of our time“. Informal traders – a significant part of the working poor – are subject to a verbatim “exclusion zone” from the bonanza in the fan parks, fan walks and stadiums. For them, the World Cup may as well be happening on another continent.

I have personal experience of something similar in Gabon. When the wife of President Bongo died, the whole country was ordered to do a week’s mourning. Street trading was banned. This of course did not affect the elite, but for many of the rest it meant the difference between eating and going hungry. When a few daring and desperate people dared to try to sell their pitiful produce in some locations the police confiscated it and trashed their stands.

And FIFA? It is reported to have made $2 BILLION in tax-free profits. Who controls this money? Why is it tax-free?  How will it be spent? To whom is FIFA really accountable? Ah, to national Football Associations? You mean like the British one, which pays £6 million per annum to a failed manager, which is three times more than the German Coach gets?

These vast sums swilling about leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Of course, any organisation’s primary concern is usually to its own self-aggrandizement, so nothing new there. Even the European Union refuses to get its accounts signed off properly, so what faith the common man can have in the honesty of these vast international organisations is questionable.

Well, the World Cup has come and gone and it provided much entertainment for those watching the games. The long-term legacy for the ordinary people of South Africa (43% of whom live on less than $2 per day) is another matter, so forgive me if my rejoicing is muted.

PS The Vuvuzuela …. nothing to me more clearly illustrates Man’s stupidity. The sound output of this instrument is 113db, which can apparently become harmful to the hearing after only 90 seconds. Those in the stadia (including the players, by the way – did anyone ask THEM what they felt?) were subject to nearly TWO HOURS of continuous multiple vuvuzuelae. Many of those people will have had their hearing IRREPARABLY DAMAGED. This will only become clearer to them in LATER YEARS.

For me it is a symbol of our stupidity. All the above health risks are clear and known. Did FIFA ban the damned thing? OF COURSE NOT!! That would have diminished the “local colour” so vital for the international media, which gives Blatter his $2 billion profit. Who gives a damn about ordinary people’s hearing? I doubt whether Sepp Blatter exposed himself overmuch to the bloody things, though he seems pretty deaf already. Once again, for a transient thrill or benefit we do ourselves lasting damage, no different from the way we often treat the planet of course.

By Chris Snuggs

A hero

Another example of the power of social media.

I subscribe to Naked Capitalism, as much for the Antidote du Jour, as for the fine economic commentaries.  In my inbox of the 16th December was this wonderful antidote.  A quick Google search shows that these pictures are spreading like wildfire around the world’s email servers.  Not without reason.

Maybe these pictures resonate in all of us when we long for some simpler way of life …..

This Ranger is assigned to prevent poaching around the wildlife refuge area of Lanseria, South Africa. The way these animals interact with him is absolutely stunning! The lions seem to know he’s there to protect them. His charm works with hyenas and cougars too. Hyenas are usually vicious. Check out the pictures taken in the river – amazing because lions hate water.

As they say, don’t try this at home!

View the rest of these stunning photos