A Touch of AUS History

Dr. Martin Crotty, a professor at the University of Queensland, gave a brief lecture on Australian history to my class Wednesday, May 28th. Specifically, he highlighted discovery, settlement, & Australia since 1901 (when it became a federation).

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Dr. Martin Crotty


Déjà Discovery

 

Before Australia became a hotspot for Western Europe, Britain mainly, people had premature ideas of what the great unknown southern land might be like.

Especially after Captain James Cook & Joseph Banks ­­­made the first recorded European contact with Australia in 1770, Europeans were humorously confused by the land Down Under. Crotty said they thought it to be a topsy-turvy place because they couldn’t get a grasp on the wildlife – Crotty explained that Europeans didn’t know where to fit creatures like the kangaroo, very foreign & strange, into their hierarchy of life.

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Like wut? (I think this is a wallaby actually)

During Crotty’s lecture I didn’t think twice about it, but after and currently I had/am having trouble defining exactly what a hierarchy of life is. The easiest way I can explain what I think he meant is: Europeans were extremely puzzled by Australian wildlife Never in their lives did they probably expect to encounter bounding marsupials, kangas.

Penal Settlement

 

Before the lecture I knew Australia was settled to house prisoners, Crotty explained why:

1. Work to be done

First and most obvious: Britain had a lot on its plate now that it had claimed Australia – Setting up camp, growing a population, harvesting resources, etc. What way to take care of said work than to use prisoners?

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Off to Australia mate!

2. Overcrowding

Another factor influencing Britain’s use of prisoners to settle Australia was overcrowding of British prisons.

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Hopeless British prisoners, I think…

3. Couldn’t use America

An easier solution in getting rid of overcrowding prisoners would’ve been to send them across the Atlantic to America – a much shorter voyage from Britain. Unfortunately for Britain, it had just lost its privilege of colonizing America (Revolutionary War). The first British colony in Australia was created in 1788 (in current-day Sydney).

USA USA! (Washington Crossing the Delaware River)

George Washington Crossing the Delaware River (USA! USA!)

Uninvited Americans

 

Crotty brought up the unanticipated tension caused by the presence of American soldiers in Australia during WWII.

This resentment came to be due to liaising between American soldiers & Australian women. The Japanese even played on this tension by dropping instigative propaganda on Australians during the war.

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Japanese anti-American leaflet

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Aboriginal Genesis & More

Mary Graham, a lecturer and Kombumerri person (Aboriginal from Gold Cost, AUS) discussed Aboriginal culture with my class Tuesday, May 22nd. During her talk, I learned about Aboriginal genesis stories & Aboriginals’ relationship with the environment.

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Mary Graham

Land Made Us

Graham was given permission by her Aboriginal peers to share the following Dreamtime story – Many of which are sacred. I’m confident 90% of the below is accurate according to what she said heheh (*nervous laugh).

Approximately 15,000 years ago, there was nothing but land on a flat Earth – no flora nor fauna. Around that time though, life forms began to arise from the land. These beings took the forms of megaflora & megafauna (enormous plants & animals). The flora & fauna shaped the land and each other through their own personal dramas (adventures, battles, etc.).

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An example of megafauna

The last life form to emerge from the land was a proto human. Just like they did to the land and each other, the flora & fauna helped develop the proto human.

With time, the megaflora & fauna returned home as normal-sized plans & animals came to be. At that time is when life started.

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Aboriginal Dreamtime story artwork

Although variations in this story arise among different tribes, the notion that land created plants & animals, which in turn created man, remains consistent as a major theme. In Aboriginal culture there is no God, heaven nor hell.


How to Address Climate Change

Graham spoke a good deal on effective ways in communicating climate change. I assume most of these methods bare effectiveness especially in the Aboriginal community. From what I understand, according to Graham, understanding the science is perhaps less important than the following:

  • Accept uncertainty

Graham said it’s important to realize anything is possible and although one may feel strongly about his/her theory, it’s vital to recognize others theories – even the unthinkable ones. She mentioned Aboriginal culture is non-judgmental and all perspectives are considered valid.

  • Mental preparedness

Also essential is being psychologically strong in the midst of environmental disaster. Graham said along with being able to cope during a hurricane, tsunami, etc., one must be resilient when dealing with aftermath.

During her talk, Graham said Aboriginals don’t believe in faith, just a psychology of life. For some reason, this has stuck with me.

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Study abroad group & Mary Graham – Throwing up our horns Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

‘Till next time

Climate Change & The Media

This assignment had me analyze coverage two media outlets gave a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report was accepted by the panel March 30, 2014.

Specifically, we’re dealing with IPCC’s Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. It consists of two documents: The Final Published ReportSummary for Policymakers, the latter baring more significance to the layperson in terms of clarity & understanding. Luckily for laypeople like me, a press release & video compliment the report.

Press release – Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Working Group II video 

From the press release, I gather the report is similar to many publications we see today regarding climate change – Nothing I read/saw I would call groundbreaking; but perhaps I’m so saturated in climate change science, every revelation/claim seems hyper-realistic.

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This unimpressed kangaroo is judging me for just saying that.

This report in particular focuses on risk in relation to climate change. Here’s what I found significant from the press release & vid:

  • Those living in poverty, especially in the Third World, are more susceptible to the risks of climate change due to their lack of resources.
  • The sooner we implement solutions, the less likely we’ll experience severe risk – Common sense but useful in developing optimism
  • I enjoyed seeing solution efforts implemented, especially the reforestation of South Africa by the local community.
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A reforestation project aiming to offset aprox 50,000 tons CO2 was established in Buffesldraai Regional Landfill Site (Buffesldraii Community Reforestation Proj)

Reforestation Project – Buffelsdraai Community 


The Media

We were to evaluate a New York Time’s article and an NBC News special on their coverage of the above report.

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come – NYT article, published 31 March 2014

Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home? – NBC News special, published 7 April 2014

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Before I evaluate either source, I’d like to direct you to one of the other maymester students’ blog post touching on media coverage of climate change: Climate Change in the American Media, In a Nutshell

Analysis of the Two 

To start, these media sources are different in form – one is an article, and the other a video sequence (split into six, sevenish-minute segments).

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I thought the NBC special succeeded in portraying the big picture of current climate change findings/happenings. Ann Curry, NBC News reporter, spent a lot of time covering the connection of recent weather disasters, like the drought on the US’ West Coast & the long, harsh winter of 2013/14, with the occurrence of climate change. Is climate change causing these catastrophic events?, seemed to be one of the main questions during the special. From what I gathered, the most-acceptepted answer was, Probably but not we don’t know. The known, of course, includes the fact that Earth and oceans are warming and sea level is rising. The combined effect of the two may be a direct cause of all this severe weather.

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Dried mud flats in San Luis Resevoir near Los Banos, Calif.

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Snow & ice stall traffic in Atlanta on Jan 28, 2014

newyorktimes-logoUnlike the NBC special, Justin Gillis’ NYT article didn’t stray far from the IPCC report – not a bad thing whatsoever. Along with touching on recent severe weather and the vulnerability of the impoverished, he also cited the report’s claim that the effects of climate change may lead to violent conflict over land, water or other resources. IMO this theory is one of the scariest regarding effects of climate change.

Toward the end of the article, Gillis reveals that pressure from several wealthy countries, the US included, caused the IPCC to remove a portion of its report claiming that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change. That portion of the report is significant, Gillis says, because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September. The wealthy countries argue the $100 billion-figure is too high.

Sneaky, America. Very sneaky

Sneaky, America. Very sneaky


 In Relation to Australia 

What key points are most relevant to my Australian adventure?

The coverage, especially by the NBC special, of severe weather relating to drought is extremely relevant. Most of the Australian continent is already uninhabitable because a lack of inland water. Intensifying these already-dry conditions is a looming drought.

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A helicopter water bombs bushfires in southern Australia early 2014.

This isn’t recent but I had to share it:

After responding to a bushfire in early 2009, a firefighter holds a koala’s hand as he feeds her water. The video of the koala later named Sam went viral after being posted online.

 

What ideas occur to you for reporting on your Australian ecosystem?

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Carnarvon Gorge, Australia

My Australian ecosystem, in this case, is the Outback or bush – The students in my maymester were each assigned an ecosystem in which to lead journalistic coverage on. My group will be in charge when we’re at Carnarvon Gorge.

The use of videos & photos will obviously come in handy for coverage. Carnarvon is an oasis of the bush, so we could focus on comparing it to the dryer areas of the Outback. Perhaps if we found an odd dry patch at Carnarvon, we could somehow explain, with visuals, the patch may be the gorge’s new reality if drought continues. Interviews with experts on the region will also be useful. It would be effective to conduct an interview while walking through the bush. Doing so would not only make the interview more visually appealing, but also give more context.

Tbh though this will probs be me trying to conduct a smooth interview, scream and all: