Monday, February 6, 2017

Activists continue to fight bulldozers and corrupted government processes in Perth's southern suburbs

"Protest that endures.. is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success; namely the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence".
Wendell Berry

In Perth's southern suburbs a remarkable community- based campaign and furious community opposition and protest is delaying the controversial Roe 8 Project, an extension to the Roe Highway, which forms part of the Barnett Government's Perth Freight Link. 

The Barnett Government intends to build the Roe highway extension through the internationally recognized Beeliar wetlands and in the lead up to the March 2017 state election the Government began clearing major urban woodlands in the suburb of Coobellup to make way for the Roe 8 extension.

The wetlands and urban woodlands are an important habitat for threatened species, including the Carnaby's Black cockatoo and the forest red- tailed cockatoo. The sites are important heritage, Indigenous heritage, environmental and recreational sites and much loved and cared for by people who live in the southern suburbs.

The clearing is a cynical election ploy, designed to shore up support in a host of southern suburb Liberal- National party held seats that are at serious risk of falling in the March election.


For the last 8 weeks thousands of ordinary citizens have mounted protests to stop the bulldozers. They have sought legal injunctions, protested on site, occupied the site, locked themselves onto machinery, held sit ins and silent vigils, scaled and lived in trees for days to protect trees from bulldozers. 


Still the clearing continues.

Hundreds have been arrested by a police force, acting on behalf of the State Government, who stand accused of  over-reaction, use of excessive and unnecessary force and random arrest of protesters.

The protesters have been demonized by the Premier and his Ministers and by the major newspaper in the City.

The Director of the Conservation Council of WA Piers Verstegen has been one of the high profile public voices of the campaign and has successfully mounted the public case against the Roe 8 extension in daily forays in the media and in speeches on site.

Piers posted this powerful piece on his Facebook site today. He calls for a Commission of Inquiry into this profoundly corrupted and destructive project.

(Piers Verstegen comments printed with permission).

After being away from the Beeliar Wetlands for a few days and with the bulldozer briefly at bay, I took a walk into the site this morning to have look at what was due to be destroyed next. What I found was incredible.

These ancient paperbark (melaluca) trees are the largest and oldest I have ever seen. They would already have towered above the Beeliar Wetland at the time when the Swan River Colony was first settled. Now they are about to be destroyed within days by Colin Barnett's Bulldozer for the Roe 8 highway.


  


The towering paperbarks shading the cool sedges, rushes and and other understory species are part of an endangered ecosystem – the result of the longest continuous evolutionary process on this planet. Centuries ago, this type of woodland would have covered much larger areas, but with the majority of our wetlands having been filled in, drained or used as rubbish tips, this is one of the very few areas we have left in good ecological condition.

The site is a sacred women’s place for Nyoongar people and perhaps hundreds of generations of people would have been born here. This apparently is of no consequence because the State Government has unilaterally de-listed these areas from the Register of Aboriginal Heritage sites.

This is the section of the highway where a ‘bridge’ will be built, supposedly to minimise environmental damage. The trees that will not be bulldozed will be underneath huge sections of concrete which will block all light. Their roots, and the delicate groundwater hydrology beneath their massive trunks will be disturbed by the excavation of giant footings for concrete pylons. Giant cranes, earthmovers and other heavy machinery will compact the soil and further damage what remains of this place. The actual road-building work will not commence here for many months so destroying this place right now, just weeks before the election is totally unnecessary – an act of senseless environmental and cultural vandalism.


The fact that our environmental laws can allow a place like this to be trashed for a toll road which has no business case and no clear economic benefits, shows how deeply inadequate those laws are.

Last week I posted an open letter to the WA Environment Minister regarding failures to comply with conditions leading to the unnecessary death of bandicoots and other wildlife at the clearing sites. After having no response to that letter, the community has had a small win today as the contractors suspended clearing work to allow more trapping for wildlife to take place. Here, the community has managed to uphold the conditions on the project for a single day after weeks of blatant breaches with no response to hundreds of letters, emails and calls to the Minister or the EPA.

For now, these incredible ancient paperbarks stand. But together with so many others I am struggling to contain my anger and despair at the realisation that unless a miracle occurs, they will be destroyed forever within days. A permanent ugly scar will be left in the heart of this incredible place as a constant reminder of a heartless and misguided government desperate to regain popular support by taking a tough line on the environment.

One thing that gives me hope is that I believe that what has happened here with the Beeliar Wetlands will one day be the subject of a major Commission of Inquiry with far reaching consequences. All of this evidence will be examined – right from the beginning of the flawed EPA assessment (where EPA board members had conflicts of interest and the government failed to follow its own policies), to the last few heartbreaking weeks of constant blatant breaches of environmental conditions, to the history of corrupt and improper dealings by the companies involved, and to the misuse of police resources and well over 100 arrests of peaceful community members trying to uphold our environmental laws when the government and courts fails to do so. I believe all of this evidence will provide the platform for a future government to strengthen our environmental laws so that something like this can never happen again. And while the wetlands are trashed, those reforms will happen because people stood up for what they believed in.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday's poem: Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden


Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden (edited by Frederick Glaysher). Copyright ©1966 by Robert Hayden.

Robert Hayden (1913-1980) held the Post of Professor of English at a number of US Universities and his best known book of poetry "Ballad of Remembrance", won the grand prize for poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

Hayden’s work addresses the plight of African Americans, often using his early experience in Detroit slums as a backdrop. Hayden wrote political poetry, including a sequence on the Vietnam War. Hayden's poetry celebrates the African American oral tradition and its engagement of history.

Hayden grew up in a destitute African-American section of Detroit and at age two was adopted by neighbours. Most of his early years were spent witnessing fights and suffering beatings. Growing up in a violent household affected his mental development. Additionally, Hayden suffered from severe visual problems which prevented him from taking part in different activities.

These childhood traumas gradually resulted in debilitating bouts of depression. Hayden described his childhood days as “my dark nights of the soul”.

Hayden was often shunned by his peer group because of his poor eye sight and fragile stature. The constant negligence from his family and friends, forced him to read voraciously which developed his intellectual abilities to a higher level.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Stanley Kunitz: The Layers


"A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of. It takes on a life and a will of its own"
Stanley Kunitz

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz's poem is one of my favorite poems. Kunitz wrote the poem in his late 70's to conclude  a collection of 60 years of his poetry.

Kunitz wrote poetry for over 80 years and until his death in 2006, aged 100, he was active as a poet, writer, activist and mentor to young poets. He was 95 when his Collected Poems was published.

Kunitz was largely unknown as a poet until well into his sixties. He was appointed official poet of the US Government and the State of New York, but saw his role in clear terms:
"The poet is not in the service of the state. On the contrary he defends the solitary conscience as opposed to the great power structure of the superstate."

Kunitz was a lifelong political progressive and pacifist. He was a conscientious objector during WW2 and opposed both the Vietnam and the US-led invasion of Iraq. He declined to write a poem in honor of the inauguration of George Bush. 

He reminded people:
"A poet is also a citizen, and I try not to forget that"

Kunitz wrote poetry slowly, often at night, on an old manual typewriter. The secret of a long life, he claimed, was curiosity.

An interview with Stanley Kunitz is here and a long evocative article about Stanley Kunitz from the New Yorker magazine is here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Auschwitz and the photographic record of Wilhelm Brasse

January 27th was the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination and concentration camp  Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet Red Army troops in 1945.

Over 1.5 million people died in Auschwitz, most of them Jewish men, women and children.

The photographs of Wilhelm Brasse are one of the most haunting and shocking photographic records of the Holocaust.

Wilhelm Brasse was a Polish professional photographer who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, who was forced to photograph thousands of inmates for Nazi identity records, as well as documenting medical experimentation on the prisoners. Prior to the war Brasse was a photographer.

Brasse estimates that in the years he was a camp photographer he took between 40,000 and 50,000 images of inmates and German officers and staff between 1940-1945. 

Being a camp photographer saved Brasse's life. He was treated better than other prisoners and received better meals.

As the Russian army drew closer to Auschwitz in 1945 Brasse was ordered to destroy the images. He refused. With the help of another inmate Brasse manged to bury the tens of thousands of picture negatives in the camp’s ground. They were recovered later.

Although only a proportion of the images survived, Brasse's work remains one of the few surviving photographic records of Auschwitz.

Brasse was one of 20,000 inmates who managed to survive. He was moved to another concentration camp in Austria where he was liberated by American forces in May 1945.

After the war, Brasse lived  just a few miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was so traumatized and haunted by the "ghosts" of the photographs of his subjects that he was unable to to resume work as a portrait photographer and ultimately established a sausage casing business.

Brasse would never take another photograph.

Brasse had two children and five grandchildren, and lived with his wife until he died in 2012 aged 94.


Articles about Wilhelm Brasse are here, here, here, here and here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Saturday's Poem: Henry Lawson- Scots of the Riverina

Oh my ways are
strange ways and
new ways and old 
ways. And deep
ways and steep
ways and high
ways and low. I'm
at home and at ease
on a track that I
know not. And
restless and lost
on a road that I
know.
Henry Lawson
So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours,
If blood should stain the wattle.

Henry Lawson (Freedom on the Wallaby)


"That he managed to dredge out of disadvantage, adversity and often appalling hardship so many magnificent stories is testimony to a toughness and determination that he is perhaps not often enough given credit for."
Brian Matthews on Henry Lawson


Scots of the Riverina
by Henry Lawson

The boy cleared out to the city from his home at harvest time --
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned,
And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife's back was turned.

A year went past and another. There were calls from the firing-line;
They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai --
They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.

The boy came home on his "final", and the township's bonfire burned.
His mother's arms were about him; but the old man's back was turned.
The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand --
A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.
The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai;
But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk --
There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk.

The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned;
And the old man died at the table when the old wife's back was turned.

Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair
Outspread o'er the open Bible and a name re-written there.





Henry Lawson's poem tells the story of a young man who leaves the family farm in the Riverina country in outback Australia and moves to the city, with the result that his father disowns him. The young man enlists in the Australian army during WW1 and goes off to France, where he he is killed at Flanders.

Henry Lawson (1867-1922) is one of the best known Australian poets, bush balladeers and writers of the late 19th  and early 20th century. Lawson's first poem was published in 1887 and his first book in 1894.

Lawson was just 21 when his poem "Faces in the Street", was published in 1888. The poem was  a bitter denunciation of the injustices and poverty imposed on the poor and those made marginal. The poem exposed the lie that Australia is the land of plenty and a classless society. It became a revolutionary anthem and almost overnight Lawson became famous.

Many of his poems are bush ballads which have achieved the status of Australian folklore. In the late 19th and early 20th century Lawson was the most popular writer in Australia and considered the voice of ordinary Australians.

Lawson wrote about the hardships of Australian bush life, the social and political events of the times, the plight of the poor, the cause of an Australian republic, the strength of women and the larrikinism and humor of Australians.

Lawson's radicalism and his struggle with alcohol were factors that limited his employment opportunities. His career as a freelance writer was highly precarious and he eked out a marginal existence for much of his life. In 1890 he traveled to Albany in Western Australia (my home town) to pursue a career as a journalist, where he wrote for the Albany Observer and worked as laborer. He visited Albany again in 1896 on his honeymoon.

Of Albany Lawson wrote;

"It will never change much - it is a pretty town but vague. I like it all the better for that."

After he separated from his wife and children in 1903, Lawson struggled with alcohol and depression and lack of money. He lived his final years in poverty. He was frequently gaoled for failure to pay maintenance for his children and often wandered the streets of Sydney, frail and drunk. His final years were spent in and out of mental hospitals and prison. 

Despite his troubles, Lawson continued to write. He died in 1922 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. He was honored with a State funeral, the first Australian writer to receive the honor.

Lawson now features on the Australian $10 note.



















The Australian singer-songwriter John Schuman and the Vagabond Crew have put Lawson's poem to music.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Anna Swir: A Polish poetry giant

"You will not tame this sea
either by humility or rapture.
But you can laugh
in its face."

Anna Swir

I Carried Bedpans
by Anna Swir

I worked as an orderly at the hospital
without medicine and water.
I carried bedpans
filled with pus, blood and feces.

I loved pus, blood and feces-
they were alive like life,
and there was less and less
life around.

When the world was dying
I was only two hands, handing
the wounded a bedpan.

He Was Lucky
by Anna Swir

An old man
leaves the house, carrying books.
A German soldier snatches the books
and throws them in the mud.

The old man picks up the books,
the soldier hits him in the face.
The old man falls,
the soldier kicks him and walks away.

The old man
lies in mud and blood.
Underneath he feels
the books.


I Talk to My Body
by Anna Swir

My body, you are an animal
whose appropriate behavior
is concentration and discipline.
An effort
of an athlete, of a saint and of a yogi

Well trained
you may become for me
a gate
through which I will leave myself
and a gate
through which I will enter myself
A plump line to the centre of the earth
and a cosmic ship to Jupiter.

My body you are an animal
from whom ambition
is right.
Splendid possibilities
are open to us.

Anna Swir (1909-1984) was a Polish poet whose works deal with experiences during Word War II, motherhood, the female body, and sensuality. 

Swir  was born in Warsaw  to an artistic, though impoverished family and studied medieval Polish literature at University. During the 1930's worked for a teachers association, as an editor and published poetry.

Swir joined the Polish resistance during WW2 and worked as a military nurse. She was arrested and faced a Nazi firing squad during the war, waiting 60 minutes to be executed. As well as writing poetry for Polish resistance underground publications, Swir cared for the wounded during the Warsaw Uprising and many of her poems are based on her experience.

Swir's poetry is sophisticated and powerful without the rhetorical embellishment that characterizes so much of what passes as poetry. Her poetry is purposeful, direct, simple and with a profound reverence for life.

Many of her poems record the experiences and ravages of war, although it was 30 years after the war before Swir would write and publish the poems about her wartime experience. As one reviewer notes those wartime experiences changed her poetry profoundly, bringing a concern for the value of the simplicity and immediacy of life.

Swir wrote candidly and passionately about the female body, sensuality and erotic love. Her poetry views the body with both intimacy and detachment.

After the war Swir lived in Krakow and wrote poetry, plays and stories for children and directed a children's theatre. Anna Swir died of cancer in 1984.

Other blog pieces featuring Anna Swir's poetry are here.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday's poem: Stanley Kunitiz and 'Living in the layers'

"That pack of scoundrels
stumbling through the gate
emerges
as the order of the state"
Stanley Kunitz


"Evil has become a product of manufacture, it is built into our whole industrial and political system, it is being manufactured every day, it is rolling off the assembly lines, it is being sold in the stores, it pollutes the air. And it's not a person!"
Stanley Kunitz

"A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of. It takes on a life and a will of its own" 
Stanley Kunitz

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz


I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.


Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) is  one of my favorite poets and is considered among the US's most acclaimed poets, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry.

Kunitz wrote poetry for over 80 years and until his death, aged 100, he was active as a poet, writer, activist and mentor to young poets. He was 95 when his Collected Poems was published.

Kunitz was largely unknown as a poet until well into his sixties. He was appointed official poet of the US Government and the State of New York, but saw his role in clear terms:

"The poet is not in the service of the state. On the contrary he defends the solitary conscience as opposed to the great power structure of the superstate."

Kunitz was a lifelong political progressive and pacifist. He was a conscientious objector during WW2 and opposed both the Vietnam and the US-led invasion of Iraq. He declined to write a poem in honor of the inauguration of George Bush.  He reminded people:

"A poet is also a citizen, and I try not to forget that"

Kunitz wrote poetry slowly, often at night, on an old manual typewriter. The secret of a long life, he claimed, was curiosity (he lived to over 100).

An interview with Stanley Kunitz is here and a long evocative article about Stanley Kunitz from the New Yorker magazine is here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The political genesis of the work of Arvo Pärt

“One line is like freedom, and the triad line is like discipline. It must work together" Arvo Pärt

"I apologize but I cannot help you with words. I am a composer and express myself with sounds'. Arvo Pärt

The Estonian born composer Arvo Pärt is one of the most influential contemporary classical composers in the world. His simplified compositional technique, known as tintinnabuli, has defined his musical style since the late 1970's and appears in compositions such as Fur Alina, Fratres, Spiegel im SpiegelCantus  in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and Tabula Rasa.

Tintinnabuli (the latin word for bell) is a particular style of composition that weaves together melodic lines in which one voice or instrument outlines a chord, while the other circulates around it. The music moves slowly in patterns and waves, creating austere, hypnotic and achingly beautiful musical patterns. The sparse and repetitive arrangements give the listener space to experience and interpret the music.

While Arvo Pärt is one of the most performed classical composers in the world, the political significance and genesis of his work is generally overlooked. Pärt's work is usually discussed primarily in terms of his faith and religiosity, not surprising given his Eastern orthodox Christianity.

Pärt makes no claim to be a political composer and dismisses any political interpretation of his work claiming that:
"I have never participated in political art. My compositions have never been political, even the ‘Khodorkovsky’ Symphony has really nothing to do with politics".

However, Pärt's work has powerful political resonances and emerged out of a matrix of political forces- his courage in refusing to compose music to satisfy Soviet authorities; his banning by the Russian authorities and subsequent internal exile' within Estonia; his subsequent external exile from Estonia to the west; the cultural tradition in Estonia whereby music and song are a means to give voice to political motivations and aspirations, and his willingness to speak out and take a stand against injustice and suffering.

Pärt was born born in 1935 in Paide in Estonia, then part of the communist Soviet Union. After completing military service he attended and graduated from the Tallinan Conservatory in 1963. From 1958-1967 he worked as a recording engineer with Estonian Radio. 

Pärt never produced the strictly political music expected of Soviet composers and his early music was censored by the Soviet authorities in the 1960s as its religious message was considered an act of political dissidence. He fell quiet for half a decade and emerged in 1976 with "Fur Alina", the first of his distinctive tintinnabuli style compositions.

His work was promptly banned in the USSR and Pärt was permitted to emigrate in January 1980, first to Vienna and then to Berlin, where he settled. He now divides his time between Berlin and Tallinn. 

When he left the Soviet Union with his wife and 2 sons, Pärt was stopped by border police for a luggage search. He told the New York Times:
“We had only seven suitcases, full of my scores, records and tapes. They said, ‘Let’s listen.’ It was a big station. No one else was there. We took my record player and played ‘Cantus.’ It was like liturgy. Then they played another record, ‘Missa Syllabica.’ They were so friendly to us. I think it is the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that the police are friendly.”

Commenting on that incident Pärt's wife noted“I saw the power of music to transform people.”

Pärt was influenced by the Estonian cultural milieu where music has always been a key political force. In the 1980's music and song was the mechanism used to drive the movement for Estonian independence from the Soviet Union. 

Estonia made its revolution by song. During what is referred to as 'the Singing Revolution', Estonians gathered to organise for independence under the guise of singing. In June 1988, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for five successive nights to sing protest songs. Within 3 years Estonia had achieved independence from Soviet rule.

Arvo Pärt also uses his work to express solidarity with those who suffer and resist injustice.

He created a musical piece Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fatima in response to a painting based on photography taken at Auschwitz. His prayer of peace Da pacem Domine was a personal tribute to the victims of the Madrid Terrorist attack. He also composed Fur Lennart in memorian for the funeral service of Lennart Meri, the second elected President of the Estonian Republic after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Pärt dedicated every performance of his works in 2006 and 2007 to the memory of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in Moscow in 2006. Pärt wrote:

"Anna Politkovskaya staked her entire talent, energy and—in the end—even her life on saving people who had become victims of the abuses prevailing in Russia."

Arvo Pärt's own life has political significance - his courage in refusing to bow to state authoritarianism, his fortitude in the face of attacks and criticism from powerful interests, his unflinching persistence and perseverance and his belief in the power of artistic expression to break down the walls of prejudice, force and political power.

In a profile of  Arvo Pärt in the Guardian, Gunter Atteln describes Pärt as a man of courage, humility and authenticity who sees the injustices of the world and takes a political stand against them. Atteln describes Pärt's work as as deeply human, rather than political, although the distinction is somewhat semantic.

Pärt has spoken out politically about events in Russia and criticized Vladimir Putin. He said Putin has:

'.... spread around him massive amounts of hostility and aggression, which has its own dynamics and can only grow. You cannot take it back anymore. There is no control over it today. It cannot be called anything else but a crime. It is more than a crime".

Pärt's work also has political resonance in the way it evokes and resonates an ethos of deep simplicity and peacefulness- silence, stillness, contemplation, humility, a lack of rhetorical grandiosity- that acts as a counterbalance to the consumerism of capitalist societies.

Pärt's music is described by one commentator as evoking 'the radical disruptiveness of the profoundly peaceful'.

James Soemijantoro Wilson refers to  Pärt's music as part of the 'rebel yell of classic music' and cites Alex Ross from his book the Rest is Noise:

"It is not hard to guess why Pärt and several like-minded composers—notably Henryk Górecki and John Tavener—achieved a degree of mass appeal during the global economic booms of the eighties and nineties; they provided oases of repose in a technologically oversaturated culture. For some, Pärt’s strange spiritual purity filled a more desperate need; a nurse in a hospital ward in New York regularly played Tabula Rasa for young men who were dying of AIDS, and in their last days they asked to hear it again and again.”
This piece by Frederic Kiernan in The Conversation provides detailed background on Pärt's history and compositions.

A detailed biography of Pärt is hereA link to a documentary about Arvo Pärt titled The Lost Paradise by Robert Wilson is here. A link to another documentary about Pärt, Even if I Lose Everything  by Dorian Supin is here.

More stories about Arvo Pärt are here, here and here.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The continuing silence about links between extreme weather events and climate change

Many parts of Australia are recovering from the devastating effects of extreme weather events over recent days, including storms that produced unprecedented levels of rainfall, massive ocean waves and king tide surges that caused coastal erosion, and extensive destruction and devastation from massive localized flooding, however, it is interesting to see climate scientists and commentators being cautious and circumspect about linking the severity of the storms to climate change (see articles here, here and here).

A valuable article by social scientists Paul Hoggett and Rosemary Randall, based on interviews with leading UK climate scientists, provides insight into the dynamics of the social and political silencing that makes many climate change scientists unwilling to speak out publicly about the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change.
Hoggett and Randall argue that a 'socially constructed silence' between climate scientists and policy makers is one reason why policy making about climate change has become a form of 'symbolic policy making’—a set of practices designed to make it look as though political elites are doing something about climate change while actually doing nothing.
Hoggett and Randall quote one scientist who said that although many scientists believe that the world is heading for a rise in temperatures of 6 degrees, rather than the two degrees claimed, they still remain silent.
A number of reasons for this silence are identified by Hoggett and Randall. They found many scientists identify with an idealized picture of scientific rationality and are uncomfortable with the political controversy surrounding climate change.  Scientists prefer to get on with their research quietly and dispassionately, burying themselves in the excitement and rewards of research, but denying they have any responsibility beyond developing models or crunching the numbers.
Hoggett and Randall quote one researcher:

"so many scientists just want to do their research and as soon as it has some relevance, or policy implications, or a journalist is interested in their research, they are uncomfortable.
Fear of being seen as a whistle blower and damaging their career are also reasons why scientists are unwilling to speak out.

Some scientists are unwilling to challenge political analysis of the scientific evidence. One scientist quoted by Hoggett and Randall was critical of scientists:
“... repeatedly I’ve heard from researchers, academics, senior policy makers, government chief scientists, [that] they can’t say these things publicly, I’m sort of deafened, deafened by the silence of most people who work in the area that we work in, in that they will not criticise when there are often evidently very political assumptions that underpin some of the analysis that comes out."

Hoggett and Randall urge the scientific community to abandon their social and political silence and speak out as a whole, rather than leaving the task to a beleaguered and much-criticized minority.