Archive for February, 2008


Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City will be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city fully powered by renewable energy. And a few days ago it was announced that Masdar headquarters will be the world’s first large-scale, mixed-use “positive energy” building, producing more energy than it consumes. The building will also eliminate carbon emissions and reduce liquid and solid waste. Its complex will utilise sustainable materials and feature integrated wind turbines, outdoor air quality monitors and one of the world’s largest building-integrated solar energy arrays. Compared with typical mixed-use buildings of the same size, the Headquarters will consume 70 percent less water.

In addition to being the first mixed-use net positive energy building in the world, Masdar Headquarters will:

  • Be the lowest energy consumer per square meter for a modern class A office building in an extremely hot and humid climate
  • Feature one of the world’s largest building-integrated photovoltaic arrays
  • Employ the largest solar thermal driven cooling and dehumidification system
  • Be the first building in history to generate power for its own assembly, through development of its solar roof pier before the underlying complex


Construction of Masdar City itself commenced with a formal ground-breaking ceremony on February 9, 2008. The the six square kilometer city will be constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. It will cost $22bn to build and be home to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. The city will be mostly powered by solar energy and residents will move in travel pods running on magnetic tracks. Masdar’s headquarters is part of phase one and will be completed by the end of 2010.

Masdar City’s electricity will be generated by photovoltaic panels, while cooling will be provided via concentrated solar power. Water will be provided through a solar-powered desalination plant. Landscaping within the city and crops grown outside the city will be irrigated with grey water and treated waste water produced by the city’s water treatment plant.

The Coffee House reports that “the city forms part of an ambitious plan to develop clean energy technologies. The money is being channelled through the Masdar Initiative, a company established to develop and commercialise clean energy technologies, and Abu Dhabi hopes it will lead to international joint ventures involving much more money”.


Masdar City aims to WWF International’s One Planet Living guidelines (highlighted in bold):

  1. ZERO CARBON: 100 per cent of energy supplied by renewable energy – Photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, wind, waste to energy and other technologies
  2. ZERO WASTE: 99 per cent diversion of waste from landfill (includes waste reduction measures, re-use of waste wherever possible, recycling, composting, waste to energy)
  3. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT: Zero carbon emissions from transport within the city; implementation of measures to reduce the carbon cost of journeys to the city boundaries (through facilitating and encouraging the use of public transport, vehicle sharing, supporting low emissions vehicle initiatives)
  4. SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS: Specifying high recycled materials content within building products; tracking and encouraging the reduction of embodied energy within materials and throughout the construction process; specifying the use of sustainable materials such as Forest Stewardship Council certified timber, bamboo and other products
  5. SUSTAINABLE FOOD: Retail outlets to meet targets for supplying organic food and sustainable and or fair trade products
  6. SUSTAINABLE WATER: Per capita water consumption to be at least 50 per cent less than the national average; all waste water to be re-used
  7. HABITATS AND WILDLIFE: All valuable species to be conserved or relocated with positive mitigation targets
  8. CULTURE AND HERITAGE: Architecture to integrate local values.
  9. EQUITY AND FAIR TRADE: Fair wages and working conditions for all workers (including construction) as defined by international labour standards (which hopefully won’t be limited to Masdar City but also address Abu Dhabi’s appaling slave labour record)
  10. HEALTH AND HAPPINESS: Facilities and events for every demographic group

Oaktree Foundation

Posted: February 26, 2008 in society
Tags: ,


In my previous post I mentioned my friend Che’s endeavour; Hugh Evans from the Oaktree Foundation will be one of those people who students can meet and interact with and who also will present at the conference. Oaktree is quite a remarkable organisation; one of the most interesting things about it is that it is entirely run by young people, including on the director and board member level. Another thing that struck me is the amazing level of passion and high energy that the people in the organisation seem to have.

Here is some information from their NSW website:

The Oaktree Foundation is an entirely youth-run international aid and development organisation.
Our mission is to empower developing communities through education in a way that is sustainable.

Oaktree has a vision of equal educational opportunity for all young people across the world, as we believe that education is a key to breaking the poverty cycle. Oaktree believes that educated, empowered and motivated communities are better able to change their future.


about-oaktree2.jpgFounded in 2003 by Hugh Evans and Nicolas Mackay in Melbourne, Oaktree is about the potential for young people to work in partnership to reduce poverty and to empower developing communities through education in a way that is sustainable. In 2002, Hugh had lived and worked in the rural valley communities of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa where he came to understand that bringing opportunity and hope to the community could only be achieved through a spirit of partnership.

Oaktree was born as young people in the living rooms, cafes, school classrooms and church halls of Melbourne bought into this vision. A partnership was created with Sethani, a South African organization who were to build a community resource centre to provide educational opportunity for 750 orphans and vulnerable children.

Oaktree grew rapidly with a branches formed in NSW and QLD in 2004, ACT and WA in 2005, and SA in 2007.


  • Committed to the poor
  • Committed to a vision which demands action
  • Committed to the whole person
  • Committed to partnership
  • Committed to stewardship

The Oaktree Foundation is a Christian organisation that welcomes people of all faiths or no faith, who share Oaktree’s core values, to join with us in achieving our mission. Whilst the motivations of those at Oaktree and the reasons why we share these core values may differ, we are united behind a common mission.

about-oaktree1.jpgOUR IMPACT

Over the last 4 years Oaktree has raised more than $1,000,000 for development projects in six countries to provide more than 40,000 young people with increased educational opportunities. In Australia, we have established teams in six states, mobilised more than 10,000 supporters, run more than 300 conferences and speaking engagements and reached more than 150,000 people. We were the leaders behind the 2006 Make Poverty History Concert in Melbourne, and the 2007 Make Poverty History Zero Seven Road Trip. In 2007 The Oaktree Foundation was presented with the prestigious ‘Free Your Mind’ award at the MTV Music Awards.


  • Development projects. Oaktree works in partnership with local organisations in developing communities to create and deliver development projects focused on education. This directly addresses some of the immediate needs facing developing communities. Projects that Oaktree have supported include vocational skills training, school building, teacher training and community resource centres.
  • Fundraising. We fundraise to support our development projects and advocacy work, ensuring that thousands of young people have greater access to education. Fundraising is one way for supporters to meaningfully contribute to the vision of the organisation.
  • Advocacy. We advocate on behalf of the worlds’ poor because we acknowledge that change has to occur on a global and systemic level if poverty is going to be eradicated. In Australia, we focus on lobbying government and raising awareness of issues within the general public.
  • Volunteer Mobilisation. As an entirely youth run aid and development organisation, Oaktree volunteers have the opportunity to lead and be involved in every aspect of Oaktree’s work. This is something that makes us unique and gives young people the chance to be truly empowered and contribute meaningfully to the vision of the organisation.


End Child Slavery – India

Today, more than 8.4 million children worldwide are out of school because they are working in forced slave labour. Oaktree’s early 2008 campaign focuses on India, where the vast majority of child slaves live, and involve advocating for change politically, within corporations and through consumers.

about-oaktree3.jpg‘one day’ 2008 – South Africa

Oaktree’s major fundraising campaign, one day, will focus on supporting at-risk young people in South Africa in 2008. In communities where HIV affects one in three young people, Oaktree’s projects support young people to stay in school, make positive life choices and have a better chance to succeed in life.

Schools4Schools – South Africa

Schools 4 Schools is provides Australian students with the opportunity to make a difference in a unique, challenging and very real way by partnering Australian secondary schools with schools in the developing world. The program has four elements of fundraising, online program, workshops and partnership exchange.


My friend Che is currently organising a wonderful event around education, which will include a conference as well as a three-day meeting space for students and professional people acting as elders, advisors, visionaries or what ever role might emerge for them in that space. In the context of hearing about the preparations I came across the Gudhara Holistic Sanctuary.

Gudhara is a not-for-profit organisation run by a small group of people under the principles of social, economic and environmental sustainability. It runs weekend retreats which are conducted by experienced facilitators with an emphasis on raising consciousness for personal and global transformation. The retreat centre itself too is based on sustainability principles which, for example, include each guest to the sanctuary being encouraged to undertake some environmental practice, such as organic gardening or bush regeneration, giving him or her a practical and hopefully also inspirational experience of what sustainability can mean in daily life.

What Gudhara valued most in life according to its website is:

  • Equality, friendship and compassion
  • Open communication and resolution of conflict
  • Integrity in business and personal exchanges
  • Valuing and living in harmony with the natural environment
  • Health and spiritual growth
  • Creativity and a zest for life

Upcoming workshops, retreats and other events include an African drum and dance camp; design workshops based on “sacred geometry”, Feng Shui and Vedic traditions; children’s creative arts and movement days during school holidays and workshops on active and passive solar design, mudbrick construction, practical applications of Bio-Dynamics, designing with natural materials, eco-Shamanism and ‘finding the designer within’.

For more information click on the links below or contact Gudhara:

gudharalogo1.jpgGudhara Holistic Sanctuary
22 Stoney CreekRoad
Marulan NSW 2579
Phone/Fax: 02 4841 1632
Mobile: 0403 203 963


Millions of people worldwide are forced to walk long distances on a daily basis to collect their water requirements for the day. Traditional methods of collecting water include the use of 20-liter (5-gallon) buckets, which are laboriously carried on the head. Extensive suffering occurs in the process. This method is very time and energy consuming and is also the cause of many serious health problems.

The Hippo Water Roller was specifically designed to alleviate the suffering caused by a lack of access to water. The Hippo Water Roller is a barrel-shaped container designed to transport 90 liters (20 gallons) of water. It comprises of a drum with a large screw-on cap and a clip-on steel handle.


The drum is manufactured from UV stabilized Polyethylene and has been designed to withstand typical rural conditions such as uneven footpaths, rocks and even broken bottles. The large opening (135 mm / 5.3 inch diameter) allows for easy filling and cleaning of the interior. The sealed lid ensures hygienic storage of water and the steel handle provides firm control over difficult terrain while pushing or pulling the roller.

The innovative design allows water to be placed inside the “wheel” rather than carried above the wheel. The 90kg (200 pound) weight of water is borne on the ground resulting in an effective weight of just 10kg (22 pounds) on level ground. Children and the elderly can easily manage a full roller over most types of terrain. Extensive field tests over many years and various awards have proven the effectiveness of the Hippo Water Roller. Approximately five times the normal amount of water can now be collected in less time with far less effort.

Find out more about the Hippo Water Roller by clicking here.


I do love my mate Harry for his IT passion (actually: also for many other parts of his personality 🙂 ). He talked me into buying the MacBook Air, which arrived yesterday and which is a beautiful little machine. I am happy to be able to admit this already, coz I was a bit skeptical and I am not fond of Apple’s corporate attitudes, but in terms of hard- and software so far the Air proves to be a little gem. I am sure there will be many more experience reports on this blog in future, and hopefully they’ll all be raves ;).


Harry also found on yesterday’s Engadget this little article on Nokia’s Morph – a concept device based on nanotechnology. I don’t know much about the possibilities of this technology, which will be one of the next really big technological revolutions. I can understand that some geeks cannot but be slightly cynical about certain possibilities, but Morph might become reality much quicker than we currently think. For one, it’s not just an idea that comes out of the Nokia Research Centre but also out of Cambridge University’s Nanoscience Centre. Secondly of course, it’s dreamers who create the future; if we had to rely on cynics we wouldn’t have one worth contemplating 😉 . With that being said, the YouTube clip is definitely worth watching – and I’d certainly like to be and hopefully one day will be part of that world 🙂 .



Dein sünd’ger Mund ist meine Totengruft,
Betäubend ist sein süsser Atemduft,
Denn meine Tugenden entschliefen.
Ich trinke sinnberauscht aus seiner Quelle
Und sinke willenlos in ihre Tiefen,
Verklärten Blickes in die Hölle.

Mein heisser Leib erglüht in seinem Hauch,
Er zittert, wie ein junger Rosenstrauch,
Geküsst vom warmen Maienregen.
– Ich folge Dir ins wilde Land der Sünde
Und pflücke Feuerlilien auf den Wegen,
– Wenn ich die Heimat auch nicht wiederfinde …


Aus mir braust finst’re Tanzmusik,
Meine Seele kracht in tausend Stücken!
Der Teufel holt sich mein Missgeschick
Um es ans brandige Herz zu drücken.

Die Rosen fliegen mir aus dem Haar
Und mein Leben saust nach allen Seiten,
So tanz’ ich schon seit tausend Jahr,
Seit meiner ersten Ewigkeiten.


[Post inspired by Inga]

An interesting article by Roger Cole on Amazines, starting with a link between anger and suppressed grief as an example for how the development of body-consciousness shapes our personality and, in the process, slowly makes us forget our true self. This article is a sequel to a previous one called “True Self – Naked and Exposed“.

As a doctor, I had been practicing regular meditation for eight years, since the time of my Kübler-Ross experience in 1984. The workshop with Kübler-Ross had changed me.

The most remarkable thing was the loss of anger. My temper had subsided completely. I felt inwardly calm. For instance…consider the odd-sock syndrome. You get up for work. You’re in a hurry. You open the drawer. And there they are – two socks, a red one and a blue one! You know that you put both pairs in the laundry basket. But somehow, somewhere they have gone forever. No amount of searching could solve the mystery. In the old days I could ‘hit the roof’ over such a tiny inconvenience. It was like having a powder keg inside. One minute cool, calm and collected; the next, an exploding incendiary device. After Kübler-Ross these eruptions ceased completely. “A red and a blue sock,” I’d now go. “Excellent, we’ll start a new fashion!” And you know what? No one would notice. Even in a meeting where you cross first one leg, then the next, no one notices. First they see a red sock, then they see a blue sock. But they don’t notice. So why get angry? I said the most remarkable thing was this loss of anger. What was remarkable about it was the fact that it wasn’t the expression of anger itself that freed me from it, it was the expression of repressed grief. In letting go of sorrow I was liberated from anger. Never again would I throw golf clubs around (often further than I hit the ball, I might add!). Nor would I rant and rave on the tennis court. In fact my competitive edge and the need to impress others began to fade. The high achiever in me was dying.

Such experience, from my own life, has helped me to understand others. If someone is angry, I understand that they have experienced a loss of some sort. Whether in this life, or from the deeper past, there have been experiences of sorrow. Experiences so painful, that they are repressed as the festering seeds of negative attitudes and emotions; seeds that germinate destructive words and actions. Anger emerges and, in a strange way, it ‘protects’ the individual from the vulnerability of experiencing sorrow. There is a kind of ‘safety’ within it. It overcomes fear and exposure, acting like a shield. Eventually a habit is formed where anger is used in situations or circumstances where an individual is trying to keep his or her world constant, safe and under control. And it is extended or projected outwards, at times, to ‘protect’ others.

Once I began to grasp this I found I could forgive and tolerate more easily. What is there to forgive, when you know that someone acted against you under the influence of grief? To say, “I will never forgive him/her for that”, is to remain angry yourself. You hold on to your sorrow in this way. It seems justified but actually the lack of forgiveness holds you into a relationship with that person and situation. And you will never be free until you let it go.

For me, forgiveness and tolerance emerged by understanding others through self-awareness. As it did so, I found my self more comfortable with people’s emotions. Especially with grief, loss and separation. As the individual journeys the spiritual path, a need arises to break from the identity of the body. By this I mean to break from body-consciousness, to find the true authentic self, or soul. And to rediscover the original qualities and nature that were inherent to the soul, at the time of its purest expression. That is, before coming into the cycle of birth and death. Before experiencing attachment, separation and loss. Before anger. Before love and contentment became dependent on the external world.

To entertain this further, I will retreat away from the concept of having a soul or spirit that lives on after death. Instead I will emphasise that, in essence, the true identity actually is the soul. And the body, with its identity and relationships, is but a temporary vehicle for self. To consider, “I have a soul,” also contains the statement: “…but I am a body.” To say, “I am a soul,” is an accurate expression of identity, which contains the statement: “…and I have a body.” A further reality of such awareness is the non-existence of death. As a soul, how can I die? I can enter or leave a body in ‘birth’ or ‘death’, but my subtle form of light cannot be extinguished. This is a matter of consciousness. As a body I live in the mortal coil. As soul I am eternal. Fearless. These are very deep aspects of faith. In my previous article (True Self – Naked and Exposed) June’s mother died with full acceptance, exposing the spiritual beauty of a soul unencumbered. She gave us an example of our potential and mirrored our true nature. We will now consider the implications this has for true and false identity.

To begin with, at the time of birth, the child is given a name and adopts a gender. Both are reinforced regularly, by loving parents, who wish that the newborn should come to know itself as they do: as a boy or girl, and as a body. As the child grows in awareness, he or she discovers the early trappings of body-consciousness. “You are Roger. These are your eyes. Here is your nose. Your ears. These are your arms. And your legs.” Eyes, nose, ears, arms and legs. “Ah, so this is me! I know who I am. I’m a boy. And you know what…girls are dumb!” Thus a child finds identity in its name and form. An identity that is already external to its soul or true self; and one that begins to separate and discriminate.

This is extended further as one begins to associate self with colour and culture: black or white, European or Asian, French or German. As one does so, with increasing knowledge of the world around, there are further grounds for separation of self from others. And for forming affiliations to secure an identity of growing complexity. In this age of the multicultural society, the fusion of race, religion and politics offers an opportunity for respect, equality and integration. It also means that children are confronted by apparent differences relatively early in life when compared with my generation. This is where the attitudes and identity of the family unit, parents and culture play a significant part in moulding personal identity. If cultural rivalry exists there is likely to be early conflict and pain, leading to anger and hatred; which can be extended from an individual confrontation to a cultural group as a whole. I was brought up in England at a time when there were relatively few coloured people in the society. In my final year of primary school, a black West Indian boy enrolled, from a new migrant family. We called him ‘Bony’, because he was skinny. He was the only black kid in the school. There was a group element in the school that gave Bony a hard time “Bony is a nigger!” they chanted. Or they would ‘take him off’. “Hey, nigger-boy. What yo’ doin’ there!” And worse, One child had even learnt the phrase “black bastard!” And he taught the others. Bony cried a lot when he started school with us. But he had two saving graces. The first was a pleasant personality. So he made friends, with people who liked him for who he was.

These children, by contrast, did not seem affected by the fact that he was coloured. They simply related to the nature of the individual, who resided in the form of a West Indian native. The second was that he was good at soccer. Actually better than the rest of us. Most of the antagonists in the school were soccer players. In fact soccer-player represented part of the extended (false) identity of those children. (Much of our school-yard rivalry was built around whether you supported Manchester United or Manchester City, which was generally inherited from your father.) Gradually Bony’s growing identity of soccer-player began to overcome the hurdle of being coloured. The original antagonists started to pick him first in their teams, as this would secure a fair chance of winning. In seeing him as more like themselves—as a soccer-player—that group now accepted him. What we are seeing here are some effects of body-consciousness in ten year-olds. Already it has brought about separation and discrimination; and chaos to the play-ground. The antagonists probably had role models within their family circles that influenced their attitudes. Such attitudes, be they from family or society, also fashion identity. They are passed on from parent to child. Their basis is multifactorial, including culture, social class, religion and politics.

Some of the hostility toward Bony emanated from fear. The protagonists, confronted by their unfamiliarity, reacted with malevolence. Each felt more secure in this response, which warded off the uncertainty of how to deal with a coloured boy. With their affiliation as a group, a peer structure was formed that identified enmity to be acceptable under the circumstances. On the other hand, the schoolchildren who took to Bony responded more to his personality than appearance. In accepting him they were less discriminating of his colour. They were also extending identity values from their own household influences. In the meantime, another division had taken place here. Those for Bony, and those against him. It was a clash of values…a clash of identities. Sticking up for Bony was likely to lead to a fight, so we had a lot of fights going on at the time. Until the soccer-player finally emerged. Thank heavens he could play the game! May be in this, Bony has given us a clue to global co-operation. The need to discover a common and unifying identity.

From these early beginnings of the body-conscious identity, a sense of individuality evolves and ego emerges. I am not referring here to the Ego of some spiritual philosophies, where it is used synonymously with the higher-self or soul. I am referring to self-centredness. With ego comes desire to have or to possess for self. And with desire comes an increasingly complex identity, bringing increasingly complex needs. Through adolescent and adult years there are new roles and responsibilities, including work-roles and relationships. These are encompassed in an ever-expanding definition of self. Student, electrician, homemaker, secretary, lawyer, builder. Husband, wife, parent, uncle, grandmother. Interests and hobbies develop in accordance with special qualities or skills. And the identity grows, golfer, gardener, hang-glider, artist, cook, soccer-player. Attitudes deepen and cultural identity strengthens. Money with the desire for material wealth and possessions may dominate life. New ‘icons’ of identity proliferate. A house. A car. Furnishings, sports equipment, expensive clothes. The body, with its health and appearance, forms a major focus of concern for many. There seems an almost morbid fascination with having perfect looks or avoiding disease. You only have to browse through the magazines of any newsagent to confirm this. Slimming diets, vitamin supplements, cosmetics, fashions and so on.

As the complexity of this ego-identity expands, so too do its dependencies. Whoever you are, there is a common desire for peace of mind, contentment and happiness. There is also a universal need to be loved. As the identity becomes progressively externalized, its well-being needs stable circumstances and relationships. To feel valued, we need to be effective within our roles and responsibilities. For security, we are dependent on income, material wealth and possessions. For love, we have dependency on relationships. And for well-being we need physical health and a good appearance. All of this represents an expansion of the physical identity. With there being so many variables, contentment in the individual is under the constant threat of change. As a result negative attributes emerge. To ward off insecurity, arrogance is born that one can maintain control over an external world of circumstances and relationships, Greed emerges, in a lavish attempt for fulfillment through wealth, status or food. Attachment offers comfort, through possessiveness over people or objects. Lust develops for self-gratification or to satisfy strong and excessive desires.

In the preservation of a precarious identity, anger and blame are the last line of defence. They come into play when there is a threat to circumstances or relationships; or when self-gratification is obstructed. As I have already mentioned, reacting angrily has been learnt from previous experiences of loss. In the context here, it is also being used as a prophylaxis against further loss to the individual. And it will materialize whenever loss manifests again.

So this then is body-consciousness. Included in it are the negative attributes, or vices, that the individual employs to retain a sense of security. The five main ones are desire (lust), attachment, anger, greed and arrogance. In body-consciousness—or the deluded identity—an individual applies them to maintain control. This, in turn, will uphold internal peace and happiness, albeit temporarily. Within this is forgotten our true and original identity: that of the soul. Also forgotten is that peace and happiness are the natural attributes of this true identity. It is the soul that originally contained these qualities in their purest forms, when they were independent of external circumstances. It is the soul that lives, thinks, acts and experiences through the medium of the body; through the vehicle of the body. And it is the soul that ‘loses’ itself into body-consciousness.

After my Kübler-Ross experience—my ‘window’ to the soul—I began to meditate in earnest. I began to make effort toward becoming, or being, soul-conscious. In the early days I was convinced that my soul was the pure part of me. And that the negative traits of my personality had nothing to do with it,

One day a medical colleague, who practiced Raja Yoga, told me that the soul becomes impure. This comment permeated my contemplations. And I recalled my experience of soul-consciousness at the workshop. It followed catharsis, and exoneration from the paraphernalia and complexity of personality. The experience ‘crashed’ through all my protective shields, exposing the inner, true self. In doing so, it had brought about an encounter with my true and original identity. I realized concurrently that not only was this my original nature but it was also the destination of growth: That as I was, then so I shall become. Suddenly things began to make sense to me. The soul is the source of consciousness, however it is expressed. Under the influence of the body an illusion is created, and it is the soul that becomes body-conscious. Trapped in this delusion, layers of personality are lavished, like onion rings, on the soul, until it is completely hidden and the diamond is flawed. Through the filters of a mistaken identity and acquired personality, it is the soul that gets angry; or experiences jealousy or hatred. It is the soul that uses the body to attack another human being. And it is the soul that experiences loss or sorrow. It is also the soul that longs to be peaceful again.

As I began to understand these things I knew my colleague’s statement to be true. Originally pure, through body-consciousness the soul becomes impure. And in the renewal of spiritual growth purity is returned.

Al Jazeera

Posted: February 23, 2008 in media

120px-aljazeerasvg.pngMy good mate Harry today sent a link to a new TV live station project, very intuitively called LiveStation, who is currently running an invite-only trial. They don’t have many channels yet (5 news channels), but I was finally enticed to do what I’ve been wanting to for quite a while now: to watch award winning Al Jazeera (in English) – more out of curiosity then with a particular agenda. What I saw though impressed me so much that I stayed with them for more than two hours and then decided to return regularly.

Al Jazeera (meaning “The Island”, referring to the Arabian Peninsula) is a television network headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel with the same name, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty TV channels in multiple languages, and in several regions of the world. The original Al Jazeera channel’s willingness to broadcast dissenting views, including call-in shows, created controversies in Persian Gulf States. The station gained worldwide attention following the September 11, 2001 attacks, for example with its semi-regular broadcast video statements by Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders or for having its journalists and its Iraq office being attacked by the US army (for more information on Al Jazeera see Wikipedia).

Al Jazeera certainly is a mainstream news and current affairs channel and therefore lacking programs that provide in-depth analysis or a reporting style that presents events in a systemic context. Nevertheless, what I found refreshing so far (and I’ll keep an eye on whether I can maintain this first impression) was that it still provided lots of information to critically think about what happens in the political, social, economic and cultural environments we all are part of. Unlike the Western mainstream media I am aware of, it doesn’t refrain from providing controversial information (e.g. Al Qaeda tapes) and it seems to aim at supplying its viewers with a range of different angles to look at global events.

An example I was able to watch today was its reporting on the US pre-election campaigns. While presenting the news on the three campaigners still in the contest in a similar fashion I am used to from our evening news programs, it complemented those information bits with a 25 minute special report called ‘Frontline USA’ (a service it will keep up until the US election). The idea is to look behind the glamour, the spin and the millions spent by the candidates and visit those forgotten communities who live at the frontlines of poverty, violence, race, the politics of fear and failed health and education systems. Al Jazeera talks to the people living in those disadvantaged communities and to the activists that are their voice and desperate agents for change. It shows another face of America, one that our mainstream media by and large doesn’t bother with, and it asks where these people are represented in the agendas of McCain, Obama or Clinton (especially after Edwards bowed out).

Cynics might say that this approach by Al Jazeera is not surprising given that it is an Arabic organisation that on top has been victimised by the US – cheap shot. I saw an interview with a representative of Muqtada al-Sadr on his decision to extend the current truce the Madhi Army is observing, and Al Jazzera showed the same critical attitude towards him. Adding to these experiences other programs I watched, I am getting the impression that this news organisation sees its purpose in providing as much information as possible – to allow viewers to create their own ‘well-informed’ views and opinions, which if true would represent a truly alternative approach to the one I have become used to from watching the Australian ABC or SBS news programs. So: I’ll keep watching with with interest.

Worldwide street art

Posted: February 22, 2008 in creativity

[via Art Crimes]

John Mahony’s photography

Posted: February 22, 2008 in creativity

John Mahony loves nature. He’s a river kayaker, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at his images. It seems they were born as part of an original conflict – between the beauty of wild natural landscapes and the defilement as a result of human impact. When Mahony first saw abandoned cars dumped or washed up on riverbanks he felt disgust and probably outrage. But then he began to reflect on his judgement and he started really looking at the sculptures of human civilisation and – he discovered beauty. He asked the question ‘when is something beautiful and when is something ugly’, and it seems he realised that he is the creator of the result. He now composes the abandoned mines, plane crash sites, nuclear preserves, tailings sites and even the Chernobyl exclusion zone into images of sometimes disturbing beauty by populating them with people – either naked or dressed as brides, grooms or in hazmat suits. It’s an eerie beauty, one that is stripped down to a very elementary level of existence. And that existence in its core is violence and destruction – as evidenced by former life being present as wreckage, defiling nature, or a naked groom awaiting death by the bride with a gun in her hand. At the same time though the compositions have a sense of indifference about them, of aloofness – which makes me wonder whether Mahony thinks that in the end nothing matters: life moves on, leaving behind undeterred what we consider are accidents, tragedies, catastrophes. After all: everything decays, and out of decay new life is born …


Clorox Nevada


Factory, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Factory, Ukraine

Scrap Metal