Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Year of Yes - And the Blind Date

Yes. You read that right.

I decided this year was going to be my Year of Yes. For those of you who don't know what a Year of Yes is, watch Yes Man - or if you can't stomach Jim Carey, read My Year of Yes by Maria Dahvana Headley (although her's has only to do with dating).

My Year of Yes has more to do with grabbing every opportunity that comes - no excuses. For too long have I been hedging myself in with self-imposed boundaries and regulations. Calculating and tip-toeing around what is appropriate and what is not, what one can or can't do. But if our actions determine who we are, did I really want to be the quiet (okay, I was never quiet) mousy girl? All right, so I am by no stretch of the imagination mousy either - but I'm making a point here!

Saying yes to any opportunity that comes your way isn't necessarily a bad thing. Think of the nights you end up going out even though you really would prefer to stay at home - don't they turn out to be the best nights? Think of the times you didn't really feel like doing something, but had a blast doing it. Or the times when you didn't want to do something, and wished you hadn't, but learned from the experience in any event.

Somebody once told me, "It's better to regret the things you have done, than to regret the things you have not done."

Hence my Year of Yes.

But - I made the mistake (if you can call it a mistake) of letting my friends know of this Year of Yes over drinks and dinner one night not long ago. Luckily, unlike in the movie Yes Man, my friends didn't make me do absolutely neurotic things like chugging down tabasco sauce through my eyeballs(Although in a Year of Yes, this is something you most definitely can say no to!). Instead my friends suggested that if it really was my Year of Yes, then I'd go on a Blind Date.

Pa-paow! A what?

Now this was way outside my comfort zone. Sure I'd gone on dates with people, lots of people, but I'd never been set up. Not ever in my entire almost 10 year dating career.

So I said yes. Why not? Mostly I didn't think it would happen. They wouldn't really do it. They'd forget...

They didn't.

And, true to my new attitude of taking life as it comes, I agreed to go for coffee with Mr. N. - knowing absolutely nothing other than his first name.

I don't know what he does for a living, where he works, how old he is, or his last name. Considering previous disaster dates, this should be worrying (I do however know that he's good friends with my friend's partner and therefore not a psycho...I did ask). Instead, I've embraced the unknown.

Sometimes jumping onto a little adventure train like this can be liberating and exhilirating. And, after all, I've been on enough dates to be able to navigate the awkward conversation blind (no pun intended).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Raging Whaling Debate - Things You Need to Know and Things You Can Do

The whaling debate is heating up after the activist ship Ady Gil belonging to the Sea Shepherd was hit by a Japanese whaling vessel causing a 2 meter hole in the ship's bow. The incident occurred approximately 1300 nautical miles south of Tasmania yesterday afternoon. The Ady Gil was "deliberately rammed" by a Japanese vessel according to a statement released by the Sea Shepherd, while the Ady Gil was stationary, causing "catastrophic damage" to the $2 million ship and the need to rescue the six crew members from the sinking vessel.

This isn't the first time that tensions have escalated in the Antarctic region between Japanese whaling vessels and environmentalist groups such as the Sea Shepherd. "We now have a real whale war on our hands and we have no intention of retreating," said Paul Watson, leader of the organisation.

And war it is! The Japanese are calling on the Australian government to curb the Sea Shepherd's antics. In fact the Japanese's so-called 'scientific whaling program' the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) are accusing the Australian government of neglecting it's international obligations to "curb the Sea Shepherd's hazardous operations."

The Japanese senior Opposition MP Shigeru Ishiba called for international criminal action to be taken against Sea Shepherd vessels: “Sea Shepherd should be considered in the same way as pirates so that we can arrest them in international waters”.

You can view the collision which was captured on film here and read the articles here:

VIDEO: Ady Gil gets rammed

Scientific study has shown that cetaceans display pack behaviours that are very human. It has been proved that whales have the ability to learn and the ability to feel pain. This is one of the main reasons countries like Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Britain find the idea of whaling is barbaric. Not to mention the idea of consuming or using products that come from a sentient mammal such as the whale being morally abhorrent.

Unfortunately, this opinion is not internationally held. Countries, led by Japan, Norway and Iceland are openly pro-whaling nations in the International Whaling Commission (IWC), making international laws to regulate whaling practices almost impossible to create and enforce, since international laws require voluntary compliance of the nation states.

The IWC which was established by the International Conservation for the Regulation of Whaling in 1948 had as it's main objective the prohibition of commercial whaling, with their role basically being to preserve whale stock for future generations of whaling. Over the years however, there has been a growing debate between and the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as well as the World Trade Organization (WTO) on how to deal appropriately in the management of cetaceans as the global concern has turned towards the protection of whales as opposed the conservation of whales for future use.

Unfortunately, by the 1970s the lack of coordination between the International Organisations (IOs) resulted in a new body called the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) whose role it was to synchronize the environmental focus of the international community.

The IWC meet annually to discuss issues relating to the conservation of whales. The one thing that characterizes the annual meetings of the IWC is the division between pro-whaling nations, led by Japan, and anti-whaling nations.

In recent years the pro-whaling nations have grown in strength with Japan being accused of bribing smaller developing nations to vote with them. In reply, Japan and other pro-whaling states argue that the continued commercial ban on whaling imposed by the IWC is no longer required as the Scientific Committee from whom the IWC get advice has stated that whales have research a sustainable level to commence whaling again. Plus, the IWC faces continued problems from whalers who operate outside the IWCs rules, because international regulations and laws require voluntary compliance.

At its inception the IWC was granted jurisdiction over all waters where whaling is undertaken, including the High Seas and they were given the power to fix closed waters and could, therefore, establish international whaling sanctuaries. The first sanctuary was established in Antarctica - where the collision between Shonan Maru No. 2 and the Sea Shepherd’s Ady Gil occurred yesterday afternoon.

Australia is one of the nations that considers itself at the forefront of the anti-whaling nations, which include the US, New Zealand and Britain. Australia is a signatory of many treaties that bind us to the conservation of the environment, including the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Antarctic Treaty. Part of our role includes the protection of whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary (AWS) off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT), not far from where the Japanese vessel collided with the Ady Gil.

In fact, in 2007, the Full Federal Court of Australia gave the Humane Society International leave to serve originating proceedings on Kyodo Senpaky Kaisha Ltd for unlawfully killing approximately 385 Antarctic Minke whales in AAT. In 1999 the Australian Government enacted the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act which allows us to protect whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

But what are we doing now that the Japanese whalers are just off the coast? We're "investigating" the incident of the collision, but refusing to send any protection for the Sea Shepherds doing the job of the Australian government in protecting the whales within our waters. At least Federal Opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt is calling on the Government to send out a non-military observation vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor the situation.

"It is a time for a immediate dispatch of a non-military observer vessel to protect and also to capture and chronicle the slaughter of Australian whales in Australian waters," he says.

ANU professor of international law, Don Rothwell supports the Opposition's call: "These are Australian waters - Australia claims these waters - and this has been a major maritime incident that had occurred within those waters. There are significant safety of life at sea implications and indeed Australia has responsibility for safety of life at sea within these waters."

If anyone is interested in getting involved there are things that you can do without having to brave the Antarctic ocean on a tiny vessel and get pelted by water cannons. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has a section on How to Get Involved including the options to Adopt a Dolphin or Adopt an Orca, online petitions, fundraisers and volunteering opportunities. The World Society for the Protection of Animals runs similar programs and works in conjunction with the IWC to help increase awareness of whales and thereby encourage a globalised approach towards the protection of our cetaceans.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Transcient Existence

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

As a new year, a new decade, rolls around, this quote takes on a certain poignant resonance. Each new year comes with its own expectation - one of change, transformation. A new year - a new beginning.

Although the 1st of January has not always been the date of New Years, January has symbolised a time of new beginnings since 153 BC. Named after Janus, the two-faced Roman God of beginnings and entrances, the month of January seems as good a time as any to look back on the year just past and the year ahead.

Many an untrodden paths lie ahead, all waiting to be travelled. The choice is delightful and terrifying. What if you chose the wrong one, what if there is no way to turn back? Travel, for travel's sake, is no frivolous pursuit. It is a daunting undertaking, an adventure for the brave of heart.

When asked this year what our resolutions are, we might give pause before giving an answer. Where are we really wanting to go, who are we really wanting to become not only in the next year, but in the next decade? Robert Frost answered this dilemma perfectly a long time ago: "Two paths diverged in the woods and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."

So instead of coming up with the usual answers - weight loss, quitting smoking etc (no matter how great these goals are), think of where you really want to go in the deeper sense of your world.

Look how far you've come in the last decade. I became a published writer, got my first screenwriting credit, started and finished law school, got admitted to the Bar, travelled Europe and America a number of times both with friends and solo. Looking back I can say that the experiences I've had drastically changed my path in the last ten years.

But when I imagine looking back on this time, on today January 6, 2010, in a decade, I hope to see even more progression. Perhaps, it's because having be raised in airport lounges, with the smells and sounds of transit reminiscent of the scents of home, the idea of inertia automatically becomes a concept that is "outside my comfort zone". I am discontent without movement, whether it be travel or movement in the sense of my own personal journey forward.

I have often been told, with an air of parental disapproval, that I am a 'discontented child' never satisfied with my lot in life, always wanting more. Always seeking, never happy to stay put. More knowledge, more success, more books, more career paths, more options, more places to put onto my list of "Have Been There" - more, more, more.

But isn't this what life is about? Progression, a journey forward - travel for travel's sake? The great affair of life is movement. Once you stop, you're dead.

So look back on the past decade and find the things that you regret - not taking that Ancient History course, not jumping on that plane to New York, not moving across the country to live solo and free in a strange new town for a week, a month, a year. What stopped you? What is stopping you now from pursuing those paths? Are the excuses real, or are they fear preventing you from living life to its fullest?

Life is about movement, we see it everywhere: Maiden, Mother, Crone and Death; New Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon and Dark Moon; Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Life is about change. There is no real destination, if there is one we certainly don't know for sure where it is or who we will be when we get there. We are all, in the end, travellers on a journey for travels sake. So why not make it a great affair?

Why resign ourselves to the pointless faith of my dear friend Sisyphus and continue meandering on a path that is barren, cold; gray.

Raise your eyes from your feet and look around you. See the other paths and think long and hard before you decide not to take one that interests you - think about who you want to be when you look back at the decade to come, and then take the path that will get you there.