Monday, 27 January 2014

Let's do it like they do in the Sentinel Islands.

The closest view anyone gets of North Sentinel Island.
As you know I have spent a lot of time railing against the Abbott government and so I thought I'd dispel the myth that builds when anyone criticises a government that they obviously vote for the other side.
Well I don't vote Labor, I have had at least one vitriolic go at the Gillard government and their lunatic attack on single parents.
These parents were already struggling already struggling desperately to keep their home intact when the Gillard government cut their benefit once their children started school.
The logic being that now that they didn't have to stay home all day and look after the children, they could go and get a job.
This specious piece of reasoning seem to overlook the fact that these parents, mostly women, therefore have to find a job close to their home that they can do between 9 and 3, so they can be home when the kids get there, otherwise they then have to spend all the money they earn on childcare, thus losing contact with their kids at a vital time in their life, working all day and still having no money left over.
So I'm not for one side or the other, and in the end was reminded of something the venerable Mrs Ashwood, the Ancient History teacher at my high school, once said.
Mrs Ashwood was a great teacher of this subject, and also a member of the local council.
As ever when you are discussing Ancient History, the talk often centres on the cradle of democracy that was ancient Greece, mainly Athens.
We were talking of this and the talk then moved slightly off-topic to Mrs Ashwood being a councillor.
I made comment about her being a Labor councillor, and she replied (most enlighteningly), "that she wasn't".
Somewhat taken aback, and thinking I had misread the election results, I said, "Oh, are you National Party then?"
To which she replied, "No, if I'm anything, I'm a democrat."
Note the lower case 'd', this as in the days before there was a party of that name.
She went on the clarify that she was a supporter of democracy itself, and the right, so hard won, for a woman to run for council and have a democratic voice.
And so I'd like to follow her lead and remark that I am lucky to be in a country where I can rail against the government and while I'm never heard, everyone ignores my questions, at least I can ask them without being thrown in the Lubianka for the rest of my life.
That being said, I would like to clarify, a la Mrs Ashwood, that I am neither a Labor, nor a Liberal, supporter, but simply a supporter of intelligent government, and will go as far as I can to support it.
Needless to say, I don't get much opportunity to support, or even see, intelligent government these days in Australia.
So what have the Sentinel Islanders got to do with all this?
Well the Sentinel Islanders don't like (to put it mildly) outside contact.
Whenever a government official tries to make contact, said official is greeted by a hail of rocks and spears.
The Sentinels are in the Bay of Bengal and as such are ruled by India, however the first peaceful contact was only made in 1991 (forty years after India became a sovereign nation), and all visits, government or otherwise, ceased just eight years later.
No doubt some put-upon civil servant finally got the message through to the higher ups that "if you want to know how many people live there, you go!"
There is a less amusing side to the Sentinel Islanders behavior, which is that they kill anyone shipwrecked on their reefs, this happened in 2006, when two fishermen perished at the islanders' hands after their engine broke down and their boat drifted too close, but in the end an island people who simply wish to be left free of the doubtful benefits of central government, and are prepared to make that point with spears and rocks is one I can heartily agree with.
I can assure you that if Julie Bishop (for one) ever wanders onto the forecourt of my tent, she can expect a ballistic response from me that the Sentinel Islanders would be proud of.

So naturally when we are discussing dumb government we come back to bizarre laws, I recently wrote about the illegality of having sex with a porcupine in Florida, and such was the response that I thought I would list some more.
So:
You May Not Take a Picture of a Rabbit during the Month of June In Wyoming. 
(source: List25)

WTF? I have done a bit of looking, but cannot find any reason for this law. 
I should say, many of these laws, which seem odd to the point of weirdness to us today, often have some arcane significance which explains them being added to the statutes at the time of their writing.
But I have stretched the old mind and cannot conceive of a reason for this law.

Donkeys Cannot Sleep In Bathtubs In Arizona.

(source: List25)

Now here we can see some sense.
I can't tell you the amount of times I have come home and been driven to the point of distraction by someone putting their donkey in my bath.
I did try bathing with the donkey, but in the end found that there just wasn't enough room.

Likewise, this next law makes so much sense that we wonder why it had to be made into a law. 

Waking a Sleeping Bear for a Photo Opportunity Is Strictly Forbidden In Alaska.

(source: List25)

 

Next we come to a law that we have to wonder, as with porcupine sex, whether there was an incident that led to its writing.

Fishing While Sitting on a Giraffe’s Neck is Forbidden In Illinois.

 (source: List25)
Having said that, I think there may be more to this law.
There is a type of gantry used in movie making to allow the camera operator to get high above the actors, and this is called a 'giraffe'.
So I'm guessing it's possible that the giraffe in this law may not be the long-necked animal of Africa, but come form of metal structure used around the docks of Chicago.

No One May Cross Minnesota State Lines with a Duck On Top Of Their Head.

(source: List25)
As the witty writer at List25 points out, 'this just makes everybody look bad'.
I think this law may have something to do with hunting accidents, though why you are only at risk when crossing the border into Iowa, who can say?

I did look for bizarre laws in Australia, but most of ours make reasonable sense, or you can see the sense of them in their day.
For instance, it is still a legal requirement for pubs in some parts of the country to provide stabling and food for horses, an obvious relic of our horse-driven past, however I'm assuming if you rode your horse into the Royal George pub in Pitt St, Sydney and asked for some hay and and a bed for your steed you would be met with some bemused looks.
So there you have it for another week, dumb laws to go with dumb government.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and remove all the ducks from my head before I leave Minnesota.










Monday, 20 January 2014

Frustrated rage about alcohol advertising.

I am thinking of making a template for the first paragraph of my blog, which I can just slot in every week.
This template would run something like this: "I was incensed this week when 'x' [member of the Abbott government] did 'y' [their latest offence to intelligent government]."
So this week it is once again about alcohol, and its deleterious effects on our society.
Namely, alcohol-fuelled violence, I live in NSW so my sources mainly list trouble in Sydney and the larger regional centres, but I have no doubt that all the states are the same.
This was precipitated by the tragic death of young Daniel Christie recently, who was 'coward punched' outside a late night venue in King's Cross Sydney.
He spent a week in hospital sinking rapidly and then his parents had to make the agonising decision to turn of his life support system.
I do not wish to make capital out of this tragic event, but want to raise the issue of our politician's hopelessly misguided response.
The Prime Minister incensed me to a degree where I could hardly forbear from punching the radio through which this comment came.
When asked about alcohol-fuelled violence the PM says, "Yes, it's time to do something about it...".
I listened with bated breath, and then he said, "We are going to increase law enforcement."
Goddammit all to hell this was a moronic response.
Law enforcement is not the answer to this problem, stopping alcohol advertising is.
Now those of you who have been watching this space will know I have been on about alcohol advertising, interminably it seems, and I would like to let the matter drop, but I can't ignore it when our supposed leader makes statements like this.
So, let's unpack things a bit.
Law enforcement, increased or otherwise is not the answer, even the coppers will tell you that.
The police already cannot contain the situation, once people are already drunk the coppers can only put people in the drunk tank and keep them off the streets till they sober up, even arresting them does no good on the night, as there are innumerable cases of people who reoffended after they were let out of the clink, drink driving is an example of this.
So the PM says we are going to go for increase law enforcement to solve the problem.
Does this mean we are going to employ more police?
Or are we going to make the police we already have work harder?
Either way it's no solution.
The police already struggle to get new recruits, and even if things change over night, and we suddenly get a new load of thousands of police, we would then have to roster the entire force on work Friday and Saturday night when the alcohol-fuelled violence problem peaks.
So then the Premier of Queensland weighed in and got it equally, unforgivably wrong.
Said Premier, Campbell Newman, proposed, like the  PM, tougher penalties, and again this couldn't be wronger.
Tougher penalties are retrogressive, they can only be instigated after the violence, when already a young man has been hit from behind and is losing his battle for life.
Then we come to the Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, who's proposals cover:

"Those proposals will cover areas like better regulations of licensing,"
"Secondly, they'll cover issues like policing in and around our entertainment precincts."
"It'll include penalties for those engaging in drug and alcohol-fuelled violence and it'll include measures to tackle the cultural change needed."
Source:ABC

I was intrigued by the last sentence, "measures to tackle the cultural change needed."
And I wonder if this means doing anything about alcohol advertising on TV?
So I contacted Barry O'Farrell's office to ask, and (all together) 'look forward to being ignored'.
I think however, it is going to be a long and fruitless wait for something to be done about alcohol advertising, as this story in the SMH shows.
For those who aren't across it, Brainless Barry said that earlier closing of venues wouldn't have saved the life of young Daniel Christie.
The author of the State's largest study into alcohol related night crime, Peter Miller, called these comments 'unbelievably stupid', going on to explain; the expense of drinking late led people to stay home and pre-load, that is, drink cheap alcohol at home, and so when they finally emerged onto the streets they were already very drunk.
So all three politicians above has got it wrong, so why do I strongly advocate removing alcohol ads from TV?
Well, firstly the ads work.
Todd from the marvellous Gruen shows on the ABC.
Among the many fine programs on the ABC is the Gruen series of shows about advertising.
These shows explain to us how advertising works, most importantly, how it works on us.
Todd, one of the panellists, said one week, "Most people say, 'yeah, advertising works, but it doesn't work on me'".
I found this fascinating, as I've said it a lot, but since it came from Todd I gave it some credence.
Ads don't generally work on me though because I never watch any, or at least I never see any with the sound on, so I'm fairly immune.
However, even soundless ads work their insidious black magic as I discovered when watching the cricket.
It was the Sydney test in early January, the match ended on the third day, a Sunday, with an emphatic victory for Australia.
Now I haven't had a drink for a full year now, but as the game ended, I was overcome by an almost unquenchable desire for a cold beer.
I sat with it for a moment, and then realised that the ads had got through.
For almost three days now, I had watched the cricket, for seven hours a day, and though I had the sound off, and was enjoying the ABC radio call, the silent ads for alcohol, 100+ per day for three days, had finally worked.
NB: I didn't have a drink, and am still enjoying the health benefits of abstinence.
Additionally, my friend Antony reported that he had succumbed to the desire for a burger advertised by the fat with optional chicken company advertising on the cricket, and had pedalled down to the take away food outlet and had one.
So the ads work.
And of course, we all know that advertisers would not pay the astronomical sums they pay to advertise during prime shows, the cricket is one, if they weren't getting a return on their investment.
So during the cricket the alcohol companies were giving out this simple message, "We want you to start drinking at ten in the morning when the cricket is on, and keep drinking all day".
And thus I contend that alcohol advertising has to be banned from TV, or at least moved back to only after 8.30 at night.
Is it any wonder that there is alcohol fuelled violence on our streets when we are being urged to start drinking at ten in the morning?
So there you have it for another week, more ranting from  me, I'll stop when our erstwhile leaders show some damn sense.


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Wrath of Khan

The Trinidad Scorpion, the world's hottest chili.
I thought I would spare you another week of ranting about the Abbott Government and advertising, and discuss curry.
What's brought this up?
Well I recently completed my first book and published it on the net at Smashwords, (now that's not a plug for my book, really!) and a lot of this book is set in the British Isles where curry is king, and so I thought I'd tell you a little about it.
Curry of course comes out of India, England was the dominant colonial power on the sub-continent for most of the 19th century, and the British extracted a lot of wealth from this country, in the form of agricultural products and gems, mostly taken from the palaces of the Moguls and Maharajahs.
But also, the British got a taste for curry, the signature dish of India.
This began with the large number of middle class Brits going over there to work as civil servants to administer the continent.
Then, after WW1, the trend was reversed and many sub-continentals went the other way to live and work in Britain.
Most went to the industrial towns like Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool, and where they went, they took a desire for their national dish and so opened up restuarants.
Today it is thought that there are 9,000 curry houses in the UK, or one house for every six thousand people.
To give you some idea of the popularity of curry in the UK, there are only 3,000 chinese restaurants in Britain.
So curry is popular, but why so?
Well there are a few reasons, some certain, many not.
The first and most pervasive family of myths to do with curry are about rancid meat.
It was thought that the hot chili would cauterise any less-than-presentable meat, killing off any bacteria and making it safe to eat.
However, this doesn't seem likely, certainly there is no attested source to this, and it is far more likely that the cooking process itself, often involving boiling for lengthy periods did far more to kill off any offending bugs.
A sub issue of this is that the hottest curries available today in Britain are so mesmerically, skin-blackeningly hot, that anyone fool enough to eat one, is unlikely to be worried about ordinary microbes.
More on the topic of insanely hot curries later.
Then there is the issue of curry herbs and spices covering the taste of any off meat.
This is again not attested, but there may be some truth in it.
Certainly the poorer Brits, and the Indians themselves, rarely got hold of quality meat, and so anything to disguise bad flavours would have been welcomed.
There are stories from colonial times in which starving settlers had to wait until dark to eat so they couldn't see the insects, weevils for one, crawling all over their food.
In the modern era therefore, the need to disguise the flavours of off meat lessened due to increased restaurant hygiene, but by then curry had gotten a hold over the Brits and was here to stay, and so why is that?
Well, climate is a big factor.
The hottest curries on Earth are served in Britain, and this is certainly because the climate is so rotten for more or less nine months of the year that going to the curry house and eating a hot one provides you with an internal fire to see you home in the rain.
I can personally recall walking back from the Star of India in Birmingham to my digs and (completely fancifully) feeling that the rain hit the heat aura around my body and dissolved in mid-air before it hit me as liquid water.
This British taste for curry was probably best juxtaposed by Comedian Alexei Sayle, who said: "Are there pissed Indians in Mumbai who come out of their drinking establishment and say 'by Gandhi, I could murder a steak and kidney pie'".
So while climate is a factor and the chilly northern latitudes provide a neat dovetail with a raging hot curry, by a wide margin, the main reason curry is popular in Britain is due to the regulations surrounding drinking over there.
All the pubs in Britain close at 11pm, but if you want to carry on drinking you have to (mainly) go to a restaurant
Some go Chinese, but most go for a curry.
For you see, you are allowed to have a pint if you order food, and so the curry is ordered and then the pints flow.
Now this lead to some interesting situations, one of which occurred in Plymouth.
Homer ate this insane chili on The Simpsons and wasn't seen for 24
hours while he explored the outer reaches of his sub-conscious.
The police noticed that the lights were on and beer was on tables in a local curry house at three in the morning, four hours after drinking was officially ended for the night, and so they raided it and arrested everyone there for after hours drinking.
The pints were visible, but there was no food in front of anyone, a clear case of illegal drinking.
However, when they eventually got to court, the magistrate ruled that the police couldn't prove that the patrons had not been drinking from that same pint since they had ordered dinner four hours previously, and thus they all got off the charges.
Clearly the police had happened across the slowest drinkers in the history of the human race.
Curry heat even has a formalized structure in the UK.
The lowest heat is found in Kormas, these are mild curries, containing no chili, just the flavours.
Next up is Curry itself, as in Chicken Curry, which is medium heat.
Then we climb up to Madras, hot.
Then there are Vindaloos, these are extra hot curries.
Finally, at the top of the scale are Phaals.
Phaals are what the weapons inspectors were looking for in Iraq.
So coruscatingly, exfoliatingly hot are these things that they often cannot be served as they contravene local strategic arms limitations.
When I got to Britain I wasn't much of a curry head, but the climate got to me, and I began to go up the scale, enjoying increasingly hot curries to ward off the nightime chill.
And so it was that my friend from Sydney Uni Soccer, Misha, met up with me one winter afternoon in South London.
I was playing rugby and after the game we had a load of pints in the clubhouse and then headed to the Beckenham Curry Cottage for an Indian.
Misha has a stomach lining that you could use to retread tyres, and so we decided to have a go at "The hottest thing on the menu".
In this case it was a Phaal, the first time I had eaten one.
The waiter rolled his eyes upon hearing our order as it is a common thing for these staff to hear after the pubs shut, and went away to the kitchen and no doubt said, "Hey Ashraf, we've got a couple of yobbos in, they want a Phaal. Make 'em a good one, so we can all have a laugh".
The chef duly added enough chili to the plates to take the roof off the kitchen and the waiter brought it out.
We began eating and to the surprise of everyone except Misha, we finished them.
As the meal wore on the waiters began observing our progress more closely, then members of the kitchen staff began peering around the door to see if we were going to finish.
Eventually we did and while there wasn't a round of applause, there was certainly a measure of grudging respect from the assembled Indians.
We walked home with a dark red glow trailing behind us in the night like curry scented fireflies, thinking we were hot shit, which was, on reflection, pretty accurate when the next morning came.
I was in town shopping for books near Piccadilly, when suddenly I was rent by a pain lurching sideways across my lower intestine like I was a Japanese warrior committing Hari-Kari.
I didn't have long, and thankfully a found a bathroom nearby, and draw a veil over the events that followed, but it was an experience I can tell you.
However with our triumph at the Curry Cottage, I thought I could handle anything.
I might add, some months after Misha and I returned from the UK, he rang me and said, "Hey Lock, I've found a place that sells Habaneros (at the time Habaneros were the world's hottest chilis), why don't I get some and bring them round and we'll make up a curry sauce?"
I said, "Great", and a few days later he arrived with three of them.
So I put them in my blender, with some other spices and some liquid, and whizzed them up.
After the liquid had gooified, I opened the lid of the blender, and suddenly it was as if tear gas had been released.
We staggered backwards out of the kitchen with our eyes and noses streaming.
We were then trapped in the hall, and in the end I had to get a towell from the bathroom, wet it, then wrap it around my eyes and grope blindly into the kitchen till I found the lid, put it on, and then grope blindly toward the window and open that to vent the damn joint.
Needless to say when it came to eating the stuff, we had the fire department on call.
But back to England.
With my triumph at the Curry Cottage I thought I could handle it all.
Oh, the arrogance of youth.
A few weeks later I met my housemates, Don, Matt and Pete in town for a drink, that is ten pints, at a pub near their workplace.
When 11 pm came around we went to a nearby curry house to eat and have a couple more pints.
The place was called the Strand Tandoori, and I was about to discover that my triumph in the suburbs was as nothing when I came into town to play in the first division.
Among my housemates' work colleagues was a nice man from Hong Kong, Tim.
Full of bravado I said to the assembled group that I was going to have a Phaal.
They looked at me in surprise, asking, "Are you sure? Do you know what you're doing?".
I said "Of course, I finished a Phaal at the Curry Cottage, so I know what to expect".
Tim, then said, "Oh, really, well if you're going to have one, I will too".
So the order was placed and the meals came.
Well!
Tim with his Asian heritage ate his smoothly with barely a ripple crossing his smooth, olive brow, but I knew from the first bite the sin of hubris.
To say my meal was hot barely hints at the scale of the firestorm that went on in my mouth.
I only managed three bites of the stuff, and the second and third were only consumed after the sort of revving up that I had only previously experienced before rugby matches.
Anyway, I was done.
I fell back with my head against the restaurant window and due to the chilly damp air outside on this November night an enormous cloud of condensation, looking for all the world like a grey afro, formed around my head.
Those watching said I looked like a caucasian Jimmie Hendrix after hour ten of a drug binge.
After that I stayed away from the things and stuck to the edible Madras, but that was in 1993, and I have since learned that the curry stakes have heated up.
The world's hottest chili is now the Trinidad Scorpion, so called as eating it, and I can attest to this, is like being stung by a scorpion.
Thus the Phaal, already a chemical weapon, is now even hotter, so if you attend a restaurant where this dish is being served by people in full biohazard protection suits, expects to see smoke-blackened skeletons at a corner table.
Next week back to the usual format of moaning about the government and advertising.








Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A footprint in the moss lasts ten years.

Colin Russell.
Photo: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace International

I was incensed this week with the latest from our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, pushing the claim that Greenpeace should provide money back to the Federal Government for the assistance the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provided for activist, Colin Russell.
Russell as you may know, was one of a group of environmental activists that boarded a Russian oil rig in the Arctic to protest exploring for hydrocarbons there.
So just to make it clear, Bishop is only doing this because she disagrees with Greenpeace's activities.
It's a blatantly biased political stance.
If someone got into trouble overseas for doing something that she agreed with, drilling for oil, or cutting down rainforest for instance, then I'm sure she would provide assistance with no thought of payment.
Having worked for Greenpeace in the past I know that the organisation gets a bad rap, I can't begin to list the things I have been called, shit disturbers is probably about the least offensive thing I can print here, but that doesn't alter the fact that DFAT have a moral imperative to help Australians in trouble overseas, whatever they are up to.
I raise the case of Shapelle Corby to illustrate this point.
Shapelle for those overseas readers, was an Australian who was convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia.
DFAT assisted her during her trial, and continues to assist in the appeals process, yet I haven't heard anything from Julie Bishop about getting money back from the Corby family.
I have asked Julie Bishop to comment on this seeming double standard, but as usual with the current Australian government have heard nothing back (And don't expect to).
So as ever when I have a political discussion to get get other views on, I went round to my coffee shop and discussed it while waiting for my coffee.
While Rodney, and his assistant Bebe, prepared my coffee we discussed this issue and the general political landscape.
Rodney and Bebe behind the counter at Coffee Roasters.
Here they dispense political wisdom and coffee.
Rodney, that arch cynic, gave his view on the world, to wit:" The problem is no one has any respect, for other people, themselves and the planet. They only go into parliament for the money, once they've served their time, they take their massive pension and that's that".
Bebe though is still young enough to give us old cynics hope and gave me great uplift when she said, "Look, this government has only been in three months, and look at the damage they have done, imagine what damage they will do in three years! Surely the Australian voters will realize that and at the next election everyone will come to their senses and throw this government out?"
Well said, Bebe.
Many, particularly those on the Liberal party side of the political debate, not that many, or indeed any, read this, will dismiss Bebe's views as hopelessly naive and idealistic, but I can assure you it gave me terrific hope for the future to know people like her will be voting next election.
But back to the Colin Russell issue.
The SMH story (http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/reckless-travellers-could-be-charged-for-consular-assistance-bishop-20140104-30af9.html ) tells us that in 2012/13 1365 Australians were arrested or imprisoned overseas and required DFAT assistance, but there is no word on whether any of these people or their families were asked to provide payment to DFAT for their assistance.
I suspect not, but this just highlights the hopelessly illogical stance that Julie Bishop is taking.
I conjecture that the bulk of these arrestees fell foul of the law for drunkeness and as such, they are inifinitely less deserving of tax payer funded aid than Colin Russell.
So come on Julie, pay up, and for god's sake shut up.
And mentioned in the SMH story was a perennial issue that blighted my time as a traveller in Europe, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
This activity seems to attract the worst of the ugly Australian tourist, mostly based in London.
Runners injured in Pamplona are assisted by the medics.
If it's you make sure you are insured.
I came to refer to those I met over there as the "Pamplona crowd".
A member of the Pamplona crowd will fix the crowd assembled in travel bars across the world with a glittering, ancient-mariner-esque eye and talk incessantly about themselves and what they got up to there.
These tales will involve drunkeness and hair-raising near-death experiences, as they talk and talk to hopefully impress those young women present and get them into the sack.
I came to loathe and detest these arseholes, and was in the end supporting the bulls in the hope they would do the Darwinian thing and remove these numbskulls from the gene pool.
And of course this Pamplona issue exactly mirrors the Colin Russell one.
The government's view is that Colin and his colleagues were going to the Arctic to break the law, they knew what they were doing with malice aforethought and therefore they should pay for any assistance they received.
Well then, Pamplona is very similar, those young Australians who go to the running of the bulls are not planning to break the law, but they are, with eyes wide open, going to do a hazardous thing, that may result in injury, or possibly death, and thus if they receive consular assistance, surely, in my opinion, they should be paying for it.
So I decided to ask the other federal MP involved what he thought.
This MP is Brett Whitely of Tasmania, the story is about his comment on Colin Russell is headlined: "A federal Tasmanian Liberal MP wants Greenpeace activist Colin Russell to publicly apologise for the costs associated with freeing him from a Russian jail."
So I emailed Mr Whiteley and asked this: "Dear Brett,
Does/has DFAT ever had to assist any Australians injured at the
running of the bulls at Pamplona?
If so, will DFAT be asking for money back/an apology for this assistance?"

As usual we expect no reply. 
So leaving the who's in the wrong and who should pay for what argument, let's discuss the real issue, oil drilling in the Arctic.
Why did Colin's group undertake such a hazardous enterprise in the first place?
Well oil drilling, and subsequent spills, are disastrous anywhere, but in the polar regions they are particularly devastating.
A footprint in the Antarctic moss, for instance, may still be visible ten years later, so infinitesimally, so slow-motion-reply-of-paint-dryingly slow are the growth rates of plant matter there, thus any damage lasts for a long, long, time.
The hopelessly ineffective cleanup after Exxon Valdez.

The Gulf of Mexico spill, stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster still hasn't been cleaned up, and the fisherfolk of that coast still can't catch untainted fish.
The wildlife is still decimated in number, and that was in a sub-tropical latitude, where the pace of the ecosystem is relatively fast.
Bad as Deepwater was, even that paled compared with the Exxon Valdez disaster.
An Exxon tanker ran aground near the Alaskan settlement of Valdez, and between 260,000 and 760,000 barrels of oil spilled into Prince William Sound.
As Wikipedia states: 
"Despite the extensive cleanup attempts, less than ten percent of the oil was recovered and a study conducted by NOAA determined that as of early 2007 more than 26 thousand U.S. gallons (98 m3) of oil remain in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline, declining at a rate of less than 4% per year.[24][25] "
Heartbreaking casualties of our oil exploration.
One would think therefore that the Exxon Valdez disaster would be enough to tell us not to go monkeying around with oil in the Polar regions, but apparently not.
So Russia is planning a multitude of rigs up there, and if there is a single accident, then the ecosystem of the area, already groaning under heavy pressure from us, will grind to a halt and once again we will see the wildlife decimated and the beautiful icy regions covered in a heart-rending layer of black slime.
So Julie Bishop, Brett Whiteley and you other eco-vandals of the federal government, not only should you be assisting Colin Russell and his colleagues for protesting oil drilling in the arctic, you should be damn well paying his salary.