James West

James West

Senior Producer, Mother Jones/Climate Desk

James West is senior producer for Mother Jones and its reporting project Climate Desk. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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Please, Please Stop Making Mittens for Koalas

| Mon Jan. 12, 2015 3:46 PM EST

After record-breaking fires hit the Adelaide suburbs in South Australia last week, an emergency call went out on social media, which was then quickly picked up by the international news media: Injured koalas need cotton mittens to protect their burned paws! Since then, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, thousands of pairs of mittens have poured into Australia from all around the world. "We're now getting offers from as far afield as Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the UK and the US," said Josey Sharrad from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which put out the request. "It's truly phenomenal."

The wildfires destroyed 27 homes and charred nearly 50 square miles. Koalas are especially vulnerable because they live in trees, which are the very fuel for the fires, and koalas just aren't very fast.

The IFAW put out this call to action on January 9, 2015:

The group even published a pattern to help avid sewers around the world:

But perhaps don't dig out that old sewing machine just yet. There's dissent in the wildlife community about the best way to help the koalas, and their burned paws.

The Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO), a rescue and rehabilitation group based in South Australia, says the mittens are unnecessary and may even hinder the koalas' recovery. AMWRRO is the organization that first published the photo of now-famous "Jeremy," whose four paws were being treated for "second-degree partial thickness burns":

 

AMWRRO has now put out a warning on its Facebook page: "Please note AMWRRO does not require mittens as they impede the animals ability to hold leaf and branches verses that of specific bandaging techniques as shown in previous images."

In any case, the great mitten campaign is over. IFAW now says they have more than satisfied the need for koala mittens, and now the group's attention has turned to other injured wildlife. "This began as a small regional effort, and in Australia we are now moving to work with local people to create cozy pouches for other wildlife like possums, kangaroos and wallabies that are also at risk from bushfires," the IFAW said in a statement.

In short, both groups now agree: Stop sewing koala mittens. Please, stop.

P.S. I know you want to know. Jeremy is doing a lot better now:

And here he is, back to eating leaves!

 

"They Were Brave. And They Are Dead." Best Friend of Paris Cartoonists Honors Fallen Comrades.

| Thu Jan. 8, 2015 1:22 PM EST
Mourners hold signs depicting victims' eyes during a rally in support of Charlie Hebdo, in Union Square in New York.

Our friend and Mother Jones alum Sydney Brownstone has published an extraordinary interview today over at The Stranger: A Q&A with a French editor who gave refuge to Charlie Hebdo staff members after the weekly's offices were fire-bombed in 2011, and who counted the murdered cartoonists amongst his best friends. Nicolas Demorand is the former editor-in-chief of the leftist French newspaper Libération, which was founded by Jean-Paul Sartre, and Brownstone reached him at the end of a truly harrowing day in Paris—after protests swept into the streets.

The interview is well worth your time. Amidst overwhelming grief, Demorand eloquently—and with great dignity—discusses the issues emanating from yesterday's attack: suburban disadvantage in France, American missteps post-9/11, the threat of hard-line right-wing parties scoring points using tragedy, and the meaning of secularism in France today. But this bit instantly made my hairs stand on end, as it would anyone who works in journalism:

You know, I cried all day long. I never cry. You know, we're journalists. We know about shit, about sadness, about horror, about misery, about terror, about all that shit. We know about that. I cried all day long, you know. They killed the best guys. They killed the best guys. It's horrible. It's really horrible.

Read the whole interview at The Stranger.

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