November 2007 Archives

As a Word-of-the-Day email subscriber, I relish the exploration of language that increases my vocabulary. I am fascinated by etymology, especially the words that derive not from another language's roots--like "panjandrum," a word for an important person or pretentious official, coined in the 18th century in a piece of nonsense writing. So when I began researching the Hawaiian kapu ("forbidden") system that prevents overfishing, I was surprised to learn that Captain James Cook had brought the Tongan and Fijian word tabu back to England, which became our word--taboo. The Austronesian language family of Southeast Asia and the Pacific reveals related words for "forbidden"--tapu in New Zealand and Tahiti and kapu in Hawai'i.

Kapu Sign.jpgGrowing up with a Hawaiian-Chinese father, I was accustomed to seeing KAPU written on his dried aku (tuna) and tako (octopus sashimi), but further investigation of the kapu/tabu system reveals an ancient method of conserving natural ocean resources. At Seacology we ask islanders to establish and manage terrestrial or marine reserves, and the tabu system reveals why this approach to conservation respects islanders' traditions. The traditional tabu system outlined fishing limits to prevent depleting marine life (in addition to restrictions on eating, a chief's rights and privileges, etc). Seacology's no-take reserves respect this ancient tradition, preventing overfishing and protecting all marine life.

Indonesia Diving Part 3

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Nembrotha 0014.jpg As I have indicated in my first two Indonesia Diving blogs, diving in the Raja Ampat section of Indonesia offers some of the most spectacular marine biodiversity on this planet. This is especially true for small critters. Don't believe me? Then take a look at these photos by Seacology supporter Jason Marks.

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OfficeArt05.jpg Seacology has initiated over 20 projects in Fiji, thanks in part to our field representatives in the region. The work of the field representatives was discussed in Karen's most recent blog, "How a Seacology Project is Born". Because we work so often with Fijian villages, we have received many thank you gifts from these wonderfully generous people - and most of these have ended up on the walls of the Seacology office.

Cash for Kangaroos

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When I tell people I'm a fundraiser by profession, I get a lot of interesting looks and comments. Mostly people's eyes glaze over thinking I'm going to either ask them for money on the spot or give them a speech about my organization. Then they remark on how they would personally hate my job, saying it's a career they could never handle.

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I understand. Really, I do. It's a very personal situation, asking someone for money. And truth be told, it's not easy because you have to deal with rejection. But let me explain a little of my personal motivation for asking others to dig deep. 

In my youth, which was only partially wasted, I worked with exotic animals in the entertainment industry. I became absorbed with their protection from a personal, professional and philosophical standpoint and passionately learned as much as I could about a wide swath of the animal kingdom. I've been involved in species and habitat protection since the 1970's and have an unapologetic soft spot for any creature with fur, fins or feathers.

How a Seacology Project is Born

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It's that time again. Twice a year, I check my email even more obsessively than usual, awaiting the new batch of potential projects to be considered for funding by Seacology's Board of Directors.

Ferdie.jpgSeacology's process of identifying good projects relies largely on our great part-time field representatives. At left is one of our field representatives, Ferdie Marcelo of the Philippines, pictured cutting the ribbon to a new Seacology-funded multi-purpose building in Barangay Rizal, Cuyo Island, Northeastern Palawan. The field reps act as our "eyes and ears" on the ground in the regions where they live. Their knowledge of local conservation issues, community activities, other nonprofits and funding sources, and belief in Seacology's model are invaluable. In several cases, our field representatives have to straddle two worlds: in their home region, communication can be difficult, and travel to remote areas is challenging and unpredictable. By working for Seacology, they also understand the importance of deadlines and prompt responses to requests for information.

Leapfrogging to New Technology

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The term "leapfrogging" refers to the development concept where a developing country bypasses less efficient technology to take advantage of more advanced technology. An excellent example of this is the cell phone. Cell phone towers are being constructed all over the world, and buying a mobile phone has proven far more effective than ordering a landline phone to rural places.

Solar-powered cell charger.jpgIn Africa, where Seacology recently expanded its reach to Pemba Island in Zanzibar, many people are buying cell phones. The Kenyan man at left is showing two forms of leapfrogging: a cell phone and a solar-powered charger.

Leapfrogging has been explored in numerous articles, demonstrating its importance to the developing world: In Business Week's "Upwardly Mobile in Africa," the special report discusses how cell phones have fueled business growth and allowed people to call for emergency services like medical help. Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist, calls the cell phone "the single most transformative technology for development." Abwao Oluoch's article on AllAfrica.com discusses the mobile phone industry in East Africa, and Jason Pontin's New York Times article "What Does Africa Need Most: Technology or Aid?" debates the benefits of humanitarian aid and new technology. Mr. Pontin's article discusses his visit to the Technology, Entertainment and Design Global 2007 conference in Tanzania, coming to the conclusion that Africa needs both aid and technology.

Seacology has a commitment to stand by our island projects when disasters such as the major tsunami hit the Indian Ocean in December 2004. Thanks to generous donations to Seacology's Tsunami Relief Fund of 2005 Seacology was able to provide relief projects to communities where Seacology had a presence before the event. These projects were intended to complement larger relief organization efforts in affected areas by providing to community members long-term relief in terms of restoring damaged village homes and community centers, or by providing materials and supplies communities said they needed most in order to regain traditional livelihood practices.

Sri Lanka tsunami relief boats.JPGOne of the updates we received this past week was from Seacology's long time friend and contact, Mr. Anuradha Wickramasinghe, Director of the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka (SFFL). When the 2004 tsunami swept across this area of Sri Lanka, Seacology responded to SFFL with three projects to help community members recover from such a devastating trauma to their lives and community. Seacology repaired the damaged Seacology-funded SFFL Mangrove Resource Center, rebuilt a destroyed fishers' community center and provided sustainable fishing canoes and fishing gear to 88 families in the region, and replaced 15 lost fishing boats for a sustainable fishing cooperative in the area. This last project was just completed in mid-2007 and now each boat is owned and run by three family members who each provide food and income to an average five-member household (above right).

Indonesia Diving Part 2

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When last I left you I was writing about my trip to the Raja Ampat section of Indonesia which is the world's center for marine biodiversity. I led a group there to visit some Seacology projects and sample some of the world's best coral reefs. I just received several photos from Seacology board member and trip participant Shari Sant Plummer. See for yourself how rich the marine life is in Raja Ampat.

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One of Ellen's recent blog entries, containing a photo of a Balinese dancer that hangs in our office, inspired me to photograph more of our incredible office artwork to share. I decided to start with the masks (my favorites), which have hung in a spot advantageous for me to view ever since I started working for Seacology - both at our old office and at the new.

OfficeArt04.jpgThis mask is a traditional Kolam (folk theatre) mask from Sri Lanka. Seacology's work in Sri Lanka has focused on conserving and protecting mangrove forests. We have helped fund the construction of a mangrove resource center, including a store selling local handicrafts to help provide a livelihood for young women, and have helped to plant thousands of mangrove seedlings around Kiralakele, in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka.

Lisa's post from last week, "Island News from Fiji and Palau," brought me back to my trip to Micronesia in July. Accompanied by our Micronesia Field Representative Simon Ellis, I traveled to visit Seacology projects on Kosrae, Chuuk, Yap and Palau. Here's an excerpt from my report regarding Palau:

"The staff of the Palau Conservation Society kept us quite busy, with visits to the new company capitol on Babeldaob, a very impressive complex along the new Compact Road. The new road and the capitol will very much open Babeldaob to resettlement from Koror as well as new development pressures. We visited the Melekeok Bai (ceremonial house), walked an ancient stone path and attended the opening of a new open-air market near the capitol, where we met with the former president of Palau as well as the chief of Melekeok State (where Lake Ngardok is located).

Breadfruit: A Symbol of Island Life

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Breadfruit trees (Artocarpus altilis) can grow to 65 feet and produce round, heavy fruit for 50 years. 'Ulu, as we call it in Hawai'i, is found on many islands around the world, and its large, glossy leaves with small bumps are a common Hawaiian quilt pattern (below). The skin of the large fruit is green and bumpy, the flesh starchy and white or pale yellow.

Breadfruit Quilt Pattern.jpgAs a food, breadfruit (always cooked) is common throughout the Pacific. When I studied in Samoa, breadfruit was served every day in the cafeteria, prepared boiled--and very bland. In contrast, roasted breadfruit (either cooked in a modern oven or the traditional underground oven) is delicious, and in Samoa the fruit is used as a vehicle for palusami, coconut milk and onions in taro leaf. This dish is one of the things I miss most about Samoa.