April 2008 Archives

Some Good News for Coral

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I love getting National Geographic's photography email newsletter. I used to get the magazine as well, but realized that it was collecting dust more than anything else. But the emails - they are some of the very few that I actually take the time to go through and read. Why? They are usually filled with odd snippets about nature and the environment that are accompanied by beautiful photographs - exactly the sort of thing that I'm interested in, can quickly glance at and absorb, and then move on.

atom.jpgIn the most recent edition that I perused today, was a pictorial story about an area of coral reef in the Marshall Islands that is apparently flourishing 50 years after being the test spot for an atom bomb. Working in the environmental field, it's not a regular occurrence to find stories that are actually *positive*, so this was a nice change of pace. It is absolutely incredible to imagine that in only half a century, a blink of an eye, coral and other marine life could begin to retake the area. This reality is, likely, due in large part to the remoteness of the area and the fact that, at least since the bombs were tested, it has been relatively undisturbed.

Map of Madagascar.gifDuane, our executive director, and I will be taking a group of donors on a Seacology expedition to Madagascar in a couple of weeks. We're going to check in on three of our conservation projects: two in the central highlands and one in the far south. We're only there for one week, but it will be a week of wild travel from the High Plateau to the East to the Southern Dry Forest (see map at right). We'll visit two preserves, an orchid mountain and several villages that are safeguarding the Madagascar flying fox.

Map of Africa highlighting Madagascar.jpgMadagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, and I imagine it seems like a small continent when you're on it. To put it in perspective, if you've ever been to England, it doesn't really seem like an island when you visit. It feels like another charming European country, and the distances between its cities are long. Well, England is 95,000 square miles in total compared to Madagascar's 227,000 square miles, or roughly two and a half times the size of England.

Climate Change and Human Rights

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What I admire most about Seacology's work is that we help both island environments and island peoples. As an anthropology major, it has always been clear to me that what I value most in this world is the cultures of people--their social systems, family structures, arts, food, customs. Of course I know how important the land, sea, flora, and fauna are, but I recognize that I was attracted to Seacology because the organization works directly with people--to preserve their cultures, improve their communities, and protect their ecosystems.

Children of Sila Village, Fiji.JPGSo I was delighted to read that the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a study to examine the impact of climate change on human experience. The Maldives, Fiji, and Tuvalu were among those island nations that brought this proposal to the Human Rights Council. The decision promotes the same kind of culturally-aware environmentalism as Seacology's projects and is a landmark decision that will elevate the attention to climate change and all its effects.

Pango Vanuatu opening.JPGIn my last entry I talked about how important it is for many of the communities Seacology works with to create a community center or public building in exchange for the decision to establish a conservation area. In these cases, when the building is finished, an opening ceremony is held at the center followed by a celebration and shared meal. If Seacology expedition participants are able to attend one of these ceremonies during a Seacology trip, they often describe it as an incredibly significant and moving event.

Sila Fiji Opening ceremony.JPGGoing back in time from this opening ceremony to when the project began we can understand how such an event can be so moving. Over the course of the previous year or more community members were discussing the project, thinking over the details, drawing plans, meeting with officials, and volunteering their own labor to make sure the construction and conservation process would result in a useful and successful change for their own generation and the next.