City of Monterey, California celebrates ban on plastic bags

Native Leaf will be part of a community celebration on the city of Monterey’s ban of single use plastic bags, which is effective July 1, 2012.

Join us for the celebration on Saturday, June 30th, from 11am to 3pm at the lawn in front of City Hall (Pacific Street). There will be free reusable bags, live music, terrific food vendors, art activities and interactive displays and information from organizations including

  • Save our Shores
  • Communities for Sustainable Monterey County
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Save the Whales

At 1:00pm, the Mayor of Monterey and City Council Member Libby Downey will speak about the ban & their commitment to sustainability.

For further details, click here or visit.the Green Heart Works Facebook page (the event organizer).

If you are a resident of Monterey, I hope to see you there!

Interview with David Suzuki: Was Rio+20 a big failure?

Rio+20 is the short name for the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place on June 20 – 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The +20 signifies twenty years since the 1992 Earth summit, also held in Rio de Janeiro.

The UN brought together governments, international institutions and major groups to “agree” on measures to reduce poverty and promote jobs, clean energy, and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.

This is a follow-up to the previous post, and   Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s historic 1992 United Nations speech.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is the daughter of David Suzuki, a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist.

David Suzuki is host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries. He co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, which focuses on sustainable ecology. In 2009, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. His latest book is called, “Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet.”

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed David Suzuki near the conclusion of  the Rio+20 conference.  Below is video of the interview, covering the  “Green Economy” and why the planet’s survival requires undoing its economic model.  Introduction:

As the Rio+20 Earth Summit — the largest U.N. conference ever — ends in disappointment, we’re joined by the leading Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. As host of the long-running CBC program, “The Nature of Things,” seen in more than 40 countries, Suzuki has helped educate millions about the rich biodiversity of the planet and the threats it faces from human-driven global warming. Suzuki joins us from the summit in Rio de Janeiro to talk about the climate crisis, the student protests in Quebec, his childhood growing up in an internment camp, and his daughter Severn’s historic speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 when she was 12 years-old.

“If we don’t see that we are utterly embedded in the natural world and dependent on Mother Nature for our very well-being and survival … then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets,” Suzuki says. “Those are all human created things. They shouldn’t dominate the way we live. It should be the biosphere, and the leaders in that should be indigenous people who still have that sense that the earth is truly our mother, that it gives birth to us. You don’t treat your mother the way we treat the planet or the biosphere today.”

It is clear that a shift in how we think about our relationship with our planet needs to happen now, otherwise, just as meetings like the Rio+20, we are doomed to fail.

As David Suzuki points out, we are part of, and depend on nature.  Without clean air, without clean water, and biodiversity to sustain us….how are we going to survive?

If we continue to think and believe we are separate from — instead of a part of, and responsible for the planet’s health —  then indeed, we are looking at our very own extinction.   Let’s take a different path!

Related Links:

David Suzuki FoundationWe work with government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based research, education and policy work, and acting as a catalyst for the change that today’s situation demands.

Lola Jane’s on the Environment tipping point – are we living in an age of irresponsibility?  Post on the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recently published 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival

From Democracy Now —  a daily, independent global news hour, with Amy Goodman & Juan González:

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as “the girl who silenced the world for six minutes” after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. “Twenty years later, the world is still talking about a speech, a six-minute speech that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders,” Cullis-Suzuki says. “Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth, and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth.”

“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong—in fact, 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.  In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel… click here to view the video transcript.

Will your children and grandchildren also inherit your e-books?

Essay from Amanda Katz

…What happens to our books when we die? Many books disappear before we do, of course; they fall apart, or we put them out on the stoop for scavengers. 

…Whenever serious readers die, their heirs face the task of dispersing their books. But few of us like to think about what will happen to our own libraries. Will our children value our books (and will they have shelf space for them)? Will they be bought by a serious research library, or draw bids at Christie’s? Not unless we are famous, or they are first editions. Perhaps they will re-enter circulation at a used bookstore, sold for pennies and resold for a few dollars: it’s pleasant to imagine them released back into the sea of books, to be caught afresh by a new reader.

Link to read essay, here

Rocket scientist Robert Goddard’s Uncle Spud gave him this copy of The War of the Worlds in 1898. More than a hundred years later, it passed into the hands of essayist Amanda Katz

Population Philippines: Too many mouths to feed?

The program “Marketplace” featured a series of reports on food challenges we will face as the world population continues to grow. There are 7 billion people living on the planet today, and according to the United Nations, there will be another 2 billion by the middle of this century.

The Marketplace program, Food for 9 Billion, is a collaboration of Marketplace, Homeland Productions, PBS NEWSHOUR and the Center for Investigative Reporting.  It examines the challenge of feeding the world at a time of growing population, shrinking land and water resources, climate changes and rising food and energy prices.

The Philippines — where more than 2 million babies are born every year — is one of the countries featured in the program series.  The report by Sam Eaton starts:

There’s a saying in the Philippines, “pantawid gutom.” It means to “cross the hunger.” When a family can’t afford rice, they’ll water down a pack of instant noodles or feed their  babies brown sugar dissolved in water to ease the hunger pangs. The fact that this saying even exists should tell you something about what it means to be poor here. Clarissa Canayong is 42 years old. She has 10 surviving children — the youngest only a year old. And she lives in an urban Manila slum called Vitas, at the edge of a garbage dump.

Population growth among the poor in the Philippines, where birth control remains largely out of reach, is about four times higher than the rest of the country.
– Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Click here to listen to the radio broadcast, and to view the related videos and photos for the series (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths).

More than a quarter of the Philippines’ population lives in poverty — many in conditions similar to these.
– Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Related LolaKo.com links (click to view article):

Living with the dead

Earlier this year, my friend sent this link of a poignant video from London-based Stefan Werc, about Filipinos who live among the dead at the Navotas cemetery.

It is interesting to see all the religious objects in the shacks.  Religion and faith may be what sustains one’s spirit, and to have hope, despite living in these conditions.  But sadly, religion — at least in the Philippines —  is also what stands in the way of reproductive rights legislation…needed to help solve overpopulation, and subsequent poverty issues.

How bleak and sad do living conditions have to get?  Would the fact that people live in cemeteries confirm we have huge problems in the Philippines with poverty and overpopulation?

Will churches house, feed, and take care of these people?  It is obvious that they cannot.  I implore leaders to have compassion and stop blocking family planning initiatives, and let those who need it most — the poor — have access to family planning programs.

Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

See also, related articles:

Lola Jane’s A Demographic Riddle: Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

Lola Jane’s International Human Development Indicators (HDI) United Nations Report and where the Philippines stands in human development between 1980 to 2011 (compared to countries like Brazil, Thailand and Egypt).

The Filipino Scribe – Blogger and freelance writer Mark Pere Madrona’s blog post on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health(RH) bill:  Passing RH bill is our priority, PH tells UN rights body

More on the environment tipping point

More on the environment tipping point, from MotherJones.com

Now that the zombie apocalypse appears to have calmed down, we have a different end-of-the-world situation to deal with. A study published in the science journal Nature this week finds that human activity is pushing Earth toward a planetary shift wherein “widespread social unrest, economic instability and loss of human life could result.”

Graph of land use as a quantification of a potential planetary state shift Anthony Barnosky, et al./Nature, via Mother Jones

According to paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky and his 21 co-authors, the human population is ecologically influencial enough to transform the planet into a state heretofore unknown in human experience. The study draws from more than 100 scientific papersmore

On the “burden of civilization’s excess” and 5gyres.org

Found via the website 5gyres.org, another disturbing photograph on plastic trash problems in the Philippines, taken last year after the floods related to Ondoy.

At first glance…the road?  No, it is a river of floating plastics and other debris. It is no wonder parts of our planet’s ocean are turning into plastic soup

Photo by Francis R. Malasig via 5gyres.org

Excerpt from the accompanying blog post by Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, and words from Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director of 5gyres.org:

The people at the end of the road, that we sometimes forget exist, bear the burden of civilization’s excess. 

The developing world wants the affluence and convenience of the west, but the infrastructure for waste management does not exist. 

Our collective conscience cannot tolerate the synthetic chemistry of our industrial and technological advances to become the burden of our poorest communities or reside in the bodies of our children, yet today everyone carries this chemical legacy. 

The producers of plastics have an obligation to plan for the post-consumer life of their product, all the way to the end.  If you want to clean the 5 gyres in the ocean of plastic waste, then give your time and funds to those that clean up these watersheds, where plastic hurts people.  And more importantly, to those legislative advocates that prevent the proliferation of plastic pollution throughout society. 

To reach the people at the end of the road, we have to begin our work there and work backwards to ourselves.

Marcus Eriksen’s words — especially “the burden of civilization’s excess” — resonated with me.  And yes, of course…those from developing nations want what everyone else wants.

Sometimes, new plastic “stuff” replaced functional items used in the home…like those now ubiquitous stacking, plastic chairs, that have replaced native, local bamboo or woven rattan chairs.

It seemed convenient, and cheap…until we learned about the problems with plastic trash.  Then we realized, oh-oh…maybe it is not so good, if we consider the loss of income to the locals who use to build a lot more bamboo and rattan chairs, and indeed, as we find out the “true cost” of all this cheap plastic stuff.

We know that unlike bamboo and rattan chairs that biodegrades back to earth, there are not always collection systems for broken plastic chairs, broken buckets and planganas (basins for washing clothes), broken plastic totes, etc.

Where will this used or broken plastic trash end up…oh right, see photo above.

It is a problem indeed, with the ever growing population of the Philippines — now the 12th most populous on our planet, in need of even more stuff.   In an archipelago nation like the Philippines, uncontrolled trash is always just a few short breaths away from the sea, at the next big rainfall or during typhoon season.

How do we manage all this plastic garbage?  Do we get plastics manufacturers or those who import plastics to have a plan to dispose of plastic trash?  Should the manufacturers be required to take it back?

Can we consider a moratorium on plastics until a solution is found or at least, until the infrastructure is in place to deal with, and to recycle these items?

Unlike most communities in the Western world, many areas in the Philippines still do not have established waste management or recycling programs, so when that plastic chair breaks, it is just more trash — the scary kind of trash that sticks around for a very long time.

One way or another, this uncontrolled plastic trash already affects us.  When it ends up in one of the trash vortex, or when we eat seafood that have eaten bits of our plastic trash, or through the extinction of species directly related to our actions…or our failure to take action.

See Also – Lolako’s Category Archives: Philippine related environment and conservation topics

And post from March, 2014,  Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

How long before print newspapers completely disappear?

I subscribe to our daily, local print newspaper, The Monterey County Herald.  Occasionally, I also read the Salinas Californian, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle (especially if I want to read SF 49ers coverage during football season).

Mostly, I read newspapers to keep up with local news, and to read about local events and businesses.  It makes me feel connected to my community.  Jeff also enjoys working on the daily Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Photo by, and courtesy of Stefano Corso

My daily newspaper habit is one I will soon have to give up.

For one, reading news in a digital format is better for our environment (even though we recycle all our paper products!).   And two, with all the changes and restructuring we hear about in the newspaper industry, it seems that a move towards the digital-only world is inevitable.

For now though, I am not ready to give up my daily print newspaper habit, and cannot yet imagine reading all my news on-line.

I  also feel that my subscription supports the life of our local newspaper, especially as print newspapers make operational changes, or disappear completely.  Examples:

  • Denver’s Rocky Mountain News stopped operating in 2009
  • San Francisco Bay area newspapers that have folded in recent years include the Oakland Tribune, a daily newspaper that started in 1874.
  • East Bay newspapers like the Contra Costa Times (founded in 1947), Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald and East County Times have disappeared and re-branded as simply the Times (newspaperdeathwatch.com)
  •  The nation’s oldest newspaper,  the 175-year old Times-Picayune, recently announced staff reductions and a switch to a 3-day a week print schedule.
  • Some newspapers — like the Seattle Post Intelligencer — have ceased print operations and switched to digital, on-line ONLY format.

Retirees living in the Monterey Bay may prefer the familiarity of print newspapers, and that could keep print newspapers around here longer than other communities.  But, it is just a matter of time really, before all news outlets are in digital format only, and there will be no choice but to adjust to a new way of consuming news.

Blog post UPDATE: As of February, 2014, I no longer subscribe to our print newspaper…sigh 🙁 and get most of my news on-line and through other sources.  Getting an easy to use / easier to read tablet, and the increasing cost of a newspaper that seems to get thinner with less content contributed to this decision

I imagine my grandsons as adults, remembering the old days of newspapers….

Grandsons racing to get newspaper delivery and mail, 2009.

“Hey Gabriel, remember when we use to argue over who would retrieve Lola’s newspaper, and then race outside to get it?  Can you believe they actually printed their news on paper during Lola’s time, and how outdated the news was by the time she read it?”

To which Gabriel responds “Oh yeah….they read OLD news.  I remember you use to ask Lola for the page with the ‘funnies’ and those word-find puzzles too, Kuya Jun.”

It is sort of like my memories of changing music formats…are you old enough to remember the 8 track tape, reel-to-reel, and cassettes for the Sony Walkman or boom box?  Even CDs are fast becoming obsolete, with the advent of the iPod and digital music downloads.

Engraving of printer using the early Gutenberg letter-press during the 15th century – artist unknown, via Wikipedia

Do you read your news in print format, on-line, or both?  Is your local paper still alive in the daily, print format?

Related Links: The transition to digital journalism – from KDMC, Knight Digital Media Center (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism), and Wikipedia article on Publishing  

Not crazy for cactus…yet

I’ve planted and grown many plants over the years, but I can remember having only two cactus plants.

One was a gift from my friend, David, who gave me specific instructions to put it in my office, by the computer.  It died about 3 years later.  I am sentimental with gifts, and feel bad that I killed a slow-growing, easy-care plant, that can live for over 100 years.

And then there’s the second cactus, a saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)…which, amazingly, I still have.  This cactus is special to me — even if once in a while I get a poked by its needles — because my daughter planted it from seed.

My 17-year-old saguaro cactus, grown from seed.

Years ago, I went to Phoenix for a business trip.  At the Phoenix airport,  I purchased a package of saguaro seeds as part of my pasalubong items for my daughter.

Saguaro cactus are found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico.  It can grow up to 70 feet, and live for over 150 years.

My cactus is about 17 years old, and just over 14 inches tall.  Talk about slow-growing!  At this stage (without “arms”) it is called a spear.  It will eventually grow an arm, after about 75 years.

So, if I manage not to kill it, and if my grandsons want it, they may see it grow an arm in their lifetime.

When I gave the seed packet to my daughter, she placed the seeds in a little pot with dirt, watered it, and we quickly had about 20 little seedlings.  One particular seedling took charge of the space, and all the other seedlings died.  We did not pick a particular seedling, nor thin them out.  It’s as if they all knew which seedling was boss, and simply died to allow the boss seed to grow in the space.

I’ve re-potted the saguaro just once.  Honestly, I am surprised that it is still alive.  It does have a brownish area in the bottom, so I don’t know how much longer I will have it.  Maybe it is time for a bigger container.

The silhouette of a large saguaro stands at sunset in Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson, Arizona. Photo via wikepedia files.

As much as I love  plants, I am not exactly crazy about cactus.

Maybe it’s the needles, and the poke factor.  I don’t like plants that can puncture my skin and make me bleed.  I do make an exception for old fashioned roses, since in return, I get to inhale one of the loveliest scents in existence.

A visit to Jardines de San Juan, a Mexican restaurant located in the historic mission town of San Juan Bautista, California, inspired me to learn more about my saguaro cactus.

The Jardines garden has an abundance of cactus, some of which I photographed using my phone camera.  Many were sporting beautiful flowers.  Below are a few of the shots…

Jardines De San Juan, back patio area June 2012

Learning more about my saguaro has given me a whole new appreciation for cacti, and may get me to bring another in our home.  For now though,  I must first get some heavy-duty gloves and re-pot the one I have.

Which cactus camp are you in….crazy for cactus?  Or…keep those spiky plants away from me!

And if you are curious to know how long cactus seeds keep (or are viable)…check out the comment section on Lolako.com’s “Contact” page, here.   Can you guess?

  • over 20 years?
  • over 200 years?
  • or for over 2,000 years?

Environment tipping point…are we living in an age of irresponsibility?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published their 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

And… it is no surprise that the situation does not look good.  Excerpt from the report by Jenny Barchfield (AP) via SFGate, UN report warns environment at tipping point:

…In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.  

I don’t know about other print newspapers, but ours (The Monterey County Herald) had this news on Page 7, on June 7, 2012.

If our home —  the beautiful planet, Earth — is “being pushed towards their biophysical limits”, then this news deserves more attention.

If indeed, catastrophic changes are looming, then should this news be on the FRONT PAGE?

Our home is on the verge of major disaster, and we put the news on page 7???

We do not want to think about this, so do we just ignore this information…to our own peril?

It’s time to wake up everyone.  This is the collective problem of all inhabitants of our fragile planet!

Is it possible to CHANGE the health of our planet and to stop and reverse these distressing environmental trends?

From UNEP executive director Achim Steiner:  “This is an indictment.  We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.

“In 1992 (when the first of the agency’s five reports was released) we talked about the future that was likely to occur. This report 20 years later speaks to the fact that a number of the things that we talked about in the future tense in 1992 have arrived,” Steiner said. “Once the tipping point occurs, you don’t wake up the next morning and say, `This is terrible, can we change it?’ That is the whole essence of these thresholds. We are condemning people to not having the choice anymore.”

Steiner called for immediate action to prevent continued environmental degradation, with its ever-worsening consequences.

“Change is possible,” he said, adding that the report includes an analysis of a host of environmental preservation projects that have worked. “Given what we know, we can move in another direction.”

Here is the newspaper article about the UN report, on page 7 of our  Monterey County Herald.

Are you thinking what I am thinking…is this all there is?  Come on, Monterey Herald!

Does the placement of this article speak to how we all feel about the environmental problems we collectively face?  To bury the already tiny mention, in the middle of the newspaper?

If you care at all about the state of the world we leave behind for our children and grandchildren, then we have no choice but to take responsibility for the problems we have caused, and act now…before we reach the tipping point.

Do you think there should be more coverage about this report?  Who is responsible for addressing these  environmental threats?

The Pentagon’s Pacific Pivot

News regarding U.S. plans to shift a majority of its military presence to the Asia-Pacific area continues, following U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s trip to the region.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta opens the plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, with remarks on how the Department of Defense will implement a new strategy in Asia, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Mr. Panetta was in Vietnam several days ago and over the weekend, was in Singapore at the 11th Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Following is the American Forces Press Service news article by Jim Garamone —  “Panetta Discusses Defense Cooperation with Philippine Minister”, from the Shangri-La Dialogue.

From left: U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta meet with Voltaire Gazmin, defense minister of the Philippines, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo -

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2012 – Building on momentum from the U.S.-Philippine “Two-Plus-Two” talks held in Washington in April, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Philippine National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin held talks here today.

The two defense ministers discussed regional issues and ways the Philippine and U.S. military can exercise, train and operate together. The men were both attending the 11th annual Asia security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The Philippines is one of America’s treaty allies in the region. The U.S. and Philippines signed a Mutual defense Treaty in 1951, and both men agreed the alliance is still critical to regional peace and security, said George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

“The meeting allowed the two leaders to reflect on the alliance and continue their discussion regarding possible ways to enhance the longstanding relationship and support the U.S. presence in the region in ways that are mutually beneficial,” Little said in a written statement.

The security challenge in the archipelago is diverse. There are more than 7,100 islands in the nation and many different ethnicities. The Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group in the southern part of the country that has waged a terror campaign against the government for 20 years. The group is loosely affiliated with al-Qaida and early on received funding from Osama bin Laden.

With a population of around 100 million, the Philippines is the 12th largest country in the world. It is a crossroads of Asia, and, unfortunately, right on the series of fault lines called the Ring of Fire. There are about 125,000 members in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and another 130,000 reservists.

“The cornerstone of the existing and any future enhancements of our security relationship will be to assist with capacity building of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, safeguard stability in the region, and increase interoperability so that we can effectively provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction together,” Little said.

Panetta and Gazmin also discussed areas of mutual concern and future growth. They specifically spoke about further development of collective defense capabilities and communications infrastructure; enhancing maritime domain awareness capacity; continued cooperation on the protection of cyberspace; and expanding joint information sharing, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities.

The U.S. is improving Philippine maritime presence and capabilities with the transfer of a second high-endurance cutter later this year. The two militaries are also increasing interoperability through the annual Balikatan exercise that finished in April.

The status of the South China Sea also came up during the discussion, Little said. Several countries have claimed the area, through which roughly a third of the world’s shipping transits. The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam claim portions of the sea.

“Both sides reiterated their respective national interests in the right to freedom of navigation and their support for a collaborative and multilateral diplomatic process to resolve any territorial disputes peacefully in accordance with international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta poses for an official photograph with Watanabe Shu, Japan’s senior vice minister of defense, and Kim Kwan-Jin, Republic of Korea’s minister of national defense, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Will this mean re-establishing U.S. military bases in the Philippines….Subic Bay, Clark Air Force Base…and increasing troop presence at bases in Japan and Korea?

What do you think about this shift…and the Pentagon’s Pacific Pivot?

U.S. Secretary of Defense speech to 2012 Naval Academy graduates: Important work of modernizing historic alliances with Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand

I am posting sections of a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, delivered to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It is related to my earlier post(s) on activities and potential flashpoints in the South China Sea area (e.g., the China – Philippine dispute over the Scarborough Shoals).  Excerpt:

…America is a maritime nation, and we are returning to our maritime roots.  One of the key projects of your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Pacific.

America’s future prosperity and security are tied to our ability to advance peace and security along the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia. 

That reality is inescapable for our country and for our military, which has already begun broadening and deepening our engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific.  One of your great challenges as an officer in the Navy will be to ensure the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region for the 21st century. 

We need you to project America’s power and to reflect America’s character:  to serve on ships and submarines, to fly planes, and to train and operate throughout the region. 

We need you to do the important work of strengthening and modernizing our historic alliances with Japan, with Korea, with Australia, with the Philippines, with Thailand. 

We need to you to build robust partnerships throughout the region; with countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia; with Vietnam, Singapore, India and others.    

We also need you to strengthen defense ties with China.  China’s military is growing and modernizing.  We must be vigilant.  We must be strong.  We must be prepared to confront any challenge. 

But the key to peace in that region is to develop a new era of defense cooperation between our countries – one in which our militaries share security burdens to advance peace in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Tomorrow I depart on a trip to Southeast Asia.  And later this year, I will visit to China for the first time as Secretary of Defense.

I’ll tell all of these nations that the United States will remain a Pacific power, and I’ll tell them why: because of you.  Because during your careers many of you will be headed to the Pacific. There and across the globe, the Navy and Marine Corps must lead a resurgence of America’s enduring maritime presence and power. 

As graduates of the Naval Academy, you’ve earned much and you’ve been given much. And now, as Navy and Marine Corps officers, your nation will ask you to give much of yourselves to service to this country.  It is about giving back to this country.  That’s what service is all about.   ...Click here to read the entire speech…

This post is military-related, and I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force…and what I am thinking of is continued PEACE for the Asia-Pacific region, and the world.  Yes…a balanced, peaceful world, and safety for these young graduates, and future military leaders.

And that the power and might of the American military, partnering with other countries in the region, will prevent an escalation of violence, especially as China continues with its aggression towards the Philippines, and their territorial claims in the resource-rich South China / West Philippine Sea area.