Mosquito bites and the chickungunya virus

A viral disease called chickungunya is now being spread by mosquitoes in the US.   Oh great…one more thing to worry about with mosquito bites.

Types of mosquitos spreading CHIKV virus

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Most common are the mosquito types on this photos (Aedes spp., predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus).  These mosquitos are the same type that spread dengue fever.  They bite in the daytime.  Photo via CDC website.

Have you heard about chickungunya?

The first outbreak of the disease was in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ is from a word in the Kimakonde language (spoken in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique) that means “to become contorted” or “that which bends up”.

It describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.  Signs and symptoms also include a sudden start of fever often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days.

Most infected patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several weeks or months, or even years.  The good news is that deaths from chikungunya are rare.

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted – map via the US CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya (CHIKVI) has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, CHIKVI was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.

chik-inbound-english-tSince then, CHIKVI has been found in multiple countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, and now in the US.

NOTE: In California, the mosquito Aedes albopictus (one of the types that spread CHIKV) are found in Southern and Central California.

Its habitat are small containers and old tires.

As there are no known vaccine or medication, the CDC advice is to reduce your exposure by:

There are currently no antiviral medicines to treat the chikungunya virus. However, there are medicines to reduce the fever and pain experienced by those exposed to the virus.  For more details, visit the CDC’s website about chikungunya, here.

yellow fever mosquito

Photo via montereycountymosquito.com

Also visit Monterey County Mosquito website, here:  Excerpt:

The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the thorax. The mosquito originated in Africa but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, now including many parts of California.

And by the way, there is also a measles outbreak now, which originated in the Philippines!  Over forty-thousand cases were reported in the Philippines between January to May, 2014.  More on the measles outbreak, here, including information on what travelers can do to protect themselves if traveling to the Philippines.

Blog post information source from the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization (WHO)

Which of California’s 15 coastal counties are tsunami ready?

Despite the 5,000 mile distance between the California coastline and Japan, our coastal community was affected by the March 2011 tsunami (and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.)

Moss Landing Beach

Photo Lolako.com

Between debris that washed up on the U.S. Western coastlines — and our worries of radiation contaminated items reaching our shores  —  to the bathtub effect that caused millions of dollars of damage to boats and property at the Santa Cruz harbor, the disaster originating thousands of miles away directly impacted us.  It was another reminder of  how small our world really is, and our interconnectedness …

March-11-Tsunami-Effects-in-Santa-Cruz-Photo-Larissa-Mueller

Sailboats in the Santa Cruz Harbor crash against each other Friday morning as a tsunami surge sucks out muddy, backwater from the upper harbor. Photo by Dan Coyro/Sentinel

My post 2 years ago (Is Monterey County ready for a Tsunami) listed Monterey County –  along with the California counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange as TsunamiReady™ — under a program administered by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

Tsunami-Hazard-Warning-Sign3

Tsunami Hazard Zone sign at Monterey County area beach.   Photo Lolako.com

The California counties designated as TsunamiReady™  met NWS criteria, including developing a safety plan, setting up alert systems and promoting tsunami safety through public outreach.

The addition of the counties of Marin, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego means there are now 8 counties listed as TsunamiReady™ in California.

The state of California is divided into 58 counties. The California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean.  These counties are:

  • Del Norte County
  • Humboldt County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Marin County
  • Mendocino County
  • Monterey County
  • Orange County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Sonoma County
  • Ventura County

Counties in bold are listed as TsunamiReady™.  We will follow-up again next year to see if all of California’s coastal counties receive the TsunamiReady™ designation.

Do you live in one of California’s coastal communities?  With this month marking the 3rd anniversary of the Japanese tsunami disaster, do you know — or care — if your community has a TsunamiReady™ designation?

Related LolaKo.com posts:

America’s Oil Boom – US projected to overtake Saudi Arabia as #1 oil producer by 2020

Related to my post yesterday (countries paying the highest and lowest gasoline per gallon), today’s topic on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point programThe North American Energy Revolution — looks at the blessing and the curse as North America becomes the new fossil fuel powerhouse.

Does this mean we need not worry about supply and increasing our consumption and dependence on oil? And the curse part, will this halt the incentive to move towards a cleaner, greener alternative energy source if there is this new abundance of oil here in the US? And what of our climate and environment?

To listen to the radio program episode, click here

For Monterey, California related blog post on this topic, please visit the Local Nomad’s “South Monterey County Land to be Auctioned off for Oil Development”.  Excerpt:

….The Monterey Shale, the largest oil-shale reservoir in the country, is estimated to hold some 14 billion barrels of oil. The federal government is preparing to lease out a large chunk of it for oil development, spanning Monterey, Fresno and San Benito counties.

Bloomberg.com’s article Oil Shockwaves From U.S. Shale Boom Seen by IEA Ousting OPEC

…North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies to 2018 through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.

Farewell to Melanie Mayer-Gideon

I was saddened to learn of Melanie Mayer-Gideon’s passing. She was only 52 years old.

Melanie, along with her husband Yohn owned the Captain’s Inn Bed and Breakfast in Moss Landing.  We met after her comment on my blog post What Low Tide Reveals — when my friends Jean, Joselyn and I visited the Captain’s Inn.

Through Melanie’s blog comment, she further connected and extended her knowledge and her love of this area to a transplant like me….

I did not realize until now, how instrumental she was in getting the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) rebuilt after the Loma Prieta earthquake (the major Bay Area 1989 – World Series Earthquake).

Melanie-of-Captains-Inn b

An excerpt from the MLML/Cal State website:

We have lost a champion, an advocate, colleague, a student, an alum, a friend, and a devoted mother, all way too soon and in unexpected tragedy. 

The recent news has deeply penetrated the labs, our network and the resonated sympathies keep pouring in…we are reeling, and the drums are beating. 

We wish that there was more comfort in this passing, but for now, there seems to be little beyond shock and our memories.  Yet, we want you all to know, that these memories, and our personal interactions with Melanie, have touched us in many personal and formidable ways. 

Melanie was a true native of north Monterey County, graduated Salinas High School in 1978 and eventually found her way into graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in her own backyard. 

Her thesis involved the “Flowering Plant Recruitment into a Newly Restored Salt Marsh in Elkhorn Slough, California,” advised by Mike Foster, Greg Cailliet and John Oliver.

Her thesis research reflected her ‘community’ approach to life,  acknowledging Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ken Moore, Sheila Baldridge, Larry Jones, Preston Watwood, Ken Delopst, Lynn McMasters, Gail Johnston, Dorothy Lydick, George Knauer, Meritt Tuel, Brian Fadely, Peter and Tony Young, Ruby Peterson, Marge Reidpath, Benthic Bubs, Mark Sliger, Keiko Sekiguchi, Mark Silberstein, Frances Cresswell, Steve Horn, her parents and her brother Eric.

Two years following the completion of her thesis, the laboratories were completely destroyed by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and Melanie’s trajectory experienced a course correction towards a new kind of restoration: that of the laboratories’ reconstruction. This also launched her career as a permit consultant.  She, together with a small cadre of attorneys and other MLML graduates, was the point person for reconstruction strategy….

….Her love of life and people was always obvious in her smile and loving personality. Her values, love, life, integrity and accomplishments should serve as an example for us all, and will never be forgotten.  To Yohn and his family, we offer our deepest sympathies and our utmost support.

Kenneth Coale, Mike Foster, Greg Cailliet, John Oliver

Read the complete post “A Tearful Farewell to Melanie Mayer-Gideon: True MLML Champion, Friend, and Alumna” here.

Farewell Melanie, and condolences to your family and your many friends in the community.

Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey

The Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey — Whale Watching Capital of the World — continues today, starting with a 10:00AM Beach Clean Up with The Wahine Project.

Today, the Museum of Monterey (MoM) theater is the venue for lectures and documentaries from the 2012 BLUE Ocean Film Festival, beginning with a collection of shorts (Fish Tale: My Secret Life as a Plankton, Ocean Oases, Sea Jellies: A summer Swarm in Monterey, Oceans at the Tipping Point and Ocean Giants), and the film Planet Ocean at 2:30PM.

Looking over the lighthouse exhibit at Museum of Monterey

Yesterday, my grandsons and I watched the inspiring film Ocean Frontiers at the Museum of Monterey.

Learning and blogging about environmental issues often becomes DEPRESSING because there is so much going wrong and the problems seem overwhelming, and insurmountable.

The movie Ocean Frontiers focused on positive work that promotes better health for our oceans.  By working together, farmers from Iowa can directly impact the health of the Gulf waters by creating wetlands and reducing fertilizer use. Endangered whales are saved when a variety of organizations combine research and teamwork to re-route shipping traffic at a busy Boston Port.

A contingent of local environmental organizations and businesses lined the path from the Customs House Plaza to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  We visited a few booths yesterday.

The Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth, showing Jun and Gabriel shark teeth.

Exhibiting a shark fin at the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth — great poster that shows different whale sizes… man at the bottom right by the elephant

What does whale baleen feel like?

Like a brush! Jun also compared it to his bristly polar bear Christmas ornament from Eco Carmel, made of buri palm.

Squid for Kids booth from the Hopkins Marine Station was a popular stop

Squid dissected – at the Squid for Kids booth, Hopkins Marine Station

For more on squid — see an earlier post, jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped in the Monterey Aquarium’s tide pool).

Squid for Kids painting and stamping station — sometimes they use real squid ink!

Chalk Art during Whalefest at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf – Monterey

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth – making ocean creatures

Among my grandsons favorite activity was the United States Coast Guard area, as they  were allowed to board their inflatable Search and Rescue Coast Guard motor life boat.

And of course, as much as this was learning all about the ocean and conservation, you cannot go home without first getting a specialty lollipop from the candy store at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

The boys had a blast and yes, we plan to go again today.

Jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool)

Photo of Humboldt squid by Monikichi, via Wikipedia.  Caught off Viña del Mar, Chile.

This past Saturday, my daughter and grandson Gabriel found Humboldt squid stranded at the Moss Landing & Salinas River State Beach, and over the weekend, there were reports of hundreds of stranded and dead Humboldt squid in areas along the Central California coast.

Also known as jumbo squid, the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) are predatory and can grow up to 5 feet long.

Think squid for calamari steaks, and not the small  “market” squid — the calamari rings that many of us eat for appetizers.

Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) only grow to about 11 (28cm) inches long.

Named after the Humboldt Current (and the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt) these squid are normally found at depths of 660 to 2,300 ft (200 to 700 m) — and in the Sea of Cortez, in Baja, Mexico.

On Sunday, we were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we watched a Humboldt squid swimming in the aquarium’s tide pool.

According to a Monterey Bay Aquarium staff member, the Humboldt squid was trapped in their tide pool after high tide.  Apparently, this has not happened in 28 years at the Aquarium.  I checked the opening year of the Aquarium — 1984 — which means this has never happened before…

The Monterey Bay Aquarium building sits on the edge of Monterey Bay.  Photo above of outdoor deck and the tide pool behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium building.  Photo LolaKo.com

The Great Tide Pool at Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Photo Lolako.com

It was a rare opportunity to see a Humboldt squid swimming in an enclosed area…and all from the comfort and safety of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s deck overlooking the tide pool.

We found out that squid swim backwards by pumping water through valves near their heads.  It was odd to see the squid moving about with its tentacles and head behind, instead of in front of the movement.

A baby Humboldt squid trapped after high tide in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool. Leaning over the deck area, we watched — and I photographed with my phone camera — the squid swimming around the tide pool.  Coral and cream color creatures to the left of the squid are starfish that live in the tide pool.

What a lucky day to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Really….how often do you get to watch a Humboldt squid swimming without having to actually be in the water?  It is probably one of those days my grandsons will remember.

Interesting information from Wikipedia on the Humboldt squid:

El Niño factors

Although Humboldt squid are generally found in the warm Pacific waters off of the Mexican coast, recent years have shown an increase in northern migration. The large 1997-98 El Niño event triggered the first sightings of Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay..

Then, during the minor El Niño event of 2002, they returned to Monterey Bay in higher numbers and have been seen there year-round since then. Similar trends have been shown off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and even Alaska, although there are no year-round Humboldt squid populations in these locations.

This change in migration is suggested to be due to warming waters during El Niño events, but other factors, such as a decrease in upper trophic level predators that would compete with the squid for food, could be impacting the migration shift, as well.

Ocean Acidification

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that by the end of this century, ocean acidification will lower the Humboldt squid’s metabolic rate by 31% and activity levels by 45%. This will lead the squid to have to retreat to shallower waters, where they can take up oxygen at higher levels.

Here is a video from local news reports…did these baby Humboldt squid eat toxic algae?

Related Links:

Illustration by Rena Ekmanis (www.renaekmanis.com)

From UCSC Science Notes 2012: The Sea Longs for Red Devils

Article by Daniela Hernandez dives into a giant marine mystery — and why the elusive Humboldt squid has abandoned a Mexican fishery in need.  With illustrations by Rena Ekmanis.

Image of market squid from www.fishwatch.gov

California Market Squid – from NOAA, FISH WATCH U.S. Seafood Facts

…California’s market squid fishery is unique for several reasons. Fishermen usually fish for market squid at night directly (more here)

The Green Festival…and the use of coconut coir in Ford auto parts

I posted some photos from the San Francisco Green Festival, at NativeLeaf.info’s blog.

The Ford Motor Company is a major sponsor of the festival.  Pictured below was an area with information on Ford’s new lightweight plastics.  It was most interesting to learn about the use of  natural fiber reinforced plastics –  coconut coir, wheat straw, hemp and cellulose in place of glass fibers for plastic reinforcements.

Here is an excerpt from an article on Ford’s media pages(Crazy for Coconuts)…Note, the article was from last year, and from the Festival information, the use of natural fibers in plastics used in Ford vehicles is now in place.

Coconuts are ingredients in plenty of items – pies, cakes and tropical drinks. Now, Ford is hoping to add cars to that list by working with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to research how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.

“This is a win-win situation. We’re taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford. “We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy.”

Coconut coir is a natural fiber from the husk of a coconut. ScottsMiracle-Gro uses the material as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products, including Scotts® Turf Builder® EZ Seed® and Miracle-Gro® Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix. Both products use the coir’s natural fibers to hold 50 percent more water than basic potting soil and release it as plants need it – helping homeowners save water.

“ScottsMiracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products,” said Dave Swihart, ScottsMiracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain. “Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable.”

Once the coconut coir comes to Ford, researchers combine it with plastic to deliver additional reinforcement to the part while eliminating the need for some petroleum. Along with making use of a renewable resource, the new part would be lighter in weight. The natural long fibers also are visible in the plastic and offer a more natural look than typical materials.  Read the rest of the article here…

Of course, my interest in this is the coconuts, having grown up in coconut land, the Philippines.  Several years ago, I also learned about research using abaca (musa textilis, the banana-like fiber native to the Philippines) with fiberglass technology.

Natural materials in plastics and new technology…what do you think?

South & East China Sea disputes: On Point program with Tom Ashbrook

Today’s On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook, focused on the High-Seas Showdown between China and its neighbors:

Way out across the Pacific, a long way from “legitimate rape” and American political campaigning, there’s a high stakes ocean real estate fight going on in the South China and East China Seas.  A string of impassioned quarrels over history and resources and sovereignty that could pull the United States onto dangerous terrain with the world’s rising superpower, China.

China makes wide claims over ocean turf and resources far from the mainland.  Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and more disagree.  And it is fired up right now.  This hour, On Point:  America, the Pacific, and the high seas showdown off China.

To listen to the show, play the audio link below, or click here to link to the On Point website.

Image provided by Voice of America

Need to catch up on the South China – West Philippine Sea disputes?  View related LolaKo posts:

One of the guests on the program is Graham Allison (Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University), discussing his recent Op-Ed article for the Financial Times – London “Avoiding Thucydides’ Trap”.  Article excerpt:

China’s increasingly aggressive posture towards the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea is less important in itself than as a sign of things to come. For six decades after the second world war, an American “Pax Pacifica” has provided the security and economic framework within which Asian countries have produced the most rapid economic growth in history. However, having emerged as a great power that will overtake the US in the next decade to become the largest economy in the world, it is not surprising that China will demand revisions to the rules established by others.

…The defining question about global order in the decades ahead will be: can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap? The historian’s metaphor reminds us of the dangers two parties face when a rising power rivals a ruling power – as Athens did in 5th century BC and Germany did at the end of the 19th century. Most such challenges have ended in war. Peaceful cases required huge adjustments in the attitudes and actions of the governments and the societies of both countries involved.

…The rapid emergence of any new power disturbs the status quo. In the 21st century, as Harvard University’s Commission on American National Interests has observed about China, “a diva of such proportions cannot enter the stage without effect”.

Never has a nation moved so far, so fast, up the international rankings on all dimensions of power. In a generation, a state whose gross domestic product was smaller than Spain’s has become the second-largest economy in the world.

If we were betting on the basis of history, the answer to the question about Thucydides’s trap appears obvious…. Click here to read the full article on the Belfer Center website.

Sanjay of SLOWCOLOR (and Sanjay visited Bhutan!)

I first met Sanjay Rajan at the Bioneers Conference last year, and learned about the company he founded, SLOWCOLOR.

At the San Francisco International GIft Fair (a retailer, wholesale trade show) this weekend, I stopped by to chat with Sanjay and Tricia O’Keefe, at their booth.

In the process of talking about topics near and dear to our hearts and minds, I found out that Sanjay recently visited the country of Bhutan.  My interest in Bhutan stemmed from learning about their belief that happiness should take priority over economic growth (see my post Bhutan Happy – Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator of progress).

Sanjay is HAPPY that he visited the country of Bhutan Photo www.lolako.com

I admire Sanjay and the SLOWCOLOR values.  He is a person doing something to make a difference in this fragile world we all share.  With SLOWCOLOR, he is creating a new business model to address poverty and those who are socially disadvantaged, and at the same time, mindful of the health of our planet.

From the SLOWCOLOR website, About Us page:

Mahatma Gandhi said, “…be the change you want to see in the world…” With this sentiment I launched SLOWCOLOR in April 2011.

SLOWCOLOR is a premium, fairly-traded, eco-textile brand based in Boulder, Colorado.Our mission says it all:  We clothe the World in Beauty, Health and Responsibility. Our intent is to become a game changer in the textile industry.

Every fabric we create is handmade and naturally dyed. Always. We create finished goods in fashion and home furnishing and source fabrics to designers and companies under the SLOWCOLOR label.

As a social enterprise we focus on the integrated bottom line:  by paying artisans in India a life-changing living wage, using natural plant and mineral-based dyes and mordants and choosing fibers such as linen that grow naturally pesticide free and are not water intensive, SLOWCOLOR rejuvenates centuries-old fabric dyeing techniques and handlooming traditions, protects the environment and creates fabrics that are healthy for life.  

SLOWCOLOR connects artisan to audience, tradition to global market and health of the planet to consumer choice.

Sanjay Rajan – Chief Co(r)evolution Officer, SLOWCOLOR

As consumers, buyers of products, we have a lot of POWER.   And we can use this power to seek out, support and promote businesses like SLOWCOLOR — who are working to address social inequities, and who are working in ways that do not further degrade our environment.

Click on the photo below to visit the SLOWCOLOR website.

By the way — with the myriad of topics that Sanjay, Tricia and I discussed — I forgot to ask Sanjay further details about his trip to Bhutan!  More on Bhutan the next time I see Sanjay…

Who is Rachel Carson? And the MBARI Open House on July 21st…

On a foggy day last week, Jeff and I walked from the Potrero Rd. entrance to the Moss Landing beach, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and towards Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery.

Rather large driftwood — drift LOGS, really, at Moss Landing Beach

On the way back, we decided to take the road and frontage trail, instead of walking back on the beach.  On Sandholdt Road, we noticed this ship, the Rachel Carson, at the Moss Landing Harbor.

We wondered….who is Rachel Carson?

Note: The photo does not do justice to the rather new, shiny ship.

I did not think anymore about the Rachel Carson ship — and these set of photos — until reading the “Your Town” section of today’s Monterey County Herald.  Excerpt:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute will hold an open house from noon to 5PM Saturday at 7700 Sandholdt Road.

At 12:45PM, aquarium executive director Julie Packard will christen the institute’s newest ship, the R/V Rachel Carson.

Other activities include talks about the expeditions to the Gulf of California and Sargasso Sea, a tour of the labs, a look at ships and undersea robots used in the deep-sea excursions, and workshops where children can build their own remotely operated vehicles.

According to the MBARI website, the R/V Rachel Carson “will serve as a replacement for both the R/V Zephyr and R/V Point Lobos, and will be able to launch both ROVs and AUVs, as well as conduct multi-day expeditions”.

The new research vessel was named Rachel Carson in honor of the American marine biologist and conservationist.  Click here to view a better image for the R/V Rachel Carson, on the MBARI Press Room page.

We learned that Rachel Carson wrote the book Silent Spring and is credited with advancing the global environmental movement.  Excerpt from Wikipedia…

Late in the 1950s Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.

Although Silent Spring met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

The open house also celebrates MBARI’s 25th anniversary.  The presentation schedule is as follows:

  • In the PACIFIC FORUM: Extending MBARI’s reach
    12:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California ~ Jenny Paduan
    12:30 Video ~ no speaker during christening of R/V Rachel Carson
    01:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Jenny Paduan
    01:30 Monterey Bay: A window to the world ~ Chris Scholin
    02:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea ~ Alana Sherman
    02:30 ESP around the world ~ Jim Birch
    03:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea (repeat) ~ Alana Sherman
    03:30 ESP around the world (repeat) ~ Jim Birch
    04:00 Exploring the Gulf of California ~ Steve Haddock
    04:30 Exploring the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Steve Haddock
  • PRESENTATIONS in the VIDEO TENT:
    12:15 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:30 Deep-sea video
    02:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    02:30 Deep-sea video
    03:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    03:30 Deep-sea video
    04:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    04:30 Deep-sea video

For further details, please visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) website.

Our trail walk back towards Potrero Road…

Foggy Moss Landing Harbor

Beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) is the most common, California native plant, found around sand dunes. This one is encircled by non-native — and aggressive — iceplants, which do not provide food or shelter to native wildlife.

Reward for lost scientific instrument!

Fish & Wildlife Service employee photo, via wikipedia

Link to Wikipedia article on Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964)

Carson began her career as a biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award,[1] recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. That so-called sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the surface to the depths.

Some good news on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2015

Back in the year 2000, 189 nations promised to free people from extreme poverty and other deprivations.  This pledge  is the basis for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a blueprint agreed to by the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions — with a target for the year 2015.

The Eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Seaside Market, Philippines – photo Lolako.com

With less than 3 years left until the end of 2015, which of these goals have been achieved?

The good news…a report launched earlier this month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015.

As far as the remaining goals…here are highlights from the United Nations Development Programme’s article: With three MDG targets achieved, global partnership for development is key to 2015 success

  • Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.
  • In his foreword to the 2012 MDG Report, Mr. Ban says “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made.  Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained”.

There is progress…

The MDG Report says that, for the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rates have fallen in every developing region—including sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest.

Preliminary estimates indicate that in 2010, the share of people living on less than a $1.25 a day dropped to less than half of its 1990 value. Essentially, this means that the MDG first target—cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level—has been achieved at the global level, well ahead of 2015. 

The MDG Report also notes another success: reaching the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water by 2010. The proportion of people using improved water sources rose from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010, translating to more than two billion people currently with access to improved sources such as piped supplies or protected wells.

And the share of urban residents in the developing world living in slums has declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012.  More than 200 million have gained access to either improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing. This achievement exceeds the target of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, also ahead of a 2020 deadline.

The MDG Report 2012 also points out that the world has achieved another milestone: parity in primary education between girls and boys. Driven by national and international efforts, many more of the world’s children are enrolled in school at the primary level, especially since 2000. Girls have benefited the most. There were 97 girls enrolled per 100 boys in 2010—up from 91 girls per 100 boys in 1999.

The report says that enrollment rates of primary school age children have increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010. Many countries in the region have succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing.

At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people in developing regions were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS, constituting the largest one-year increase ever. Since December 2009, more than 1.4 million people were being treated.

“These results”, said Mr. Ban “represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. 

But, they are not a reason to relax.  Projections indicate that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide will still lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth, and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. 

Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other goals. Lack of safe sanitation is hampering progress in health and nutrition … and greenhouse gas emissions continue to pose a major threat to people and ecosystems”.   MORE, here…

Related Links and Reports on Millennium Development Goals

Lola Jane’s post – GDP Poor Nations Per Capita Income

Millennium Development Goals Indicators – Official website for the United Nation’s Millennium Indicators.  Click here for country specific data, the Philippines, etc.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012

Summary: Three important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015, says this year’s Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.  Click here to view this report.

REPORT: What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?  From the United Nations Development Programme, an international assessment, based on a review of 50 country studies.

Click here to view report in PDF Format

 

 

Report: Unlocking Progress: MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) lessons from pilot countries

Reviews of MDG progress in various countries have revealed many successes, but also the need for urgent, focused action. In the absence of enhanced efforts, many countries risk missing one or more of the targets by the deadline.This report shares the lessons from 10 pilot countries on efforts taken toward meeting the 2015 MDG deadline.  Click here to view report in PDF format.

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.

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

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.  Click here to read the entire article.

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.”  Click here to read entire article.

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?

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.

Not the Bananas! More on the ongoing Philippine – China disputes

The latest on the Philippine – China dispute involve Philippine bananas and new, stricter inspections from Chinese ports — resulting in a lot of rotten Philippine bananas.

Chinese authorities claim they found pests in banana shipments coming in from the Philippines.

So…who put those bugs in the banana imports….really?!?

After Japan, China is the Philippines’ second largest market for bananas.

Read more about the impounded bananas — and other Philippine fruits now facing extra quarantine measures and new scrutiny from China, from an article at JapanToday.com (here).

And somewhat related, here is a banana and container port article I posted earlier this year: What’s in the Box

Scarborough Shoal disputes: Chinese travel agents suspend tours to the Philippines

China’s news outlets report that Chinese travel agencies are suspending or rescheduling summer trips and tours to the Philippines, due to recent tensions in the South China / West Philippine Seas.

Beijing travel agent Dun Jidong is quoted as saying “Safety is the prime concern in the travel business. We’ve learned there might be anti-China activities in the Philippines, which means a lot of uncertainty. To ensure the safety of our clients, we have suspended all tours to the Philippines. And we will monitor the situation as it develops.”

On Thursday, China’s National Tourism Administration website told Chinese tourists to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the Philippines and warned those who are already there to be mindful of their security.

Anti-China protesters carry placards and shout slogans in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City on Friday. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

Excerpt from a Manila Times report:

Maria Victoria Jasmin, DOT undersecretary, said that as of Thursday, 10 tour operators from Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have cancelled flights to the Philippines…

The DOT said that China ranks fourth in the country’s top tourist market and had an 8.4-percent share in the total visitor arrivals for the January to March, 2012 period or over 96,455 tourists.

Last year, at least 243,137 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, making up 6.21 percent of the total tourist arrivals.

The Philippine Travel Agency Association earlier said that the country’s top three markets are Korea, the United States and Japan.

During a press briefing, Philippine Malacanang Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “We are going to certainly assure our Chinese friends of their safety”.

He added “Sa totoo lang, ang dami naman nating mga Chinese dito (the fact is, there are so many Chinese here). You would not know if they are from the mainland or from the Philippines. We have very good relations in terms of cultural exchange and our relations with China have been very good on a cultural level, on a familial level. So there is no reason for our Chinese friends and the Chinese Embassy to worry about the safety of their nationals”.

Scarborough Shoal Standoff: Strong words from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister

It does not look like the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoals, and territorial claims over the South China Sea / West Philippine Sea area, is anywhere close to being resolved.

Below is an excerpt from a report today, by Brian Spegele of the Wall Street Journal, with strong statements from the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying:

China said it was pessimistic about resolving a standoff with the Philippines in the resource-rich South China Sea and was prepared for tensions there to escalate further.

The remarks, delivered during a meeting Monday between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying and Manila’s charge d’affaires in Beijing, Alex Chua, marked a significant uptick in the heat of the rhetoric as relations between China and one of Washington’s closest allies in the region continue to deteriorate.

Mr. Chua was summoned by China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency, as part of a long-running dispute around what is known as the Scarborough Shoal in English and Huangyan island in Chinese, in the southeastern part of the South China Sea. Xinhua said it was the third meeting in less than a month between the two sides.

“It is obvious the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions instead,” Ms. Fu said in a statement on the website of China’s Foreign Ministry. “It is hoped that the Philippine side will not misjudge the situation and not escalate tensions without considering the consequences.”

A spokesman for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, Raul Hernandez, said in a statement that the Philippines was taking a “new diplomatic initiative” that it hopes will defuse the situation, but declined to provide details.  More…

And so the Scarborough Shoals standoff and tension continues, and China reportedly now has four government ships in the area — in addition to eight fishing vessels.  The Philippines has one coast guard vessel, and one Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel.

Do you need to catch up on why there are disputes over these South China Sea territories?   Visit the BBC News Q&A: South China Sea disputes, to learn more (e.g.,  possible natural gas reserves and the large amount of natural resources in this area).

Also, here is a link to my original article on the latest flare-up over the Scarborough Shoal area.

Meanwhile, here in the states, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met with Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon yesterday, May 7, 2012.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie to the Pentagon, May 7, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

It was the first U.S. visit by a Chinese defense minister in nine years.

Liang has been visiting U.S. military bases and meeting with U.S. military leaders to discuss U.S.-Chinese cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Excerpt from the American Forces Press Service news article by Cheryl Pellerin:

Liang’s visit occurs at a time when the armed forces of both nations seek to expand cooperation, improve understanding, build trust and reduce differences.

“The United States and China are both Pacific powers, and our relationship is one of the most critical in the world,” Panetta said at a news conference with Liang after their meeting.

“In my meeting with General Liang, I expressed my commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous [military-to-military] relationship with China,” the secretary said, adding that at Liang’s invitation he will visit China within the next few months.

“We share many interests across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” Panetta added, “from humanitarian assistance to concerns about weapons of mass destruction to terrorism to drug interdictions to trade to counterpiracy.”

…“As you all know,” Panetta said, “the U.S. Department of Defense recently released a new defense strategy, recognizing that no region is more important than the Asia-Pacific for our country’s future peace and prosperity.”

Liang spoke through an interpreter, describing the purpose of his visit as being “to implement the important agreement reached by President Hu Jintao and President [Barack] Obama on developing the China-U.S. state-to-state and military-to-military relationship.”   More…

Latest on the China – Philippines standoff: Meeting of Philippines Foreign Secretary del Rosario and Defense Secretary Gazmin in Washington D.C.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were in Washington D.C. yesterday, April 30th, 2012  to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

It was a historic first “2+2″ or bilateral meeting of U.S. and Philippine defense and foreign affairs leaders.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, far right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Filipino Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, far left, and Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pose for an official photo before a meeting at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

After the meeting, they made statements for the media, and then took a few questions from the press.

Included in this post are parts of the introduction from Secretary of State Clinton, press questions, and answers from Philippine Foreign Secretary del Rosario as well as Philippine Defense Secretary Gazmin on the Scarborough Shoal standoff, and the Philippines’ position.

Please see the earlier post on this topic for the definition of UNCLOS.

Introduction from Secretary of State Clinton:

…Today we held the first ever 2+2 meeting between the United States and the Philippines, a testament to our shared commitment to write a new chapter in the partnership between our two countries.

With the growing security and economic importance of the Asia Pacific, the United States is actively working to strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and engage more systematically in the region’s multilateral institutions.

At the heart of this strategy is our effort to deepen and broaden our alliance with our friend and treaty ally, the Philippines. This alliance is rooted not just in a deep history of shared democratic values but in a wide range of mutual concerns. And today we had a chance to cover a number of them.

First we discussed our bilateral military cooperation. Our alliance has helped keep both of our countries secure for more than 60 years, and it has been a bulwark of peace and stability in Asia. Today the United States reaffirms our commitment and obligations under the mutual defense treaty.

We also discussed steps we are taking to ensure that our countries are fully capable of addressing both the challenges and the opportunities posed in the region in the 21st century. We need to continue working together to counter violent extremism, to work on addressing natural disasters, maritime security, and transnational crime.

 Press Question / Answer:

PRESS QUESTION: Mr. del Rosario, the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal is into its fourth week now. Did you get an unequivocal assurance from the U.S. it will come to the aid of the Philippines if shots are fired? And what was the type or form?

Also, short of shots being fired, how do you see the endgame of Scarborough being played out if China cannot be persuaded diplomatically to withdraw its vessels from the area?

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Those are several questions rolled into one, my friend, but let me begin from your last question.

We do have a three-track approach to endeavoring to solve the problem that we currently have with China in the Scarborough Shoal. It encompasses three tracks.

The first track is the political track. We are pursuing the ASEAN as a framework for a solution to this problem through a code of conduct that we are trying to put together and ultimately approve. Hopefully that will quiet the situation.

Secondly, we are pursuing a legal track, and the legal track involves our pursuing a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS. There are five of them. We think that we can avail of one or two of those mechanisms, even without the presence of China.

Thirdly, we are pursuing a diplomatic approach, such as the one that we are undertaking, which is to have consultations with China in an attempt to defuse the situation.

In terms of U.S. commitment, I think the U.S. has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes, but that they are firm in terms of taking a position for a – towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea towards a multilateral approach and towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS. They have expressed that they will honor their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

PRESS QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Gazmin. Secretary, in light of the current Chinese-Philippines standoff in Scarborough Shoal, what kind of assistance have you asked to bolster Manila’s ability to patrol its waters and to deter what you call intrusions?

SECRETARY GAZMIN: Thank you for the question. The assistance we have sought is to help us bring the case to international legal bodies, so that the approach is the legal rules-based approach in resolving the issue in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

It is worth reading the full remarks after the meeting, from the U.S. Department of State website (visit here).

Secretary Clinton was scheduled to leave for Bejing the evening after the meeting, so it will be interesting to see what develops in the next few days.

It certainly is a sensitive topic for the U.S. – China, as well as Philippines – China relationships, not to mention other countries that have an interest in the South China Sea, and China’s territorial waters claims.