Liberated from laundry? Humanity and my take on this week’s photo challenge

We walked to the river carrying everything we needed to do the laundry…from the bundles of clothes and wash basins balanced on top of our heads, the bars of soap, the pot of rice, bananas and other food we will cook and eat while we wait for the warm sun to dry the clothes on the rocks.

This was laundry day when I was a kid and lived in the province (away from the city). Since my younger sister and I were still little, we played and splashed in the water while the other women in our household went about the task of washing clothes.

Fast forward decades later, I am  back to the Philippines, and while stopped over a bridge to take in the view, I look below and see a scene from my childhood…women washing clothes by the river.

Laundry day 3 web

I am nostalgic and remember the fun we had playing in the river during laundry day — rearranging rocks to form our own little swimming pools and creating dams to capture fish and freshwater shrimps.

Then I thought, wait….I am a grandmother now…why are these women STILL doing laundry this way?

My take on this week’s WordPress photo challenge are photos about something we share as modern humans..that is, we all wear clothes, and these clothes need to be washed.

Laundry day 2a web

How we go about doing laundry though is a symbol of how developed the area is where we live, and how much time is available to women.

Here in the US, over 80% of households have clothes washers (even almost a decade ago, based on the these stats from the US Department of Energy):

Percent clothes washer stats US

For poor households, over 60% still had clothes washers…and anyone can go to laundromat to wash clothes.

We take for granted the clean running water we have access to, and the machines that liberate us from tedious tasks, like washing clothes.

Laundry day 5 web

How often is this scene still repeated around the world daily?  Imagine how liberated human beings  — particularly women — can be, simply by having a  machine that we take for granted here in the US.

Laundry day 4 web

It may not be something we ever think about, but to me, how laundry is done around the world is an indicator of progress.

And the work towards eradicating poverty worldwide — so that everyone has access to the tools, and yes, machinery — to allow us more time to live a good life and express ourselves is part of what defines our humanity.

To see beautiful humanity inspired photographs and other imaginative takes on the challenge, visit the WordPress Photo Challenge Site. 

For more on why I think there is still so much poverty in my home country of the Philippines, see my post Chameleons: Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world.

California’s higher than normal temperatures, record driest year and now a drought emergency

Something is not quite right with our winter weather.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach last week with their Frisbee.

Here in the Central Coast of California, most of us can’t remember the last time it rained, and are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures.

According to the most recent State of the Climate report, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), our state had little rain (AGAIN) last year, resulting in a record driest year.

2013 National Precipitation ranking

Temperature-wise,California also had much warmer than normal temperatures last year.

2013 Statewide Ranks NOAA

Even without the official stats, we know the weather is certainly not normal and we were not surprised when California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation last week declaring a drought emergency (to urge Californians to reduce their water use by 20% indoors and out).

From the website Saveourh2o.org:

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

...The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the first snow survey of the year on Jan. 3 and officials measured the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.  According to DWR, the readings this month and in 2012 are the driest on record.

Not only is the snowpack dry, the state has suffered from a lack of rain, with many areas ending 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. 

According to DWR, Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County—which is normally one of California’s wettest spots with an average annual rainfall of nearly 100 inches—only received 43.46 inches last year.  Sacramento ended the year with 5.74 inches of rain, vastly lower than the normal 18 inches the region usually receives.  Downtown Los Angeles set an all-time low with just 3.4 inches of rainfall.  The city’s average is 14.74 and the previous record low was 4.08 set in 1953.

Field ready for planting Monterey County

In a state (and especially here in Monterey county) where agriculture is a major industry, this creates serious problems for farmers and significantly increases wildfire / firestorm hazards.

We are in dire need of major rain storms to alleviate the drought situation…but so far, there is no rain in the immediate weather forecast.

seelings farm field monterey county

To learn more about what we can do to conserve water, visit the Save our Water website (I’ve added their widget to my website’s sidebar for an easy link, and to get daily water saving tips).

Did you know…California produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables across the nation?  American consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.  Production Statistics Source: California Department of Agriculture

Related:

KQED’s The California Report: How will drought affect California Agriculture?  Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the water used in California

California Drought And The U.S. Food Supply – Tom Ashbrook’s On Point Program on the drought emergency in California, and what it may mean for the nation’s food supply.

Hundred Years of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse (from Time Magazine Science and Space – scientist fear California’s long-ago era of mega-droughts could be back)

Field of strawberries rd2

Rows of strawberry plants Monterey County California

 

Lolako.com agriculture-related posts:

Gasoline Prices — countries paying the highest and lowest per gallon

I thought that gas prices were trending down….yeah, right.  Is it ever going to go down?

Gas Arm Leg Both sign at Moss Landing Antique Fair

Gas Arm Leg Both sign spotted at Moss Landing Antique Faire last year

Below is an example of gasoline price this week in the Monterey Bay area, California…

Monterey County California Gas Prices rd

I was curious to know how American gas prices compared to the rest of the world and found an interesting Bloomberg.com article on Highest and Cheapest Gas Prices by Country.

Note: The article is based on gas prices from Jan. 3 to 18, 2013 of select countries with a minimum income of $3.50 a day per person.

It  turns out, the top 5 highest price per gallon countries are more than DOUBLE what we pay here in the United States.  The top five:

  1. Turkey – $9.89 per gallon
  2. Norway $9.63 per gallon (and the only large oil-producing country with high gas cost, as they use oil profits for services to the population, e.g., free college for citizens)
  3. Netherlands – $9.09 per gallon (it is interesting that the Dutch has the most bicycles per capita in the world)
  4. Italy – $8.87 per gallon (it cost the same for Italians to fill up their tanks each week as it does to buy a weeks worth of food)
  5. Portugal – $8.82 per gallon (64% of this price goes towards taxes, which went up over 10 years ago to help protect the environment)

And the 5 countries that pay the least per gallon of gasoline?

  1. Venezuela – $0.06 per gallon, where according to the article, “the cost of filling up the 39-gallon tank of a Chevrolet Suburban in Venezuela is $2.34, compared with $128.31 in the U.S. and $385.71 in Turkey”.
  2. Saudi Arabia – $0.45 per gallon
  3. Kuwait – $0.81 per gallon
  4. Egypt – $1.14 per gallon
  5. United Arab Emirates – $1.77 per gallon

So…compared to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia…heck yeah we are paying a lot, but compared to Turkey and Italy, hello(!) it turns out that gas is quite cheap here in the U.S.

Then again, from a conservation and climate change standpoint, do you think gasoline should cost even more here — and everywhere else — to force us to conserve our resources and further reduce emissions (cars emit greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming).

I do wonder if a transition to alternative energy sources is happening way too slow, or worse, too late for our planet’s global warming problems?

If you are interested in seeing gasoline cost in countries like the Philippines, Canada, the United States and how 57 others rank, click here…

What is the gas pricing like where you live?  Too high, or too cheap in your opinion….

What countries are in Southeast Asia?

Until the 20th century, the area we now call Southeast Asia was referred to as the East Indies.

Most of us have heard the geographic term Southeast Asia…and have a general idea of where this area is.

A comment from Myra (who blogs at Itaga sa Bato) on my The Ethnic Food Aisle blog post sent me on this path to find out exactly what countries are included in the term Southeast Asia.

The orange-colored countries on the UN map below are countries considered to be in Southeast Asia.

UN Map via Wikipedia

And it turns out there are two parts to Southeast Asia — Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia.  Here is the wiki definition:

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia.

The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, comprises Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, and Maritime Southeast Asia comprises Brunei, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Christmas Island, and Singapore.

asean-logoThese countries, with the exception of East Timor, are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Established in 1967,

ASEAN was founded by the countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  In 1984, Brunei Darussalam joined, followed by Viet Nam on in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999, making up the current ten Member States of ASEAN.

And to date, there are still Sovereignty issues over some islands in this area. See my earlier post related to China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claiming competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea – UNCLOS and the China-Philippine Standoff over Scarborough Shoal.

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.

Oh, really? (The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic)

(Koch-funded) scientist changes opinion, finds warming due to humans (including Kochs).  Read the article by Philip Bump, from the Grist.org

Excerpt:

That giddy squeal that echoed across America this weekend was from environmentalists who’d opened up The New York Times and read an opinion piece by Richard Muller. (Well, opened the website, anyway; it wasn’t in the actual paper.)

Muller, a professor at UC-Berkeley, had long argued against human-caused climate change. His piece in the Times? “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.“…

Average temperature using a 10-year moving average of surface temperatures over land. (Image via grist.org, courtesy of ThinkProgress.)

Bhutan Happy: Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator of progress

Have you heard about the country of Bhutan, and their focus on Gross National Happiness or G.N.H. over G.D.P. (Gross Domestic Products)?

Photo of Paro Dzong above — the centre of civil and religious authority in the Paro valley in western Bhutan. Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot via Wikepedia Commons

Bhutan — officially the Kingdom of Bhutan –is a land-locked country at the eastern end of the Himalayas, with a population of 738,267 (World Bank Data 2011).  It is bordered to the south, east and west by the country of India, and to the north by the country of China.

Map Source – U.S. Department of State

Bhutan is a small nation with big ideals.  For a population comparison, there are more residents in the U.S. city of San Francisco, California — population 812, 816 — than the entire country of Bhutan.

Late sunset view  — city of San Francisco, California.  Photo www.Lolako.com

Despite Bhutan’s small size, are they doing something right, and do they have ideas and ideals that we should all consider?

One has to be curious about a country, whose leaders consider the happiness of its people, as the guiding principle when making policies and decisions for its people.

Here is an example, from an Earth Island Journal article by John de Graaf and Laura Musikanski:

The Bhutanese conviction that happiness should take priority over economic growth has led to some perhaps radical decisions. When Bhutan’s government was deciding whether to join the World Trade Organization, it considered how such a step would impact the country’s happiness. Government officials determined that membership (which is coveted by many countries) would result in a net loss of well-being. The country decided not to join the WTO – at least for now.

And the idea is catching on!  More from the article, in the section, Happiness Is Catching

Since Bhutan’s pioneering effort to better measure well-being, the idea has spread around the world. In the United States, efforts to measure sustainability more holistically began in 1991, when Sustainable Seattle developed the world’s first regional indicators of well-being. Today, more than 350 community organizations in the United States alone have developed some kind of well-being or sustainability indicators. Local governments in Brazil, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom are also beginning to measure happiness.

In July, the idea that GDP is an insufficient gauge of progress reached the highest level of global governance when the United Nations General Assembly invited member countries to “pursue … additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness.”

Earlier this year, I posted this chart from the Economist, for my article Who’s Happy Now.  Post excerpt:

Here is a surprising chart on happiness and GDP, from the Economist.

Well, actually, it may not be that surprising.  Happiness — and most of us know this instinctively anyway — is not related to wealth.  Poor and middle-income countries were the happiest!

The top 3 on the chart are among the most populated countries in the world (Indonesia ranks #4, India #2 and Brazil is #5 in world population).  Indonesia and India also rank among the poorest countries in the world, based on per capita income.

Chart Source: The Economist. DESPITE the economic gloom, the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis set in (according to a recent poll from Ipsos which surveyed 19,000 adults in 24 countries). 77% of respondents describe themselves as “happy”, three percentage points higher than in 2007. Those countries who report themselves as being the happiest tend to be in poor and middle-income countries, while the gloomiest are in rich countries (the figures for Italy and Spain were 13% and 11%).

For more on this topic, please read The Pursuit of Happiness:  A New Measure of Societal Progress Can Help Save the Planet – and Us, an article by John deGraaf and Laura Musikanski, from Earth Island Journal (News of the World Environment).  Excerpt:

Growing Backwards

In the past 30 years, our Gross Domestic Product has doubled. During that same time, some other important figures have also increased: the number of threatened species, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the rates of diabetes and heart disease.

Meanwhile, almost all the income gained from the GDP growth went to the richest one percent of Americans, creating the widest income gap in the industrial world.

Many of us instinctively feel that disconnect between a growing economy and decreasing quality of life. Some statistics tell us we’re not alone in that feeling. According to polls taken by the National Opinion Research Center, about one-third of Americans described themselves as “very happy” in the 1950s; the percentage remains the same today. More troubling is that clinical depression is three to ten times more common today than two generations ago…

…Yes, we have more stuff than we did 30 years ago, but we are working longer hours than we did then and carry frightening levels of personal debt…

…In his Italian bestseller, Manifesto for Happiness, University of Siena economist Stefano Bartolini compares happiness data around the world and concludes that America is “the example not to follow.”

Bartolini says Americans are caught in a vicious cycle. Our consumption habits demand more debt and longer work hours, reducing our social connections, a central foundation of happiness.

To compensate for the feelings of loneliness, we then buy more stuff, seeking friendship through products. This consumption treadmill is reflected in faster economic growth than in Europe, but it exacerbates Americans’ social disconnection and the deterioration of our environmental commons.

Bartolini argues that the US’s rapid economic growth is more a matter of the inefficiency of the American economy in meeting our actual needs than it is an indicator of dynamism. In short, GDP obscures more than it reveals. The numbers give us a sense that we are wealthy; in fact, we are impoverished when it comes to the things we value most.  Read the complete article, here…

Related links:

The Centre for Bhutan Studies – Gross National Happiness

The Local Nomad: It’s a Costco Life (or how possessions can crush you)

Lola Jane’s: On the “burden of civilization’s excess”…

Wild World Weather – Summer Edition

In January of this year, I posted a chart and highlights from the State of the Climate report, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Each month, NOAA/NCDC publishes a State of the Climate Report and accompanying charts, highlighting significant climate anomalies and events.

With the devastating news about the extreme drought now affecting more than 1/2 of continental US, I am posting the June, 2012 State of the Climate report, with information on world weather, and U.S. drought /wildfire-related information.

World Weather

While most of the world — including a majority of North America and Eurasia, and northern Africa — experienced higher-than-average monthly temperatures, Australia had below average temperatures during June, and New Zealand experienced its coolest daily maximum temperatures in 130 years.

Click on the map to view a larger version of Selected Significant Climate Anomalies and Events for June 2012

  • June marked the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average temperature June was June 1976 and the last below-average temperature month was February 1985.
  • The Arctic lost a total of 2.86 million square kilometers (1.10 million square miles) of sea ice, the largest loss of sea ice on record for June, since satellite records began in 1979.
  • Austria recorded its highest ever June temperature of 99.9°F (37.7°C) by a full degree Fahrenheit on June 30th in two locations: the capital city of Vienna and in German-Altenburg, Nope.
  • The United Kingdom experienced its wettest June since national records began. England and Wales each tied with 1860 as the wettest June since their records began in 1766.
  • Stockholm, Sweden received four times its average precipitation during June, making this month the city’s wettest ever since records began in 1786.
  • In China, copious rain fell throughout much of June, leading to the evacuation of 5 million people and flooding of 50,000 acres of farmland.
  • In parts of the Philippines, Typhoon Mawar brought 185 km/hr winds, resulting in heavy rains, flash floods and landslides.

US Weather – Drought and Wildfires

  • June 2012 was another warmer- and drier-than-average month (14th warmest and tenth driest June on record, based on data back to 1895) when weather conditions are averaged across the country.
  • Wildfires blazed across 1.36 million acres of the U.S. during June, fed by antecedent drought conditions and unparalleled heat.
  • At month’s end, 57 large wildfires were active in 15 U.S. states, mostly in the West, but also in Central and South Atlantic areas, and even in Alaska and Hawaii. The amount burned in the single month was more than half the total acreage burned by wildfires in the country since January, based on National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) statistics.
  • Based on the Palmer Drought Index, severe to extreme drought affected about 33 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of June 2012, an increase of about 10 percent from last month. About 4 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories.
  • About 55 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of June.

To view current drought related reports, click on the map below or here to link to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s drought monitoring website.

Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

So…all those rotten bananas from the China export mess taught Philippine banana exporters a lesson.

Banana Plantation, Photo Source: www.freshplaza.com

A lesson that reminds me of the insurance industry terms, risk management and risk separation, or…. don’t put all your eggs — and bananas — in one basket.

After Japan, China was the 2nd largest market for Philippine banana exports.

In mid-May, China impounded Philippine bananas and instituted strict quarantine measures — which many suspect was really due to the ongoing disputes over the Scarborough Shoals, in the South China / West Philippine Sea.

Philippine banana exporters realized that they cannot rely on just a few export markets, and the industry is now looking at other markets, like Pakistan and countries in the Middle East.

And the good news, the Department of Agriculture announced that Dole Philippines is sending its first ever shipment of Cavendish bananas to the USA.  Cavendish are the common type of banana sold at grocery stores.

Bananas at the grocery store

Ecuador is picking up the Philippine banana import void to China.  Though halfway around the world from China, Ecuador’s government is providing a subsidy for their China-bound banana exports, to give their producers a price advantage.

Did you know…bananas are the 2nd top commodity by weight (after furniture) in all container shipments arriving at USA ports?  For more, view the post “What’s in the Box”.

Top 10 banana producing nations
(in million metric tons)
 India* 26.2
 Philippines 9.0
 China 8.2
 Ecuador 7.6
 Brazil 7.2
 Indonesia 6.3
 Mexico 2.2
 Costa Rica 2.1
 Colombia 2.0
 Thailand 1.5
World total 95.6
Via Wikipedia-Source 2009 data-Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
*Note: Although India leads in banana production, most of it is for domestic consumption and not for export.

Related banana links:

Fresh Plaza – Global Fresh Produce and Banana News

All about bananas, from Wikipedia

Lolako’s “What’s in the Box” - Top Commodity, by weight, arriving in U.S. container ports

Bananas – Philippines

Clever line from Philippines Today columnist Fred G. Gabot…“save the sagging saging, Sir“.

Saging is the Tagalog (Philippine national language) word for bananas.  It is pronounced something like sah-ging — the ging part rhymes with ring.

I heard about the Dole banana plantations in the Mindanao region, but prior to this post, I did not know that the Philippines is among the top nations growing and exporting bananas…how about you?

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

U.S. Coast: Comparison of shark attacks vs. number of lightning fatalities

Over the last few years, there have been shark attacks off a California state-run beach near where we live.  The most recent attack involved a 27-year-old surfer, in October of last year. Thankfully, the attacks were not fatal.

Of course if you stay out of the water, your shark attack chances are zero.  But for those who love spending time and activities in the ocean, and have a  fear of sharks, this post lists statistics and information that should allay your shark attack fears.

Shark photo from U.S. – NOAA website

Background, from the Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History:

Of the over 375 different species of sharks found in the world’s oceans, only about 30 have been reported to ever attack a human. Of these, only about a dozen should be considered particularly dangerous when encountered. The shark species responsible for most unprovoked attacks on humans are the white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull (Carcharhinus leucas). All sharks, large and small, are however predators and could be capable of inflicting wounds if provoked. They should all be treated with respect when encountered.

The chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other animal attacks, natural disasters, and ocean-side dangers. Many more people drown in the ocean every year than are bitten by sharks. The few attacks that occur every year are an excellent indication that sharks do not feed on humans and that most attacks are simply due to mistaken identity. For more information on the relative risk of shark attacks to humans…click here (shark attack FAQ).

And in case you have not yet heard — at least here in the U.S. — you are more likely to get hit and killed by lightning, than attacked and killed by a shark.

In the last 50 years, there were 1,970 lightning fatalities, compared to 26 shark attack fatalities (out of 974 known shark attacks). I hope that makes you less afraid of being attacked by a shark while playing in the ocean.  After all, that is over 50 years of data!

Details are listed on the table below.

NOTES: California, Florida and Hawaii have the longest saltwater shorelines — and California and Florida are among the most populous states in the U.S.– so it makes sense that there are more attacks (and fatalities) for these states.

Florida’s coastline is 1,350 miles (2,170 km), California is 840 miles (1,350 km), Hawaii is at 750 miles (1210 km), based on large-scale nautical charts.

Coastal United States: 1959-2010

State Period Number of
Lightning
Fatalities
Number of
Shark
Attacks
Number of
Shark Attack
Fatalities
Alabama 1959-2010 109 5 0
California 1959-2010 30 89 7
Connecticut 1959-2010 17 1 0
Delaware 1959-2010 15 3 0
Florida 1959-2010 459 603 9
Georgia 1959-2010 111 10 0
Hawaii 1959-2010 0 97 6
Louisiana 1959-2010 139 1 0
Maine 1959-2010 27 1 0
Maryland 1959-2010 126 0 0
Massachusetts 1959-2010 30 2 0
Mississippi 1959-2010 104 1 0
New Hampshire 1959-2010 8 0 0
New Jersey 1959-2010 68 8 0
New York 1959-2010 139 3 0
North Carolina 1959-2010 193 39 1
Oregon 1959-2010 8 22 1
Rhode Island 1959-2010 5 0 0
South Carolina 1959-2010 98 51 0
Texas 1959-2010 213 32 1
Virginia 1959-2010 66 5 1
Washington 1959-2010 5 1 0

TOTALS 1,970 974 26
Number per Year (average) 37.9 18.7 0.5
 Table Source: Ichthyology Department – Florida Museum of Natural History
Source of lightning data:Lightning Fatalities, Injuries and Damage Reports in the United States from 1959-1994, NOAA. The lightning fatality data was collected by NOAA and originates from the monthly and annual summaries compiled by the National Weather Service and published in monthly issues of Storm Data. The 1995 through 2010 data was tabulated with data from Storm Data.Source of shark attack data: International Shark Attack File, 10 February 2011.

Related Links:

See list of U.S. states by coastlines, here.

Visit the Shark Attack FAQ page, Florida Museum of Natural History

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Shark Facts: Do sharks eat people?

So did it work?  I know I am less afraid of sharks and shark attacks, now that I have some facts. How about you?

UNCLOS and the China – Philippines standoff over Scarborough Shoal

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea.

You may have heard about the current standoff between China and the Philippines, near the Scarborough Shoal area.  Here is an excerpt from a BBC News article yesterday – China needs a ”consistent policy” on the South China Sea:

China’s claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants.

That has led to occasional flare-ups and to competition to occupy islands, reefs and sandbars.

The latest incident sparked when a Philippines warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the Scarborough shoal – which both sides claim – when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

When navy personnel boarded the Chinese fishing vessels, they found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral, Manila said.

Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area, preventing the navy from making arrests.

Attempts to resolve the stand-off have not yet been successful. The Philippine warship has been replaced by a coast guard vessel and the Chinese fishermen have gone, but two Chinese vessels remain there.

China has also expressed anger at the annual US-Philippines military exercises, due to run until 27 April.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near the disputed Spratly islands which both Manila and Beijing claim. The joint exercises involve some 7,000 troops, including more than 4,000 from the US.

With China asserting its claims more aggressively the US has been strengthening old friendships in the region, says the BBC’s John Sudworth reporting from the South China Sea on the exercises.  Read more…

I’ve heard something about this  “200 nautical miles” rule before, but did not know the history.  Apparently, it is based on the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international agreement also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Looking at the map above, it seems rather clear — especially regarding the Scarborough Shoals — that this area belongs in the Philippine “exclusive economic zone” under UNCLOS definitions.  China is claiming a very large area as “territorial waters”.

The current UNCLOS III treaty came into force in 1994,  replacing earlier treaties UNCLOS I and UNCLOS II (though the concept of national rights of a nation’s coastlines dates back to the 17th century).

UNCLOS III covers exclusive economic zones (see below graphic), navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Related Links:

United Nations – Oceans and Law of the Sea: Historical Perspective on UNCLOS

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies – All for one, one for all: promoting economic activities in the South China Sea, by Nazery Khalid.

Palawan-based blogger Alex Pronove’s latest post: Sun-Tzu – The Art of War, and President Aquino (and the standoff at Scarborough Shoal)

Top 15 U.S. States by Population

Ever wonder which states have the most population?

It is not surprising that border states — California, Texas — as well as coastal and major ports of entry states — New York, Florida — lead the pack.

California’s population is over 37 million…a whopping 12 million more than Texas, the next most populous state (over 25 million).

If you combine the population of the 11th through 15th most populous states, respectively New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts and Indiana, the total population would come close to the entire population of California.

Here are the Top 15 —- population noted are estimates for 2011:

1 1  California 37,691,912
2 2  Texas 25,674,681
3 3  New York 19,465,197
4 4  Florida 19,057,542
5 5  Illinois 12,869,257
6 6  Pennsylvania 12,742,886
7 7  Ohio 11,544,951
8 8  Michigan 9,876,187
9 9  Georgia 9,815,210
10 10  North Carolina 9,656,401
11 11  New Jersey 8,821,155
12 12  Virginia 8,096,604
13 13  Washington 6,830,038
14 14  Massachusetts 6,587,536
15 15  Indiana 6,516,922

Click here to see the population data on all U.S. States and Territories, from the United States Census website.

Also, from a density standpoint (population of people per square mile):

  • California has 239 people per square mile – density rank 13th
  • Texas has 96 people per square mile – density rank 28th
  • New York has 411 people per square mile – density rank 9th
  • Florida has 350 people per square mile – density rank 10th

For the density ranking of all 50 states, visit the U.S. Census website, here.

Who’s happy now?

Here is a surprising chart on happiness and GDP, from the Economist.

Well, actually, it may not be that surprising.  Happiness — and most of us know this instinctively anyway — is not related to wealth.  Poor and middle-income countries were the happiest!

The top 3 on the chart are among the most populated countries in the world (Indonesia ranks #4, India #2 and Brazil is #5 in world population).  Indonesia and India also rank among the poorest countries in the world, based on per capita income.

DESPITE the economic gloom, the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis set in (according to a recent poll from Ipsos which surveyed 19,000 adults in 24 countries). 77% of respondents describe themselves as “happy”, three percentage points higher than in 2007. Those countries who report themselves as being the happiest tend to be in poor and middle-income countries, while the gloomiest are in rich countries (the figures for Italy and Spain were 13% and 11%).

With all our information connectivity, do you think people in poorer nations will be less happy as they learn of higher living standards in other parts of the world?  Or is it because poverty is somehow linked to leading a more spiritual life, and thus being content and happy?

Sometimes I do wonder…it seems the more you know about the world, the more sad it can get.

Are you happier now than last year…happier as you get older?

Americans eating less meat

My friend Jean (The Local Nomad) started a semi-vegetarian diet.  She is eating meat only twice a week, and going ovo-lacto vegetarian for the other five days of the week.

And it turns out she is part of a growing trend of Americans eating less meat.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are now eating about 10% less meat, compared to 8 years ago.  In 2004, Americans consumed 184 pounds (83kg) of meat per person/per year.  Year 2012 projections are down to 168 pounds of meat per person/per year.

Highlights from a report from Janet Larsen of the Earth Policy Institute:

  • U.S. meat consumption has peaked — and for a society that lives high on the food chain, this new trend could signal the end of meat’s mealtime dominance.
  • Higher prices combined with a weak economy led people to put less meat in their grocery carts.
  • Corn, the primary livestock feed, has been in high demand by fuel ethanol producers  Increases in corn prices affects the cost of producing meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Cultural factors and attitudes about meat are changing. Rather than considering meat requisite at every dinner or an indication of wealth, many people are deliberately choosing to eat less meat than before, often citing concerns about health, the environment, and the ethics of industrial meat production.
  • Given livestock’s large climate and resource footprints, this “peak” in meat-eating is good news.

To read the full report and view more data charts, visit the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) website or click on the EPI banner below.

Also, here is a link to an article by Mark Bittman of the NY Times – We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?

World’s Top 10 Merchandise Trade Countries

Okay, this is the last data chart  — at least for a while —- from the Bureau of Transportation Statistic’s report on America’s Container Ports: Linking Markets at Home and Abroad.   So, is it obvious yet, that I find this sort of data interesting?

Container ship passing the city of San Francisco on a rainy day in late March, 2012. Photo: Lolako.com

WORLD’S TOP 10 MERCHANDISE TRADE COUNTRIES

The U.S., China, Germany and Japan lead the pack respectively, and 10th is Belgium…hmmm, Belgium?  Section report notes:

  • Looking ahead, the volume of containers that U.S. seaports will handle in the coming years will be determined mainly by how much the United States continues to rely on imported manufactured goods, which countries it trades with the most, and which products it imports rather than produces domestically.
  •  Globally, the United States ranked second in container traffic in 2009, a position it has held since China took over the lead position in 1998.
  • Nonetheless, the United States remains the world’s leading trading nation, accounting for 11 percent of total world merchandise trade in 2009 (figure 5 above).
  • U.S. total imports ranked first, account­ing for over 13 percent of global imports in 2009. With 9 percent of total global exports, however, the United States lags both China, the new leading world exporter, and Germany (WTO 2010). 
  • n 2009, China became the top world exporter, with 10 percent of the value of traded merchandise. Overall, though, the United States remained the world’s largest economy, accounting for 24 percent of world GDP in 2009 (see table below).

 Notes for above table

  • (a) World 2009 GDP is an estimate that includes projections by the International Monetary Fund for some countries.
  • KEY: TEU = twenty-foot equivalent unit. One 20-foot container equals one TEU, and one 40-foot container equals two TEUs.
  • SOURCES: TEUs, world estimates, 1995–1999: Containerisation International Yearbook (London: Informa Group, Inc., 1997–2001); 2000–2009: U.S. Department of Transportation,Maritime Administration, based on Containerisation International Online, www.ci-online.co.uk, as of Oct. 5, 2010. TEUs, U.S. estimates, 1995–2009: American Association of Port Authorities, Industry Statistics; 1995–2009, www.aapa-ports.org/Industry, as of Sept. 16, 2010.
  • GDP: World estimates from International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2010/01/weodata/index.aspx, as of Sept. 16, 2010; U.S. estimates from U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, www.bea.gov/national, as of Sept. 16, 2010.

Here is a link to the full 52 page report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf)

Top 7 container ports in the U.S.

This is a follow-up and related to my earlier post, “What’s in the box?” (about what is in all those container boxes on trucks or on rail cars, on container ships we see as we drive over the bridges around the Bay Area, or even by freeways near the rather huge, and very busy Port of Oakland).

Port of Oakland, San Francisco Bay, California – Photo source U.S. NOAA: Photograper – Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

First, some definitions (adapted from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technologies Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, available at www.bts.gov/dictionary)

  • Container: A large standard-size metal box into which cargo is packed for shipment aboard specially configured oceangoing container ships. It is designed to be moved with common handling equipment to enable high-speed intermodal transfers in economically large units between ships, rail cars, truck chassis, and barges using a minimum of labor. Therefore, the container rather than the cargo in it serves as the transfer unit.
  • Container Ship:  A cargo vessel designed and constructed to transport, within specifically designed cells, portable tanks, and freight containers, which are lifted on and off with their contents intact.
  • Container Port: A harbor with marine terminal facilities for transferring cargo between container ships.

Seattle, WA Port – Photograph Source: US NOAA

The top 7 ports in the US, based on the latest data and report from the Bureau of Transportation Statics, are:

  1. Los Angeles, California
  2. New York/New Jersey (not sure why they combine these)
  3. Long Beach, California
  4. Savannah, Georgia
  5. Houston, Texas
  6. Oakland, California
  7. Norfolk, Virginia

Wow — three of the top 7 ports are located in the state of California.  The report states

  • West coast ports as a region grew the fastest of any port region between the mid-1980s and 2009, but since 2007 the region has experienced the sharpest decline in container traffic.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, total TEUs  (20-foot equivalent units—a measure for counting containers) handled by west coast ports declined 22 percent, compared with 13 percent decline for east coast ports and less than 1 percent increase for gulf coast ports.

#9 Port – Port of Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

And here are the rest — the TOP 20

 U.S. Waterborne Foreign Containerized Trade Handled at

Leading U.S. Container Ports: 2008–2009

(By thousands of metric tons)

RANK in 2009

U.S. Customs Port

Year 2008

Year 2009

Percent Change 2008-2009

1

Los Angeles, CA

41,134

37,262

-9.4

2

New York/New Jersey, NY/NJ

31,309

29,060

-7.2

3

Long Beach, CA

33,041

27,344

-17.2

4

Savannah, GA

17,895

16,619

-7.1

5

Houston, TX

13,128

12,423

-5.4

6

Oakland, CA

11,961

12,391

3.6

7

Norfolk, VA

13,444

11,858

-11.8

8

Seattle, WA

8,995

9,080

0.9

9

Charleston, SC

11,034

8,149

-26.1

10

Tacoma, WA

9,373

7,424

-20.8

11

Miami, FL

5,146

4,969

-3.4

12

Baltimore, MD

4,461

4,331

-2.9

13

Port Everglades, FL

5,282

4,261

-19.3

14

New Orleans, LA

2,668

2,795

4.7

15

San Juan, PR

2,045

2,007

-1.9

16

Philadelphia, PA

2,255

2,005

-11.1

17

Jacksonville, FL

1,202

1,589

32.3

18

Wilmington, NC

1,152

1,555

35.0

19

Portland, OR

1,823

1,518

-16.7

20

Wilmington, DE

1,563

1,346

-13.9I

Interested in the nitty-gritty details?  Here is a link to the full (52 pages) report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf), where I learned…

  • The majority of container ship calls to the United States are made to a relative few ports.
  • The top 10 U.S. container ports accounted for more than three quarters (77 percent) of container ship calls.

What’s in the box?

We have all seen the container boxes on trucks or on rail cars, on container ships as we drive over the bridges around the Bay Area, or even by freeways near the rather huge, and very busy Port of Oakland.

APL Post-Panamax container ships, Location: San Francisco, California - Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA

Ever wonder what is inside all these containers?

Well, of course, just about anything you can think of  —- from toys, shoes and clothing, giant flat-screen televisions, printers and computer equipment, auto parts, to wood and paper products —- most headed to our big box stores.

Can you guess the top 3 commodities by weight (not by value), coming into America’s container ports?

The answer is

  1. Furniture (and parts of furniture)
  2. Bananas or plantains, fresh or dried
  3. Worked monument stone, art

Remember, the question is by weight, so….. furniture is heavy, and that makes sense as #1…and so are monuments and stone products at #3 —- think items made from granite or those pretty stone statues and water fountains we buy for our gardens.

But….bananas are #2…really?  I had no idea Americans were such big banana eaters!

#2 in top 10 commodities by weight, inside containers coming into USA

Below is the Top 10 chart

Top Commodity (by weight – in thousands of metric tonnes) of US Container Imports

Commodity Description

Year 2008

Year 2009

Jan to June 2010

Percent Change 2008-2009

Furniture and parts

5,035

4,082

2,383

-18.9

Bananas and plantains, fresh or dried

2,842

2,876

1,566

1.2

Worked monument, stone, art, granule

3,918

2,557

1,439

-34.7

Parts and accessories for motor vehicles

3,009

2,289

1,470

-23.9

Coal, briquettes, and ovoids from coal

2,791

2,199

731

-21.2

Beer made from malt

2,364

2,024

1,023

-14.4

Oil, not crude, from petroleum and bitum mineral

1,474

1,769

1,199

20.1

New pneumatic tires or rubber

2,121

1,745

987

-17.7

Seats (except barber, dental, etc.) and parts

2,110

1,732

1,165

-17.9

Glazed ceramic flags and paving and hearth tiles

1,944

1,466

777

-24.6

All other commodities

109,585

89,580

49,618

-18.3

Top 10 commodities

27,606

22,739

12,740

-17.6

Top 10, percentage of all commodities

20.1%

20.2%

20.4%

TOTAL all commodities

137,191

112,319

62,358

-18.1

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, based on data from U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade Division, USA Trade Online, available at http://data.usatradeonline.gov (report dated January 2011)

My notes:

  • There was a decrease for all commodities in the period covered by the report, with the exception of…BANANAS and oil
  • And another surprise…lots of beer “made from malt” coming in, right after coals, briquettes, but before oil “not crude, from petroleum“.

Yes, we have bananas for sale!

Here is a link to the full (52 page) report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics titled America’s Container Ports: Linking Markets at Home and Abroad (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf)

Interesting information on this detailed report:

  • Trends in container shipping are directly related to patterns in overall international trade, which is a primary contributing factor in the Nation’s economic
    growth.
  • Despite recent economic uncertainties and fluctuations in annual merchandise trade, the United States remains the world’s largest trading Nation, with the world’s biggest economy.
  • Today, 1 container in every 11 that carries global trade is bound for or originates in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of worldwide container traffic.

Wild World Weather January 2012

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) NCDC State of the Climate Report publishes a chart of significant climate anomalies and events.  Here is the chart for January 2012.

Chart Source: NOAA - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

Click on the chart or here to view a larger version of the January 2012 climate anomalies chart.  Highlights:

  • Global Temperatures are 19th warmest on record for January, since record keeping began in 1880.
  • Arctic sea ice extent was the fourth smallest extent on record for January, at 7.5 percent below average.
  • January 2012 marks the coolest month since February 2008. However, January 2012 also marks the 26th January and 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.

In Australia - coolest maximum January temperatures since January 2000, and 13th coolest since national record keeping began in 1950

In the Philippines – torrential rainfall since mid December 2011 (and after the already devastating Typhoon Sendong) led to another mudslide in January, killing 30 people and leaving 40 others missing on the island of Mindanao.

In southeastern Brazil – heavy rains led to flooding and landslides, killing eight people and forcing over 13,000 people to evacuate the area.

Germany had its sixth wettest January since record keeping began in 1881.

While the contiguous United States experienced the 4th warmest January since record keeping began in 1895, parts of Alaska experienced record cold temperatures and snowfall.

In Spain, January 2012 was the 6th driest January in the last five decades.

Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-blended-mntp/201201.gif

  • Monsoonal rains brought heavier-than-average rainfall to southwestern and southeastern Australia.
  • Rainfall was also well above average in south Asia, part of eastern Russia, and southwestern Greenland. Much drier-than-average conditions were observed across northern Canada, the north central United States, eastern Brazil, and northern Sweden.

Top 9 rice exporters and year 2012 rice supply

Rice Fields in the Philippines, ready for planting

The Philippines is home to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a non-profit, independent research and training organization.

According to the IRRI, the Philippines is the 8th top producer of rice in the world, and also the top rice importer.

China is the world’s biggest producer of rice and is largely self-sufficient (at 130 tonnes a year), while Thailand is the world’s top exporter of rice.

Chart source: The Economist

Since Thailand is a top exporter of rice, I wondered if the devastating floods we heard about in Thailand last year will impact rice supplies in 2012.

The Economist magazine ran an article about this topic (How serious will the impact of the Thai floods be on Asian tables) and it turns out  2011 was an excellent year for rice crops overall, and for other rice producing countries.

Although drought conditions in Arkansas — America’s main grower of rice — will affect US rice exports, bumper crops in Pakistan and India should help with any rice shortfalls from Thailand and the U.S.

The top 9 exporters of rice in 2010-2011 (if the chart included in this post does not load) are:

  1. Thailand
  2. Vietnam
  3. India
  4. United States
  5. Pakistan
  6. Burma
  7. Cambodia
  8. Uruguay
  9. Brazil

See more of Lola Jane’s rice related posts (and more rice field pictures) here.