Here Today, Gone Tomorrow


Ephemeral Islands –

In our rush to retaliate against Libya for killing American servicemen in Berlin in 1986, we first bombed an underwater volcano.

Ends up this particular piece of sometime real estate has been above water several times, only to succumb to the forces of erosion.

The volcano’s tip is an ephemeral island, flirting with sea level. The first documented emergence of the island dates from the First Punic War in the mid-Third Century B.C. It is also reported to have surfaced in 10 B.C.; in both cases, it re-submerged soon after.

The volcano continued its on and off again eruptions, and then, in 1831 it emerged from the sea and stay there.  Four nations planted flags on the “island”, each in turn cutting down the flag of the other.

But the material spewed out by the volcano turned out to be particularly susceptible to erosion. At its greatest extent, Ferdinandea had a circumference of over 15,000 feet and an area of about 1 square mile, but as the eruption subsided, it quickly crumbled back into the sea. On Dec. 17, two Sicilian observers filed a missing island report: Ferdinandea was gone — and with it, the diplomatic headache of adjudicating a four-way claim over a newly emerged island.

On the other side of the world another piece of rock is causing headaches for Japan.

Okinotorishima  is a reef about three miles long and one mile wide that only barely breaks the surface: at high tide, it sticks out no more than 5 inches above sea level. But that was enough for Japan to claim the atoll as its southernmost possession.

As agreed at the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the coast, but states can exercise certain rights over the natural resources in a 200-mile zone beyond their shores – whether those shores are on the mainland, the largest island or the smallest, most remote spit of land in the country’s holdings.

If and when these islands are submerged by rising seas, Japan will lose up to 150,000 square miles of territory – and all the fish and minerals it includes.  China is already disputing Japan’s claims to this collection of “submarine rocks.”

Both of these rocky outcrops have major consequences for the nations that claim them.  Minerals, fish, and economic opportunity for the nation are at stake, and completely out of their control.


Mining, Desertification, and Camels – Cultural Changes in Mongolia

Old Ways Disappearing In The New Mongolia : NPR.

May 24, 2012

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation’s distinctive, nomadic identity.

This is part 4 of an NPR series on the dramatic changes coming to Mongolia.

Of course, the minerals are not used by Mongolians, but are mostly sold to China.  Is it worth losing a centuries-old culture for money?  Will the cash actually benefit the Mongolian people?  What role does desertification play in the choices that Mongolians make?

Child Population in Japan

Web Clock of Child Population in Japan.

364,870 days until Japan has only 1 child under 15 years of age, if current trends continue.

(1) As a result, the Prof. Yoshida’s research team has estimated that there are 16,620,000 children in Japan as of May 5, 2012, decreasing about 300,000 children from last year and 1,550,000 children (equivalent to the population of Fukuoka City) from 10 years ago.


(2) Child Population Web Clock is showing that the child population is declining by one every 100 seconds. This clock gives us a strong impression that the birthrate in Japan is rapidly declining and effective solutions have to be adopted as soon as possible.


(3) Child Population Web Clock has also revealed that Japan would have only one child in May 3011, about 365,000 days from now. By the next year, therefore, there would be no children in Japan. It can be said that “The Children’s Day would no longer come in May 5, 3012.”

Statistics from Professor Yoshida at Tohoku University

More on Child Brides

Afghan child bride’s in-laws sentenced for torture – Houston Chronicle.

Her torturers have been sentenced to prison, but is it enough?

The plight of 15-year-old Sahar Gul captivated the nation and set off a storm of international condemnation when it came to light in late December. Officials said her husband’s family kept her in a basement for six months after her arranged marriage, ripping out her fingernails, breaking her fingers and torturing her with hot irons in an attempt to force her into prostitution.

Her uncle alerted authorities, and she was rescued; her attackers were sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Her husband and his brother are still on the run, but her mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law were sentenced to 10 years each.  They kept her in the basement, pulled out her fingernails, and did other unspeakable things in an attempt to force her into prostitution to support them.

This is the fate of many Afghan women.  Although marriage is illegal for girls under 16 years of age,

the United Nations agency UN Women estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15.

What future do they have, with no schooling, no support, and no opportunity?  How can we, the most fortunate people in the world, stand by while this goes on under our watch?

…ending abuse remains a huge challenge in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, where traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes and so-called honor killings in which women seen as disgracing their families are murdered by their relatives.

Support the Women for Afghan Women, Young Women for Change, and other groups that are working to help Afghani women through these tough times.

It’s All Connected


Absence of elephants and rhinoceroses reduces biodiversity in tropical forests.

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2012) — The progressive disappearance of seed-dispersing animals like elephants and rhinoceroses puts the structural integrity and biodiversity of the tropical forest of South-East Asia at risk.

Larges herbivores developed along with the forests, which rely on them to spread seeds.  Tropical rainforests have tall trees, and limited room and light at ground level.  These factors contribute to low germination rates for seeds.  Also missing from these forests is wind, which helps disperse seeds in other areas.

“Megaherbivores act as the ‘gardeners’ of humid tropical forests: They are vital to forest regeneration and maintain its structure and biodiversity,”  

 The disappearance of elephants and rhinos will irrevocably change the rainforest; some species will disappear, and the undergrowth will change.  There will be a loss of complexity that depends upon these large animals to maintain itself. 

How will this affect humans?  What plants might contain the cure for cancer that will disappear from the forest because it no longer has light to germinate?  What undergrowth will choke out weaker plants that hold the soil in place, leading to erosion of the thin soils?  Because its all connected, there’s no telling what future results our current actions will have on the natural world.  We just know that there are changes coming – the question is, can we continue to lose biodiversity and survive?





Once Upon a Time in Dubai – An FP Slide Show


Once Upon a Time in Dubai – An FP Slide Show | Foreign Policy.

Amazing pictures, along with a little history.  Apparently, there was no running water in the whole country just 50 years ago.

Click the link to see the slideshow.

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