Archive for the 'Ideas' Category

Exiling Congressmen to Pacific Islands

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Marshall Islands beach
An American Congressman recently spent a week alone on an island in the Marshall Islands.

Rep. Jeff Flake had himself marooned on Jabonwod, an islet in an atoll in the Marshall Islands. It was not exactly high adventure: he swam and fished, got lonely, and watched the sunsets.

My favorite aspect: he wrote numbers on crabs that passed through his campsite, till he had 126 trackable companions.

Flake was fairly well-equipped:

No food, just mask, fins and a pole-spear to obtain it. No water, only a manual desalination pump to create fresh water. No matches, only a magnifying glass. And a hammock, knife, hatchet, sunscreen, cooking pot and salt and pepper. Oh, and a satellite phone and Coast Guard beacon should I eat the wrong fish

I once spent a week alone on an uninhabited island. I brought food with me, but my island was big enough that people would not have known where I was, and I didn’t have a satellite phone; if I’d been injured, I was on my own with the bears and moose.

(Image courtesy mrlins, Flickr)

Donde Esta Mi Isla?

Friday, August 21st, 2009

water_mamamusings_FlickrMexico has been searching hard for an island that likely never existed.

Isla Bermeja was depicted on 17th and 18th century maps as lying off the Yucatan, but extensive investigations have failed to show any sign of it.

Were the island to exist, it would extend Mexico’s rights to energy extraction further into the Gulf of Mexico, so its failure to be could be worth billions of dollars.

Mexicans have theorized that the island might have been submerged by rising sea levels, or been blown up by the CIA to extend American drilling rights in the Gulf. Neither is plausible. Mexican fantacists go as far as claiming mysterious murders of officials who opposed this island-snatching Yankee perfidy.

It is most likely that the island was one of many phantom islands that appeared on maps during the early years of oceanic cartography; some stuck around, on maps at least, for a very long time.

(Image courtesy mamamusing, Flickr)

The Rights of Ghost Islands

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Ocean by Rappensuncle (Flickr)Professor James Lee asked an interesting question earlier this year: will islands that cease to exist due to rising sea levels still have sovereignty based on their former existence?

He wrote:

Some remote islands — particularly such Pacific islands as Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, the Maldives and many others — may be partially or entirely submerged beneath rising ocean waters. Do they lose their sovereignty if their territory disappears? After all, governments in exile have maintained sovereign rights in the past over land they didn’t control (think of France and Poland in World War II). Nor are these new questions far away in the future. The first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, is already planning to use tourism revenue to buy land abroad — perhaps in India, Sri Lanka or Australia — to house his citizens.

Absolute sovereignty, territorial waters, and marine exclusive economic zones are all ultimately based on land in current international law. Will a strip of the northern Indian Ocean remain Maldivian even if the islands begin to vanish? Will the Maldivians and others fund their displaced lives with the mineral rights to the waters that swallow their homes?

(Note that Tonga is not in danger of fully disappearing, as it has several substantial, raised islands. Here are a few more islands that might be.)

The resources in play are expanding: as The Economist wrote about in May, the maritime claims are being extended to continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from land. Huge areas of ocean are being claimed, with rights to oil, metal, and seabed methane hydrates, often based on the locations of islands. While some issues are being worked out amicably, the move could intensify various island disputes, such as those around the multiple claims to the South China Sea.

(Image courtesy Rappensuncle — Creative Commons use via Flickr)

More on starting your own country

Monday, March 31st, 2008

flag Odalaigh FlickrForeign Policy magazine recently addressed a topic often linked to islands: how to start your own country.

See this for WorldIslandInfo’s take on the topic. My page deals with some of the problems Joshua Keating touches on in this FP article, such as acquiring land and attracting a population.

(Image courtesy Odalaigh)

Island feng shui: dragons celebrating a pearl

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Writing in The Star (Malaysia), Yip Yoke Teng describes a trip by the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics to study the feng shui of Tibet.

They visit Namucuo (commonly known as Nam Co or Nam Tsho, a high salt lake.

Teng writes:

It was evident that all mountain ranges converged on the lake, and there was an island emerging from the centre of the lake. Together, they formed “The Dragon Celebrating Pearl Formation” that facilitated Tibet’s spirituality.

Incidentally, Teng (and other sources) refer to Nam Co as “highest lake on earth,” but there are other, higher lakes, including Orba Co, the site of the highest islands in the world.

A woman-only island in Iran

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Iran is creating a female-only island on one of the 102 islands of Oroumiyeh Lake (Lake Urmia) in the country’s northwest.

The island is intended to be a tourist destination, and all facilities will be staffed by women, in keeping with the Iranian government’s impulse to segregate the sexes.

Perhaps the Iranians would like to emulate a society recounted by Marco Polo: men and women supposedly lived on, respectively, Male Island and Female Island, and kept to themselves, except for three months of the year, when the men would come over to visit.

Forming your own country, continued

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Bldgblog examines micronations, interviewing the author of the Lonely Planet guide to the phenomenon.

WorldIslandInfo has examined the kindred topic of how to form your own island country.

Saving Mont-Saint-Michel

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

The Washington Post today reports on efforts to preserve the islandness of Mont-Saint-Michel, the island abbey off the north coast of France. The historic rocky islet “is succumbing to a relentless invasion of silt and sea grass, which are surrounding the island and threatening to make it part of the mainland.

Part of the 19th century causeway will be replaced with a bridge.

Says a leader of the project to hold back the encroaching land, “If we don’t do anything at all, in 40 years Mont-Saint-Michel will be part of the continent.”

“Being an island is part of its strong identity — a gem in the sea,” says the mayor of the island, which has a population of 26 but is visited by 3 million people a year.

Long a pilgrimage destination, its island nature also has symbolic significance:

Brother François, who heads a group of six brothers and five sisters from the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem who conduct services in the abbey, said Mont-Saint-Michel was laden with powerful religious symbolism that is important to protect — the mountaintop, the story of the archangel’s appearance, the sand flats where pilgrims wander, waiting for the parting of the sea at low tide.

After the causeway was built in 1879, Victor Hugo decried the change: “The Mont-Saint-Michel must remain an island. We must save it from mutilation!” People are at last responding.

[Image courtesy Neerav Mehta]

Doomsday vault on remote island

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Some long-term thinkers are taking advantage of the nature of islands: they are creating a “doomsday” seed bank meant to contain every kind of agricultural seed on the planet on the island of Svalbard.

The high-security vault, almost half the length of a football field, will be carved into a mountain on a remote island above the Arctic Circle. If the looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors are not disincentive enough for anyone hoping to breach the facility’s concrete interior, the polar bears roaming outside should help.

The isolation of Svalbard would hopefully keep the seed library out of harm’s way in even the worst circumstances:

The “doomsday vault,” as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe — the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.

Planners even examined what is likely to happen to Svalbard if global warming picks up, and how it would fare in the event of serious cooling due to a Gulf Stream collapse.

“Numbers”: 7 bridges, 2 islands

Friday, May 26th, 2006

This evening the TV show “Numbers” mentioned the famous “Seven Bridges of Königsberg” math problem.  Königsberg in East Prussia

included two large islands which were connected to each other and the mainland by seven bridges. The question is whether it is possible to walk with a route that crosses each bridge exactly once, and return to the starting point. In 1736, Leonhard Euler proved that it was not possible.

The islands are still there, in Kaliningrad, Russia, though some of the bridges are gone.