S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An armchair traveler hits bumps in the road

My friend Jon sends me links to interesting and offbeat news items from Yahoo! .  Today's post is a small digest of his most recent finds.

Because I am a "space junkie," I keep up with anything having to do with our NASA program.  This headline, "World's Largest Airship Inflated to Create Monster 'Stratellite' ," caught my eye because it is such an interesting concept.  It was innovative enough to attract NASA.  Quoting from the story:

A huge inflatable vehicle as long as a 23-floor skyscraper is tall has become the world's largest airship in its bid to serve as a stratospheric satellite, or "stratellite," according to its developers.

The 235-foot (72 m) long airship, known as the">Bullet 580 , has a top speed of 80 mph (129 km/h) and can serve as a high-flying sentinel that stays aloft for long periods of time.

. . . Military and civilian versions of the airship might take on roles for">battlefield surveillance , missile defense warning, electronic countermeasures , weapons platforms, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) services, weather monitoring, broadcast communications and communications relays.

A maiden flight scheduled for later this year would carry an experimental payload jointly developed by NASA and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The agricultural and geophysical experiment is designed to measure moisture content in the soil.

If NASA is to survive and prosper it must become more relevant to the day to day lives of Americans and to people around the world.  Crops cannot be successfully grown on parched soil with no water source.  The conflicts of the future will surely be about scarce water, and scarce food.  And we are becoming more aware that such conflicts are upon us.

Those of us who are seafood lovers should not allow "the ocean's pirate fishermen " to catch our meals.  They are operating beyond the reach of the United Nations ineffective and anemic regulation regime, "the Port State Measurement Agreement (PSMA), which requires countries to close their ports to ships involved in illegal or unregulated fishing."  This story reveals that, to quote:

The oceans are being emptied of fish. A forthcoming United Nations report lays out the stark numbers: only around 25% of commercial stocks are in a healthy or even reasonably healthy state. Some 30% of fish stocks are considered collapsed, and 90% of large predatory fish - like the bluefin tuna so prized by sushi aficionados - have disappeared since the middle of the 20th century. More than 60% of assessed fish stocks are in need of rebuilding, and some researchers estimate that if current trends hold, virtually all commercial fisheries will have collapsed by mid century.

. . . as much damage as the legal, commercial fishing trade has wrought on the oceans, it's the illegal trade that could spell their doom. Legal fishermen - the everyday farmers of the seas - have licenses they must protect and laws they must obey. But illegal fishing - often done on the high seas where regulations are lax and catch limits can be exceeded with impunity, or in the coastal waters of developing nations, which lack the ability to fight back - abides by rules of its own.

. . . But there's also a major problem with overcapacity - or the simple excess of fishermen - thanks to the $27 billion in subsidies given to the worldwide fishing industry each year. Those subsidies - especially the billions that go to cheap diesel fuel that makes factory fishing on the high seas possible at all--have created an industry bigger than the oceans can support.

In light of what the oceans can support, it is abundantly clear with the Gulf oil spill crisis that the oceans cannot support deep sea drilling.  Foreign and domestic companies, the multinational petroleum industry, have been allowed to ignore the oceans' precious natural treasures in pursuit of the exploitation of fossil fuels.  Drilling expeditions have gone beyond where we know how to handle the catastrophic consequences of industrial accidents.  The Gulf's natural resources are being plundered in the name of shortsighted energy policy and corporate profits.

In the past foreign nations sent expeditions into Egypt that discovered and exploited the precious antiquities of ancient Egypt.  That is, happily, no longer the case.  The current discoveries were made by the Egyptians themselves:   There were "57 tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt ." Here's the story:

Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs , most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday. The oldest tombs date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt 's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement.

. . . Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld.

. . . The council said the findings were unearthed at Lahoun, in Fayoum , some 70 miles (100 kilometers) south of Cairo .  Last year, some 53 stone tombs dating back to various ancient periods were found in the area.

Today's trip into the wider world brought some good news and some bad news, actually more bad than good.  Unfortunately the truth of fisheries and environmental degradation cannot be glossed over.  We must deal with the losses and try to do better in the future.

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