Monday, March 21, 2011

Musings: Revised Estimates

The moon, noticeably thinner than her super-sized fullness, was headed toward the mountains and yellow when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The eastern sky shifted to soft pink, then orange, in anticipation of the big event, and I watched the luminous moon turn white as the sun, with a cloud crossing it diagonally in the universal sign of “no,” rose as a scarlet disk in a gilded fleecy bed.

As the death toll — and rebuilding costs — in Japan continue to rise, so, too, does the casualty count in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where federal wildlife officials say seabird losses have greatly exceeded early estimates. According to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Surveys of the Refuge reveal that more than 110,000 Laysan and black-footed albatross chicks – about 22 percent of this year’s albatross production – were lost as a result of the tsunami and two severe winter storms preceding it in January and February. At least 2000 adults were also killed. Wisdom, the 60-year-old albatross that recently hatched a chick, was initially reported as surviving the event because her nest site was not overwashed, but biologists have not been able to confirm her survival. Update: Wisdom has been found.

As you can see from this graphic graphic, the tsunami waves washed over a good portion of the three atolls in the Midway refuge, with devastating effect:

Biologists are confident that, absent any other stressors, the albatross population could rebound from this event, [Barry] Stieglitz [Project Leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex] said, but “we remain concerned about the compounding effect of this tsunami on the existing stresses of invasive species, global climate change, incidental mortality from longline fishing, and other threats to albatross and other wildlife populations.”

Thousands of burrow-nesting Bonin petrels also are believed lost, and officials are still trying to assess the impact on other low-lying islands in the Northwestern part of the chain:

Wildlife losses here [Laysan Island[ cannot be estimated with the same degree of accuracy, but at a minimum many more thousands of albatross chicks were lost, [Monument Superintendent Ray Born] added. For instance, it is possible the entire translocated population of endangered Laysan finches on Pearl and Hermes Reef were roosting on the ground when the tsunami likely overwashed the low-lying islands there.

Meanwhile, estimates of the cost of our latest war — launched, ironically, on the eighth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq — also continue to mount, with National Journal reporting:

On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched from ships stationed off the Libyan coast 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million apiece. That is $112 million to $168 million for the first day's strike in missiles alone.

And that doesn’t include fuel costs and combat pay. What’s more, with the French saying the action is going to last "a while yet,”, it looks like the U.S. is going to be doing — and spending — more:

“If it goes on more than a month, we’re going to be in the forefront [of operations] or we’re going to let Qaddafi stick around,” said [former Pentagon comptroller Dov] Zakheim, who served during the George W. Bush administration. “The choices aren’t very pleasant.”

So if we supposedly started the war to stop a tyrant from “telling his people there will be no mercy,” to use Obama’s words, and then we “let Qaddafi stick around,” what, really, is the point? I mean, other than to burn some of them Tomahawk cruise missiles so we can buy more.

Which leads me to the question: why is it that we always have plenty of money for war, but have to scrimp on everything else?

And finally, the County Council continues to consume precious time 1debating changes to the plastic bag bill, which inherently makes no sense.

Unless, of course, someone can explain to me the logic in banning plastic bags made with polymers from fossil fuels while still allowing Walmart to sell carry out bags made in China from 100 percent polypropyene.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joan, Could you clarify about the translocated birds? and where they were from originally, was it higher ground?

Joan Conrow said...

A small group of birds was moved from Laysan to Pearl and Hermes in 1967 to create more than just one population of the birds and reduce the risk of extinction, according to a Fish and Wildlife report.

Anonymous said...

My theory, along the lines of the more things change..., is that one of the Obama girls will have to get elected to finish off Quadaffi in 15 years.