ERIC MADEJA

Film & TV Location Fixer | Environmental Photographer | Expedition Leader

Obama in support of The Coral Triangle

Earlier this year President Barack Obama vowed to protect Central Pacific waters and just last month he declared his full support to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef for future generations. Now it seems that The Coral Triangle has caught his interest.

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Over the past few months the
worst polluters and contributors to climate change have made surprising greenhouse-gas target pledges. A decade ago pledges were often phrased around “reducing the yearly increase” of CO2 output. Today at least we have powerful political leaders and policy makers calling for a real net decline in emissions towards global carbon neutrality sometime before 2070. This all sounds promising, but we are talking about a target that is more than 50 years in the future, my youngest daughter will be close retirement age by then and I surely don’t expect to be around anymore.

China, No.1 emitter of carbon dioxide, says that it wants to reach its peak greenhouse-gas emissions by not later than 2030, a pledge which is hailed as a success and a step forward by the International green community, but also means that over the next 15 years the economic giant might still almost double its output and things will most likely get worse before there will be first signs of betterment on the horizon.

I live in the “Land Below The Wind” a phrase used by seafarers in the past to describe what is today Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and other lands south of the typhoon belt. Our close neighbour the Philippines on the other hand, a country comprised of 7107 islands, gets to feel the full force of nature all too often. Every year more frequent and violent storms are not only the cause for many lost lives, homes and huge economic losses, but also threatens the food security of millions of people throughout the region.

While travelling the
6 member countries of the Coral Triangle to research for the The Coral Triangle book, co-author Ken Kassem and myself came across a number of local conservation projects sites supported with help “from the American people”. The US Agency for International Development USAID has been one of the most significant backers of the Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), a five-year project implemented by a consortium led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Conservation International (CI). From 2009-2013 CTSP has been focusing on policy, fisheries management, marine protected areas and climate change adaptation.

One of the many efforts supported by USAID through the Coral Triangle Initiative was the development of a so called “early action plan”, defining measures to address climate change on a local, national and regional level in order to build ecological and social resilience, or in other words, to prepare the people, local economies and governments for the “scientifically uncertain” impact that climate change will have on the Coral Triangle in the years to come.

Besides thorough assessments and monitoring of coastal- and marine habitats and the economic activities within these areas, the plan calls for the development of river and estuary buffer zones, river bank reinforcements, transfiguration of agri- and aquaculture, protection and rehabilitation of mangrove forests, zoning and development restrictions, pollution control, gazetting of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), development of alternative livelihoods, strengthening of enforcement of habitat protection and fishery laws, awareness programs and many other actions...even the development of plans to relocate whole communities including their infrastructure are suggested.

When reading this “early action plan” and other scientific papers on climate change adaption, I can’t help feeling like I just read a manual to prepare and mobilize for a major global war, I just wonder who will be victorious in this war? Scientists around the world are still debating how much global warming is going to be acceptable, where to set the limit. We all saw the horrific destruction brought by the incredible powerful super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) last year. How can we accept that disasters of this magnitude or even worse shall from now on be the norm and we just wait for another few decades before we are finally getting our act together? If climate change is a war than we better immediately start reversing our actions that cause it or like one of the most famous predecessor of President Barack Obama once said: “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts and end to mankind” (John F. Kennedy - Speech to UN General Assembly, September 25th 1961).

PS: Many thanks to AP for the picture of President Obama. Off course I totally photoshopped The Coral Triangle Book into his lap, I hope he doesn’t mind!

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(Photo by Eric Madeja - Community efforts to reduce land erosion by planting mangrove trees on Nusa Island, Kavieng, New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea)