The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Beche-de-mer

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

The atoll of Ontong Java, in the Solomon Islands, is unusual for a few reasons. First, it’s huge, one of the largest atolls in the South Pacific. Second, unlike the main islands of the Solomon Islands with their Melanesian populations, the people of Ontong Java are Polynesian. The third reason is that they have been able to maintain their traditional fisheries of beche-de-mer and trocus shell by following locally-designed conservation methods.

ge ontong java pelau luaniuaFigure 1. Ontong Java atoll. There are two main towns, Pelau and Luaniua.

That’s why I was surprised to see an article in the Solomon Star newspaper that starts out (emphasis mine):

$2m pay-out queried

FRIDAY, 04 JANUARY 2013 04:49

A CONTROVERSIAL $2 million was paid out by the government to the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) people without Cabinet approval, sources say.

According to government sources, the money was paid out by the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change to the Luaniua and Pelau community to facilitate climate change programmes.

However, the source said after some disagreements within Cabinet, a cabinet paper was withdrawn following confusions because the amount was not enough and whether the money was for climate change or to buy beche-de-mer.

Can’t tell climate change from beche-de-mer? Reminds me of the old joke about watermelon and rat poison. The joke is, someone asks you “Do you know the difference between watermelon and rat poison?”. When you answer “No”, the person says “Well, I’m sure as heck not sending you to town for watermelon”.

So how could you mistake a beche-de-mer purchase for a climate change project? And what is a beche-de-mer when it’s at home, anyhow? As you might imagine, it’s a very South Pacific kind of story, with a huge surfeit of inconsistencies and uncertainties, and a correspondingly great paucity of empirically verifiable facts. What’s not to like?

A “beche-de-mer” is also called a “sea cucumber”. They are collected, dried, and sold to some Asian folks. I assume the eventual consumers are in a re-education camp somewhere and for some reason they have been brainwashed into thinking that sea cucumbers are good to eat, or maybe that’s just all that they are fed. I can’t conceive of another reason to eat them. Here’s one in his (her?) native habitat on the ocean bottom, a beche-de-mer, that is to say, not a concentration camp internee:

sea cucumber

For self-defense, when you pick them up, beche-de-mer turn themselves inside out and evert their own intestines all over your hands. Sea cucumber innards are really sticky. Believe it or not, looking like the photo above, plus their habit of puking up their sticky stringy guts on the slightest excuse, plus resembling something you could buy in a seedy Times Square shop with batteries not included, that combined picture does not scream “eat me” on my planet … especially after they are boiled and smoked, or buried in the sand, or both as part of the curing process. The smell of them getting treated is enough to make a man lose his breakfast, and not even desire to find it again for some considerable span of time. The only worse smell is trocus drying on the beach. But beche-de-mer are valuable, as are trocus, so the folks bear the smell.

The trocus is a marine snail, whose bad fortune is that its shell is the kind of shell that most shell buttons are made from. You dive down to get them. You have to leave them out on the beach to let the snail inside die, and then you have to get it out of the shell. The rotting snail has a truly remarkably bad smell, an olfactory thermonuclear explosion that insinuates itself into the crevices of your cerebellum and that not even Lady Macbeth could wash out.

large trocus shell

Measurements in centimetres, thank goodness. These two products plus copra (dried coconut meat) are about the only sources of income for many islanders around the Pacific. As a result, beche-de-mer and trocus are badly overfished around many islands. The people of Ontong Java, however, have been able to maintain their stocks of both trocus and beche-de-mer without problem up to the present. Here’s a description of how they did it.

Since a significant proportion of the atoll’s cash income is derived from beche-de-mer and trochus, the community understands the critical need for fisheries management.

The management measures adopted on Ontong Java are straightforward and easily understood by villagers. In combination, the measures are effective in achieving sustainable resource use and ensuring that the atoll’s limited income earning opportunities are protected. Because of communal resource ownership arrangements in the atoll, exclusion of fishermen from commercial fisheries (i.e., effort reduction by limited entry) is not a management option so that other measures must be adopted.

Management measures adopted for beche-de-mer and trochus fisheries involve (i) closed seasons, (ii) gear restrictions, and (iii) size limits. To permit resource regeneration in inshore areas, each fishery is closed every second calendar year. This ensures the availability of commercial quantities of both resources for harvesting in alternate years while concurrently providing a degree of stability in fishermen’s incomes.

With respect to gear, SCUBA and hookah diving equipment are banned in both fisheries. Beche-de-mer can only be harvested by free-diving from sail or motor·powered canoes or by using weighted spears on strings. Trochus is collected by free-diving or from along the shore·line at low tide. These harvest restrictions are designed to prevent resources in deeper waters from being exploited so that they will be available to repopulate inshore areas in those years when the fisheries are closed. Minimum size restrictions are also imposed in both fisheries to protect juveniles.

Community-based fishery management in Ontong Java has functioned effectively in facilitating sustainable resource use despite pressures resulting from commercial development opportunities. Ultimate responsibility for management rests with village elders, essentially the local government council. It is reported that there is virtually total compliance with communally·adopted management measures since fishermen who fail to comply incur a significant penalty, exclusion from the fisheries. SOURCE

In other words, one year they would fish trocus, and the next year they’d fish beche-de-mer. In neither case could they use certain gear, to avoid depleting the resource. Pretty brilliant, devised and put into place by the local folks. People in Ontong Java obey their chiefs so the bans were respected.

Here’s where the story gets ugly. Because of widespread depletion and shortages of the beche-de-mer resource in most places in the Solomons except Ontong Java, in 2005 the Solomon Islands Government did a foolish thing. They outlawed the export of beche-de-mer for everyone, sadly including Ontong Java in the ban. So the folks on Ontong Java, who have done nothing wrong and everything right, are being punished by the loss of about half their income. As you can imagine, this is wholly and wildly unpopular in Ontong Java, particularly since it has led to hunger in the atolls. The fishermen in Ontong Java have stored up their dried beche-de-mer, but they can’t sell them … and they are desperate to sell them, in order to feed their kids.

And this is where the climate change question comes in, I guess. Because the only climate change project that I can find in Ontong Java is called the Ontong Java Climate Change Project: Food and Water Security. And it seems to me like nothing would provide more immediate food security for people on the atoll than to buy up the stockpiles of beche-de-mer from the Ontong Java folks … well, that would be the best thing for food and economic security except for the logical thing, which would be lifting the beche-de-mer ban for the Ontong Java atoll. Of course, there is huge agitation to lift the ban, and also of course, the Government has done nothing. As the Solomon Star article goes on to say:

When this paper contacted Environment Minister Bradley Tovosia yesterday, he said he was not in a position to comment, advising us to talk to his permanent secretary.

However, several attempts to speak to the permanent secretary were unsuccessful.

I bring all of this up for several reasons. One is to point out that hastily imposed sanctions can cause harm. The Law of Unintended Consequences still roolz. Sadly, this is a lesson that even the US hasn’t learned—having good intentions is not enough.

Another is to note that some places in the world actually do have customary methods that work to maintain the resources. In the Solomon Islands, these traditional methods go by the generic name of “kastom”, the pijin word for “custom”. When we find kastom methods that do work, we should build on that. I note in passing that not all traditional methods are worth saving, some should be napalmed whenever they are encountered..

Another is to reiterate that funds given for climate change may end up in another arena entirely. Even if these particular funds had not been spent on beche-de-mer, the original project goal was to improve the local gardening practices in Ontong Java … man, that seems awful sketchy to me, trying to teach gardening to some people who have gardened successfully for generations on a pile of alkaline coral sand. Don’t know as how I’d try that.

But anyhow, that’s where the climate change funds would have gone if they hadn’t been hijacked by a bunch of wild rampaging beche-de-mer. And while I would like to believe that a bunch of well-meaning folks could find new ways to farm a pile of alkaline sand, I hardly see much connection to the climate in that quest.

As in many third world countries, what the development funds end up getting spent on may bear no relationship at all to what the funds were supposed to be spent on. Climate funds are among the worst offenders in this regard, propping up ridiculous schemes around the planet.

It seems to me to be just another and not all that major example of the great overarching plan of the IPCC, which is to siphon money off from the industrialized countries and send it to the developing countries. As with many things in the South Pacific, there are lots of parts in the story which are far from clear. One thing that you can depend on, though, one thing is totally clear—that the money used to buy beche-de-mer, the money supposedly intended for climate, didn’t come from the Solomon Islands. They don’t have money to waste on such nonsense … although to be fair, that’s never stopped them in the past.

My thanks to my good friend Mike Hemmer and his blog, The Native Iowan, where I first saw the story.

w.

PS—Please note that I do not mean to single out the Solomons Government or to say that they are unique or unusual. There are dozens and dozens of other examples out there of other countries exhibiting this level of foolishness, including the US at times. I write about the Solomons because I lived there for years, and for some reason, likely a congenital deficiency or genetic defect of some kind, I love the dang place and the people …

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81 Responses to The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Beche-de-mer

  1. gandada_gudi says:

    Wonder what Don from the Yacht Club has to say about this…?

  2. TomRude says:

    Sea cucumbers are echinoderms.

  3. Smokey says:

    Thanks for another excellent tale from the South Pacific.

  4. Doug Huffman says:

    My uncle was ‘Asiatic’ in the old, pre-WW-II sense. We would walk in the Sierras and anything that didn’t move fast enough was likely to be at least tasted.

    A sea cucumber is captured by stealthily tying a string around its ‘mouth’ so it can’t puke the good parts out. Then it is briefly(!) simmered and eaten.

  5. John West says:

    Perhaps they should start a seawater farming system. Then they could sell shrimp, which has just got to be a much larger market.

    “At the peak of its operations in Eritrea, the farms employed almost 800 local people, shipped one metric ton of premium shrimp a week to Europe or the Middle East and cultivated 100 hectares of the oil seed crop salicornia, and was completing the planting of 100 hectares of seawater forest.”
    http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/mission2014/solutions/seawater-farming

  6. richardscourtney says:

    Smokey:

    Welcome back! You have been sorely missed.

    Richard

  7. NileQueen says:

    Hi Willis. Thanks for such an interesting story, and the details of that curious beche de mer.
    I also enjoyed your story about what it means to be a scientist, and your finding the ice jewels, and seeing the tsunami.
    Happy New Year,
    Joanne :-)

  8. David L. Hagen says:

    Well put Willis
    Sounds like clear evidence for anthropogenic warming (under the collar) in some circles, compounded by bureaucratic bungling with some pragmatic application of “green” funds.

    Note that “carbon emissions” is almost all liquid fuels. Alot of tourism and difficult to get around with little industry.

  9. aharris says:

    I think I’ve had beche-de-mer once. There was surprisingly little taste to it. Perhaps it was prepared badly, or maybe it just has very little taste. Since it was in a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Iowa, I’m guessing it was likely prepared badly. Itwas also advertised as sea cucumber, so I’m also just assuming it was beche-de-mer. It might have been another variety of sea cucumber.

    Anyhow, this is just one more example of how localism can sometimes be better than centralized control. The one-size-fits-all policy of the government allows no room for these islanders who were smart enough to husband their resources through good local policy the freedom to prosper. They’re simply hit with the heavy ban stick like everyone else. And it sends a very bad message to them that they are made to suffer for doing the right thing.

  10. GregK says:

    Once worked in south West Java, partly in amongst coconut plantations. The coconuts were a short trunked variety, easy to harvest. A WHO funded project. Who could argue with that, benefits to locals etc?
    Problem was, we were up at about 500m. Coconut productivity drops with elevation. Plantations couldn’t operate profitably.
    The answer?
    Increase the size of the plantations !!

  11. Karl W. Braun says:

    Sea cucumbers, or whatever you want to call them, are easily found in most Oriental supermarkets here in California, such as 99 Ranch. Another delicacy found in these same stores, believe it or not, is dried jellyfish!

  12. mpainter says:

    Just eyeballing the shape and proportions of the critter and it seems more likely that it was the wife who mistook her husband for one of them thangs.

  13. Old Ranga from Oz says:

    Ha! Spot on, Willis. As usual.

    Today in The Australian I found this display ad. Under the banner of the Australian Government and its Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (via Australian Volunteers International):

    “Climate Resilient Transport Adviser, Honiara, Solomon Islands.
    > Improve climate resilience of transport sector investments.
    > $120,912 p.a. pro rata plus benefits – 9 month contract.

    Assist Solomon Islands Government to incorporate climate risk analysis into road infrastructure, wharf development and airport construction. Use your experience in the latest climate change science and risk information tools throughout identification, formulation and execution of projects. Your substantial background in climate change and disaster risk analysis, successful team and project management, particularly mentoring and capacity building in a diverse stakeholder environment and your relevant university qualifications will be fully utilised.”

    http://www.australianvolunteers.com/10532273-ptas—climate-resilient-transport-adviser.aspx

    o o o o o o o

    Sounds like a great gig for the lucky winner.

  14. Steven Mosher says:

    Ranch 99. little piece of heaven.

    Try this. you can get them in a can. delicious, if you like bugs.. which i do

  15. I seems like Ontong Java has no representation in the Solomon Islands government.
    How sad.

  16. TRBixler says:

    My wife wanted to know why you were so down on beche-de-mer. She thinks they are yummy.

  17. Justthinkin says:

    If you want to maintain,and improve an enviroment,hire a local who lives and EATS from there. End of story.

  18. DirkH says:

    “So the folks on Ontong Java, who have done nothing wrong and everything right, are being punished by the loss of about half their income.”

    So even if you’re lucky enough to have sane local government you still have distant Big government to mess things up for you.

    Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about my EU superstate and the coming UN ultrastate.

  19. Bryan says:

    Willis (may I call you that?), I think we need to establish the economic worth of the humble beche de mer, in terms of [the] collectives collecting them.

    Once we get to the “Big Mac” international standard of intrinsic worth, we can make a cogent decision with respect to the beche de mer.

    Cheers, B.

  20. Luther Wu says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    January 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm
    “…Try this. you can get them in a can. delicious, if you like bugs.. which i do”…(silkworms)
    _____________________
    Street vendors across Korea would keep you well supplied, silkworms fresh from the steamer.

    Never saw a sea cucumber in Korea, but “tried” one in a U.S. dim sum restaurant.
    All but a nibble or two went home to the family dog, previously known to eat anything, but he wanted no part of that gooey mess.

  21. I once had the experience of eating this stuff. My host was so proud that the place he took me to had it on the menu. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I thought of it. The Chinese eat some strange things. This was probably the only one I hope never to encounter again.

  22. ZootCadillac says:

    It has often amazed me what some cultures consider food. I’ve never been much for slugs, bugs and snails yet I have chewed on the odd whelk and I adore cockles. I’m sure many of us love some good lobster yet don’t doubt that all would turn their noses up at their close cousin the woodlouse.

    I’ll eat plenty from the sea despite not being a big fish lover. I like a bit of crab now and again, love calamari but learned not to order octopus on a first date with someone you barely know.
    I get quite a number of horrified comments from my American friends on twitter when I mention I’m cooking Ox-heart for Sunday lunch and it’s best to not even mention lamb’s fries.

    I’ve eaten some odd things, including sheep’s brains, not that I was over fond of it mind you and I must admit that my recollection of having enjoyed tripe as a child must have been clearly clouded as a recent foray into that didn’t go too well.
    My Christmas meal ( I do all the cooking ) of pheasants stuffed with pork and apple was, I’m told, a resounding success but as usual I found it too strong and gamey.

    I guess the moral is: each to his own..

    I did wonder why the fishermen of Ontong Java need to sell their beche de mer in order to feed their kids. Surely they could feed them beche-de-mer? Perhaps it’s not such a delicacy after all. Or perhaps I’m being a little mischievous ;)

  23. Mark and two Cats says:

    The joke is, someone asks you “Do you know the difference between watermelon and rat poison?”. When you answer “No”, the person says “Well, I’m sure as heck not sending you to town for watermelon”.
    —————————————-
    “Hey there babe – you know the difference between a hamburger and a lewinsky?”
    “Uh, no sir”
    “Honey, I’m takin’ you out to lunch!”

  24. davidq says:

    Ate sea cucumber as part of a twelve course meal at a very nice Chinese restaurant in Vancouver BC. Slightly crunchy while looking somewhat like over-cooked plain jelly noodles. It was seasoned nicely. Odd but for a first time not too bad of an experience. From what I am reading, you have to go to the right place to have it.
    Thanks for the story out of the Pacific! I find it irritating that Government get in its own way far too often.

  25. John Kettlewell says:

    Food and Water Security…when I see that phrase, I immediately think of the World Bank; specifically the Water Security. Their loan agreements are based upon the unconditional surrender of all forms of water management.

    Thank you, as I now have something to look into at 2am.

  26. u.k.(us) says:

    Less is more, more or less.
    Slow on the uptake.

  27. Billy says:

    There are dozens and dozens of other examples out there of other countries exhibiting this level of foolishness, including the US at times.
    —————————
    Do you mean daytime and night-time?

  28. Mike McMillan says:

    Thanks for the picture. I assume no seeds and burpless.

  29. Climate Ace says:

    That Solomons story is sad in so many ways. Beche de mer and trochus fisheries that are in the world’s ocean commons have largely been destroyed. (The killer blow for Trochus was, incidentally, in the main, cheap plastic buttons). Good stocks of various species of beche de mer remain in Australian waters because of active government regulation, mainly by way of national parks.

    The example given of locals managing fisheries sustainably is inspiring and it is a pity that one law was applied to all Solomons islands. Let’s hope that the general law at least benefits those islanders (which appears from the story to be most of them) who apparently are incapable of regulating a sustainable fishery at a local level.

    Cherry picking this beche de mer story to ‘demonstrate’ that climate change action money is mostly wasted is irrational unless you want to feed prejudice of the converted.

    In relation to the transport job ad, it is easy to be a smartarse with ads like that, but a bit of serious thought shows that it may well be money well spent.

    Planning land-based transport infrastructure is something of a nightmare in the Solomons. Main roads tend to follow coastal plains. They therefore tend to be at right angles to the run-off from the mountains. Deforestation amplifies the impacts of storms sending flash floods to destroy bridges, roads and the like. Someone may know whether the Solomons is experiencing more storms, more intensive storms or more rainfall. It does have rising sea levels which may be bad land transport infrastructure. Salt intrustion is destroying cropland but the salt can also degrade road beds. Fortunately, heavy rainfall means that fresh water lenses tend to sit on top of the salt water.

    Traditional, local customs are not going to fix the complex of environmental messes which are getting worse rather than better. They cannot stop global processes such as CO2 emissions, changes to ocean water chemistry, the wholesale destruction of palegics by factory fishers, changes to coral reefs or rising sea levels. Getting some high quality engineering advice so that newly built roads don’t get destroyed mightjust be a smart investment.

  30. viejecita says:

    Dear Willis Eschenbach:
    Big government has a knack for messing with the local ways that have been working well for ages and ages. Especially when there is a “religious issue ” ( and ecology has become the “now” religion ), at stake. As seems to be the case in this story of the Beche-de-mer you are telling us about.
    Like the not letting locals who have managed forests for ever, clean the rubble , and the dead branches on the soil between trees, so that when the hot season comes, with its spontaneous fires , it is almost impossible to stop the fire from spreading, and the loss of woodlands is enormous.
    Or not letting them build little dams, o dredge existing local ones invaded by silt, which means there will not be enough water for animals to drink during the dry season.

    I do not think I would knowingly eat Beche.de-mer, no matter how hungry I were, but I would never eat snails either, in spite of my grandmother’s love of them. She used to send us children to the garden after the rain, when the sun came back, to collect them in big buckets. She called them “escargots”, and showed us how valued they were in the French cuisine. But we had been the ones to get them, and none of us has ever even tried to eat them.

    I do hope you will decide to publish your tales in book format. Not only the ones about your own life, but also the ones you retell about other’s experiences.
    It is your way of writing about them that gives them most of their impact and their value. ( Even if the stories themselves were worth the attention of all, no matter how boringly told . The Grimm brothers did the same with traditional fairy tales, and it did them no harm that they had not invented the tales themselves, and if it were not for them, many of those tales would have long been forgotten ).

    Su rendida admiradora española de la 3ª edad
    María

  31. johanna says:

    Nice story.

    The history of European activity in the South Pacific in the C19th is full of tales of derring-do by ships harvesting beche de mer and pearls. European sailing ships and Chinese junks, tiny and flimsy by modern standards and crewed by chaps of every race and nationality, (who were definitely not gentlemen,) took massive risks for the potentially rich rewards. Beche de mer was a luxury product in those days, and of course all the diving was of the hold-your-breath variety. The stench must have been eye-watering, as they dried them on the ship. Shipwrecks, typhoons, pirates, cranky Pacific Islanders – the obstacles were formidable. One can only conclude that the returns were astronomical for successful expeditions.

    Sea slugs are not my personal preference, but presumably they had status value in the old days because of the cost, and aspirational Chinese wanted to serve them at dinner parties to impress their friends.

  32. eo says:

    I am wondering if the Untong Java residents are really Polynesian or they are of Indonesian. Harvesting and trading of sea cucumber in southeast and northeast Asia has been traditional expertise of various Indonesian Islands. The consumption of sea cucumber in the orient is more like traditional viagra than any special tastes.

  33. Tim B says:

    Well, beche-de-mer can aestivate which is a global warming adaptation that isn’t recent. I guess they could study that.

  34. oldseadog says:

    If these things smell worse than Durian then leave me out.

  35. Ian W says:

    ZootCadillac says:
    January 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Sounds like you might like Haggis – which is really nice with turnip and a good whisky, (I shall refrain from describing what it is in detail, as I don’t know how close to a meal the more sensitive readers are)

  36. Grey Lensman says:

    Never mind the Sea Cucumber, it is this vomit inducing nonsense that is so deadly.

    Mpainter said

    Quote

    “Climate Resilient Transport Adviser, Honiara, Solomon Islands.
    > Improve climate resilience of transport sector investments.

    > $120,912 p.a. pro rata plus benefits – 9 month contract.

    Assist Solomon Islands Government to incorporate climate risk analysis into road infrastructure, wharf development and airport construction. Use your experience in the latest climate change science and risk information tools throughout identification, formulation and execution of projects. Your substantial background in climate change and disaster risk analysis, successful team and project management, particularly mentoring and capacity building in a diverse stakeholder environment and your relevant university qualifications will be fully utilised.”

    Unquote

    Who in their right minds could not avoid applying for such a job,? its thousands of siblings and puffed up local governments that make such fools of themselves, need to be exposed and ridiculed on a systematic basis.

    Bravo Wilis, hands up readers who would be so noble to see their USA stipend of 60,000 P.A. halved on such a whim.

  37. Geoff Alder says:

    A more pleasant way (although perhaps not so for the shellfish) of rendering sea shells inhabitant-free is to place the unfortunate candidates in an ant nest. The ants will gladly remove the content before the onset of any serious pong, and the ants’ gratitude could part way balance for the mortal misery that must undoubtedly be endured by the shellfish. Well, the principle works for cowries. I guess it would work equally for trocus. (Although I confess as to having done it just once in my lifetime, in the days when handsome cowries still could occasionally be found in our rock pools. That would have been all of 60 years back, but still the guilt lingers on. And the cowrie continues to grace our wash hand basin!)

  38. Jessie says:

    Climate Ace
    I would be gratefulul if you would point readers to the basis of your statement Good stocks of various species of beche de mer remain in Australian waters because of active government regulation, mainly by way of national parks.

    Willis thank you for another fine story. EO – agreed.

    Happy New Year to all WUWT bloggers and readers.

  39. David Chappell says:

    My office in Hong Kong is in the middle of the area that specialises in selling dried seafood. There are, literally, tons of dried sea cucumbers available and they are highly prized by un-incarcerated locals.

  40. David Ross says:

    You beat me to it David Chappell. Advertise this story in Hong Kong. Some enterprising merchant will zip down to the Solomons to snap up the ugly beasts. And don’t worry about the ban. These guys know how to oil the wheels of government.

  41. Is there a relationship between Steven Mosher’s diet and his Climate Scientology? Is it a causation or just a correlation?

    More generally, do people on the “liberal” side of the moral precipice say and do disgusting things just out of their naivete — or do they knowingly, provocatively thrust down our throats their nauseating “preferences,” nutritional as well as political, abusing “each to his own taste” principle, and perverting the objectives of freedom because they cannot tolerate its burden?

  42. Doug Huffman says:

    “Perverting the objectives of freedom,” mere teleological fallacy writ large. Like Justice Stevens, “I know it when I see it!”

  43. ZootCadillac says:

    Ian W says:
    January 5, 2013 at 2:18 am


    Sounds like you might like Haggis – which is really nice with turnip and a good whisky, (I shall refrain from describing what it is in detail, as I don’t know how close to a meal the more sensitive readers are)

    Ian, my name is Craig, in my youth when I had a mane of hair it was flaming red, just like my mother’s a Motherwell girl named Morag. Of course I like haggis n’ neaps :)
    ( and blood sausage, or black pudding as we call it in these parts )
    I’m of the opinion that if you are going to kill an animal to eat it you ought to do your best to use as much of it as you can.

  44. PaulH says:

    And on the other side of the planet, yet another climate change law of the unintended-consequences variety:

    “Whoops—’Cash for Clunkers’ Actually Hurt the Environment”

    http://news.yahoo.com/why-cash-clunkers-hurt-environment-more-helped-024848694.html

    “The program’s first mistake seems to have been its focus on car shredding, instead of car recycling. With 690,000 vehicles traded in, that’s a pretty big mistake.”

  45. Doug Huffman says:

    Lil Bubber and I, bicycle touring in the American South, decided that the best local food is the local po’ foks’ food.

    We rode into Folkston, Georgia, to find M&R Fried Chicken surrounded by well used pickup trucks – a sure sign of something good, no KFC pieces parts fused. We departed, sated, and with energy enough to ride Fla-200 into Fernandina Beach in PM drive-time traffic on loaded touring bicycles.

  46. denniswingo says:

    Ok, where did the $2 million come from?

  47. Well, Doug, your freedom ends where mine begins, and that includes not serving me bugs for dinner. Teleology be damned.

  48. Phil Howerton says:

    I had a professor in graduate school who told us of a fishing tool long adopted by the inhabitants of a Pacific island that the Europeans, when they arrived there, thought was really stupid. When deciding which side of their island to fish on, on any given day, the natives would toss a feather in the air. Whichever way the quill pointed when it hit the ground would determine where they fished. Later it was discovered that because of the random habits of the fish, there was no rational method way of predicting where the best fishing would be and that the most random way of deciding where to fish was therefore obviously the best. Hence, the generational success of the feather.

  49. thelastdemocrat says:

    When I was a young liberal, I learned how we liberals analyze the nasty things that evil big business does. That, and the evil things that evil big business does through the government, prototypically through the CIA, such as installing the Shah in Iran, and helping promote the interests of th eUnited Fruit Company in central and South America.

    Somewhere along the lines, I started applying these same analysis skills to our libeal agenda. I think the start was seeing how lousy public housing was, and how fervently wedded we liberals all were to the idea of giving more and more “help” to our various victim classes.
    By time the “global warming” issue popped up, I had figured out that, yes, the evil big business companies have all kinds of nefarious agandae and scams across the globe, but so do we liberals. It just looks different on the surface.

    We have college degrees, so we know better than everyone else on the entire planet – when I say entire, I mean all the way to the smallest south pacific island. Here, you see this.

    We rout whatever is good, locally, in order to develop yet another victim class who needs us to come to the rescue. Our advance guard has been the flock of anthropologists, like Stanley Dunham Obama, who got her PhD studying the basket-weaving micro-economy in Indonesia.

    This sea cucumber story is no isolated incident. This is what we do. It is a second round of colonialism,

    We cover our rtacks, though. We have caused the development of starving peoples and nations across the globe thruogh our benevolent “economic development,” yet when anyone sees the starving-Africa media, everyone thinks the problem is “over-population,” and is a problem of the locals multiplying willy-nilly, like rabbits.

    So, we have placed ourselves in control of food and in control of reproduction policies in nearly every country on the globe. Great work if you can get it.

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    “I’m of the opinion that if you are going to kill an animal to eat it you ought to do your best to use as much of it as you can.”

    offal is great.

  51. Steven Mosher says:

    “More generally, do people on the “liberal” side of the moral precipice say and do disgusting things just out of their naivete — or do they knowingly, provocatively thrust down our throats their nauseating “preferences,” nutritional as well as political, abusing “each to his own taste” principle, and perverting the objectives of freedom because they cannot tolerate its burden?”

    for the record I’m a libertarian. I see nothing disgusting with eating bugs, or live octopus, or dead cow, or sheep brains, or calves liver, or rotted milk, or a balut

  52. Michael Moon says:

    Chinese folk belief attributes male sexual health and aphrodisiac qualities to the sea-cucumber, as it physically resembles a phallus, and uses a defence mechanism similar to ejaculation as it stiffens and squirts a jet of water at the aggressor.

    I had it once, in Taiwan, out to dinner with my girlfriend’s family, had to eat it to be polite. No taste, but the texture made it a challenge to swallow, and keeping it down another. Chinese people will eat things for strange reasons.. They have this comment: “Good for men,” said with a wink, that explains it all.

  53. D Böehm says:

    OK Mosher, I can see maybe, possibly, eating a fertile duck egg. With a blindfold on. But I draw the line at bugs. You can have my share.

  54. Steven Mosher, being a libertarian does not necessarily mean abusing a liberty to post videos that are obviously disgusting to others. It is being rather tasteless, IMO.

  55. Climate Ace says:

    Jessie

    For the interplay of traditional harvesting and national park management the following article is instructive, although the traditional haresting is implied rather than demonstrated, IMHO.

    Ashmore Reef lies between Australia and Indonesia. It is Australian territory, but was fished by Indonesian fishers for, amongst other things, trochus and sea cucumbers. I am not sure what is available on the web but there have been systemic marine assessments of Australian waters as part of a national process to establish marine parks.

    Ceccarelli, Daniela M., Beger, Maria, Kospartov, Marie C., Richards, Zoe T. and Birrell, Chico L. (2011) Population trends of remote invertebrate resources in a marine reserve: Trochus and holothurians at Ashmore Reef. Pacific Conservation Biology, 17 2: 132-140.

    I believe there was an earlier study involving Ashmore (and Cartier reef) going back to the 1980s some time which assessed holuthurian and trochus populations. The picture then was fairly grim and the trends worse, as I recall.

  56. Climate Ace says:

    For WUWTERs who are interested in history, the Solomon Islands (the Guadacanal campaign) were the very first step for the US on the road back to Tokyo in World War Two.

  57. Zeke says:

    Please, some cephalopods are truly remarkable creatures. The Octopus not only alters its skin color but also the texture to match its surroundings; and it has 3 hearts, not to mention copper based blood. The intelligence is at or above that of a cat (by standards humans have tested), but the presence of 3 hearts may put it in a class by itself in terms of feeling and perception. Their mating is quite mysterious, and the mother starves to death while caring for her eggs. These really are beautiful creatures, and while I would not outlaw eating them entirely, at least properly kill them first.

  58. Climate Ace says:

    BTW, those who decry statism and the role of government might learn something from the Solomons.

    A few years ago the main source of government revenue and foreign exchance – the gold ridge mine – was closed by a group of armed thugs who closed the road to the coast. In the events that ensued governance in the Solomons collapsed completely, as did the rule of law. Groups of locals, groups of criminals, etc, etc ruled their bits and pieces. Murders occurred. For a while the Solomons was a failed island state. Governance has been patched up with the help of the UN and in particular Australian aid and police. But the state is very, very fragile.

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    “I had it once, in Taiwan, out to dinner with my girlfriend’s family, had to eat it to be polite. No taste, but the texture made it a challenge to swallow, and keeping it down another. Chinese people will eat things for strange reasons.. They have this comment: “Good for men,” said with a wink, that explains it all.”

    ############
    Taiwan has one of my most favorite delicacies. Duck blood. If you have never tried it you should. When you go for “hot pot” your host may very well offer it to you, don’t say no. Visually it looks like liver colored tofu. It is delicious.

  60. DirkH says:

    Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm
    “BTW, those who decry statism and the role of government might learn something from the Solomons.”

    There can be too much of a good thing. When your government makes 30,000 laws a year (if your American, that’s your government) you better reserve some days to read them. You must obey them all. And the ones before.

    Good luck.

  61. RoHa says:

    This is why, if you live in an Asian country, it is absolutely essential that you learn the language at least to the level needed to read the menu.

    (Of course, it is very rude not to learn the language anyway.)

  62. Climate Ace says:

    Philhowerton

    Whichever way the quill pointed when it hit the ground would determine where they fished.

    The proposition is that fish behave randomly with respect to wind direction.

    There is a significant correlation between wind direction and probability of fishing success in some circumstances. In lakes where winds whip up waves and create a local surge in water height, some species will move in to the newly-disturbed areas to pick over worms etc that get disturbed.

  63. Climate Ace says:

    Dirk

    There can be too much of a good thing. When your government makes 30,000 laws a year (if your American, that’s your government) you better reserve some days to read them. You must obey them all. And the ones before.

    I agree that there needs to be a balance between what governments do and what the private sector does. Getting the balance right and maintaining it there is difficult.

    BTW, 30,000 is around 100 laws a working day. Where does the figure come from?

  64. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

    … The example given of locals managing fisheries sustainably is inspiring and it is a pity that one law was applied to all Solomons islands. Let’s hope that the general law at least benefits those islanders (which appears from the story to be most of them) who apparently are incapable of regulating a sustainable fishery at a local level.

    Indeed, it is inspiring, and attempts have been made to replicate it. It’s widely known in fisheries circles, which is why the 2005 closure for them is even more puzzling.

    Cherry picking this beche de mer story to ‘demonstrate’ that climate change action money is mostly wasted is irrational unless you want to feed prejudice of the converted.

    My dear friend, you probably don’t realize how funny it is that you think this is an unusual, or out of the ordinary, or “cherry picked” example. I could give you lots of them, and for lots bigger dollars. To demonstrate that this is not cherry picked, consider the Clean Development Mechanism, which I discuss in Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. There I discuss the oddity that money comes from Greens and others in Europe, where they wouldn’t dream of building a hydroelectric dam because it’s so bad for the environment and injurious to the climate. The oddity is that the Green money went mostly to China … and in China, most of it was used to build hydroelectric dams. The Chinese must have laughed at the Europeans giving them money to build hydroelectric dams, I’m glad none of my bucks went to that fiddle.

    Then in CDM-ania I discussed the case of India, regarding which the usually pro-AGW Scientific American says “… most of the carbon-offset projects in India fail to meet the CDM requirements set by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” And man, “fail to meet” is definitely an understatement in some of the cases.

    And of course, we have the egregious examples of the factories that produce (or more accurately threaten to produce) CFCs, and then are paid climate change monies to not produce them. That’s a huge climate money-making scam involving millions and millions of dollars. Then there are whole forests that only exist on paper, where they soak up imaginary carbon and are sold over and over to each new sucker. In addition, fraud is legendary in the selling of carbon indulgences, where supposedly the money pays for some flavor of carbon-offsetting activity.

    Here’s the problem. All of the carbon indulgences that are being bought and sold represent something that is invisible. There’s no way to photograph a forest, or even visit a forest, and determine if it is absorbing carbon. All that people are selling is a piece of paper that says that people somewhere halfway ’round the world are planting trees. Or even better, that those people promise to forego chopping trees down …

    Here’s the question, Ace. How much corruption would you predict there would be in a market where a bunch of promoters are selling invisible indulgences to a host of guilt-ridden Westerners who mostly can’t be bothered to see if their dollar actually plants a tree?

    Call me crazy, but I’d say it would be corrupt as hell, and guess what? The number of prosecutions for fraud bears me out.

    So, far from being a single “cherry-picked” example of the spending of “climate change” funds on other than climate, it is one of many examples of a totally common occurrence that climate funds go awry. Curiously, in this case it’s a pretty innocent example, less fraud than the righting of a grave wrong.

    Because I’d say that if that the money went to the fishermen and their families in Ontong Java, to me, that’s a very different and far preferable outcome than having the money line the pockets of some corrupt factory owner in Singapore …

    My regards,

    w.

  65. McComberBoy says:

    Alexander Feht said…”Steven Mosher, being a libertarian does not necessarily mean abusing a liberty to post videos that are obviously disgusting to others. It is being rather tasteless, IMO.”

    Alex! Get a grip my friend. Until Mr. Mosher ties you to a chair, inserts hooks into your eyelids, ensures that you are awake and then plays the video in front of you, where is the abuse? You don’t have to watch unless you want to. It was you who was going on about ‘liberal’ while espousing what might well be deemed the very ‘liberal’ concept of abuse of you by what someone else likes. What? Really?

    Liberty should always mean that you have the right to say whatever you want, even all the un-PC terms and words that are currently on the banned list. But liberty should also mean that I can turn my back and walk away if I do not care for it. I didn’t watch the video and guess what? I didn’t feel abused either.

  66. Willis Eschenbach says:

    eo says:
    January 5, 2013 at 1:23 am

    I am wondering if the Untong Java residents are really Polynesian or they are of Indonesian. Harvesting and trading of sea cucumber in southeast and northeast Asia has been traditional expertise of various Indonesian Islands.

    I’ve read that in the first half of the 1900s they were taught by the Japanese how to harvest and prepare beche-ce-mer for shipment.

    w.

  67. McComberBoy,

    There are things people do and say to annoy others. Yes, this is a part of the burden of liberty to make an effort and ignore their attempts. On the other hand, it is a part of the joy of liberty to be able to point out the provocative and tasteless character of these attempts.

  68. Climate Ace says:

    Wills

    My friend, as we have seen recently in during the GFC and the near-destruction of the global economy, the private sector, including notably in the US banking and financial industries, can be just as corrupt as the public sector – but arguably more efficient at being corrupt. Think derivatives, for example.

    Corruption is, therefore, neither an argument for or against either government or private sector activity. Nor is it an argument for or against AGW – although there is certainly a trend of BAU folk on this blog who focus on government corruption but who do not spend a nanosecond on, for example, the record of fossil industry corruption. IMHO, this cherrypicking is, in itself, quite revealing.

    IMHO, where there is corruption whether public or private, corruption itself is the issue and should be addressed as such.

    As for AGW, we appear to be starting from a different assessment of the science.

    IMHO, AGW represents a massive market failure. IMHO, while economists, the CEOs of industry, consumers and governments persist in viewing the environment as an externality, as well as something of an infinite source and infinite sump, AGW or the like is more or less inevitable.

    Sooner or later, like it or not, we get environmental blowback.

  69. Old Ranga from Oz says:

    Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

    “In relation to the transport job ad, it is easy to be a smartarse with ads like that, but a bit of serious thought shows that it may well be money well spent.”

    ========

    Smartarse? I assumed that the WUWT context would indicate why I posted the ad. I should have spelt that out. Mea culpa.

    If my Government chooses to help the Solomons Govt with the unarguable transport problems you outline, I have no objection at all (provided they keep within their AusAid budget). What I do object to, and strongly, is the job’s listed association with ‘climate change’, which I regard as dishonest. And given the WUWT context do I need to spell out why?

    UN-schmoozing. Junk science. Just plain wrong. Our current Australian Government at its deceitful worst.

    My problem? As a member of the pre-WW2 generation I was brought up to value the truth, rather than accept lies or misrepresentation. As in ‘thou shalt not bear false witness’. My mother would have punished me otherwise, and I would have deserved it.

  70. Robert of Ottawa says:

    I’ve done a lot of scuba diving and seen many a sea cucumber. Revolting is the word that comes to mind. Are they edible? How are they eaten?

    The first time I saw a grouper, I ordered one in the restaurant that night; never a sea-cucumber.

  71. Doug Proctor says:

    Sea cucumbers are considered in Asian male magical thinking as empowerment of masculine physicality.

    Don’t ask me why, they just are.

    Like oysters, I suppose. Don’t ask me why about them, either. Dried, powdered rhino horn, bear gallbladders and tiger bits. All I can think is that magic, like gold, is where you find it.

    (Not true about gold either, BTW.)

  72. Climate Ace says:

    Old Ranga

    What I do object to, and strongly, is the job’s listed association with ‘climate change’, which I regard as dishonest. And given the WUWT context do I need to spell out why?

    If you accept AGW science, which is the official position of both the Australian Government and of the Australian Opposition, there is absolutely nothing dishonest about placing an ad in the context of AGW, particularly when the engineering works include repairing flood damage and re-routing roads (I assume from coastal erosion).

    In fact, the reverse is true. It would be dishonest to pretend that the job has nothing to do with preparing for AGW.

    BTW, our money sort of looks like it is mostly being spent on useful things like repairing and replacing bridges and on road infrastructure more generally.

    http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ausaid.gov.au%2Fcountries%2Fpacific%2Fsolomon-islands%2FPages%2Feconomic-infrastructure-init1.aspx&ei=GwTpUMiCOovHmQXppYHoDw&usg=AFQjCNETAh_-oTWuXrIN1QJk842zcaIeCQ&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.dGY

  73. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Phil Howerton says:
    January 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I had a professor in graduate school who told us of a fishing tool long adopted by the inhabitants of a Pacific island that the Europeans, when they arrived there, thought was really stupid. When deciding which side of their island to fish on, on any given day, the natives would toss a feather in the air. Whichever way the quill pointed when it hit the ground would determine where they fished. Later it was discovered that because of the random habits of the fish, there was no rational method way of predicting where the best fishing would be and that the most random way of deciding where to fish was therefore obviously the best. Hence, the generational success of the feather.

    Phil, thanks for an interesting story. I fear it sets off my urban legend alarm, for several reasons. First and foremost, when your health, well-being, and very survival depend on your ability to find the fish, after generations of fishing the same area, the local fishermen know a whole lot about the local ocean. Local fishermen’s knowledge in most Pacific Islands is very specific and detailed.

    Plus, of course, there is status in being a good fisherman. So I’ve met lots of local Pacific fishermen, but I’ve not met any who would resort to such an ephemeral method. Instead, they’ve studied the ocean their whole lives, so they would say “I think the bonito are going to be on the south of the island” or “no use fishing for coral trout today, the wind is wrong”. And more often than not they were right.

    Second, in many of the islands there are traditional fishing grounds that are actively defended by their historical owners. On most islands, it wouldn’t be wise to front up and explain to the traditional owners that you have the right to fish some random location just because some freakin’ feather told you to fish there.

    Third, very, very few of the Pacific Islanders I’ve know have been of the “let’s flip a coin” variety. The idea of appealing to some random chance rarely comes up in Pacific societies that I know of. Some societies love to gamble, the Asian folks and the Native Americans come to mind. They gambled since forever.

    Other traditional societies, like those of the Pacific, know little of the turn of a card, the roll of the dice, or the flip of a coin. In traditional Pacific societies, none of those existed. So there’s little historical precedent for picking fishing grounds on the fall of a feather.

    Fourth, the lack of detail. Which islanders, where? Which Europeans? When did it happen?

    Fifth, the ways of the noble fishies, though mysterious, are far from random. Even when you can’t tell where they are, you may be able to tell where they aren’t. Feather points that way, only a fool follows it.

    Sixth, fishermen are proud. They would not want to be seen relying on dumb luck, even when they do. If they have a good catch, it’s not dumb luck, it’s because they have a “nose for fish”, or the like.

    Seventh, I’ve never seen a serious scientific study that has said that where the fish went was random and totally unpredictable.

    Eighth, it’s too neat in a moralistic sense. The wisdom of the noble savage is upheld, the European scoffers are humbled, nature is shown to not favor anyone, science reveals the truth. It’s a whole little morality play, neatly wrapped up in ribbons and bows.

    So with all due respect to you and your professor, my opinion as a man who has fished and hung around with South Pacific fishermen is that the professor believed and repeated an urban legend. Gotta admit, I’ve done the same.

    w.

  74. Climate Ace says:

    Willis

    I have heard a story that I have been curious about ever since.

    Have you ever seen islanders fishing for Long Toms using a small kite dragging an artificial lure skipping along the surface, and spider web to tangle in Long Tom teeth rather than a hook? If so, did it work?

  75. Blade says:

    Willis, another fine article. One minor nitpick in the 2nd to last sentence, maybe a couple of extra words …

    Please note that I do not mean to single out the Solomons Government or to say that they are unique or unusual. There are dozens and dozens of other examples out there of other countries exhibiting this level of foolishness, including the US at times.

    I think we can safely assume now that there are no unspoiled garden spots on Planet Earth safe from the lure of corruption, resulting in a non-stop network of rent-seekers. Agendas are the order of the day, the most ubiquitous being ‘how to take someone else’s money using red and green political strategy’. Wherever there remains an enclave of common sense, it will soon be put upon by the local true-believers with urging and assistance from their international red and green comrades. At the end of this game everyone is on welfare, that is to say everyone is picking somebody else’s pocket. The inevitable crunch at the conclusion when there are no pockets left to pick should be spectacular. Sorry about the digression.

    Steven Mosher [January 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm] says:

    “for the record I’m a libertarian.”

    Proof positive they will let anyone in these days, even those that are gullible enough to swallow the AGW Hoax hook, line and sinker and working non-stop to excuse the foolishness and corruption of the Climate Syndicate. There was a time “libertarian” fell squarely on the side of fiscal responsibility, but apparently that now includes writing blank checks with space for at least 13 digits ( Trillions ) and before they’re through they will no doubt demand quadrillions.

    There was a time “libertarian” meant staying out of other people’s business but apparently that now includes modern liberalism and its God complex of dictating what fuel they should and shouldn’t use to keep warm (not to mention what they eat, drink, smoke, wear, farm, thermostat setting, etc … ad nauseum). When did the new Libertarian outreach program officially begin?

  76. Old Ranga from Oz says:

    Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    If you accept AGW science, which is the official position of both the Australian Government and of the Australian Opposition, there is absolutely nothing dishonest about placing an ad in the context of AGW, particularly when the engineering works include repairing flood damage and re-routing roads (I assume from coastal erosion).

    oooooooooo
    Climate Ace,

    An interesting argument. I smiled.

    But I haven’t changed my mind.

    Let’s wait and see which side is the first to travel the Road to Damascus.

    ROAO

  77. Phil says:

    About the best thing we could do for the people of the Solomons, [& to some extent PNG], would be to destroy all transport links, particularly inter island transport links. There is so much jealousy between islands that to preserve the peace, they need to be kept apart for a decade or three.

    There are quite a few atolls in the Solomon Is/New Guinea with a Polynesian population. A mate of mine was king of Nugeria atoll, about 130 N miles north of Bougainville. Polynesian royalty heritage is through the female line, so the husband of the princess becomes king.

    I don’t know how much authority the princess has, she was told by the men that she was marrying my mate, who owned the plantation on the atoll. Choice did not enter into it, although I think she liked the idea. This was at the time when the PNG government, just after independence, was using aid money to buy Ozzie planters out, & giving the plantations to the local villagers. The men were worried that Graham would be forced out, & his management of the island lost. With him as king they were safe from that.

    No one ate the beche-de-mer there, they were every where, on the coral flat.

  78. Ryan says:

    The pretext of this story is that the rotational plan of fishing beche-de-mer one year and trochus the next actually worked. It didn’t. The source quoted was a paper from 1992. By the late 90s when I worked there on a fisheries project, the beche-de-mer was severely depleted. The backside had fallen out of the market for trochus, which had previously been used for making buttons, plus sending kids to school was so expensive and cash generation opportunities so few that the beche-de-mer fishery was reopened for a short but very intensive period in the closed year so people could raise the cash for the school fees. Consequently, there was no real rotation once that decision was taken. Maybe all that has changed in the last decade. Like many areas that are remote from markets and services, integration into the cash economy is difficult but it is increasingly desired – for better or for worse. There are other opportunities in fisheries on Ontong Java but the logistics and cost of getting the product to market is prohibitive in most cases. I can well understand the climate change jitters on Ontong Java as it is all very low lying and the main crop is swamp taro. It’ll be swamped alright if the lens of freshwater becomes salty and they can’t grow anything. I don’t know what the climate change project was all about but composting toilets would go a long way.

  79. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Ryan says:
    January 6, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    The pretext of this story is that the rotational plan of fishing beche-de-mer one year and trochus the next actually worked. It didn’t. The source quoted was a paper from 1992. By the late 90s when I worked there on a fisheries project, the beche-de-mer was severely depleted. The backside had fallen out of the market for trochus, which had previously been used for making buttons, plus sending kids to school was so expensive and cash generation opportunities so few that the beche-de-mer fishery was reopened for a short but very intensive period in the closed year so people could raise the cash for the school fees. Consequently, there was no real rotation once that decision was taken. Maybe all that has changed in the last decade.

    I’m sorry to hear that, Ryan, but saying that the rotational plan didn’t actually work is a bit of an overstatement. It worked very well, and for many years. I had heard about the “special openings” for earning money. Sorry to hear that the folks there, like most places, have either gone to or have been driven to such conditions by economic necessity.

    One of the tragedies of the Solomons is that like so many ex-British colonies, schools are not free. This can lead to the kind of problems you list above, as people struggle to find money to pay for their children’s education..

    Like many areas that are remote from markets and services, integration into the cash economy is difficult but it is increasingly desired – for better or for worse.

    While there certainly are problems with the cash economy, when your kid is sick and you can’t afford the treatment, suddenly the bush life doesn’t look so good. When your kid is brilliant and you can’t afford school fees, suddenly you wish you’d moved with your cousin to the main city.

    There are other opportunities in fisheries on Ontong Java but the logistics and cost of getting the product to market is prohibitive in most cases.

    Indeed. People often underestimate the difficulties caused by the extreme isolation of many Pacific Islands and atolls.

    I can well understand the climate change jitters on Ontong Java as it is all very low lying and the main crop is swamp taro. It’ll be swamped alright if the lens of freshwater becomes salty and they can’t grow anything.

    Let me ease your concern in that regard. Ontong Java, like all atolls, floats on the surface of the ocean and will rise as the ocean rises. The main problem on Ontong Java, as on many small atolls, is overpopulation. The freshwater lens will provide a maximum amount of water each year and no more, depending solely on the rainfall. So when usage goes up, the saltwater begins replacing the freshwater in the lens, and it becomes salty.

    But that is an overpopulation problem, not a climate issue. See my post, “Floating Islands“, along with the followup, “The Irony, It Burns” for a discussion of this and other atoll issues.

    I don’t know what the climate change project was all about but composting toilets would go a long way.

    You need to be somewhat careful there. Western people go to atolls, and they see people using the outer ocean beach as their bathroom. Generally they are horrified, and they immediately plan to put in outhouses, or flush toilets, or the like. The problem is that the freshwater lens underlies the whole surface of the island … so where are you going to put any of those where they won’t contaminate the lens?

    Composting toilets would be a possibility … but they need to be maintained, and if there is one skill that tropical islanders don’t have, it is maintenance. Sooner or later somebody is going to screw up, and then you have a bunch of septic water polluting your one and only drinking source …

    I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m saying you need to be very careful. An atoll is not what most folks think. It is not solid. It is a momentary hesitation in a river of sand. Many things can harm it, including toilets and excessive fishing …

    Again, my thanks for your report from the front lines,

    w.

  80. Carl Brannen says:

    I had sea cucumber in Hong Kong and thought it was perfectly decent food. And I’m about as picky as a US white boy can be.

    It’s like certain movies. You don’t necessarily want to know much about the plot before you sit down to eat it. Afterwards the locals will tell you what you ate.

  81. pedro cubano says:

    you don’t get a continental US record temperature without alot of individual record station temperatures – and that has happened for sure.

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