Barack Obama and the Walruses

By MarEx 2015-08-28 19:04:32

U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Alaska on Monday for a three-day visit meant to spotlight warming temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas and the need to support a strong climate deal during the global climate negotiations in Paris.

Obama will attend the U.S. government hosted GLACIER meeting, and his visit comes at a time when, on both sides of the Bering Strait, summer sea ice has once more dropped to a level that is driving thousands of walruses onto coastal beaches.

Environmental organizations are voicing their concerns.

5,000 Walruses

In Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia, an estimated 5,000 walruses are hauled out, while across in Alaska, thousands more are hauled out near the village of Point Lay. WWF highlighted the significance of Obama’s visit to the Arctic in a statement, raising concerns about the animals and their environment.

“This past July was the second warmest on record for Alaska,” says Pete Ewins, WWF Arctic Species specialist. “So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing these animals on the beaches quite early. While haul outs can be potentially dangerous to the animals gathered on shore, we’re concerned about what events such as these mean for the health of the entire Arctic marine system.”

During the late summer and early fall, the Pacific walruses of the Chukchi sea north of Alaska and of Chukotka (Russia) prefer to rest on sea ice over the shallow waters of the continental shelf. In those areas they can readily access food on the seabed. However, in most years since 2007 when Arctic sea ice extent plummeted to a record low, walruses have been forced ashore because there has been no sea ice over their preferred shallow feeding areas.

Villagers at both haul out locations are working to protect resting walrus herds from curious onlookers, as walruses hauled out in such large numbers on beaches are prone to being stampeded, killing smaller animals in the crush.

Earth’s Wild Places

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says Obama’s Arctic trip gives him a golden opportunity to demonstrate global leadership, protect one of the last wild places on earth, and make a real difference in our climate future by taking Arctic waters off the table for oil and gas drilling.

“Climate change is already imposing huge and mounting costs on our people, and nowhere is the toll more evident than in Alaska,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “Straddling the ragged front lines of climate chaos, the state both suffers from this environmental crisis and contributes to it through the production of fossil fuels.

“One of the most rapidly warming places on the planet, Alaska is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the nation. The first seven months of this year were the second-hottest ever recorded for the period in the state, which averaged 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit above its 20th-century norm.

“Its glaciers and ice fields are melting by the cubic mile and at an accelerating pace, as President Obama will see for himself when he travels outside the city of Seward, site of the Kenai Fjords National Park. Melting glaciers are one reason climate scientists say global sea level is on track to rise by at least three feet, very possibly much more, by century’s end.”

The president will also hear how the loss of coastline is already affecting indigenous people when he visits the northern port of Kotzebue, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a state that is home to 40 percent of the federally recognized tribes in the country.

Oil and Gas

“President Obama’s answer to the climate threat has been clear and unstinting,” says Suh. “No leader anywhere has done more to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate chaos. He’s cut it from our cars, our trucks, and our power plants, and he’s laid out an expansive vision for a clean energy future centered around efficiency gains and more wind and solar power.

“He’s opposed efforts to allow oil and gas development on Alaska’s vast Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, nearly 12 million acres of which he’s proposed to designate as protected wilderness, which would put it off-limits to the fossil-fuel industry in perpetuity.

“That’s leadership when and where it counts, and it’s come in the face of virulent opposition by an industry hunkering down to anchor our future in the dirty fuels of the past and all the damage, destruction, and danger they bring.”

However, Obama has also proposed allowing oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean and off the Atlantic coast, beginning as early as 2017. He’s permitted exploratory drilling in Arctic waters, which Shell Oil began this month.

Memo From Our Grandchildren

Sah says: “Memo from our grandchildren: We’re not going to be addicted to oil 30 years from now. Let’s be honest with ourselves. If we’re still burning so much oil three decades from now that we have to put Arctic waters at risk, we will have forsaken the promise of a clean energy future. We will have forsaken our obligation to our children, with catastrophic consequences.

“President Obama has never been one to bet on failure. He’s worked, instead, to ensure success. The Alaska trip offers him a historic chance to build on hope and progress. It’s time to protect the Arctic waters once and for all, for the sake of all they support, for the sake of our climate, for the sake of our children’s future.”

Watch: U.S. Navy Remembers Hurricane Katrina

By MarEx 2015-08-28 18:21:00

It’s been a decade since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. Navy remembers those who suffered and lost so much during Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Here is a look at the Navy and Marine Corps team assisting those in need.

All Hands Magazine gives a one of a kind perspective of Hurricane Katrina.

Follow along the relief efforts with a one of a kind perspective through the eyes of Capt. Richard Callas (USN, Ret.) commanding officer of the USS Iwo Jima in 2005.

Australia’s Newest Naval Vessel Ready for Delivery

By MarEx 2015-08-28 17:38:53

The Australian Navy’s NUSHIP Adelaide has completed its final sea ship trials in Port Phillip Bay. The NUSHIP Adelaide is the navy’s second landing helicopter dock (LHD).

The purpose of the ten day trials was testing the ship’s combat and communications systems. The trials were undertaken throughout the vessel’s journey from Williamstown to Jervis Bay as well as the return voyage. These areas were chosen to provide maximum flexibility and proximity to the Australian Defense Force.

The 27,800 ton vessel has returned to BAE Systems’ Williamstown shipyard and will be delivered to the Australian Navy in September.

The Australian Navy received the first of its two LHD vessels, the NUSHIP Canberra, in October 2014. The LHDs will transport more than 1,000 soldiers and equipment. Adelaide will be capable deploying a reinforced company of up to 220 soldiers at a time by airlift. The vessel is also outfitted with two vehicle decks and can accommodate a combined 110 vehicles.

BAE Systems trained 700 crew members serving both NUSHIP Adelaide and HMAS Canberra at its Mascot, Sydney facility. The Adelaide completed its first sea trials on June 17.

Hurricane Katrina’s Great American Resettlement

By MarEx 2015-08-28 16:21:07

Hurricane Katrina changed millions of lives when it struck the U.S. Gulf of Mexico on August 29, 2005. People lost families, homes and livelihoods as the storm killed more than 1,800 people and displaced over 400,000 New Orleans residents.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took four days to respond, local authorities and citizens lead the initial efforts. The U.S. Coast Guard saved about 34,000 people in New Orleans in the days following Katrina and citizens commandeered boats and provided food and shelter to their neighbors. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Superdome accommodated more than 15,000 displaced people.

But the devastation in Louisiana had limited areas for survivors in need of food and water. In the weeks after Katrina, Texas was one of the main destination for those fleeing the destruction and more than 245,000 evacuees were transported by buses and helicopters to the state. The Red Cross set up its largest shelter ever at the Houston Astrodome, which housed more than 17,500 people.

The South Carolina Midlands, which is near Columbia, served as an emergency relief center for relocation efforts as well. About 15,000 people made their way to Columbia. South Carolina Representative James Clyburn and Columbia Mayor Bob Cole coordinated the response can called on their citizens and businesses to provide aid and comfort for the evacuees, many of who were housed in hotels and armories.

Rhode Island, Ohio and California also accepted survivors.

Mass Exodus

Katrina was one of the most destructive natural disasters ever recorded, and it caused one of the largest resettlements in American history. New Orleans had a population of about 455,000 prior to Katrina. According to government reports, the population fell to 223,000 by June 2006. Today it is estimate there now about 436,000 people living in the city of New Orleans, and 348,000 of these say they lived in New Orleans during Katrina and returned.

Many of the evacuees decided to rebuild their lives in New Orleans, but several others didn’t because the infrastructure to support employment and housing was lost in the aftermath of the storm. According the a 2008 University of Michigan report, over 58 percent of people over 30 returned. And for those under 30 years old less than 40 percent returned.