For the people of places like Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Federated States of Micronesia, who fear the rising seas will swallow up their homes, the idea that these islands might have some kind of resistance to sea level rise is certainly a reprieve. Says Kench: “We have now got the evidence to suggest that the physical foundation of these countries will still be there in 100 years, so they perhaps do not need to flee their country”.
The Austronesian people originated in Taiwan some 5,000 years ago. After a few centuries of settlement, they started a massive pulse of migration, spreading southwards and eastwards. They moved to the Philippines, dispersed across South-East Asia, and spread as far west as Madagascar and as far east as the Micronesian islands.
Two other companies have shown serious interest in seabed mining. One is Neptune Minerals, an Australian-based company that applied for a mining licence in 2008 for two deposits in about 1,250 metres of water near the Kermadec islands off New Zealand. It has also been granted exploration licences in territorial waters off Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia and Vanuatu. But it is nowhere near mining commercially. The other company is Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian firm whose Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea’s territorial waters contains 60,000-100,000 tonnes of copper, and gold too.
Expected to open this summer, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum will fulfill a dream of the late Dr. Robert Gumbiner, a physician and HMO pioneer who founded Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art. An inveterate collector who became interested in Oceanic art while building a health center in Guam and operating clinics on other Pacific islands, he established the Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia in Yap (part of the Federated States of Micronesia) in 1994 to revive lost arts of the region.
According to researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, a single reef shark can be worth nearly $2 million in tourism revenue over its lifetime (SRI 2011). In contrast, a shark killed for food use is estimated to be worth only $108. Therefore, Micronesian nations participating in this pact can expect to generate substantially more revenue through ecotourism. The Micronesian Regional Shark Sanctuary has the potential to be a significant breakthrough for shark conservation in the world. In addition to the direct benefits it provides to sharks in the sanctuary, it will hopefully draw worldwide attention to the incredible value of live sharks to both the ecosystems and economies of coastal nations.
[I]n 2011 leaders at the 15th Micronesian Chief Executive Summit passed a declaration to create the Micronesian Regional Shark Sanctuary, which will become the world’s largest shark sanctuary in December 2012. This sanctuary will span an area of approximately 2 million square miles, consisting of the territorial waters of all Micronesian islands involved in the agreement, including the Federated States of Micronesia, Territory of Guam, Republic of Palau and Northern Mariana and Marshall Islands. This new law would outlaw entirely the fishing, possession, sale and trade of sharks and their fins within the sanctuary.
One of my favorite prisons for shopping is in Palau in Micronesia. Using native hard woods, inmates carve intricate "story boards" that often depict rich local legends. The shop at the Koror Jail, in the center of Koror, is open to the public.
Elsewhere in Micronesia an influx of Chinese, Filipino and other economic migrants complicates the existing ethnic balance. But the Pacific is not an easy place for violence to spread. Its countries are separated by vast stretches of ocean, and there is little island-to-island continuity among ethnic groups.
The islands of Micronesia and Polynesia tend to be stable. Some, like Kiribati, broke away from malcontents in what became Tuvalu during the drive to independence. But the Federated States of Micronesia is an awkward conglomerate of four island groupings spread across more than 1m square miles of the Pacific, with the only glue being aid money from an increasingly reluctant United States.
The island of Yap is notable for its "stone money" (Rai stones), large disks usually of calcite, up to 12 feet (4 m) in diameter, with a hole in the middle. The islanders, aware of the owner of a piece, do not necessarily move them when ownership changes. There are five major types: Mmbul, Gaw, Ray, Yar, and Reng, the last being only 1 foot (0.3 m) in diameter. Their value is based on both size and history, many of them having been brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most coming in ancient times from Palau. Approximately 6,500 of them are scattered around the island.
The ancestors of the Micronesians settled over four thousand years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious empire centered on Yap.