Thursday, January 22, 2015

Baker Island

See also Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, which together make up the United States Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). They are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior. A second set of Pacific Islands, including parts of Hawaii and Midway Island, are known as the Hawaiian Islands NWR and are also designated as part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. These remote refuges, according to their own publicity, are the most widespread collection of marine- and terrestrial-life protected areas on the planet under a single country's jurisdiction. They sustain many endemic species including corals, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds, water birds, land birds, insects, and vegetation not found elsewhere. Given how much damage America manages to do to the planet, and its human inhabitants, everywhere else, can we at least be grateful for this one redeeming grace, which appears to be completely ingenuous and actively sincere?

Baker Island was acquired by the USA in 1857, and its guano deposits heavily mined by both American and British companies for the following half-century. There was an attempt to colonise the island in 1935, but World War II interrupted it and it was abandoned. It became an NWR in 1974. 

I have awarded it 10 marks on the For side, for reasons that are self-evident: no humans, and natural life protected. It may not be immediately obvious why I have awarded one mark against, but then it may not be immediately obvious why islands in the Pacific Ocean, more than 3,000 miles from Honolulu, 4,400 from the nearest land-point on the mainland of America, and only 3,700 miles from the nearest land-point in Australia, an island whose nearest significant neighbour is actually Papua New Guinea, should belong to the United States at all.

Marks For: 10

Marks Against: 1

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