Okay. This headline has Chicken Little running around the backyard:
The U.S. Navy has dispatched a small armada to the South China Sea.
The carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and the 7th Fleet flagship have sailed into the disputed waters in the last 24 hours, according to military officials.
The mariner spent some time in Taiwan in the early nineties. The entire South China Sea was an officially declared war zone even then. The western beaches of Taiwan were (and still are) cluttered with anti-tank and anti-landing craft concrete cones. The new jet fighters built in the nineties are kept inside mountains. Taiwan’s only defense if China invades the island is to counterstrike, making it painful for China to consider an invasion; Taiwan will be obliterated in such an invasion.
In the last few years, China has assumed ownership of the South China Sea all the way down to Brunei not far from Singapore. The South China Sea wraps around the coastline of Vietnam on the west and the Philippines on the east. Not only does China desperately need the fishing rights, it has decided to turn the Spratley Islands into a military zone to protect its southern coast. As recent news headlines have reported, China is creating new man-made islands with air and naval bases. Further, China has its eyes on the rich oil region off the coast of Thailand.
China has numerous ways to escalate the confrontation. Once protected by the vast Pacific Ocean, the US has small islands and atolls, many uninhabited, spread around the western Pacific. China easily can harass these islands. Obviously, China will continue its militarization of the region.
Mariner suspects that any escalation will be between surrogate nations and territories. The US forces will be playing in China’s backyard far across the Pacific. Calling on allies like South Korea and Japan has its own set of anxieties. Imagine China turning loose North Korea on South Korea, Japan (700 miles away) or nations bordering the South China Sea (1,700 miles away). Kim Jong Un would leap at the chance.
The US has little choice but to show some kind of presence. Aside from China’s mainland, the South China Sea is bordered by US allies and trading partners. Certainly, these nations are anxious about the Chinese extension into the primary ocean resource for several nations.
The mariner put Chicken Little in the hen house for now. But his squawking can still be heard.
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On a more pleasant note, the mariner reports to his family that all the cacti and succulents brought back from the Sonora Desert are thriving under the grow lights. Woodland plants retrieved from the backwoods of Arkansas have survived and show new growth. A Nandina shrub retrieved from Maryland has healthy bark and looks ready to burst forth.
The mariner is in the midst of planting seed trays for the vegetable garden and flower beds. Rabbit fence will surround the backyard perimeter in another few days. Rabbits are the mariner’s nemesis and all his neighbors save one think they are cute, semi-wild pets; his sister-in-law actually tames them and feeds them by hand.
Each warren produces three batches of six rabbits – eighteen all together from spring to fall – from one nest. The last thing the mariner wanted to do was ruin the landscape with fence but even with military reinforcement including rifles, pistols, compound bows and chemicals, the mariner is losing to his neighbors’ willingness to let rabbits breed as, well, as rabbits will do. It’s a fact that in a year one doe’s offspring can produce 800 pounds of rabbit meat. The only predator in town is the king of predators: Homo sapiens. Where are they when you need them?
Reader Becky has forwarded a website that has information about the fight to save the monarch butterfly. See: http://www.xerces.org/blog/butterflies-and-volunteers-the-western-monarch-thanksgiving-count/
Some good news on the environmental front: For the first time this year, more California Condors were born in the wild than have died. In 1987, the remaining Condors were rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Releasing young ones into the wild began in1992. In 2015, more young were born in the wild than older ones that died, suggesting that the Condor population was capable of sustaining its numbers. For more detail, see: