Coral Reefs Under Assault
More than two dozen conservation organizations and 17 countries have designated 2008 the Year of the Reef. Ten percent of the worlds coral reefs have already been damaged beyond recovery, according to the environmental group Eco-Pros, and two-thirds are being degraded, largely by human activity. Among the destroyers are trawlers that drag huge steel chains and nets along the sea bottom scraping coral, underwater plants and animals into nets along with sought-after fish. It takes centuries for coral reefs to develop and a few minutes to destroy them, the group notes. Global warming is also responsible for damage to fully a quarter of the worlds reefs. A temperature change of even one degree can affect a reefs survival. Worldwide, the most threatened are those of Southeast Asia, with over 80 percent at risk. But U.S. reefs are also endangered, as well as most of Puerto Ricos; and nearly half the Caribbean reefs are in jeopardy. Many reefs resemble graveyards, Eco-Pros says.
According to Lynne Hale, director of The Global Conservancys marine team, for more than one billion people living in coastal regions across the tropics, healthy reefs mean food and a way to earn a living. Hale has commended national leaders like President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. of Palau and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia for expanding their commitment to coral reef conservation. Other nations should follow suit in a concerted effort to preserve them elsewhere.
Security for Religion
At Trabzon in Turkey, on the shore of the Black Sea, a memorial Mass was celebrated on Feb. 5 to mark the second anniversary of the murder of the pastor of St. Marys church, the Rev. Andrea Santoro, who was stabbed while at prayer. His attacker was convicted and imprisoned, but an ongoing investigation suggests the involvement of an ultranationalist Turkish terrorist organization.
The mourners at the Mass were joined by a mufti representing the government who said, Our religion explicitly condemns violence and murder...we condemn terrorism...and we welcome all to our city. Members of the close Christian communities could take heart from his words, but they were all too aware that on Dec. 16, Father Adriano Franchini was also killed as he finished Mass at Smirne. Those two incidents have been characterized as isolated by the civil authorities. Unfortunately, they are not, and they point to the climate of fear in which the Christians of Turkey now live.
It is plainly the responsibility of the secular government of the country to protect religious minorities. It must also take steps to afford genuine freedom to the Orthodox Church, including the freedom to educate its seminarians. Such actions make sense for the peace and security of the country. The progress of religious freedom in Turkey is a goal of the West, especially the nations of the European Union. For a decade, Europes unease about Turkeys entry into the European Union has been expressed in largely misinformed whispers about the country being too big, too poor and too Muslim to join. Many observers see Turkey as a test case for the peaceful coexistence of Islam, democracy and human rights.
Senator Hillary Clintons serious bid for the White House not only makes this years primary a historic first for the nation but also focuses a spotlight on women as voters. Neither a niche, nor a predictable voting bloc, women make up half of the subcategories in the pollsters lexicon (young people, blacks, Hispanics) and more than half of seniors, a fact both obvious and easily overlooked.
What characterizes women as a group is their participation at the polls. Women vote. In every presidential election since 1980, across subgroups by age and race, women have outvoted men. According to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, 60.1 percent of all women of voting age voted in 2004, compared with 56.3 percent of men. That year 8.8 million more women cast ballots than men. In 2000, 56.2 percent of women voted, 53.1 percent of men; 1996, 55.5 percent of women, 52.8 percent of men; 1992, 62.3 percent of women, 60.2 percent of men. Womens dependability at the polls is a national resource. Ask any candidate. If a womans name appears on the ballot in November, turnout among women may rise even higher.
Senator Obamas ability to draw young voters, independents and blacks into the political process is a plus for our democracy. Roughly half the members of these groups are women. Senator McCains appeal to independents and moderate Republicans and Gov. Huckabees to evangelicals with a strong social conscience are also good for our democratic system. Democracies thrive on participation, and unifying the nation will depend on cultivating such voices. If political frontrunners can turn their fans into voterscommitted, as women are, to the democratic process, not merely to a specific candidatethen democracy will benefit, no matter who wins the White House.