Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever. Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
“Imagine you open the faucet of your kitchen sink expecting water and instead out comes cash. Now imagine that it comes out at the rate of $1 million a minute. You call your plumber, who thinks you’re crazy. To get you off the phone, he opines that it is your sink and therefore must be your money. So you spend it wildly. Then you realize that the money wasn’t yours and you owe it back.
Now imagine that this happens every minute of every day for the next three years. At the end of the three years, you owe back more than $6 trillion. So you borrow $6 trillion to pay back the $6 trillion you owe.
My analogy about all that cash in your kitchen sink that just keeps coming is not about voluntary commercial transactions, which you are free to accept or reject. It is about the government’s spending what it doesn’t have, the consequences of which you are not free to reject.
Government produces no products that consumers are willing to pay for voluntarily, and it doesn’t sell shares of stock in its assets. It doesn’t generate wealth; it seizes it. And when it can no longer politically get away with seizing, it borrows. It borrows a great deal of money — money that it rolls over, by borrowing trillions to pay back trillions to prior lenders, and thus its debt never goes away.
Last week, after eight years of publicly complaining that then-President Barack Obama was borrowing more than $1 trillion a year to fund the government — borrowing that the Republicans silently consented to — congressional Republicans, now in control of Congress and with a friend in the Oval Office, voted to spend and hence borrow between $5 trillion and $6 trillion more than tax revenue will produce in the next three years; that’s a few trillion more than they complained about in the Obama years.
That’s borrowing $1 million a minute.
Obviously, no business or household or bank can survive very long by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Yet the federal government, no matter which party controls Congress or the presidency, engages in staggering borrowing — borrowing that will cripple future generations by forcing them to pay for goods and services that were consumed before they were born.
The $30 billion President Wilson borrowed from the Federal Reserve and others has been rolled over and over and has never been repaid. The federal government still owes the $30 billion principal, and for that it has paid more than $15 billion in interest. Who in his right mind would pay 50 percent interest on a 100-year-old debt? Only the government.
Wilson’s $30 billion debt 100 years ago has ballooned to $20.6 trillion today. At the end of President Donald Trump’s present term — because of the Republican budget signed into law — the government’s debt will be about $27 trillion.
That amount is a debt bomb waiting to explode. Here’s why. Every year, the federal government collects about $2.5 trillion in revenue and spends it all. It borrows another $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion and spends it all. To avoid paying back any of the $27 trillion it will owes, the federal government will need to spend about $1 trillion a year in interest payments.
That $1 trillion is 40 percent of the revenue collected by the federal government; that’s 40 cents on every dollar in tax revenue going to interest on old debts — interest payments that are legally unavoidable by taxpayers and voters.
By – * Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.
Register – and vote!
Aloha, Barry & Renée
Here’s a point of view that I hadn’t considered from the Krista Bremer’s essay, “American Winter.”
“The fact is he [my husband] was disturbed by the outcome, but not shocked or dismayed. He did not lose sleep or become paralyzed with dread. He has not given in to despair. Long ago, while growing up in Libya, my husband developed the skills needed to endure a Trump presidency. Living under Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi taught Ismail how to survive a narcissistic, sociopathic leader. My husband is as matter-of-fact about the election outcome as my favorite cashier at our grocery store, a Christian from Gambia who wraps her hair in plain black cloth and wears men’s running shoes that appear to be a size too large. Her dream is to buy land to farm back home. She and her husband, who is working in Europe, are sending as much money as they can back to their children in Gambia. She has worked in this country for more than a decade and hasn’t seen her youngest child in seven years. This is her second job and, at nine dollars an hour, her highest-paying one. . .
When I made a comment about the election results, she lowered her voice so no one else would hear. “Of course Trump won,” she said with a hint of impatience. ‘God is not sleeping.’ Stuffing my purchases into thin plastic bags, she added, ‘God sees the suffering America has spread around the globe.’ She . . . [feels Trump is] a fitting representative of a rich country that pursues its interests with callous disregard for vulnerable people at home and abroad.”
Read the essay at: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/494/american-winter
Have ambition and ego ruined my life? Where have my easy days gone? If only I had a monk friend to wander off into the mountains to visit. If only I were so idle I had time to visit him. If only we could while away the day drinking tea, playing flutes, and talking. If only, as the moon rose, my friend could point the way home through the dark mountains with the night sky’s lantern to light the way. If only I were happy with only that. by David Budbill in The Sun https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/494/poetry-by-david-budbill-1
Bugs in a Bowl –
Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
We’re just like bugs in a bowl. All day going around never leaving their bowl.
I say, That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.
Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice Bowl!
Image from: http://www.davidbudbill.com/
Bug images from: http://www.howpins.com/2017/05/10/get-rid-spiders/
Hope you see the good in your bowl. Aloha, Renée
We returned to Bali. We love being in Ubud where Barry is particularly disciplined, so we both got lots of exercise, ate good food, and enjoyed the music and the people. Barry left on November 20; I was to leave on November 23. My scheduled departure was on the last night before flights started to be cancelled because the Bali volcano, Mt. Agung, actually was erupting. I was lucky about getting out, but my last day in Ubud was intense.
On that final morning, I was on my way to my Pilates class in Penestanan, just outside Ubud. I was peddling hard uphill. Motorbikes zoomed past me. I saw a brown and tan Bali dog at the side of the road. Bali dogs are everywhere. They are smart, good watch dogs, usually friendly; most are let loose to roam in the daytime.
This one came at me from behind and nipped my calf through my thin Bali pants. I screamed. He ran off.
I think he was just playing. At first, I thought I was okay because it hadn’t really hurt. I was more indignant that a dog would bite me since I like dogs and am not afraid of them. But when I stopped to look, I saw that he had broken the skin on my calf – two little puncture holes – and a bit of blood! 😦
And that is an issue – a Big issue – since rabies is a problem in Bali.
“Bali was rabies free until an infected dog arrived on a fishing boat in 2008. Since then, over 150 people have died [on just that island] and many thousands of dogs have been killed in the attempt to eradicate the disease.”
This year when we returned to Ubud and stayed at the same guesthouse, Adelle was missing. We asked about her. Sadly, she is probably one of the many thousands of Bali Dogs picked up off the streets and killed in the attempt to rid Bali of rabies. Many studies show that mass culling of animals is not effective; vaccinating them is. We miss her. 😦
“The virus is still present in parts of Bali and is proving very difficult to eradicate completely due to the long incubation period of the disease. . .[which] in both humans and animals can range widely from two weeks up to several years (average 2-3 months), with the incubation period being shorter the nearer the entry point is to the central nervous system. Therefore a bite to the face or neck has a much shorter incubation period than a bite to the foot. Once the virus has reached the brain, it spreads to other sites such as the salivary glands” (8).
The Mayo Clinic notes, “Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal.. . .The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to the flu and may last for days. Later signs and symptoms may include: fever, headache, nausea, agitation, anxiety, hyperactivity, difficulty swallowing, hydrophobia, hallucinations, insomnia, partial paralysis.
Local Bali drivers sitting near their cars had seen that I had been bitten. They said I definitely should get the rabies vaccinations. At the Pilates class, some classmates said I should get the vaccinations; others said the dog probably wasn’t rabid and not to bother with the shots. One expat showed me a photo of her friend’s bite that was much worse than the little one I’d gotten. That bitten woman hadn’t gotten shots, and hadn’t (at least not yet) gotten rabies. The problem is that once you get the rabies symptoms, there is nothing that can be done: you die – a really painful, gruesome death. So should I take a chance?
After class, I peddled to the local clinic that I passed by every day on my way to and from class to check what I should do. As recommended, I scrubbed the wound with warm, sudsy water for 15 minutes, which is important to do for any puncture wound especially in the tropics. The clinic technician said I definitely should get the shots since the dog had run away and so couldn’t be quarantined for 10 days to see if it did indeed have rabies. But I would need about $100 U.S. to pay for the two vaccines I should get before flying out that night. They only took cash.
After some confusion and much stress (and a long hour of peddling around, up and down hills, trying to get money at an ATM machine that would work – and my stomach cramping and me shaking – so I knew I had rabies and would die, I finally got the needed cash. I returned to the Bali clinic.
The clinic is clean, and the clinician efficient and knowledgeable, and like most local people in this tourist packed town, his English is good. He gave me an almost painless shot in each arm, the paperwork I’d need to get reimbursed from my health insurance, and printed instructions about when I should get the two remaining shots. I’m very happy to report that the anti-rabies vaccines are no longer the extremely painful ones given in the stomach.
I would just need to get two more when I got home to Maui at recommended times over the next month – and how hard could that be?
I came back more or less directly if you count a 13-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur and two other layovers (we go for the cheapest tickets) although not nearly so long in Osaka and Honolulu as directly. Exposure to camels was the only thing U.S. quarantine was concerned about when I came through customs, and I could honestly answer that I’d had no problems with camels.
Barry and I are home, and it is good to be back.
Then I just needed to get two more rabies vaccinations at the recommended times. I was back in “medically advanced” U.S.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, “Rabies is a very serious disease caused by a virus in all warm-blooded mammals, including humans. On the U.S. mainland, wild animals that are most often associated with rabies include skunks, foxes, raccoons, and bats. Human rabies is rare in the United States however; worldwide 65,000 to 87,000 deaths occur annually due to rabies primarily in Asia and Africa where prompt medical attention and preventive vaccinations are not readily available. Dogs are the most common source of infection of humans. . .
Human rabies cases in the United States are rare, with only 1 to 3 cases reported annually. Twenty-three cases of human rabies have been reported in the United States in the past decade (2008-2017). Eight of these were contracted outside of the U.S. and its territories.”
I landed on Maui on a Friday night. I called my doctor as soon as the office opened the following morning and explained I had been bitten in Bali and needed two more shots. The next one (it didn’t matter the brand) was to be given the following Wednesday.
“No problem,” I was told and given an appointment for that Wednesday. On Tuesday, my doctor’s office called to confirm. On Wednesday, I arrived a few minutes early and was shown into the doctor’s examining room. It turns out there was a problem. They didn’t have the vaccine. What!
I was then told:
1) insurance wouldn’t cover my shots – cost compared to Bali at U.S. $50. each would be $400 each (which says something about our for-profit pharmaceutical industry here in the U.S. -)
2) no rabies vaccinations were on the island, and
3) only one Maui pharmacy had the contract to procure the rabies vaccination.
I was told that I probably didn’t have rabies. And the basis for that? And if the doctor were wrong? I was suddenly a bit worried.
I looked up “YouTube video of people with rabies.” You do not want to see those images; you definitely don’t want any being to get rabies. That video terrified me.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that my doctor and the “designated rabies vaccine” pharmacy were rather clueless. In our whole state of Hawaii, there has never been a case of rabies acquired here in humans or animals!
Friday morning, two days after I should have had my third shot, (and six days after I’d notified my doctor’s office that I needed the vaccines) I still hadn’t gotten the vaccine. That morning the “designated pharmacy” told me I should fly to the U.S. Mainland to get the last two shots. What!! We get over five million people flying into Maui every year; we have FedX, UPS, U.S. Postal Service. They had had almost a week to get the vaccine here. I was feeling rabid!
Barry said, “Okay – this is ridiculous; we are going to the doctor’s office.” Things didn’t go well there. I ended up yelling at the smirking nurse (who was to explain to the office manager what my doctor had done – or in this case, not done- to get me the vaccine). Then stomping out of the office, I screamed: “You are incompetent and unprofessional!!!” Barry, being more mature, stayed behind and made the point that he had been a patient of this doctor’s office for 30 years and that my situation was one of potential death for me.
Were there any heroes?
- Wailea Pharmacy. Since it seemed I would get no medical help on Maui, Barry and I drove over to Wailea Pharmacy that Friday morning to see if Shelly, our friend and the pharmacy co-owner, had any ideas. She didn’t have the vaccine in stock, but she could get it. She was very reassuring. While we were talking, my doctor’s office called to say they had located the vaccine on island; we would just need to drive into town and bring the vaccine back to be administered that afternoon. So my doctor’s office finally had done something! And why was that? Was it because of my screaming behavior that Friday morning? Was it because Barry had appealed to their medical mission?
- ****Maui Clinic Pharmacy in Kahului!!! This pharmacy keeps the rabies vaccine in stock! Not only that, the cost to me because I have insurance was $30, not the $400 a shot that I’d been told. For the fourth shot, I just went to the Maui Clinic Pharmacy. The very competent, nice, and knowledgeable pharmacist chatted with me and gave me an almost painless shot.
What have I learned from this experience:
- Dogs can bite even if I’m not afraid of them. I need to be more cautious.
- I should always have easy access to money.
- Because it’s a condition we don’t have on Maui, the medical people here in general don’t know what to do about rabies. I should be grateful that rabies isn’t an issue here.
- In Bali, medical people know exactly what to do for dog bites,
- And this is sad – – maybe yelling does work.
No one has to worry about me biting them now – but I had felt like I might need to start biting a few people to get some help.
Although my bite didn’t become infected or leave a scar — and I’m not going to get rabies — on this same trip, I did get a scar from a moped carburetor burn, but that’s another story. Sometimes, traveling can be interesting in ways you don’t expect.
This Bali Dog was named Mandi. She looks much like the dog that bit me – but she was a sweet dog, a victim of poisoning – an effort by some Bali neighbors to rid their community of dogs. Go to the above link to know more about how some people are helping (and some are hurting) Bali Dogs.
War or Peace?
On Saturday, January 13, my husband Barry, our friend Gail from Washington State, and I lounged on our lanai on the warm Maui morning. We watched the birds congregate at our feeder: lots of little red beaked Java sparrows, vibrantly colored love birds, red-headed finches, and an occasional Hawaiian cardinal.
As we sipped our coffee, chatted, and laughed, a warning alert blared from my phone. Usually this means a flash flood warning from rain storms up country or a high-surf advisory. Not at all concerned, I strolled into the kitchen to pick up my phone:
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Was this it?
In the three seconds that it took for me to run back outside to where Barry and Gail were chatting, the following thoughts (in abbreviated form) raced through my mind:
1) Where could we take shelter? We live in a house of single-wall construction, with lots of windows, set on posts and pilings attached to volcanic rock. We don’t even have basements in Hawaii let alone bomb shelters. For a short while during the 1960s when everyone in the U.S. was afraid the Russians would attack, my dad – as a part-time job – sold home bomb shelters that could be built in your backyard. But that was in the Midwest and a long time ago. (I don’t think Dad sold many, and we certainly couldn’t afford one). At school, we practiced crouching under our desks as a way to be protected from atomic bombs!! Ridiculous!
2) I’ve read Japanese author Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain, a dispassionate but memorable novel based on historical records of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and those who survived. I’ve been to Hiroshima and the Peace Museum there where photos show that people were vaporized by bombs much smaller than the ones available today.
The report from the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the bombing notes –
On September 3, 1945, “Wilfred Graham Burchett entered Hiroshima alone, less than a month after the atomic bombing of the city. He was the first Western journalist — and almost certainly the first Westerner other than prisoners of war — to reach Hiroshima after the bomb and was the only person to get an uncensored story out of Japan. The story which he typed out on his battered Baby Hermes typewriter, sitting among the ruins, remains one of the most important Western eyewitness accounts, and the first attempt to come to terms with the full human and moral consequences of the United States’ initiation of nuclear war. It was published in the London Daily Express on September 5 and appears below . . .:
30th Day in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
THE ATOMIC PLAGUE
I write this as a Warning to the World
DOCTORS FALL AS THEY WORK
Poison gas fear: All wear masks
In Hiroshima, 30 days after the 1st atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly — people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.
Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.
In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.
When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around for twenty-five and perhaps thirty square miles and you can see hardly a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made destruction.
I picked my way to a shack used as a temporary police headquarters in the middle of the vanished city. Looking south from there I could see about three miles of reddish rubble. That is all the atomic bomb left of dozens of blocks of city streets, of buildings, homes, factories and human beings.
STILL THEY FAIL
There is just nothing standing except about twenty factory chimneys — chimneys with no factories. A group of half a dozen gutted buildings. And then again, nothing.
The police chief of Hiroshima welcomed me eagerly as the first Allied correspondent to reach the city. With the local manager of Domei, the leading Japanese news agency, he drove me through, or perhaps I should say over, the city. And he took me to hospitals where the victims of the bomb are still being treated.
In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effects. For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And then bleeding began from the ears, nose, and mouth. At first, the doctors told me, they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients Vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle. And in every case the victim died. That is one of the after-effects of the first atomic bomb man ever dropped and I do not want to see any more examples of it. . . .
Go to the above link for the rest of the article.
In the Oct. 10, 2016, Popular Mechanics article, Jay Bennett writes:
Also, for those surviving the initial bombing, the radiation sickness caused agonizing deaths. (Also, the birth defects that follow the family of the survivors reach into subsequent generations).
3) I would not want to survive an atomic blast.
4) Even if I did somehow survive the blast, there would be huge problems in Hawaii. Although the Hawaiians were self-sustaining for thousands of years, now “modern” Hawaii imports 90-95% of its food and energy. We are one of the most food vulnerable places on Earth. If there were a catastrophe, we would soon be out of food and fuel. Puerto Rico is still not getting needed help from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.
In a December 21, 2017 article for Esquire magazine,
Holms reports, It’s been “three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, unleashing the full force of a Category 4 storm on the American territory. The intensity of the 155 mile-per-hour winds and the ferocity of the rainfall led the island’s residents to believe they had encountered something not of this world. . .
The troubles were never going to recede with the storm. The recovery was always going to be long, hard, and frustrating. But reports on the ground in the ensuing weeks quickly made it clear that the federal government’s effort was unacceptably slow and perilously inept. One month after the storm, one million Puerto Ricans—American citizens—were without water. Three million were without power.”
Puerto Rico is much closer to the Mainland U.S. than we are; we aren’t likely to get much help from our current administration.
5) Where was President Trump – and what was he doing with his “bigger button”?
Such terrifying thoughts raced through my mind as I ran back outside to alert Barry and Gail.
Gail, being the smart Microsoft contractor that she is, immediately opened her computer and checked The New York Times. Lead stories included one on the U.S. economy and one on gay rights. There was nothing about missiles headed toward Hawaii. Barry, the always great researcher, ran to the kitchen and turned on the radio. There was nothing on any channel. There were no continuing disaster sirens.
We decided the alert had been a hoax or a hack.
Besides, we were with people we loved, watching birds, and drinking coffee. Our neighbor came up with his cup of coffee. Our other lovely neighbor was off paddling in the ocean. Our son and his little family were on the U.S. Mainland. If we were to go, it would be quick – and besides the crisis didn’t seem real.
Another alarm signal came 38 minutes later saying the first had been a mistake. Later we learned that our president had been playing golf in Florida, so he didn’t overreact to the “news.” The whole situation reminded us that we must check our sources, but it also reminded us that we haven’t really worried about nuclear threats since the early 60s.
At home on our lanai, our little gathering did have a heightened sense of appreciation for the beautiful day, our relationships, our lives, and we poured another round of coffee.
A few days later, the following letter (written by my friend Melinda whom I’ve known for about 20 years) was published in The Maui News:
Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable
As an interviewer and researcher who lived in Hiroshima for over 10 years, I learned that any survival is a fluke. The small bombs that were detonated in Japan vaporized people in an instant, leaving only their shadows. Skin melted off, neighborhoods disappeared, people who were in shelters were sucked out by an intense force and those who survived for a while died horrific deaths from radiation poisoning.
The warning signal is a cruel lie. Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable.
Did you know that in 1929 a law was passed making war illegal? It’s called the Kellogg Brian Pact. It was put forth by our secretary of state, Frank B. Kellogg, and his French counterpart, Aristide Briand.
Did you also know that Hawaii is the first state to recognize the KBP law thanks to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s signing a proclamation making Aug. 27 KBP day? And that Gov. David Ige recognized KBP in a Peace Day proclamation at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in September?
Instead of sirens we need to find a way to de-escalate the path toward nuclear war. Could it be through legal action such as fines for incitement since KBP outlaws war?
If the Koreas and USA can negotiate a cease-fire, surely we citizens of aloha can find a way to prepare for “No More War.”
Surely, we can all work for peace and toward peace.
Religious leaders of all faiths advise peace and love:
Prophet Muhammad, said : “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself” (Sahih Muslim)
The wise words of Buddha from the Dhammapada further reminds us where we could be putting our thoughts – and actions:
The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care and let it spring from
love, born out of concern for all beings.”
Gandhi said, “The real love is to love them that hate you, to love your neighbor even though you distrust him. Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man. I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. . . .
And what did Jesus say? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Let’s put our focus and energy on understanding and loving everyone. Our survival and that of the Earth depends on it.
Banner photo: Birds in the papaya tree off our lanai
“[T]he Count had opted for the life of the purposefully unrushed. Not only was he disinclined to race toward some appointed hour—disdaining even to wear a watch—he took the greatest satisfaction when assuring a friend that a worldly matter could wait in favor of a leisurely lunch or a stroll along the embankment. . . .
When all was said and done, the endeavors that most modern men saw as urgent (such as appointments with bankers and the catching of trains), probably could have waited, while those they deemed frivolous (such as cups of tea and friendly chats) had deserved their immediate attention” (391).
From: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (I recommend this well-written novel)
Take time for a friend today – and make time for a good book too. Fulfilling these two resolutions each day will likely result in a wonderful 2018.
Happy New Year.
What is ecologically correct, even helpful, to eat from the Atlantic Ocean – but not from the Pacific Ocean?
What in a well-made ceviche is rather firm and tastes like a cross between lobster and shrimp? What melts in your mouth, while the “butteriness” balances well with the lime juice”? And from the grill, what is a lot like grouper?
The answer is lionfish from the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where the introduced lionfish is destroying native marine life.
According to NOAA research, the very invasive lionfish found in the Atlantic Ocean prey upon numerous species of fish and crustaceans, such as juvenile spiny lobster, wrasses, parrotfish, blennies, and other ecologically important species. The Atlantic Ocean has very limited predators for lionfish, which inflict extremely painful venom from their spines.
Lionfish might have been introduced into Florida’s waters in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew capsized many transport boats and broke beach-side aquariums. It’s estimated that Americans alone import thousands of the stunning lionfish every year for their aquariums, and some later release the fish in no-native waters.
Reproducing year round, lionfish have no natural enemies and an extremely high reproductive rate of 2 million eggs a year from one female. Unsurprisingly they’ve taken over rapidly (NOAA).
A recent Oregon State University study found that in just five weeks, introduced lionfish reduced the native reef fishes by about 80 percent. The aggressive feeding of lionfish also reduces the numbers of herbivorous fishes that keep seaweeds and macro-algae from overgrowing corals. Lionfish are also taking over snapper and grouper habitats; they hamper stock rebuilding efforts and coral reef conservation measures. Voracious eaters, lionfish grow to a foot or more long, and their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size!
Because native species in the Atlantic and other waters where the lionfish have been introduced do not recognize a lionfish as a predator, the local fish don’t flee. Lionfish can eat prey over half the size of their own body as long as it will fit into their mouths, and they eat almost anything.
The sharp spines of the lionfish contain a powerful venom: a single prick from a lionfish spine can cause days of swelling, discomfort and even paralysis. Pacific Ocean native fish know the danger, and stay away from lionfish (Smithsonian).
In the Western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and in the Gulf of Mexico, however, where lionfish are not native and have very few predators, environmentalists are fighting the lionfish invasion with traps, nets and spears, lionfish catching contests, recipes and cooking contests, including Bermuda’s Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em , campaign. Honduras divers are trying to train sharks to eat lionfish (National Geographic).
Atlantic Ocean lionfish are now being listed as the “ultimate in guilt-free eating – delicious, nutritious and eco-conscious. “ Chefs do need to know how to cut out the poisonous spines and prepare the lionfish correctly so as not to pass on the toxins to their guests. And the fishermen need to know how to catch them without being stung.
The next time you are in Florida, you might find lionfish on the menu. It’s not cheap: in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, the August Moon Restaurant and Café has been serving lionfish since 2007. Alexandra Maillis Lynch, the owner and chef, serves lionfish tempura once every two months, whenever she can convince fishermen to supply it to her. She offers fifteen to twenty dollars a pound for the exotic specialty, nearly twice as much as she pays for the more common grouper (Smithsonian).
According to Southern Living magazine article “Eat the Enemy and Enjoy Lionfish this Summer,” “For chefs, the lionfish’s canvas-like versatility is a key strength. It’s difficult to imagine a preparation—from beer-battered, to sashimi, to vegetable-packed kebabs—that wouldn’t work.”
The story of the Atlantic Ocean lionfish is a good reminder to all of us that introducing alien species into any habitat can quickly lead to catastrophe, both for wildlife and for us.
Remember, our Pacific Ocean lionfish are part of the diversity of our waters – and they should NOT be eaten.
But consuming the Atlantic Ocean lionfish means you are helping the native fish and the commercial fishermen!
Information from: < https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/invasion-of-the-lionfish-131647135/> and information and photo from: <http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/pdf/best_management_practices/fact_sheets/Lionfish%20Factsheet.pdf>
“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved!
That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.
It is the one thing we are interested in here.”
From War and Peace
Enjoy your day wherever you are. Aloha, Renée