The Asia-Pacific region has been known for millennia as among the most glorious expressions of Nature on the Earth. Thousands of small island nations have been celebrated as “Paradise” in story, song and great works of idyllic art for centuries, going back to Paul Gauguin. So it is a stunning tragedy that over only the last century, and particularly the last several decades, these glorious places, and their peoples, have become prime targets for military and corporate invasion and destruction, among the global power plays of powerful distant nations.
In recent decades, the world’s most powerful nations have been increasingly pressuring small island nations and their peoples to conform their lives and values to the globalized economy, and its economic growth imperatives. The great powers are demanding entry for global resource exploitation corporations, and for military forces as well. The consequences have been stunning and terrifying: resources plundered by gigantic mining operations, seeking rare earth and other minerals, as well as coal and oil for export; ancient forests destroyed for export timber, and for vast palm oil plantations for U.S. and other cosmetic companies; land-grabbing by global finance companies, driving traditional peoples off their sustainable farming lands; vast over-fishing in regions that have supported local populations for centuries. All of this will soon be exacerbated by the new Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, soon to be completed among Pacific Rim powers.
In addition, the pressures of great-power military expansion, especially base-building and military training exercises have brought vast new environmental impacts: toxic dumping on pristine lands and coastal waters; destruction of coral reefs and rare populations of wild dolphins and other species; destruction of traditional indigenous communities, rebuilt to serve thousands of imported foreign soldiers and sailors, seeking recreation, bars and prostitution. Now, the United States plans to convert more than one million square miles of pristine Pacific ocean, including areas of the northwest Hawaiian islands, the northern Marianas, and the northern portions of the Micronesian islands, for “war games” among the U.S. and its military partners in the region, particularly Japan and South Korea. New bases were recently announced for the Cocos Islands (to house drones), the tiny island of Yoniguni (Japan), and for the Philippines. All of this is in addition to continued missile range testing in various areas of the Pacific, and the new home-ports being built for nuclear warships on Jeju Island, South Korea, where giant local protests are being brutally crushed on a daily bases. In other Pacific regions—Indonesia, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, for example—indigenous populations are facing tremendous pressures from new mining and dam and infrastructure construction activity, to serve the larger economic interests of China, Russia, and the United States. Meanwhile, peoples of the Pacific are joining hands in new international appeals to stop these invasions.