Target: Chuck Hagel, Secretary of the US Department of Defense
Goal: Don’t build airstrip that would destroy the habitat of endangered marine mammal
The United States military is planning on building an airstrip in Okinawa, Japan. This construction would destroy the natural habitat of the Okinawa dugongs, which are a critically endangered species. Locals have also protested for years against the expansion of the military base on Okinawa, which already takes up 20 percent of the island. This airstrip is unnecessary and could make the dugongs go extinct.
The dugong, a large marine mammal similar to a manatee, is an ancient cultural symbol and mark of pride for Okinawans. The dugong is an object of deep national and cultural significance and is listed as such on Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Under international law, the United States must take steps to avoid or severely limit damage to other countries’ culturally significant objects or places. These dugongs have always been revered by the native people as “sirens” who warn the people of coming tsunamis.
The dugong has been categorized by the Japanese as critically endangered and is also listed on the US Endangered Species Act. In 1997, there were only around 50 dugongs left. Recent surveys have been able to locate only three. Since dugongs only live in shallow waters near to the coast, paving over some of their remaining habitat could spell the end of the species. For the United States to build a construction like this, all of the relevant information must be obtained and reviewed in order to mitigate or avoid harm to the endangered dugongs. The Department of Defense has conducted an investigation to find out what damage this construction would cause and concluded that it was minimal. However, this investigation ignored important information, did not take into account all of the airstrip’s effects, and did not include input from locals or dugong experts.
Please urge Defense Secretary Hagel to stop the construction of a military airstrip in Okinawa and save the dugongs which are under a very real threat of extinction.
Dear Secretary Hagel,
The plans to build a new airstrip and expand the military base in Okinawa, Japan will almost certainly cause harm to the precious and critically endangered dugongs that live in the shallows around the base. This species is of deep cultural significance to Japan and the United States has no place destroying or harming another country’s culture.
Recent surveys of the area have concluded that there are only around three dugongs in the area. This number has dwindled from fifty in 1997. The military base in Okinawa already holds 20 percent of the island and its expansion could make the dugongs go extinct.
Your department has conducted an investigation to discover the potential harm to the dugong and concluded it was minimal. This investigation did not look at all the effects of the airstrip and ignored important facts. Also, it was not open to the public so locals and dugong experts could not convey vital information.
Please reconsider the construction of this airstrip on the military base in Okinawa and protect the few remaining dugongs from extinction.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Julien Willem via Wikimedia Commons