Thursday, February 18, 2016

Historical Sites and World Heritage

Hey Team Beautify,

Angelo here.  I'm back in cold and snowy Washington, DC and wanted to share with you an update about World Heritage and historical sites.  As of right now, a Beautify CNMI committee has not been created to tackle this issue, but I'm sure one will be organized.

The Saipan Tribune has published two stories on our early discussions (here and here):
Historical sites also on Beautify CNMI’s agenda
Cause-oriented group Beautify CNMI has also identified historical sites in the CNMI as another one of their concerns citing their importance to the island’s culture.

Former representative Cinta Kaipat, with the help of Angelo Villagomez and other members of the community, is trying to revive Beautify CNMI in order to raise awareness on how to keep the islands clean and attractive both from local and foreign tourists.

Aya Matsumoto, another passionate community volunteer, had voiced the importance of the CNMI’s historical and cultural sites in promoting history. She hopes that the community would preserve it.

Finding ways to preserve monuments, buildings, and other important places that have historical value in the CNMI is also being discussed by the group.


Villagomez, among the few who were able to visit some of the Northern Islands in 2009, said that the site could be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as other significant sites in the CNMI.

“The North Field, the world’s largest Air Force base during World War II, we got the latte stones, the Marianas Trench, the Maug lagoon—the only place where chemosynthesis and photosynthesis at the same time. There’s boiling pools of sulfur, there’s deep sea volcanic vents. There are these cool cultural and historic sites that would be valid as world heritage sites,” Villagomez said.
It's a great coincidence that just as the Beautify CNMI coalition began talking about historical areas and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, we learned that a draft nomination for listing the Mariana Trench was already written.  The draft is a collaboration between our local government and the federal government, and had input from local cultural experts. The Mariana Trench would be only the second marine World Heritage site of both natural and cultural values, so this is a very big deal.

I've found that many people in the United States are not aware of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but globally they receive a lot attention.  If you have heard about them, perhaps it's because Palau's Rock Islands were declared one in 2012

The more than 1000 sites -- including iconic places like the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon -- are a bucket list for millions of people, including Aya Matsumoto, who is originally from Japan and brought this to the attention of the coalition members.  These are, simply put, the most spectacular cultural and natural places in the world.

If you want more info you can visit the UNESCO website, which has loads of info.  I've also written about World Heritage Sites here and here.  And in 2010, I worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to load several hundred Google Ocean stories to the Explore the Ocean layer of Google Earth, including all of the marine World Heritage Sites.  Here's a video we produced about the effort (UNESCO was one of 20 partners I teamed up with for content):

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

By the way, about half of the photos that are used in this video were taken by Saipan dive celebrity Harry Blalock, owner and operator of Axe Murderer Tours on Saipan.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Beautify CNMI in the News

Cinta Kaipat leads our tree planting on Thursday
We had a few stories in the local papers this week.  We had our first meeting on Monday and planted our first trees on Thursday.  Here are some of the highlights:

Beautify CNMI is Back
BEAUTIFY CNMI, the coalition of community, business and government organizations that brought people together 10 years ago to clean and beautify the islands, is here again to “infect” the people with the “beautify virus.”

Former Rep. Cinta M. Kaipat and environmental activist Angelo Villagomez, two of the key organizers of Beautify CNMI, met with other volunteers in the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s Chamolian Room on Monday to see “if we all can work together again.”
Kaipat Revives Beautify CNMI
“It is a diverse group that broke down boundaries. It is a group united by a common goal of taking care of the environment, enhance the CNMI’s natural beauty, and foster community pride in its residents,” said Kaipat.

Angelo Villagomez, who is one of the founders of Beautify CNMI!, has been involved in various community volunteer works before moving to the mainland. He is now based in Washington, D.C. but is on island to help Kaipat reorganize the group.

Kaipat said that her goal is not to replace the current post-Typhoon Soudelor work being done by various other groups but to enhance what they have been doing.

“We are not only making it beautiful for us but also for the tourists and for our children. We want to revive the campaign and join it with other work being done on the island today,” added Kaipat, who shared a lot of stories of volunteers that helped them in various projects.
Solid waste disposal is main concern of Beautify CNMI!
Proper disposal of solid waste on the island—especially those left by Typhoon Soudelor—became the center of discussion of the first meeting of reviving the people-centered group Beautify CNMI!

The core group, which answered former representative Cinta Kaipat’s invitation to attend the meeting, agreed that some of the problems that the community is facing right now is garbage left by those who spend weekends at the beach or trash dumped in random places by some people

Beer and soda cans, plastic bottles, disposable plates and utensils, cigarette butts, boxes, straws, burger wrappers, diapers, and other household thrash are the regular things collected during beach cleanups.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) said the challenge right now is how to keep one area clean and some people don’t have the money to get the services of a trash collection agency.

“As soon as you finished cleaning up one place, trash would appear in another. Either illegally burn it or throw it somewhere else,” said Propst, who together with Rep. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan) are thinking of possible laws that they could file at the Legislature.
Beautify CNMI to plant commemorative tree tomorrow
“We’ve planted several hundred flame trees along Beach Road also in Koblerville and several other places around the island,” Villagomez said.

He also credited those who came first to plant the trees that have become a trademark and identity of the CNMI.

“The flame trees by the beach were actually started many, many years ago, in the ’60s, ’70s,” Villagomez said, “Somebody has always stepped up and planted flame trees but it’s actually something that’s existed for 30 years.”

Villagomez said that while it is sad that those trees were gone, it is our responsibility to beautify the CNMI again.

“They were blown away. It’s really sad how much this island lost from the typhoon. People lost their homes, and we lost one of the naturally beauty. But as caretakers of this island, it’s our responsibility to fix up that which was broken,” Villagomez said.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Meeting Minutes

Participants in the first meeting of 2016
Beautify CNMI meeting
February 1, 2016
Hyatt Chamolian Room

Participants: Vinnie Sablan (Legislature), Tatiana Babauta (MVA), Steve Jang (CARE), Lucy Sablan, Ike Cabrera, N Horiguchi, Walt Goodridge, Jojo Cruz (MINA), Angelo Villagomez (Pew), Aileen Benavente (BECQ), Jose Kaipat (BECQ), Brad Ruszala (CUC), Ed Propst (Legislature), Shelane Borja (CARE), Jill Arenovski (SCC), Jenny Hegland (CARE), Jon Perez (media), Cinta Kaipat, Arnold (media), Frau (media)

Cinta welcomed the group and introduced Angelo.

Angelo showed two movies from 2007:
What is Beautify CNMI?
One Year Anniversary
Cinta followed up with a history of Beautify CNMI and discussion of our values:
Beautify Virus – We must always be growing and sharing the message of our coaltion
We are a coaltion, not an organization – we steamroll bureaucracy
Do it now – if you have to ask if you can do it, the answer is yes
Give from your heart, we’ll take as much or as little as you can give
Everyone’s a member, even if they don’t know it yet

Following the talk, a discussion followed:

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About 80% of the discussion was about solid waste
Solid waste management – Vin & Ed & Joe K. & MINA, Jen, Steve were identified as leaders and possible committee chairs. Taken as a whole, solid waste is too big an issues, so we discussed breaking up into sub-committees
-Enforcing Litter laws
-Village Cleanups- canvassing neighborhoods that still have typhoon debris & illegal dumping
-Restructuring price of dumping (tipping fee)
-Recycling, Tires
-Abandoned Structures – don’t have permission to remove debris from abandoned properties. How do we clean this up? What’s beautiful is also safe!

MINA brought up their work with marine debris & litter & plastic
It was mentioned that ocean issues as a whole are also important

Animals were discussed in two terms:
There is still an issue of abandoned and feral issues, and we should talk to Saipan Cares for Animals because they are doing great work. In the past we worked with PAWS and help public education activities and events
Dead animal cleanup – is there a government or a private sector solution to this perennial problem? It is related to the number of stray animals.

Working with the community was an overarching theme for all the discussions
There should an Education & Outreach committee
We should make educaitonal PSAs
Focus should be young kids & the parents

We want to plant trees to replace the ones destroyed by the Typhoon. We are having a tree planting this week.

Historical monuments & buildings – Aya & Ike
We need to talk to HPO
Promote this history

Diving was mentioned as important

Next meeting?
Ed Propst will convene a solid waste meeting in two weeks.
Joe Kaipat will see if we can hold the next general meeting at BECQ in March