Obama visits far-flung Midway Atoll in conservation push

Standing on a pristine beach on Midway Island, Obama recognized both the historical and ecological significance of the six-mile-long atoll northwest of Hawaii.

President Barack Obama tours on Midway Atoll in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with from Marine National Monuments Superintendent Matt Brown, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

The site's special recognition also has spurred similar action around the world: After being officially designated a national marine monument under Bush in 2006, more than a dozen other large-scale marine reserves were created around the globe.

As President Barack Obama embarked on his final trip to Asia while still in office, climate change promised to rank near the top of his agenda, not far from traditional priorities like national security and trade.

Ahead of Obama's visit, the White House announced modest new steps to help Pacific island countries prepare for climate change, including $9 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development for resilience programs in places like Fiji, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea. "It's not 'we think it is man-made, ' it's not, 'we guess it is man-made, ' it's not, 'a lot of people are saying it's man-made, ' it's not, 'I'm not a scientist so I don't know.' You don't have to be scientist".

Few Americans have ever visited Midway, with its black-footed albatrosses and spinner dolphins — and that's exactly Obama's point. "And that means conservation has been a cornerstone of my presidency".

Obama said his trip to the Pacific Island has been to "provide some visual aid to understanding what's happening" regarding climate change.

Obama said he's "very proud" of his conservation achievements.

"One of the things that I probably can do best is - in addition to shining a spotlight - helping citizens who are concerned about this to mobilize and shape political strategies so that on a bipartisan basis, we can be more effective in dealing with these challenges", Obama said.

"7,000 species live in its waters, a quarter of which are not found anywhere else in the world", he said.

Yet for all the pristine splendor, there were poignant reminders that even this dot of far-flung land hasn't been immune to human contamination.

Obama previewed the message he will send to Chinese President Xi Jinping at his last meeting with G20 world leaders. With the expansion, the size of the monument will increase by more than four times. But opponents argued the region is heavily dependent on fishing and can't afford the hit, adding that a federal ban would infringe on the traditions that ancient Hawaiians used to protect natural resources.

The World War Two Battle of Midway, one of the most-studied battles in military history, tipped the balance of the U.S fight against the Japanese navy. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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