Micropatrology and My Interest in Navassa

The International Micropatrological Society

I was one of the twelve members of the International Micropatrological Society, a group formed in the mid-1970s by Frederick Lehmann of St. Louis, USA, and Christopher Martin of London, England, to study very small countries and islands. The Society has been dormant since about 1980. As an IMS member, I reported on Navassa Island and followed the affairs of a number of other islands. I will put up a page on the IMS to explain more about it.

Fabrice O'Driscoll and several associates have created a very well-researched website in French that carries on the study of micronations in the spirit of the IMS.

My Own Interest in Navassa

In my teens, I wondered if I could start my own country somewhere. Navassa Island looked promising: it was small, remote, and uninhabited. But the U.S. Coast Guard administered the territory as the site of an automatic navigational beacon and the island was unavailable and not really inhabitable. Over the next few years, my interest in nationhood evolved into a small private project to deliver publishers overstock books to schools in Jamaica and other West Indian islands. I raised some money to buy books, mostly overstock almanacs, at a few cents on the dollar. Some of these I had fun distributing in person wearing a pirate hat and shirt. The rest I arranged to have shipped, mainly to the Jamaica Library Service. This activity became dormant when I returned to college in 1981.

I decided to post this website on Navassa in the spring of 1996. Since then, I have provided some research support to the scientists who have visited Navassa, and I answer inquiries from the general public.

Navassa has the potential to serve as a valuable baseline for environmental research in the region. The island's Caribbean environment is unique, having survived the twentieth century undamaged. It can help scientists in efforts to assess and restore damaged ecologies in the larger region. But there is evidence now that the island's waters are being fished for food and that its marine life is in danger.

Unlike other remote U.S. islands, Navassa is in a very tense part of the world. The island is ninety miles south of Cuba and lies on the principal smuggling route for narcotics into Florida. The U.S. reassertion of interest in the island since 1998 has provoked criticism in the Haitian Senate and in the Haitian press. Haiti's topography is in a spiral of deforestation and erosion and the country cannot feed itself. Its population will increase by fifty percent in the next two decades. Navassa could become a catalyst for nationalism if conditions in Haiti deteriorate.

Navassa's future may lie in a renewed effort to improve conditions in Haiti, which will demand imagination in view of the limited involvement of the United States in that country now. My hope is that Navassa will not fall below the radar of official U.S. attention until some new crisis forces it back into view.

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