Kiribati is an island nation famous for being the first place to greet the new millennium, but that’s generally where their fame stops. The islands consist of about 100,000 people living on 811 square km of land spread over 3.5 million km. It’s 33 atolls and coral islands are at the cutting edge of climate change. In a similar way that Kivalina is effected in the far north (read about Kivalina sinking here). These guys, nestled near the equator are feeling the watery pinch of an ever infringing coast line.
The photo below really demonstrates the precarious nature of the nation more than a million of my sentences ever could…
The Kiribati islands are half way-ish between Hawaii and Fiji and are some of the remotest places on earth. They also have a brilliant flag. Click here if you’d like to see my other favourite flags of the world.
Their economy is mostly dependent on fishing, agriculture and selling dried coconut flesh. They also have some money left in the coffers from a once profitable phosphate mining industry, but mostly survive now on the basics and foreign aid. Although they would like to increase tourism, there are no regular flights, and if you wanted to fly from London, England you’d be talking £4,000 return. Which is a little steep.
The people of Kiribati rely on coral to protect it’s shallow shores, unfortunately, a decline in coral health is having a direct impact on their already shrinking lands, not to mention their dinner tables as fish will only hang about where the coral is looking good. They’re fussy like that. The drop in coral health seems to be tied to a temperature rise, a hike of just 1 degree Celsius is enough to trigger coral death.
The President of Kiribati’s View
The President of Kiribati Anote Tong said this in an interview recently:
“For a long time people saw flooding and other damage as acts of God. But now some people are coming to the realization that sea levels are rising, and it’s only going to get worse. People are mobilizing. They want help. Now there is a feeling that the people who contribute most to the problem should be part of the solution.”
He describes a general feeling of frustration that they are facing the imminent destruction of their entire country, and the people who are to blame just keep on churning out the stuff that we now think causes it. The West has a winge at China and India every so often for kicking out too many emissions but forget that we started it in the first place. Get a grip.
The end is so crushingly imminent that the President has already asked it’s nearest neighbours if they would set aside lands so that his people could be moved en masse rather than scattered globally and lose their identity. The islanders have already started a programme that trains the young for a potential future in Australia. It’s a sad time for the islanders indeed.
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