OCEANIA AND GLOBAL WARMING
OUR PEOPLE ON THE REEF
Poem by Jane Resture
The ramifications of global warming will most likely involve some form of resettlement of many of our people on the reefs. The logistics of this may be relatively simple however the longer term impact of resettling people whose ancestral and spiritual roots are buried so deeply in the ground is yet to be fully comprehended.
Environmentalists and friends of the earth have long contended that greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributing factor to global warming. The consequence of this is that the polar icecaps will melt resulting in a subsequent rise in the sea level.
Present research has suggested that there will be an 0.5 - 0.8 degrees C rise in regional surface temperatures during the 20th century with less warming in the northern hemisphere. As a consequence of this, Pacific Island countries are experiencing certain effects which are consistent with the anticipated impacts of global climate change such as adverse effects on human health, drought and the subsequent decline of agricultural productions.
This will adversely affect many Pacific Islands, particularly those comprising low-lying coral atolls such as in Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu. Indeed, the effects of global warming are already becoming apparent in many of the outer islands of Papua New Guinea where the rising sea water level has spilled inland with a resultant detrimental effect on food gardens and crops. Indeed, when the tide subsides, pools of salt water remain causing the root crops such as banana, breadfruit trees and other foods to die from an excessive intake of salty water.
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There are not many options available to our island people in order to counter the effects of global warming and rising sea levels. The two obvious options are, firstly, to construct sea walls around the low-lying atolls and, secondly, to progressively relocate the people on these atolls to higher safer ground. The first of these options appears not to be economically viable as the cost of constructing a sea wall for one Marshall Island atoll alone has been estimated at one hundred million US dollars. This is more than twice the wealth that the country produces each year.
Trees in the midst of the sea - Tarawa, Kiribati
The option of resettling people who lose their island atolls as a result of global warming appears to be the only viable one. In some cases, this may eventually result in the resettlement of virtually all the population of many of our atoll island nations....they will simply disappear. In other cases, this may involve the relocation of people from an outer island to the main island. In any event, it will be a significant occasion particularly as generations of the people involved may have lived on the island for hundreds of years and their ancestral and spiritual roots are deeply buried in the soil.
The solutions to the problems resulting from global warming and rising sea level will need to be found by our own people and by the friends of Oceania. There appears to be little doubt that over the next 70 years the resettlement of our atoll island nation people will be a necessity. It is only to be hoped that our beautiful and unique cultures can be preserved even if only in the hearts and minds of our people.
Aspects of Global Warming