Residents of 33 atolls that make up the Kiribati Island nation in the South Pacific have become de facto celebrities for all the wrong reasons. The citizens of Kiribati are some of the first climate refugees to permanently lose their country and their homeland simultaneously to a changing climate.
It is heartbreaking that many rich nations (such as the USA) continue to subsidize fossil fuels, which encourages additional unthrottled use and even some of the other nations that acknowledge the seriousness of Climate Change and the need to act now still do little more than quibble over which program they should support to lower their carbon and greenhouse gas emissions…and all the while Island nations such as Kiribati are already becoming victims of rising ocean levels.
The flood of climate change refugees has already started. New Zealand for instance has had approximately 17,000 islanders submitting applications to become residents in the last two years, which is more than double any previous record rates.
Sadly rising sea levels disproportionately affect some of the most impoverished countries on the planet, which when compared to the carbon footprint of those individuals living in more prosperous nations the residents of these island nations have contributed very little to the global carbon problem. As in the case of Kiribati a substantial portion of their economy depends upon the demand for coconut (the main export) followed by fish and seaweed, so one will not find traffic jams of polluting cars full of commuters on these islands.
Unfortunately it’s hard for people to make the mental connection that somehow filling up their fossil-fuel powered cars or delaying a switch to renewable energy is somehow responsible for destroying the lives of people living far away in the middle of the ocean. It’s really sad that humankind still has so many members that can continue to act so selfishly and won’t consider making any lifestyle changes such as using mass public transit or riding a bike more often while they can still afford to fill up their gas guzzling overpowered SUVs. I only wish everyone could also meet some of these wonderful, friendly and good natured people as I have, because after doing so one can’t help but feel compelled to help in whatever way possible.
The Kiribati island nation was previously known as the Gilbert Islands until 1979 when they won independence from the United Kingdom. The islands of the Kiribati nations cover a vast area (2500 by 1200 miles) over the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Most of the islands are less than 6 feet (2 meters) above sea level and the islands don’t have to be submerged to make them uninhabitable, as it only takes a little seawater to contaminate the fresh water supply or kill vegetation.
Video: Kiribati: The country killed by climate change
A video about what the small nation of Kiribati is facing, as its culture, lifestyle, and very sovereignty is under threat.:
EV of the Year Judge, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+, Linked in or website