With rising tides, the ocean brings more than waves crashing up on the beach. This time residents are greeted by a huge ship onshore named Tekekaoi which means “Good Luck” in the Kiribati language. I don’t think this is really what they had in mind as Luck coming up on shore. (Photo Credit: Humans of Kiribati. May 2015)
We will be talking about one such area where its Island residents have been pleading to migrate to higher ground around them and their right to survive. See what journey they have been gone to try to start the process of leaving their Islands behind for a better life.
KIRIBATI, COUNTRY OF ISLANDS
As a Public Safety Blogger and Writer, I have the opportunity to write on many topics that include Life and Safety issues which brings Kiribati to mind. Always searching for stories to share and their images have left heartbroken for those affected by the powerful storms and survival. The Climate Change has greatly impacted their way of life, homes, crops and emotionally.
Need we may say more? A picture paints a thousand words and in this case, many thousands more. (Photo Credit: Humans of Kiribati. October 2014.)
If you are unfamiliar as to where the Kiribati Islands are located, you are not alone. Great extensive research has been completed to visualize where their tiny Islands reside in the Pacific Ocean.
The Republic of Kiribati became independent from the UK in 1979, is an low-lying island nation comprised of 33 atolls and reef islands and one coral reef island. The islands are protruding tips of undersea volcanoes only a few feet above sea-level. It’s highest point is 266-feet. South Tarawa is the Country’s capital.
Mangroves are a source of stopping erosion to homes and used as a food source for marine life. (Photo Credit: Humans for Kiribati)
These islands have approximately 310 square land miles. Their spread is approximately over 1.3Million miles and straddles both the equator and the International Date line but the Line Islands bring all the islands within the same time zone. Their population is at 103,000 with half living on the Tarawa Atoll. Kiribati is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, IMF, World Bank and the United Nations.
Kiribati is one of the world’s most poorest and least developed Countries. It has few natural resources including exporting fish and Copra [coconut meat]. It’s main financial support comes from sources such as fishing licenses, limited tourism, development assistance and worker remittances. Due to the remoteness and being so isolated, the Kiribati is unable to fully develop tourism completely.
Since 1990, Kiribati has been an active member participating in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), an intergovernmental agency focusing on low-lying and small island countries addressing Global Warming.
A COUNTRY & ITS PEOPLE WORTH SAVING
The Kiribati President and government continues to plead to surrounding Countries and the world to save them. Here are some of the highlights that they are trying to mitigate to save their Country – but they cannot do it alone but with the help of the World together, as one.
A King tide comes in and floods the area including the maternity clinic and hospital causing patients to be evacuated and moved to another facility. (Photo Courtesy: Humans of Kiribati.)
- 2009: President Tong pledged on November 10, 2009, with 10 other Countries to reduce their carbon footprint.
- 2010: Kiribati hosted on November 10, 2010, the Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) to support their initiative.
- 2013: President Tong spoke about climate-induced sea levels rising as inevitable. Pleas for his people to survive, they need to migrate as a large group or to prepare them.
- 2014: President Tong told the NY Times “Within this century, the water levels will be higher than all of their highest peaks on land.”
- 2014: New Zealand rejected the notion that Kiribati’s plea for refugee status due to climate change is not a legitimate reason to allowing them to migrate to their country and will never allow them to move to that Country for that reason. It was also rejected by their Supreme Court.
- 2015: US Ambassador Judith Cefkin will be officiating ground-breaking ceremony in North Tarawa for a new health clinic to be funded by USAid. (http://www.climate.gov.ki/2015/02/25/four-new-ambassadors-meet-with-president-tong/)
- 2015: In February, 4 American, Spanish, Netherlands-Dutch and German Ambassadors lent their credentials to the Kiribati country and members of the European Union will be visiting EU-funded projects in the Country. Those projects are Environmentally Safe aggregates to Tarawa, Solar Energy, as well as Sanitary and Water projects. (http://www.climate.gov.ki/2015/02/25/four-new-ambassadors-meet-with-president-tong/)
EXAMPLES OF AN IMPACTED COUNTRY
“We are global citizens. Our genes are global. Our bodies are global. Our societies are global. Our economies are global. Our environment is global. Our possessions are global. Our civic life is global.” – The Kiribati People
In desperation, the Kiribati people refuse to give up Hope that someday they took will live out their lives in a Country that will accept them as their own and offer ways they too can contribute to society. We know it’s really not Rocket Science but a goodwill gesture in helping save mankind. We know that it’s the right thing to do and worth saving the people of Kiribati from extinction.
A King Wave has come into the Island’s Betio Maternity Hospital clinic and maternity ward flooding out the building and everything around it. This is an ambulance that appears to have been severely damaged. They are a poor Country and can’t just file an insurance claim to buy a brand new one. (Photo Courtesy: These photos courtesy of Victor Itaea, Raimon Kataotao Naitiniwa Teitiaki Joan Temai Leupena and Claire Anterea Tangaroa Late February 2015 www.theislandrescueproject.org The Island Rescue Project via Carol Armstrong, The Island Rescue Project. Photos taken in February 2015.)
“You have a place to run and seek higher ground for shelter. We have no place to run to when the extremely high waves seek refuge on our low-lying Islands. The seas are getting higher and higher. We ask the World to please Save us.” – Kiribati people
Though others may be fleeing for their lives from Syria into other Countries around the world to escape war, others are simply trying to make it to higher ground to protect their own Lives. “The world needs to see for themselves what Global Warming is doing to others than have no where to flee to.”
A downtown shop floods from the many waves that now crash up on the beaches into populated areas. (Photo Credit: Carol Armstong, The Island Rescue Project)
“Refugees run from war and are being taken into welcoming arms of Countries, we struggle to survive from destructive waves that promise to sink our Nation.”
Here are some of their stories:
- February 2015: “The ocean is taking over the low-lying islands and people are living in this every day. There is NO place for them to go to higher ground. King Tides occur monthly and are getting more destructive each month”
- February 23, 2015: One resident reports: “Villages in Kiribati are experiencing overtopping from last night’s super wave causing all patients to be evacuated from the Betio Maternity Hospital to the main hospital at Naverevere. Those who do not live on the islands have a place to run and hide but we do not. The seas are getting higher and higher and we have no place to seek shelter.”
- February 2015: “The impact of Climate Change this year was much more severe than in recent years. Most of the damage sustained in our Capital City of Tarawa which are now full of many stones.”
- March 6, 2015: “Sea levels continue to rise due to climate change, and some countries may vanish into the ocean by 2050. The most at-risk is the South Pacific island nation of Kiribati. Coastal erosion and freshwater contamination could make Kiribati uninhabitable in the next 30 years.”
- March 9, 2015: “It seems like we are having a rainy weather now together with strong winds . The next high tide will be this afternoon till night time and if accompanied with the strong winds, the waves will be dangerous and severely destructive.”
- March 9, 2015: “Another writes, “Most of the seawalls that were recently constructed by MACDow have been destroyed now.Furthermore, the roads are covered with sand, gravel and big stones again. Residential houses along the coastal area are greatly affected by the strong waves too.”
- March 10, 2015: “Extreme damage to the Nippon Causeway that links Betio and Bariki Islets on Tarawa, Kiribati.”
- July 8, 2015: Carol Armstrong of The Island Rescue Project writes: ‘Living on the coast of a former freshwater pond that is now flooded with seawater, high tides post a serious problem for his family, so he has resolved to move house further inland. His wife had gone to visit her relatives on the neighboring island and to bring back groceries. Pacific islands need climate change help now.’
- October 2015: “Just hours after a high-level meeting with delegates from several nations and transnational organizations on climate-induced migration; the winds picked up, the sea swelled, and people living close to the shores headed inland. This was an unusal storm.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
To learn how you can assist the people of Kiribati and surrounding Pacific Ocean islands and The Island Rescue Project, a non-profit 501(c)(3) whom is working with them with sanitation and water supplies, baby formula and teaching in schools, as well as assisting in the clinics, check out their website at www.theislandrescueproject.org. Carol Armstrong is their Founder. She also has a Facebook page SOS . . . Kirbati Needs Your Help! that she created for the people of Kiribati and other Pacific Islands.
(c) 2015 Photographs were republished with previous written authorization and credits were given to the Photographers to the best of the ability of the Author.
(c) 2015 LR Swenson No portion of this article may be electronically or manually reproduced, altered or published without the express written authorization of the Author.