Australian Author and historian Paul Collins wrote an opinion piece about Kiribati for eurekastreet.com.au to coincide with the Doha Climate Change Conference …
I’ve been to Kiribati, so I understand its vulnerability. Straddling the equator in the central Pacific Ocean, the sea is everywhere. You’re never more than one or two metres above the ocean on the long, narrow strips of coral atoll that make up a country with a total land-mass of just 811 sq km.
The significance of Kiribati is that, together with Tuvalu, it will be the first country to be drowned by global warming. The 101,998 people of Kiribati can only retreat into the lagoon or the ocean.
Already the islands are badly eroded, and unprecedented long and severe droughts are affecting fresh water supplies and the vegetation on which people depend for food. Wind directions have changed and unseasonal and more violent storms are lashing the 21 inhabited islands. It may be already too late for this unique culture, and the Kiribati government has begun negotiations with Fiji to purchase land to re-settle people.
Given that last year Australia took 170,000 immigrants I find it extraordinary that we are doing precious little for our Pacific neighbours in Kiribati who share much with us culturally and religiously. The islands are 55 per cent Catholic, 38 per cent Protestant and 3 per cent Mormon.
Geographically it’s a long way from Doha to Tarawa, the Kiribati capital, but it’s even further in terms of understanding the effects of global warming.