Posted by: islandsfirst | June 17, 2008

Funafuti

Funafuti, capital of Tuvalu, sits low atop the Pacific. Some testimonials from Carolyn Barnwell and photos from Gary Braasch illustrate how this atoll is among the most vulnerable places on earth due to the sea-level rise and heightened storm surges brought on by global warming.

The widest part of Tuvalu

As Dr. Puakena Basuna, mother of three, explained:

Our family lives on the lagoon side of Funafuti, right on the coastline. The spring tides come right up to our porch, and if it is windy, they come right into the house!

Mr. Braasch met some kids who share Dr. Basuna\'s concern.

However grave the physical threats may be, it is the threat of displacement that seems to be the greatest concern. Talatea Boreham, Funafuti’s postmaster, described how such issues are affecting his own life:

I don’t know what the government plan is for environmental refugees. But it would be good to go to New Zealand, to move. I was thinking about the way we’ve been brought up, and our local customs. We might lose our traditions, our freedom. We enjoy our freedom and living here in Tuvalu. Especially in the outer islands. You can leave your house open, you can sleep anywhere. We know our own land, all the people around us. Mostly, we like our place! It’s very hard to move a society.

My home island is Nui. There have been big changes. Most of the trees are gone due to coastal erosion. Maybe ten or fifteen meters of erosion in some places! On one of the nearby islets where we used to go for picnics, I was so surprised when I went back to visit. A very big, memorable tree that used to be about fifteen meters from the shore had fallen into the sea. They were never hit by a hurricane. I don’t know what’s happening. Maybe it’s a change in the climate… but most of the place is gone, and no one lives there anymore.

The starkest perpective came from Eseta Lauti of Red Cross Tuvalu:

People have spent most of their income on building a permanent home. They have no land, there’s nowhere else to go.

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