Posted by: islandsfirst | October 13, 2008

So We Left

200 million people may be displaced within the next few decades according to experts hosted by United Nations University last week. The international conference on “Environment, Forced Migration and Social Vulnerability” (EFMSV) that took place at the Bonn campus last week seemed to indicate that small islands states are not alone. Billed as “the largest meeting ever on the topic”, organizers anticipated approximately 600 participants from up to 80 nations:

Participants will take up a variety of thorny challenges, including how to assess the relative importance of environmental, economic and social factors behind migration, and how environmentally-induced migration differs from other types. Defining questions include how people or groups decide to move when the environment around them cannot support normal life, and whether resettlement programs organized by governments should be classified as environmentally-induced migration.

While the United States, preoccupied with its financial meltdown, continued to fumble in its much-needed leadership on mitigating climate change, predictions from other quarters were considerably more detailed. Forum for the Future has published an analysis on how different responses to the climate crisis might lead to very different worlds in the even more immediate future.

Future aside, a nod to “The Private Islands Blog” on a story about a self-proclaimed “world’s first climate refugee“. While the claim to fame may be dubious, we’re all too aware of its underlying tragic reality:

Why did we leave our paradise?

All the islands of the independent nation of Tuvalu are coral-islands: atolls barely peeping out of the water. Yes, the top of our concrete water tank is in fact one of the highest solid points in the country, less than three meters above the sea-level – at low tide!

The laws of physics tells you that you will not have hurricanes in the equatorial belt. Somebody should to wake up old Einstein and Newton; We had three hurricanes in a row about Christmas-time our fifth year on the island. Something had changed – and you will realize what this really means when you are sitting in a house that has lost the top of the roof and is swaying from side to side, and you hear enormous waves thundering against the reef less than two hundred meters away!

“The climate-change forced us away!”

We were lucky. We survived, and so did all the inhabitants of Tuvalu, even if the country was declared a catastrophe-area and hundred of people lost their homes when the waves rolled across the islands.

“I have seen that the weather has changed, we have never had strong winds like this before. I have heard that the sea-level will rise, and can believe that next hurricane might bring even larger waves. We will have to climb to the top of the coconut-threes and then we will drown. It does not matter too much to me, I am old now, but the children should live!” my mother-in-law Fakalei said, after we had cleared all the debris around our house and watched all the fallen banana-plants and breadfruit-trees.

We had a four year old daughter, so we left.

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