Monday, June 9, 2008

Kiribati's 11th Hour?

"We may be beyond redemption," said President Tong. "We may be at the point of no return, where the emissions in the atmosphere will carry on contributing to climate change, to produce a sea level change so in time our small, low-lying islands will be submerged."

Kiribati – a former British colony called the Gilbert Islands – is home to 97,000 people, most of them squeezed into the densely populated main atoll, Tarawa, a chain of islets surrounding a central lagoon. Along with other low-lying Pacific island nations such as Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu, it is regarded as one of the places most vulnerable to climate change.

President Tong, a London School of Economics graduate, said emigration needed to start immediately: "We don't want to believe this, and our people don't want to believe this. It gives us a deep sense of frustration. What do we do?"

Kiribati was my inspiration for Mara's drowning island in EXODUS. I first read about the Kiribati islands in 1999. Almost a decade on, we, the outside world still have done nothing to help.

Read the full story here and here, and about how I was inspired by the Kiribati islanders here.

I've been so imaginatively involved with Kiribati's plight, all through the writing of my trilogy. They are part of the talks I do in schools and at festivals but I wish I could do something more than talk. I will think about what that might be. Ideas welcome.

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