|Brain twister: She searches for sanctuary on the seashore.|
|Left to right: Chris and Agnes.|
The talk at our table turned to climate change and the impacts this will have on Pacific islanders who are in line to lose their homes. Those in Tuvalu and Kiribati are at the front line of sea level rise, but of course that's the drama. Earlier problems are changes to the water table - which makes drinking water harder to find and salinates the soil. If you can't grow food, or get water (other than from rainwater), you're starting to be on an island that's not fit for human habitation.
So what will happen to those nations?
The Pacific has some experience of resettlement. In 1946 the Banabans were forced off their island (in Kiribati) and resettled in Rabi island, Fiji (many also live near the airport at Nadi) so the phosphate could be strip-mined by the British (who only years later paid compensation for this piece of mineral terrorism).
Kiribati has enshrined in its constitution minority rights for Banabans. How long can that last if more Kirbati people are obliged to upsticks? It is after all a very flat place, one where there is nowhere to go if the unthinkable happens. Ditto Tuvalu.
Can you imagine a generous country like New Zealand allowing a state within a state? Could part of Auckland be turned into Tuvalu, say? Will Tuvalu be allowed a UN vote (it only became a member in 2000)? Or an Olympic team (they first competed in 2008 at Beijing, and here is a video of their proud weightlifter at London 2012)? Will Tuvalu still be allowed a government? And what will those exiled Tuvalu people be known as, "climate refugees" perhaps?
Absolutely wrong word say several people at the event. The countries that have caused these problems, predominantly those that developed their industries the earliest, have to learn to offer "sanctuary". It is simply an accident of geography that the disastrous impacts of climate change on nations happens to them, rather than us.
Over to you
I'm going to be thinking about this for a while, sanctuary not refugee, but wondered what readers of this blog thought?