Huffington Post Green readers have, on average, better chances of knowing a thing or two about the tiny island country of Tuvalu in the South Pacific. It is, after all, one of the few so-called poster children countries in terms of highlighting climate change victims. A country made up of coral islands barely popping out of the waters of the Pacific ocean, rising seas threaten its very existence, earning it some recent attention. Aside from those that follow climate change news, Tuvalu is a place that most people have never heard of.
This anonymity is sure to come to an end later this year when the paparazzi descend upon this far-flung group of islands. The astoundingly popular Kate Middleton and Prince William are scheduled to visit Tuvalu, the fourth smallest country in the world, during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee sometime this fall. The trip will certainly put Tuvalu on the map, but news of the upcoming royal trip really got me thinking...
There are places in this world, in existence just 30 short years ago when I was born, that could very well disappear during my lifetime. The entire countries of Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives have high points in elevation of under ten feet - rendering them particularly vulnerable to climate change, sea level rise, and in essence, extinction. Coastal communities all over the world face a similar environmental struggle, yet these four locations in particular are unique due to the fact that their residents live at sea level.
I have had the opportunity to explore the Maldives and the Marshall Islands - walking the streets and beaches, listening intently to islanders speak lovingly about their culture and way of life and fearfully about climate change. I have wanted to travel to Tuvalu and Kiribati for quite some time, two countries that are not exactly easy to visit, given their isolated location. Why it took hearing about Kate Middleton's upcoming trip to finally book a trip of my own, I do not know. But, the one thing I have to thank the British royals for is the fact that in just a few days time I will visit these two "drowning island" countries that I have wanted to experience for years.
If you google these countries plenty of stories appear about climate change's threat to the island nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu. You can find pictures, and every once in a while you can find a short first hand account from an actual islander. If you would like to dive deeper into the culture and texture of these significant and threatened countries, follow this blog in the coming weeks. I will write about the entire experience, showing pictures, linking to video, and highlighting individuals and snippets of their stories along the way. I will also travel to Vanua Levu in Fiji to visit a village that is in the process of relocating due to environmental change, as well as to do a site-visit on a piece of land that is said to have been gifted to or purchased from the country of Kiribati for a potential small-scale relocation in the future.
I am excited for this adventure, but also deeply honored and humbled by the ability to see these locations while they still exist.