Through most of Friday 11 March 2011, I watched media coverage, frozen with uncertainty about the fate of a group of scattered Pacific islands as a tsunami surged from Japan towards the west coast of America. Those fragile islands whose fates concerned me are already doomed to extinction in this century. Here are just two of those condemned.
With a mixture of realism and optimism, Rev. Baranite Kirata, an islander and member of The World Council of Churches, explained that "it is now too late to do something for Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands; but together, we are the world, and it is not too late to do something for us all." Photo: Tuvalu Island, by Stefan Lins.
That remark was made in 2008. Called by some the "liquid continent," the Pacific contains a narrow scatter of islands, individual entities and small national states that dot the South Pacific Ocean from Papua New Guinea on the eastern side to Tahiti on the west and from the Marshall Islands in the north to New Caledonia in the south.
While our voracious appetite for news and information lasts, let us take a last glance at just two of those islands. It is a little-known but tragic story that began with the first smokestack of the industrial revolution. It began to scream along from the moment in 1913 when the initial production-line automobile rolled out and the polar ice-melt began to drip.
In April 2004, Melissa Fife, an environment reporter for Australia's The Age newspaper, reported that many islands in the South Pacific Ocean were already drowning in debris with a non-marine origin. Despite a lot of hemming and hawing by politicians and "environmental" academics, nothing much has changed since then, except the creeping level of the high tide mark, plus occasional fragments washed onshore from the last devastating tsunami that hit Thailand beaches, resorts, and several surrounding Asian nations.