I’m wide awake in Kiribati because the ocean is roaring outside my window. Every 30 seconds or so, there is a low, thundering sound — like someone dragging a large table across an empty school hall. Annoyed at not being able to sleep, and not being able to identify the sound, I get up to see for myself.
The pounding growl is from the large waves hitting the sea wall outside our house. It’s unexplainably murderous. In one hour, the ocean will shrink back, suggesting its work here is done, and it will move onto another victim.
But it will be back. The next big tide will arrive, just a little bit scarier, a little louder, a little more ferocious and a little bit angrier. This is living with climate change. It’s here. And it’s ferocious.
Marita Davies Kiribati
Over the centuries, the issue of rising sea levels was never heard of. Our ancestors lived happily on our islands for centuries, without fear that one day our beautiful homes may be lost as a result of the deterioration in the environment. We in this present generation have inherited these small islands and we are very proud to be owners of the beautiful homes that our ancestors secured for us. If global warming were to happen in the future, scientists predict that the groundwater would easily become saline, making it impossible to obtain potable water, and agriculture would be destroyed. The plankton upon which fish live would disappear, and the livelihood of Kiribati people, who depend on fish, would be seriously affected. The effect of rising sea levels, accompanied by strong winds and high waves, would be disastrous for Kiribati.
Hon. Babera Kirata, 1989
On top of recently losing their wives, both of these unimane (elders) from Marakei Island just lost their land to the most recent king tide.
Itiaake Teuria, 70, on the left, had to move inland with his relatives. But when he passes the place where his old home used to be, it reminds him of the life he built with his wife and the forty-plus years of marriage they spent on that land.
Maneteata Ruotaake, 69, on the right, lost his house, his kitchen, and all of his trees, but he refuses to leave his land because his wife is buried here. He wants to be buried with her, even if the waves take away the land before that time comes.
By telling our stories, we hope people will feel something for us. Political leaders are key people in making decisions that can help our people. We are asking world leaders to honor their commitments to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees because that is important for countries like Kiribati.