Tuvalu: A disappearing country
For decades, the country of Tuvalu has been at risk of being swallowed by the Pacific Ocean. Despite this, sea levels keep rising and the world turns a blind eye.
At risk of becoming the first group of climate refugees, Tuvalu is a group of islands — or archipelago — located in the Southwest Pacific, near Australia and New Zealand. Home to 11,000 people, this nation is the fourth smallest in the world in terms of land area.
Approximately one third of the population lives on the main island, Funafuti — the largest land mass in the country — where most government buildings are located. On Niulakita lies the highest point in the islands, a mere five metres above sea level.
Previously being a non-believer in climate change, Nausaleta Setani, a local to Tuvalu, said, “the weather is changing very quickly, day to day, hour to hour,” in an interview with The Guardian.
“I have been learning the things that are happening are the result of man, especially [from] other countries. It makes me sad. But I understand other countries do what is best for their people. I am from a small country. All I want is for the bigger countries to respect us, and think of our lives,” Setani said.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program said, “what the Pacific leaders want is not more money thrown into the region to mitigate climate change, it’s more domestic action in Australia to help reduce climate change in the first place.”
Tuvalu also faces a lack of viable land to grow food on. A once self-sufficient nation now almost entirely relies on imports from the mainland. The Journal of Ocean University of China said, “the land loss in Tuvalu is mainly caused by inappropriate human activities including coastal engineering and aggregate mining, and partly caused by cyclones.”
The rising sea levels are the biggest impending issue for the archipelago, which is a direct result of melting ice caps, caused by western industries such as Australia’s coal mining industry.
Countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the least powerful ones. And it will continue to swallow Tuvalu, taking the country’s unique culture and thousands of inhabitants with it.
Graphic by @the.beta.lab