Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change

A nice warm coat

port_moresby1It’s very hard for an Englishman to leave his home without a nice warm coat, particularly in April. This Englishman, however, should have thought more clearly about what he was doing. In Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, where I arrived this afternoon, the temperature is 32 C, humidity is over 90% and as I write this I am sweating, hard.

In my bedroom the ceiling fan just stirs the soup but does not seem to change the temperature. The nice warm coat I bought with me from home hasn’t been used since, but has instead been carried through a succession of increasingly unsuitable places (Singapore and Brisbane). It will not leave this city. The effort of carrying it is probably worth a pint of sweat alone. This Englishman is an idiot.

First impressions of Port Moresby? Green, with splattered red where people have spat after chewing betel nut. The people smile a lot, and when they do you can see their teeth are stained the same bright red from the juice. A heavy, lazy feeling hangs overhead, though the men look tough, and when you are in the streets it is hard to divide your own perception from the well-established reputation for violence and crime. Between the island in the view above and the balcony where I write, there is a double roll of razor wire. Beyond these, the land tips into the sea. Ilya, my host, describes the place (quoting Errol Flynn), saying, “a young man can really find themselves within Papua new Guinea within the first 5 years, but a man can loose himself within the next five.”

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