Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Back to Tinputz

work-at-tinputzI’m sitting on the ground in a jungle clearing at Tinputz, on the east coast of Bougainville. This is where the first boatload of people landed from the Carteret Islands last week – the fathers of five families, who will build homes and gardens here before returning to the islands to bring their families to Tinputz permanently. I’ve been invited back to spend a night with the five fathers, which is good because I made a bit of a mess of our first meeting, barely giving them time to get off the boat before shoving a microphone in their face and asking how they feel. This time is much more relaxed. We’ve been building the steps up to one of the houses; there are two up so far, both timber-frame, single storey buildings, raised on stilts to keep the heat down. What has amazed me is the tools they use. Almost everything, from felling the tree to shaping the wood, is done with bushknives – we would call them machetes, some of them almost as big as the man using them. And yet they do so with immaculate skill. For food, we have sweet potatoes, currently sitting in the shade in three big baskets made out of interlaced palm leaves. It was a wild ride to get here, too, first, a boat across Buka Passage, which seperates Bougainville island from Buka island where I was staying. Then a 4-wheel drive truck along dirt roads and river crossings where the bridge has long been washed away…And yet, I’ve just heard a young boy walking along the road behind me singing:

“Everybody,
Rock your body,
Backstreet’s back, alright!”

It’s an amazing world.

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1 Comment»

  Keith wrote @

It all sounds completely compelling. Wish your fiancee would lose her voice.


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