Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Sorry for my island

Sorry for my island
People have a good life here, but they are well aware that it is coming to an end. Today, like yesterday, I woke with the sun, swam in the lagoon, ate breakfast and then joined the children heading off to school (which they sweep clean before lessons). The day drifted by slowly and happily enough before another swim – the water heated this time by the sun – eating again, and then talking into the night, among the silhouettes cast through palm leaves by the moon. But talk to anyone long enough and it is obvious they are sad, and frightened. Walking through the island you can see where high tides and storms over Christmas tore across the land, poisoning the fruit trees they rely on for food. Many have died, just bare skeletons remain, and those that survived are withered, fighting off disease. The island is shrinking, too, as the sea eats away at the land. In some places you can stand on one side of Han island – the largest in the Carterets – and see through the trees the blue ocean on the other side. Already, all too little land remains. As we were walking through the devastation, my friend Reuth kept saying she was sorry. I asked her why:

“I am sorry for my island,” she said quietly. “I can see now that one day this island will disappear and we won’t have this island any more. We will lose it.”

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