Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Archive for June, 2009

A model argument

Ryecroft has pulled me up on something I wrote:

“Even more importantly, what is happening to the Carterets is exactly in line with our best models of what climate change will do to other people, on other islands and coastlines across the world.”

Ryecroft says this:

“I’m not sure I understand. Volcanic islands suffering erosion in an area of unexceptional sea level rise are experiencing inundation and the population have had to move. Which climate change models cover this? I would appreciate the details please.”

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I’m a great believer in the power of stories, and for the past few years have made a living by telling them. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a pow-wow of people in the same business – playwrights, poets, academics and the like – to talk about climate change.

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I’m lovin’ it

A question arises: what to do with the blog now you are back from the islands?

I know it has suffered since I returned, partly because life now simply isn’t as interesting as life out there (‘got up, brushed my teeth, made coffee…’ doesn’t compare to ‘climbed coconut, swam in coral lagoon, witnessed first boatload of world’s first climate change evacuation…’) but also because I moved into a new flat and am still waiting for the phone line, and then the internet, to be connected. Until then, I’ve been largely reliant on the free wireless and disappointing milkshakes served up at McDonalds (they’re just don’t taste as good as when you were a child).

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On the radio

The Journey of a Lifetime radio programme has been scheduled to go to air on BBC Radio 4  at 11am on Friday September 11th 2009. It’s a chance to hear some of the sounds and people I recorded over on the islands (most of whom will do a much better job than me of describing what is happening). I haven’t played any part in cutting it together so I will be just as interested as anyone to see what they make of it.

slide screenshotI’ve also been asked to give one of the Monday night lectures at the Royal Geographical Society on October 5. It’s a great honour and I hope I can do the people justice (both those on the islands and those who turn up on the night itself). I was speaking about the trip at my old primary school today, which was great – that’s one of the slides I used on the left. If that audience is any guide then there is a substantial interest among people to find out where the islanders go to the toilet. I promise you, on October 5, all will be revealed…

Bride price

I think the Carteret Islanders are the nicest people I have ever met. I’ve just received this email (below) from Ruth, one of the people I spent a lot of time talking to on the islands.

She says that, since I left, the islanders have produced some shell money they want to send me. You see, I’m getting married in August and they say I can use this to pay bride-price.

I’ll check with my prospective father-in-law to see if shell money is acceptable.

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Walking the talk

For those of you interested in finding out more about the Carterets, I’ve been invited to speak about the journey at a couple of conferences. The first is being run by Action Aid in London on June 19 and has a rocking line up of other speakers, including the New Economics Foundation and one of the producers from The Age of Stupid. The other is a day later, also in London, and is being organised by Robert Butler, who has a very impressive blog here.

I’ll also be talking at a few primary schools, but I think these will be harder to get into. There’s a strict age limit on those in the audience for one thing…

What now?

John Sailik, one of the clan elders, asked me to take a final message with me when I left the Carterets. He asked for help, help to stay on his island home and not be forced to evacuate. It can’t have been easy for a proud man to admit that his people simply cannot help themselves, alone…

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