Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Archive for Climate Change

An argument

I’m pulling together a talk I’m due to give to the Royal Geographical Society about the Carterets journey. I’m speaking twice, firstly to the Society’s City branch on October 6 and secondly at the RGS itself, on December 14.
It’s proven to be a good opportunity to finally tie together some of the loose ideas I’ve been thinking about since before I left for the islands in April. At the time, I remember thinking there was something there, but couldn’t quite form it as a finished idea in my mind.
My basic thinking goes link this (I hope to come back with more scientific data to back all this up):

This year is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. He was born in Shrewsbury, where I live. I even went to the birthday party held for him in town, where lots of people got dressed up in old-fashioned clothes and ate cake.

It is also the 300th anniversary of the first use of coke (a form of coal) to smelt iron. The site of this discovery, now called Ironbridge is described as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. I grew up in Ironbridge.

Ironbridge and Shrewsbury are just 12 miles apart. I cycle or drive that road constantly. Before I left for the Carterets, I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something that linked Darwin, Ironbridge and the islands, but I couldn’t work out what it was.

Now, I think it is this:

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Pacific Rising

Oxfam email to say they have released a new report,  The Future is Here, on rising seas and climate change in the Pacific. It contains a lot that reminds me of the Carterets, like photos of people building sea walls from lumps of coral as defence against king tides (they don’t work). The people, the houses, the lines of sea and sand, all look familiar.

It talks a lot of sense too – includding something I haven’t seen before. Oxfam reckon the cost of emissions reductions and equipping those countries feelign the brunt to cope with climate change to be AUD $187 billion each year.  On the basis that the polluter pays, they work out Australia’s fair share to be $4.3 billion a year. New Zealand gets off lightly – only asked to pony up NZ $79n million . To be honest, I reckon those numbers must be pretty rubbery but even if they are in the right ballpark…it doesn’t sound like much.

Plant a seed…

Hell, I was grumpy this morning. Up at six to drive down to a primary school in the Forest of Dean to do an assembly about the Carteret trip. Elle tried to give me a kiss and I think my response was  something along the lines of ‘I don’t have time to muck around’ (note to all fiancees – a; yes, you do have time to muck around and b; you better appreciate it while you can, or priveleges will be withdrawn).

But, the moment I got out the car, my mood lightened. How could it not when as soon as I stood up I could hear the kids in the playground saying ‘There’s Dan!’ ‘Dan’s coming!’ ‘Dan’s coming!’ ‘Dan’s here!’

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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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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…

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…