‘The sun is getting closer’

Fishermen at dawn


‘It’s very hot today’


‘It is hotter than yesterday’

‘Yes.  The sun is getting closer every day.  Closer than when I was a child”

In this short conversation with my uncle, it finally dawned on me that Kiribati is changing and how it’s effecting every citizen on the island.  I asked him this in the middle of the day when the sun was at it’s highest in the sky.

When I was four years old, I remember standing on the shore and squinting towards a little dot in the horizon.  That little dot floating on the ocean would be my Mum’s brothers in a boat, fishing for the days meal.  I remember that they would be out for a few hours in the middle of the day and then bring the boat to shore with nets slung over their necks, a knife in one hand and a handful of tuna in the other.

The last time I was in Kiribati, this didn’t happen.  The men still fish but they went later in the day closer to sundown and would have less time to collect the fish for the family.  Instead, the fathers and sons of the family would sit at home, under the shade and wait for the sun to pass.  In my mothers words ‘the sun has more bite’ than ever before and the Kiribati way of life is slowly changing.  The fishing hours are either earlier or later in the day.  This means that the hours of selling fish becomes later in the day, which in turn means that people are eating later at night.  Not that that really matters because Kiribati people will just eat whenever the food is ready.  If that means that they are eating at midnight then they are more than happy to talk, talk, talk, talk until the meal is ready.  There is no rush to get it on the table at a certain point.  Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to demonstrate, is that everything has cause and effect.  And the if the sun keeps ‘getting closer’ then more and more changes will have to occur in Kiribati.  And bigger one’s at that.

The hot weather means less rainfall, which means less fresh water on an island that already can’t provide enough fresh water for the 50,000 people crammed onto Tarawa.

For the moment I want you to think about climate change.  Not ‘climate change’ as to how it’s marketed, politicised, preached about, argued.  I don’t want to preach or argue with you.  I’m just asking you to think of the word climate change literally.

‘The sun is getting closer.’

When my uncle says this to me, I hear a man on one of the tiniest islands in the world talking about a change in climate.  He can’t fish in the middle of the day for his family which means his family will be eating later in the day.  His kids go to bed later, his kids are more tired at school the next day, my auntie is shopping for fish on the side of the road in darkness rather than at dusk. Life is changing for them because the heat of the sun is hotter than what they have ever had in their lifetime.

Here is some lunch my uncle collected for us in the family one day – feeding 8 of us. This took two hours of wading through the low tide in the morning.  Lunch and my Grandma playing cards.  She’s great but never play cards against her – she’ll cheat and you’ll never win.

Terira has lunch

I believe that the world is changing in climate.  Not because a politician has said it, not because it’s in the newspaper and not because someone else has told me that I should.  I’m taking the word of a local I-Kiribati fisherman who is just trying to provide for his family.  And yes I believe that we haven’t treated our environment well.  Of course we don’t, we drive cars, we have so much rubbish, things are mass produced to sell to a global community and we have less open spaces.  Of course we haven’t been good to the environment.  So now I’m just trying to figure out whether these two factors relate to one another.

Right now, my wish would be if everyone had a bit of a think about the world they live in.  Don’t get your opinion on climate change from an argument between Gillard and Abbott or the Democrats and the Republicans.  Look closer and figure it out for yourself.  Is the weather changing and has the world that we have set up for ourselves effected that? If you don’t think so, then fine.  But don’t just form an opinion depending on what political party you follow.

Now, maybe I’m going back on what I just said here, but here is a link to great video on Kiribati’s environmental situation.  It features the Kiribati President, Anote Tong and I have said before that there are some policies that Tong has supported that I disagree entirely about.  Whether I support him on not isn’t the issue; this is a great video.  He does a great job in showing Kiribati to the world and speaking on behalf of Kiribati’ on this issue.  Also, if you want to see how beautiful Kiribati is, then have a look – it really is an amazing amazing place.

Conservation International


Ko roba


Nei Marita


5 Comments Add yours

  1. mwheelaghan says:

    Another lovely post from you, Marita o:) Thanks for the link too!

    1. Thanks again for reading and passing it on Marianne. The video is great – nice and concise I think!

  2. plumeofwords says:

    Wow, the footage in that video is absolutely stunning — I always imagined ‘island paradise’ but never realised it could be quite so much of a paradise!

    It is so terrible that the global community hasn’t banded together on this, though from my understanding, China is doing a great deal now to invest in renewable energy so let’s hope that other countries (ahem, Australia) will follow suit.

    I don’t get what the issue is really, i.e. how the detractors can justify themselves to themseives when most of the scientific community is onboard, and it’s so wrenching to read of local stories like your own that show the human face of climate change on the front line, with all its catastrophic consequences. Thanks for writing so warmly and with such engagement on this!

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