Why jokes about climate change are so so wrong.

If you follow me on twitter, you would have witnessed me having a massive rant over Peter Dutton over the last couple of days.

For those that don’t know, Peter Dutton is the Immigration Minister in Australia and he was caught on camera and over a boom mic joking to the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott about rising sea levels in the Pacific.

Australian Ministers: Scott  Morrison, Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton.
Australian Ministers: Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton.

On official business, Dutton noted the slow start for the event, which Tony Abbott replied the delay was similar to the delay of meetings he’d recently had in Port Moresby. Dutton then joked that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”. To which Tony Abbott laughed aloud. That’s right guys, he actually LOL’d. Because you know, how HILARIOUS.

This comment not only laughs in the face about the genuine threat of rising sea water in the Pacific Islands, but it actually admits that climate change is a genuine environmental threat. Climate change –  an issue that the Australian Government not only refuse to acknowledge but actively support industries that threaten the environment even more so (i.e. mining).

Dutton has come out with a sorry-not-sorry, apologising for the microphone being there to record his comment, not actually apologising for the offensive joke. As someone who is genuinely concerned for the future of her islands – to the point I have written a children’s book actually discussing and demonstrating the issue – it’s really upsetting to see someone who is elected into a leadership role not only joking about rising sea waters but refusing to acknowledge that he has offended a whole region.

So since I specialise in writing for children, here are some reasons why this comment is so so wrong (written clearly so Peter Dutton can understand):

  1. I am 15th Generation I-Kiribati. If you joke about rising sea waters, you are clearly recognising that the islander culture and the loss of it, is not worth your empathy. That’s hundreds of years of culture, life and ancestors that are literally being washed away. Laughing about the loss of this is another way of saying ‘I don’t give a shit’.
  2. To crack a joke about rising sea waters demonstrates a clear lack of understanding and education on the subject. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then keep your mouth shut. Particularly when there is a boom mic hanging above your head.
  3. If you are a member of a government that refuses to acknowledge that climate change is threatening our environment, don’t joke about the effects of it. By doing so, you’re publicly stating that you recognise that it is endangering Pacific countries and yet you are supporting the decision to not help, assist or make significant changes that would really benefit the region. Basically, you’re not doing what is right and if you’re not doing that, then you’re totally in the wrong.

I pride myself on being typical islander, in the way that I typically have a happy disposition. But this is an issue that I refuse to let go and start another day with a happy smile on my face.

My family's house in Kiribati
My family’s house in Kiribati

Peter Dutton, you’re laughing about our family building a six foot high wall to stop the ocean from flooding our kitchen.

You’re laughing about my family wondering what do about my grandfathers bones since the waters are now beginning to reach his grave.

You’re laughing about the rapidly diminishing fresh water supply in Kiribati as sea water has now started flooding into the wells throughout the country.

You’re laughing about how we worry about how to travel around the island since our car is rapidly rusting due to sea water flooding onto the roads of the islands.

You’re laughing about how my family and every other family throughout all of the Pacific is trying to figure out where they will live – being forced to move away from the land they have always lived on.

I’m trying to calm myself down about Peter Dutton’s joke but all I can think of is ‘Dutton, why would you be such an arsehole about an issue that is threatening our land, health, culture and homes?’

Kiribati sea waters

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