Vanuatu and Tuvalu are the canary in the coal mine that will sound the alarm for climate change, according to New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific Peoples Apito William Sio.
The Minister has used the example of the two island groups as the centre point for an education campaign about climate change he began when he was in opposition.
He said people had different levels of knowledge and feelings about climate change.
“People in the know have a sense of urgency,” the Minister told Kaniva News.
“But we also have people who don’t know.”
“There is a lot of work to do.”
The Minister visited Tuvalu and Kiribati in 2016 and has since shown videos he made depicting the effects of climate change on the islands and their people as part of his education campaign.
They videos feature local people talking about climate change and how it is affecting their lives.
Hon. Sio said extreme climate events were becoming more regular.
There were prolonged periods of wetter, dryer and hotter climates, with king tides occurring more regularly.
In Kiribati, coastal flooding destroyed crops, homes and grave sites.
Ground water pollution led to unsafe drinking water, which caused diarrhoea, waterborne Diseases and contributed to child deaths.
The Islands also faced continuing problems with waste management, food insecurity, growing populations and reliance on imported goods.
However, the people and governments of Kiribati and Tuvalu were working to defend their islands.
In Kiribati the government was building a seawall made of rocks imported from Fiji and in Tuvalu they were reclaiming the seafront.
Planting mangroves to hold the beach and foreshore together was also part of the Islands’ defences.
“This is about our children,” Hon. Sio said.
“Remember the canary in the coal mine. When it dies, we are all in danger.”
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