In my house is a Tuvaluan basket, a tiny piece of an island the world cannot fail
I own a basket I can never throw away.
Several times, I have rescued it from the pile of items to be donated.
The woven basket comes from Tuvalu, an atoll nation in the South Pacific 4,000km north-east of Sydney. People from the Pacific often roll their eyes at the constant use of the epithet “tiny” to describe any Pacific island mentioned in international media, but in Tuvalu’s case, it actually does apply.
The fourth-smallest country in the world by land size, and, at 11,000, the third smallest by population, Tuvalu also has the cruel distinction of being one of the countries most under threat due to rising sea levels. Tuvalu and Kiribati are often mentioned in the same breath as countries that could be first to become completely uninhabitable and then disappear under the sea in the terrifyingly near future.
Salinity in the water table, heatwaves, king tides, flooding, destruction of coral reefs, coastal erosion – have all already begun. The skinny spit of land that makes up the main island narrows at one point to just 20 metres across – the ocean raging on one side, the lagoon on the other.
Surface temperatures and ocean heat in parts of the south-west Pacific are increasing at more than three times the global average rate, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Five of the 15 countries most at risk from weather-related events are in the Pacific. In the last 30 years, the mean sea level has risen approximately 10cm–15cm in much of the western tropical Pacific, according to the Pacific Islands Climate Change Monitor report 2021.
When I visited Tuvalu, buying the basket from a small market felt like an act of salvage. The privilege of having a tangible piece of an island that is so terribly threatened. A reminder of the culture and craft of a country I am lucky to have seen, that we might lose.
Fiji has offered land to Tuvalu for relocation, but that offer, while generous and necessary, is not a solution that the international community should be content with. Tuvalu is not Fiji, just as the islands of Tuvalu themselves are not interchangeable.
If Tuvalu is lost in my lifetime, my heart will break for it. This is why I bought that basket, it’s why it has occupied far more space than I can spare in a tiny apartment; it is a physical piece of the island that the world must not be allowed to fail. Something that can be touched and held from a country facing a future of digital statehood; a dispersed or relocated nation.
While Pacific peoples are undoubtedly victims of the climate crisis, they are also, without question, heroes of the climate fight. It is a fight they have been leading – fiercely, creatively, intelligently – for decades. It is a fight they need the world to join, before it is lost.
-Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd
Topic: Climate Change (General)
Photo or video credit: Kate Nolan/The Guardian, Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd
Text Credit: Kate Lyons
Date : 30 October 2022