Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tuvalu: a country trying to survive

Can you see yourself as an environmental refugee, forced to leave your home, family or country in the name of global warming?The South Pacific island of Tuvalu, the second smallest nation on Earth (10,500 inhabitants), is the first country destined to be wiped out by climate change in the next 50 years. It is one of the world's lowest lying nations, with less than four metres above sea level at its highest point. Last spring, the "king tides" were the highest in memory, swamping many of the islands and hastening erosion and the salt-water intrusion that is making soil infertile. Located approximately 1,000 kms north of Fiji, the country is isolated and has nothing to sell to the rest of the world other than the internet domain name ".tv".

Gilliane Le Gallic, a French filmmaker co-produced the film “Trouble in Paradise,” documenting Tuvalu's plight as the first nation destined potentially to be covered by water as results of global warming. Afterwards, she had to get involved in finding solutions. In 2004, she and some partners developed "Small Is Beautiful", a decade-long plan to assist Tuvaluans in surviving as a nation, and if possible, to allow them to remain on their ancestral land.

With sea levels rising twice the average of global rate predicted by the United Nations, there was not time to lose. Tuvalu’s habitants started to get involved in finding solutions by creating “simple, workable models of sustainable development that can be reproduced by others elsewhere," making of the country a powerful symbol and example to the world.

The construction of the first ever biogas digestor on a coral island is complete, using manure from about 60 pigs to produce gas for cooking stoves. Tuvaluans are been trained at the newly opened Tuvalu National Training Centre on renewable energy. Community-wide trash clean-ups have been done and a biodiesel project using copra (coconut palm) is set to begin this fall. Seeds and horticultural training are ongoing to help reduce dependence on imported foods. New solar streetlights, composting toilets and wind projects are also being planned.
More than 4,000 people have already left the islands to live in New Zealand.

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