Thursday, August 29, 2013

In love with my New Zealand I-Kiribati Family!

I LOVE MY KIRIBATI FAMILY! Seriously, how many people conducting research can say that after one day on the job and honestly mean it with all of their heart. Granted I have known my Kiribati family for ten years, but hey. I am so in love with all of them and I hope that I can do good by them while I am here. The kids are amazing, loveable, courteous and smart!  Both were shy at first, but after ten minutes they turned into two little balls of energy!  I brought a PSP for my brother-in-law.  He said that he had always wanted one and that it was a great gift to give.  What he didn’t realize was the gift he gave to me by bringing my family to New Zealand.  I tried to convey this to him and let him know this small gift was a way of saying thank you to him.  The whole family held a welcome dinner in the house for me that night.  They always did this in Kiribati and spent so much money on this to make me feel welcome.  Honestly, just being back with them was all I needed. They took me in as a part of their family over ten years ago and nothing has changed or can change that. They don’t know how much I feel like a better person because of them.

I went running today, the first time since mid-November I think, and I DIDN'T have to wear gloves, a winter hat, a sweatshirt or long pants! It was great!!! I went running to my host aunty and uncles house, I think about a mile from where I am staying. One big difference between the USA Kiribati community and the NZ Kiribati community was distance between other Kiribati families. In New Zealand, I can run to other Kiribati houses.  In the United States, I have to drive or fly for hours to find another Kiribati house.  My brother-in-law ran with me, to make sure I didn't get lost. He was and is not a runner.  

When we returned from the run, the entire family prepared for church.  It was the Father’s last mass and the whole ceremony really hit home, having just left home.  The sermon was all about love, anger, stubbornness, hurt feelings, forgiveness and just closure. 

After church, my family took me out to eat at a Chinese restaurant.  I proudly exercised my limited Chinese vocabulary.  By the staff's reaction, it seemed like this may have been the first time they saw a Pacific Island family try to converse with them in their own language. I am not a Pacific Islander. I am a Mexican-American, but I look so much like an abwakaati (half-caste), that even kids from the Kiribati community call me a half-caste, half Kiribati and half American. 

Later in the day we went to see my long-time mentor and friend at his house. I ended up going again to church with him and my brother-in-law. The six pm mass had more than 50 I-Kiribati in attendance, I was amazed and whispered to him that the amount of I-Kiribati in the building was more than the entire eastern half of the United States. I couldn't help but be a little jealous at that moment, I think I whispered to him you are very lucky. We made plans to have lunch together sometime at a restaurant in the near future. He has been a huge influence on me and I respect him greatly. 
We returned last night to the house and made tacos, a meal new to my sister and brother-in-law. It was a great success, as another request was made.  This time for spaghetti!

My Improbable Dream Come True!!!

If you have ever wondered what an improbable dream come true would be like, read on!

About ten years ago, my island Peace Corps Volunteer partner and I were hanging out in my house, wondering what it would be like to bring an I-Kiribati to America. What it would be like for them to be in our shoes, since we were living in their country and at times having severe difficulties. We began joking about what would happen if we brought our friends and families to the mall or amusement parks.  At the time, we felt that this would never happen, not in a million years, we would never see our I-Kiribati friends and families outside of Kiribati, this was a well known fact to us. It would never happen!  Nearly ten years later, I found myself being rewarded a Fulbright scholarship to study Kiribati migration to New Zealand.

The plane ride wasn't bad at all… just really really really really really long! I am used to it though. I fly to the Pacific nearly every two years since the ending of my Peace Corps service in 2002. However, this trip was unusual. Every seat was filled with a passenger. Usually there are many empty seats and passengers can stretch out and even lay across full rows of empty seats. There was a previous flight to New Zealand that left one hour ahead of our plane, which was also completely full. The nearly thirteen hour flight encountered few pockets of turbulence and arrived to the gate seven minutes early.  Passing through customs and agriculture border protection was quick and easy, and the “non-NZ citizen” line was short. As I exited the customs area I turned on my camera to record my dream come true. There were so many people waiting for their loved ones, people holding signs, people crowded behind the waiting room barriers, and people lined up to the doors of the entrance and exit of the terminal. I felt like I was a starting lineup football player making his entrance onto the field.  I looked around for my host family when suddenly I heard “Mikee” being called out from the back of the crowd. There they were… my Kiribati family :,)  My aunty, uncle and and my little cousin (who actually wasn't so little any more, now a senior in high school) were all making their way from the large crowd to me.

They were waiting for me, just like my Kiribati mum and dad always did when I traveled back to Kiribati. They greeted me with hugs, kisses and drinks!  As we exited the terminal to load my bags into their car I couldn't help but notice the sweltering heat. I left America in snow and ice, and arrived in the middle of New Zealand's summer.  I had not changed clothes since leaving Pittsburgh.  I was still in my “PITT” sweatshirt and long jeans.  I desperately wanted to take a shower and change into shorts and a T-shirt.

We talked the whole way home and arrived at around 10 am.   We arrived at my Kiribati sister’s house, where I would spend the next year of my life.  Her husband was mowing the lawn… a sight which amazed me, since the Kiribati I knew just pulled the grass out of the ground and didn't manicure it like he was doing.  But this was New Zealand and people acclimate to new places I told myself.  After the car stopped, I jumped out to greet him. I think he is an amazing man and my sister is truly lucky to have him as her husband.  Actually, the same goes for him, he is really lucky to have her too. They have two beautiful young boys, who were timidly peeking from the kitchen window as we pulled into the drive.  Maybe they thought I couldn't see them but I did and my heart was overjoyed to see them peeking out the window.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hard out... Round two!

Not more than ten years ago, I faced the exact same feelings that I face now. Saying goodbye to my parents in an airport brought back so many memories of my first trip to Kiribati as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Hiding emotions like I have learned to do oh so well, I waved at them as they stood together on the other side of the glass watching me put all of my belongings on the security scanners, while at the same time stripping off my shoes, sweatshirt and belt for TSA guards.

I sit now in a terminal looking outside of a window. It is snowing outside and the airport tarmac is covered with a mix of slush, salt and snow.

Now a PhD candidate with one Master's and one on the way, much older and more lessons learned in life I am thirty minutes away from jumping on the plane to go to New Zealand.

The route is pretty direct Pittsburgh to Chicago to L.A. to Auckland. Where my host family said they will be waiting for me. To say that I love my host family is an understatement. I feel that I have so much of a connection with them that it really is almost unexplainable to almost everyone.

I met them ten years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer and never thought, but did dream, that one day I would see them in America. I could take them places they had seen in movies or at least on a roller coaster. Imagine what would it be like for them, people who have never seen a highway before or a 747, as I am sitting in front of one or touched snow. What would it be like for them? Well these next ten months, with the help of a Fulbright grant, I am going to find out. It’s not America, but it is also not Kiribati… its New Zealand and with great promise and hope, here I come.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Journey Begins .... Again?

I often have difficulty answering the question where are you from?  I usually state that I was born in Rochester, New York but that includes little context about where I am really “from”.  Since being born, I have lived in ten American States, five countries and six islands.  I have learned so much from each one of these places that I feel as though significant parts of me are from each one of these locations.  My father and mother were the only children of their Mexican-American families to leave the border town of El Paso, Texas. They did this for economic and educational opportunities from which my sister and I have benefited.  Both she and I have gone to college, an opportunity that escaped most of our parents’ generation.  I am the first in my family to receive a Master’s degree. 
My research on migration is as much of a reflection of where my family has come from as it is where I have been.  In a sense it is a continuation of my father’s footsteps set out nearly forty years ago, which led him on an unknown path, catapulting me onto a path of intellectual discovery.
My journey leading me to this investigation of I-Kiribati transnational migration research began with my own Peace Corps service in Kiribati.  The recruiter thought that I would be a perfect fit for the Pacific region despite my expressed concerns over having unbearable sea sickness, being allergic to fish and despising hot weather.  Officially, I was an elementary school teacher volunteer, but I felt more like a student than a teacher the whole time that I was there.  I ventured far from my comfort zone and took a chance to help others not realizing how far I would travel or ultimately, how much I would be helped in the end.
Years later I returned “home”, according to my sister, all weird.  I no longer felt comfortable sleeping on a bed or shopping in stores with large crowds.  In these situations I mentally cringed and imagined myself back on my island, just me and the roughly seven hundred people who inhabited the three villages.  Oddly enough, I was homesick inside of my own home.  I realized as soon as the plane lifted from the island that I was homesick for my island home.   I did what any right minded desperately homesick individual would do, I jumped on the internet to see if there were any I-Kiribati people living in America.  Google surprisingly directed me to MSN Communities.  There it was!  A virtual community of I-Kiribati living outside of Kiribati, thus was my introduction to I-Kiribati living in the United States. 
Since then, I have been back to Kiribati numerous times for academic and personal commitments.  With each return, friends and family became fewer as they left for countries like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, The United States and even Cuba.  Households became less populated as more people purchased plane tickets for opportunities overseas.  It may have been just as well since this was not the only thing I noticed with each return trip.  It seemed that each return produced new scenery.  A new breaker wall was installed at random points on causeways.  Buildings which once stood on land were now surrounded by motes of sea water.  Eventually entire plots of land were gone and submerged by sea water.  Where once buildings and trees stood, now only barren land remained.  During high tides the land was submerged.
In 2008, President Anote Tong declared before the United Nations General Assembly that his country would not exist within the next 50 years due to rising sea levels.  In a country composed mostly of low lying land (2-3 ft. above sea level) Kiribati citizens are now having new reasons to consider migration options.
Personal in-country experience began in 2000 as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Upon return from service, severe homesickness and a deep longing for a sense of familiarity in the United States drove me to search for other I-Kiribati.  Unknowingly, this intensive search for others paved the way for my dissertation research on transnational migrants and their connections to home in new “homes” abroad. 

The goal of this blog is to present research in a non-academic manner, for the general reader.  My aim is to inform the larger public on issues that are happening now in a very small part of the world.  You, the reader know about Kiribati, but let me assure you, you are one of only a few in this world to get such an intimate view of Kiribati and the dilemma it faces.  I make this research available in hopes of just one mind being changed and one action being taken in support of our global community.  

My goals for
this blog include:

1) Placing a human face on climate change through presenting stories gathered from the "frontlines" of climate change.  

2) Showing what life is like as an I-Kiribati migrant.  Detailing the hardships, joys and pains these individuals and families face in their new countries.  

3) Helping future I-Kiribati migrants prepare for future migration as the government looks forward to a day where their nation becomes uninhabitable due to population and ecological constraints.   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

September 11, 2001 Part 2

3am September 12, 2001 (Kiribati time):

To get into the top bunk, I had to slide under the 4 foot long florescent light bulb, so as not to bump my head and inadvertently break the bulb; otherwise it could be months before a new light would find its way to the dorm.  It was so important that I not break the light as it lit the entire room.  I was completely knocked out and awoken from my sleep when I heard a bunch of voices and footsteps coming up the stairwell.  Don’t turn on the lights, don’t turn on the light, don’t turn on the light… was all I thought as the voices got louder and the footsteps got closer. I thought that it was a bunch of fellow volunteers coming back from a late night in the entertainment district.  

            I could feel the electricity rushing through the wires, igniting the filament of the florescent light bulb.  As the ends of the bulb sparked to life, the door swung open and to my surprise a voice shouted, EVERYONE DOWN NOW, WE ARE BEING ATTACKED!

            It was the voice of Matty, our PCMO.  Confused as to what was going on, we made our way downstairs where all volunteers and Peace Corps staff were gathered.  Bumbling down the stairwell, I could only wonder two things, WHO was attacking us? and HOW did they know where Kiribati was?

            When we got to the common room, our country director was completely silent.  Holding a shortwave radio to his ear, he said nothing other than the United States was being attacked and that we were being transported to the New Zealand Embassy for safety within the next few minutes.  Both the room and the trip to the embassy were completely silent.

            In disbelief, we sat in front of the ambassador’s television watching satellite news feeds.  We had two volunteers who were from the New York area.  One of them had a parent who worked in the Twin Towers, the target of the attacks which eventually fell, killing all who were not able to escape.  For some reason, they were not in the towers that day.  Tioni, the New Zealand Ambassador, let us e-mail home from his house, this was my email.

Hey Dad and Everyone,

We’ve just been woken up at the dorm by office staff.  We are waiting for news on this terrorist attack from Washington Peace Corps and whoever else can let us know.  We are at the NZ embassy now watching CNN coverage so I hope you all are well and hope to talk to you soon.

Love me

            Christine and Preema were en route to the United States when the US Government closed all airspace to incoming flights.  Returning to Fiji was devastating for both but they were safe.  Because of the events, all of the volunteers were held in Tarawa for an extra week.  Shock ran through us all, concern for the New York volunteers were high until both had contact with their families.  Their families were fine… both of their families. 

            A couple days later we received an invitation to a memorial service for the 9/12 victims and for the United States from the President of Kiribati.  It was a nice gesture; all national government representatives were present.  It was weird for me because we were treated with such care and honor for something which I felt we did not deserve.  In Kiribati, everyone seems to know everyone and it seemed that everyone was somehow possibly related to everyone else or went to school with them or worked with them or somehow knew them, so I could understand such sympathy and care for a national tragedy if I were from Kiribati, but I wasn’t, Americans are so distant from each other, many don’t even know their next door neighbor, it is so different.  The food was wonderful, the singing was amazing and the speeches were very heartfelt.  It was another amazingly kind and thoughtful gesture that the government of Kiribati did for us as mere guests in their country.

After the ceremony, it was clear that we needed to take our mind off of things somehow.  It was hard not to see the advertisements for a rare visiting circus as we drove through town.  The Magic Circus of Samoa was performing ‘for two days only’.  As soon as we saw this, almost in unison, all of us looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders, as if to say “why not”.  With that, it was decided that we would all go. 

It was unique.  It was small.  It was cute.  Most importantly, it had food!  As we walked into the circus, I couldn’t help but feel stunned at what I was seeing.  The foods were things I had only dreamt of for the past year.  I devoured one box of popcorn, four cones of cotton candy, one bottle of coke, one Snickers and one snow cone.  In addition to the food booths, there were also game booths and rides!  I chose not to ride the rides after my food binge, but I did play games and won a rubber chicken key chain on the ring toss!  The circus was cheesy, in an awesome way.  It was just what we needed after all of the events over the past few days. 

The ride and game attendants were the circus performers.  As soon as the doors opened; the games and rides began to shut down.  Marissa was chosen to be an audience participant.  She performed spectacularly and eventually was pieced back together after being sawed in half.  Tioni, the NZ Ambassador, joined us and chauffeured us back to the dorms. 
Kiwis really developed a special place in my heart after this week.  
***  Nearly ten years later, I would be invited to New Zealand under the US Fulbright program to look at climate change issues within Kiribati.  Upon arrival to the country, I toured the Beehive, New Zealand's Parliament.  I stumbled on this flag, recovered from the rubble after the attacks. It reassured my love for this country as I remembered those few days and the kindness of the New Zealand Ambassador. ***

Monday, December 3, 2012

I-Kiribati, The Human Faces of Climate Change

          On December 22, 1987 the United Nations General Assembly recognized that climate change was a common concern for mankind and urged the international community to collaborate in a concerted effort to prepare for the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Resolution 44/206 was brought to the attention of the General Assembly and noted ‘Possible adverse effects of sea level rise on islands and coastal areas, particularly low-lying coastal areas’ (Tabai, 1994).  On November 16, 1989 The Honorable Babera Kirata, Minister of Home Affairs & Decentralization of Kiribati, addressed the Small States Conference on Sea Level Rise in Kurumba Village on Male’ Island in the Republic of Maldives.  He pointed out that both the Maldives and Kiribati faced similar consequences from their natural environment if scientists’ predictions of abnormal sea level rise were to occur.  Noting the real life consequences that these nations could face, he stated “The ground water would easily become saline, making it impossible to obtain potable water, and agriculture would be destroyed.  The plankton upon which fish live on will disappear, and the livelihood of Kiribati people who depend on fish would be seriously affected.  The effect of rising in sea level, accompanied by strong wind and high waves, would be disastrous for Kiribati.  Many scientists claim they need at least 20 years’ research to obtain reliable information to prove the validity of the Greenhouse Effect Theory” (Kirata, 1989). 
            The following year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first scientific assessment on climate change.  There were many more detailed items in the report which fell under the ‘uncertainties’ category than in the ‘certain’ category.  Of certainty, the report stated two things.  1) There was a natural greenhouse effect which kept the earth warmer than it would otherwise be.  2) Emissions resulting from human activities were substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases; carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide which would likely enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting in an average warming of the Earth’s surface.  There were several more uncertainties than certainties at the time, particularly with regard to the timing, magnitude and regional patterns of climate change due to an incomplete understanding of future concentrations, clouds, oceans and polar ice sheets (Integovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1990).

            There were several individuals, high ranking officials, groups and even governments who were concerned over climate change early on, however the lack of scientific certainty and widespread political, and more importantly financial, support diminished the importance of the climate change issue. 

            By 1996, the IPCC concluded in their second assessment report that there was a discernible human influence on the global climate and noted that certain detection in atmospheric changes were anthropogenic in nature, yet full attribution of atmospheric changes to human activity could only be accomplished through long term accumulation of evidence.  The authors noted uncertainties in a number of factors, including the magnitude and patterns of climate variability, and climate system response, which prevented them from drawing a stronger conclusion (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1996).  It was clear that evidence pointed towards human activity, but the scientific community would not state this without full confidence at the time.

            On September 14, 1999, The Republic of Kiribati became a full member of the United Nations.  The following year President Teburoro Tito addressed the UN General Assembly.  His address touched on many topics, ranging from the nation’s states of; health, economy and human rights to the nation’s precarious position in a globalizing world.  The country had long been experiencing new weather patterns and higher tides by the time the nation had gained UN membership.  He briefly touched upon this issue in his address. 

Globalization is advocated as the order of today, however there are adverse effects that can cause irreparable damage if no corrective action is taken immediately.  Coming from a small island state like Kiribati, which is made up of narrow strips of coral atolls rising no more than 2 meters above sea level.  Global warming, climate change and rising sea levels seriously threaten the basis of our existence and we sometimes feel that our days are numbered (Tito, 2000). 
            Kiribati’s new President addressed the global community for the first time on September 28, 2004 at the 59th session of the UNGASS.  Debate over the existence of climate change and cause for continued, making this issue of lesser importance when compared with the then on-going conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; additionally a continued global focus on security issues and terrorism dominated the 2004 General Assembly.  This was reflected in his speech.  A mere nine sentences addressed ecological conditions which he rightly posed as ‘security threats’ to his nation.

            On February 1, 2007 the IPPC released what many in the world considered to be a game changer in the realization of climate change as scientific evidence reported with certainty that a warming planet was real.  Their fourth assessment report stated:

The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.  It went further to address human contributions to the problem of climate change.  Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750.  Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations (IPCC, 2007).

            This definitive statement by the IPCC gave leverage to AOSIS, Alliance of Small Island States, member countries as they pushed for concrete actions to be taken by larger nations.  Personal appeals during the 62nd UNGASS general debates from small island countries spoke to the importance of immediate action.  In cases, unsubstantial or lack of action to resolve these problems could lead to significant damage to territorial integrity, jeopardize national sovereignty and ultimate loss of independence.  The Kiribati delegation put forth this appeal forward during the general debates.

As a small country, Kiribati places great confidence on the international community for its survival and we hope that our repeated appeals to this body in addressing this critical issue will receive stronger political support and commitment this time.  There is no more time to debate on the issue as climate is now a fact of life.  It is now time to put words into action so that this living planet is protected from complete destruction and is preserved for use by our many generations to come (Kirata, 2007).

With certain scientific backing now, AOSIS member states felt hopeful that the world would finally answer their call to take decisive action on climate change. 

The following year, optimistic pressure on the global community was amplified in anticipation of action being taken at the upcoming COP15 meeting in Copenhagen.  More than half of President Tong’s address focused on impacts his nation was already facing as a result of climate change and what was being done to mitigate the consequences in his country. 

Mitigation and adaptation strategies are and will continue to be integral components of our response to climate change.  It would indeed be naive to suggest otherwise.  These strategies only provide short and medium-term solutions though.  Ultimately, low-lying island countries like Kiribati will have to face up to the reality of their islands being unable to support life and plan accordingly beyond existing adaptation strategies.  Kiribati is not a major emitter of greenhouse gasses.  Its mitigation efforts would therefore be insignificant on the global climate change situation.  Nevertheless we will do our part and explore appropriate renewable and efficient energy technology as well as promote replanting in our islands (Tong, 2008). 

            On 3 June 2009, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution
. A1RES/63/281 inviting "the relevant organs of the United Nations to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, especially its security implications." It represents the first time that the entire international community drew an explicit connection between climate change and international peace and security.  It concluded that, no country, whatever size or stage of development, will be able to avoid the security implications of climate change (Pacific SIDS , 2009).

A new political atmosphere spurred on by scientific evidence was now leading up to the Copenhagen Conference of Parties to be held in December of 2009.  President Anote Tong voiced his hope in a 2009 interview by stating, I now sense a strong political commitment to doing something and to come to a conclusion at Copenhagen and I think there is a realization of the more urgent cases for the most vulnerable.  I must say, I am much more heartened now than I was four or five years ago when nobody was listening, we welcome this change (Australian Broadcasting Company, 2009). 

Though high hopes for a new Copenhagen Accord and expectations preceded the COP15, AOSIS member states came away from it with great disappointing.  Following the meeting, global headlines read 1.5°C Rejected, Pacific condemned as 25 Leaders Deliver Copenhagen Accord and Foreign Policy and Crushed in Copenhagen.  The Copenhagen Accord was nowhere near what Pacific contingencies were hoping for.  It raised the limit of global warming to 2°C, which according to some scientists, would annihilate low lying Pacific Island Nations such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands (Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 2009).

For the next four years, Kiribati would be one of the loudest proponents for climate change action in international settings and forums, bringing their realities to the eyes of thousands, if not millions, of people.  In collaboration with Conservation International and the New England Aquarium the government created PIPA (Phoenix Islands Protected Area) in 2008.  It is the largest marine protected area in the world, covering over 400,000 square kilometers of the Pacific or 11% of Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  In 2011, the Water is Rising company toured across the United States, placing a human face on climate change for audiences across the country.  The tour was a collaboration between UCLA and the governments of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau which brought an impassioned plea for global awareness and social change from 36 young performers.  Each country sent 13 young performers in hopes of creating an educational exchange for both performers and Americans.  That same year, Kiribati hosted a visit from, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretariat General.  It was the first time a Secretariat General visited the nation.  Ban described what he saw as the “the front of the front lines on Climate Change” and vowed to bring back the plight of Kiribati citizens to the world.

The republic of Kiribati held the first ever Tarawa Climate Change Conference from November 9-10, 2010 with a total of fifteen nations.  The aim of the conference was to unite leaders in recognizing that climate change was one of the greatest challenges to the world and that there was an “urgent need for immediate action to address the causes and consequences of Climate Change” in preparation for the COP 16 meeting to be held later that year in Cancun, Mexico.  Of the fifteen attending nations, twelve ratified the Ambo Declaration.  The United States, Canada and Kiribati’s former colonial power, the United Kingdom, took formal observer status.     

          On September 26, 2012 Anote Tong addressed the UNGASS.  Again stressing climate change he opened his address by stating: 
          This is the seventh time I have had the honour to address this assembly in my nine years as
          President of Kiribati.  Each time I have sought to convey the same message.  Each time I have
          spoken of the real and existential threat to my nation.  Each time I have reminded you of the
          need for urgent action to address climate change and sea level rise, to ensure the long-term
          survival of Kiribati.  I frequently find myself watching my grandchildren and wondering what
          sort of a future we are leaving them.  For their sake, climate change is an issue that I will
          continue to talk about for as long as I have breath in my body.  We owe it to our children and
          their children’s children to act and to act soon, so let us pray that God will give us the common
          sense to do the right thing for the future of humanity (Tong, 2012).    
            Almost one month to the day after President Tong addressed the UN General Assembly on the destructive toll climate change has taken on his country over the past decade; the UN building was struck by Hurricane Sandy.  The storm was labeled a mega-storm when it struck New York City.  UN headquarters suffered "major damage" as strong winds struck the building, flooding the main complex.  Located in the center of Manhattan, the UN complex remained closed for four days.  At least 43 people in the New York City area had perished and an estimated $50 billion in property damages and financial loss quickly mounted.  It ranks as one of the most destructive storms to hit the U.S, second only to Katrina in 2005 (Prezioso & Allen, 2012).  Reaction to the storm ranged from shock and disbelief, causing a large portion of the US population to now think seriously about climate change.   

Our climate is changing.  And while the increase in extreme weather around the world may or may not be the culprit of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action (Bloomberg, 2012).


Social media followers from Kiribati soon reacted to events taking place on the other side of the world.   Minutes after Mayor Bloomberg’s call for immediate action on Climate Change in the wake of Super storm Sandy, concerned I-Kiribati citizens began voicing their frustrations. 
Are you serious?? It takes (American) lives to remind all Leaders for immediate actions??  If that is your case, then I wish more Hurricanes propel their intensity and journey to other countries (but not Pacific hehe) whose leaders have not realized the dangers (of climate change) as yet!!

 November 14, 2012

California is the largest carbon market in the US and the second largest in the world (Rogers, 2012).  Under the leadership of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.  This bill set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law by directing the California Air Resources Board to begin developing a plan for reducing greenhouse gases within the state  (California Environmental Protection Agency, 2012).  Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck the East coast, the state of California held its first online auction, selling pollution allowances to California businesses, allowing the enforcement of business cap and trade emissions regulations.  People from around the country are watching the developments in California closely and environmentalists are hailing the auction as a moment when America Finally got serious about addressing climate change (Rogers, 2012). 

November 30, 2012

            “Experts agree Global Warming is Melting the World Rapidly” was the title of the latest Journal of Science’s lead article.  It went on describing the globe’s “icy bottom line” which produces an annual loss of 344 billion tons of glacial ice, accounting for 20% of current sea level rise, melting 5 times faster than that observed in 2007.  Since 1992, the Antarctic ice sheets lost enough ice to raise sea level by about 0.6 millimeters per year on average out of the observed 3 millimeters per year, most of which came from melting mountain glaciers and from the expansion of seawater due to warming (Kerr, 2012). 

            All of which throws the question of Kiribati’s future existence as a people and sovereign nation into question.  In reality, Climate Change is not something new or something distant.  It is not something that will happen in the future sometime well after we have passed away.  It is something real, something here and something now.  I noticed it immediately when I first landed in 2000, it was one of the things I mentioned in one of my very first Peace Corps letters home, over ten years ago.  The world has known about it, but has not listened for nearly 30 years now. 
          Though, this is not to say that there is 100% agreement that climate change will eventually destroy Kiribati, even within Kiribati today.  As you have read first hand accounts, Kiribati is a heavily Christianized society.  Countless interviews with I-Kiribati from 2007 to 2010 have revealed that much of the population believes that Kiribati will weather the storm of Climate Change because God promised to "never to flood the earth again", referencing the story of Noah and the Great Flood.  While many stated their disbelief that Kiribati would be harmed if oceans were to rise, many others stated that they did not know, citing God... "it is up to him, not me" was a common response to the question of will Kiribati be impacted by Climate Change.  I believe it is up to us as a concerned global community, because this will not just affect Kiribati or other small low lying atoll nations like the Maldives, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tokelau... these are our canaries in the coal mine.  Eventually, we as a world will feel the devastating impacts they have been feeling for decades.     

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Blog Section...Post Americorps/Post Peace Corps

          Thank you sooooooooooooooo much for reading my Peace Corps story!  Since 2002, I have returned to Kiribati many times.  Sometimes annually, sometimes biannually to be with my host family, which has really become an extended biological family in my mind.  As stated, I have worked on HIV/AIDS prevention with the ministry of health and climate change issues with the Fulbright program.  Many people don't think about climate change in terms of its long-term impact here in the United States.  Our big events that happen in relation to climate change which make headlines are temporary.  Heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, fires.  These are becoming more frequent and more intense, but the tipping point to permanent or long-term impact has not been reached in most Americans minds I would argue.  This is what long term climate change impact looks like in Kiribati from a village close to where I lived in the main island. 

I will start a new blog soon about climate change impacts on Kiribati but for now...

Abarao Village 2005

Abarao Village 2008

Abarao Village 2011