this year, journalist Dan Box won recognition from environmentalist
George Monbiot for documenting the world's first climate change
evacuation, of the Carteret islands in the South Pacific. Now, he
returns to his experiences to ask if this is the first evacuation of
many, how should we do it in future?
What happens when you want to move a state? What happens when the Maldives moves to India and says it wants to still be the Maldives?
Ruth Marcella was crippled at birth and it hurts to walk this far
around her island. But she is determined and, swinging her twisted hip,
leads me through the palm trees to the white beach and the blue South
As she shows off her tiny homeland, Han, one of
the Carteret Islands in the far east of Papua New Guinea, Ruth keeps
saying sorry quietly. I think she is apologising, and ask her why.
'I am sorry for my island,' Ruth replies. 'I believe that one day this
island will disappear, and we won't have this island. We will lose it.'
Behind us men are cutting down dead breadfruit trees for firewood. Once
pawpaw, taro and banana grew here, but no more. The ocean, Ruth says,
is rising. Trees that once stood in the forest are now 20 metres out
among the waves. Many that remain are poisoned by salt water. The
islanders are hungry, and afraid.
The Carterets, it has been
decided, will be abandoned, in what is the world’s first official
evacuation of an entire people because of climate change. If global
warming continues as we expect, many more will soon suffer the same
fate. But how do you move an entire people? No one knows.