And Now, I’ll Show You Climate Change!

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Rising sea level has made this village unreachable and forced the Catholic Church, at back, to relocate to a new site inland.

The kids are always the first to spot what’s coming. They have safety in numbers, proceeding in a pack out of the palm shadows to the edge of the beach to eventually wave abundantly at us I-Matang in our funny hats riding ashore in a rubber boat with wheels.

Mao was the eldest, tall and teethy, with a dramatic swath of black hair. She didn’t know what we wanted, but we didn’t know what we wanted either. We rowed ashore because it’s what you do when you anchor off a village; this one just happened to be far off the well-sailed paths and they seemed baffled by our sudden appearance. We were at the very northern tip of Abaiang, an atoll just 30 miles from Tarawa, the main island of western Kiribati.

Continue reading “And Now, I’ll Show You Climate Change!”

Green Thumbs Up in Tuvalu

20151124_074556People who hate eating their vegetables would love traveling in equatorial Micronesia. Dry, sandy atolls where nothing edible thrives but coconut palms and pandanus are but idyllic paradises on which one can easily waste away of nutritional deficiency. The perennial heat and drought-like lack of rain mean you’ll be guaranteed plenty of sunny beach time, without having to put up with any of those obnoxious fruity umbrella drinks, due to the general lack of fruit.

Tuvalu wasn’t quite that bad (Kiribati is.) Most shops had mushy imported oranges and apples. Breadfruit was happening. There was a guy with a papaya grove who was willing to sell 2 for $5, pick your own or select from the ripe and ready ones stored inside an unused washing machine on his patio.

But the unexpected surprise was the raised bed gardens and flats full of seedlings, operated by Taiwan Technical Mission in a tin-roofed structure on the northeast side of the airport runway. Continue reading “Green Thumbs Up in Tuvalu”

Every Home is a Grave

A version of this story originally appeared in the magazine Capital #31, May 2016. Click the magazine image below to read the PDF.
Capital-May2016

Doctored green graveIn Funafuti, in front of most homes there are large, long, cement boxes, sometimes neatly tiled, sometimes painted bright reds and greens and blues and pinks, sometimes festooned with garlands of plastic hibiscus, sometimes accompanied by carved crosses. Graves. All are big enough to house a human, the last remains of past family members, kept close to their future generations.

“It ties you to the land,” one man told us when we witnessed the same tradition on Bora Bora, and makes it very hard to sell. Or leave.

What if the land is the first to leave? To be on an atoll in Tuvalu is to be in the midst of the climate changing, an island disappearing.

Continue reading “Every Home is a Grave”