Archive for the 'Tuvalu' Category

Sep 17 2007

PEOPLE ARE PENGUINS TOO

For those of you I haven’t met, I am Penguin7. I’m off to the right on the photo up top. We received a lot of mail about No Penguin Retreat. Some of you humans think we’re a bit hysterical; some of you are very supportive. As for Anthony P. from Trenton, New Jersey – language, language, language. It’s all very well for you to think Global Warming is a hoax but just maybe we have a different perspective when it comes to this issue.

Anyway, some of us spent some time thinking about the inevitable species gap. There is a difference in the way we experience the effects of the climate crisis. But make no mistake about it, it may be the polar bears today, us penguins tomorrow, but sooner or later it will be your turn.

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The Pacific Island State of Nukulaelae Tuvalu – Seen From Space



This is the tiny island chain of Tuvalu. I think the people living on Tuvalu may understand the challenges of the climate crisis a little bit better than most humans. Their land may disappear in the near future. They are intimately connected to the issue of the melting ice. As the ocean rises, their island home comes closer and closer to extinction.

The people of Tuvalu are canaries in the mine. They are human bellwethers. And they have something to say to us all:

The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two metres on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.

“We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water,” Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.

“All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu,” he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.

Right this minute Tuvalu is experiencing the damaging effects of global warming: the warming ocean is damaging it coral reefs and affecting the fish supply. The rising seawater is infiltrating Tuvalu’s fresh water supply. The spring tides get higher each year and erode the coastline. And the warming ocean is spurring most ferocious cyclones.

Tavau Teii continues:

“We’ll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave.”

Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.

But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.

“Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way.”

Maybe Anthony is saying, “well what do you expect living on a small island in the middle of the ocean?”

Well what about the people living in some of the driest land on Earth? Has global warming affected them? Yes, one of the impacts of global warming is to bring about more desertification.

Global warming brought about by increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere is expected to increase the variability of weather conditions and extreme events. Many dryland areas face increasingly low and erratic rainfalls, coupled with soil erosion by wind and the drying up of water resources through increased regional temperatures. Deforestation can also reduce rainfall in certain areas, increasing the threat of desertification. It is not yet possible, using computer models, to identify with an acceptable degree of reliability those parts of the Earth where desertification will occur. Existing drylands, which cover over 40% of the total land area of the world, most significantly in Africa and Asia, will probably be most at risk to climate change. These areas already experience low rainfall, and any that falls is usually in the form of short, erratic, high-intensity storms. In addition such areas also suffer from land degradation due to over-cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices.

The direct physical consequences of desertification may include an increased frequency of sand and dust storms and increased flooding due to inadequate drainage or poor irrigation practices. This can contribute to the removal of topsoil and vital soil nutrients needed for food production, and bring about a loss of vegetation cover which would otherwise have assisted with the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for plant photosynthesis. Desertification can also initiate regional shifts in climate which may enhance climate changes due to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Man Passes Mural of Drought, Melbourne Australia – William West/AFP



Drought in Australia has profound consequences:

The story of Australia’s worst dry spell in a thousand years continues to astound. Last year we learned, “One farmer takes his life every four days.” This year over half of Australia’s agricultural land is in a declared drought.

DROUGHT will become a redundant term as Australia plans for a permanently drier future, according to the nation’s urban water industries chief….

“The urban water industry has decided the inflows of the past will never return,” Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said. “We are trying to avoid the term ‘drought’ and saying this is the new reality.”

For you in the United States, a recent study in April in the journal Science “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest.”

An extraordinary number of you humans live in drylands.

Home to a third of the human population in 2000, drylands occupy nearly half of Earth’s land area. Across the world, desertification affects the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the benefits that dryland ecosystems can provide.

In drylands, water scarcity limits the production of crops, forage, wood, and other services ecosystems provide to humans. Drylands are therefore highly vulnerable to increases in human pressures and climatic variability, especially sub-Saharan and Central Asian drylands.

Some 10 to 20% of drylands are already degraded, and ongoing desertification threatens the world’s poorest populations and the prospects of poverty reduction. Therefore, desertification is one of the greatest environmental challenges today and a major barrier to meeting basic human needs in drylands.

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Dunes in Douza, Tunisia – Fehti Belaid/AFP

All this sand is making me very nervous. And extremely thirsty. Not to mention very depressed.

Whether it’s too much sand or not enough ice, or too much water, we are all becoming bellwethers.

People are penguins too.

Have a good day, Anthony, wherever you are.
Penguin7





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