Anote Tong: The former president battling climate change - Lake Harding Association

Anote Tong: The former president battling climate change

Anote Tong: The former president battling climate change

By Micah Moen 3 Comments October 11, 2019


Let’s forget about
negotiating against nature. Come on, let’s wake up,
it’s not about that. It’s about what nature
can continue to take. Are we moving beyond
the threshold point? And if we are,
it doesn’t matter who wants what. We’ll all be gone. We may be the first ones to go, if we go beyond the tipping points. Anote Tong is the former president of this place, Kiribati. Smack-bang in the middle
of the Pacific Ocean, it’s home to just over 100,000 people who live across 33 islands that on average sit just
two metres above sea level, but that is changing fast. Can you paint a picture for us
about what life is like on Kiribati? Beautiful. I guess we are blessed to be in one of the most beautiful
parts of the world where people dream of going. Pretty much remain
a traditional society, catching your fish,
growing your crops, but of course, at the same time we… our very geography now poses…
presents threats. The world’s
leading scientists say that in our lifetime
your home could be under water. How soon could that become a reality? Based on what the science is saying, they will be totally under water
within maybe 50 years, I really don’t know. Do people in Kiribati know about
the fact that they may have to move? Is that a daily reality for them? There is denial, and it’s an emotional thing,
I understand that. I’ve been challenged, you know “Stop talking like that.
Stop scaring us.” There is this thinking
that somehow it would be addressed. Sometimes we… we put it to God,
that He is going to deal with it. I think we trust in the authorities
to do something about it. And this is why, to some extent,
this is what drives me because I know about it,
I believe I can do something about it and therefore should be doing
something about it. What are some of the challenges
that have already come about because of rising sea levels? Well, we’ve had a village gone in an island where I grew up as a
young child, where I went to school. – A whole village?
– A whole village, and the only building left
is the church. It’s frightening for the people. We’re not used to seeing this. It damaged homes,
destroyed food crops, damaged the water lines. So, we have to undertake some very
radical adaptation strategies to build climate resilience. You’ve floated some other options, in terms of floating islands,
advances in technology, what are some of these options
and how likely are they? Building floating islands,
which could accommodate people, self-sufficient in water,
energy and everything else, it didn’t sound like a bad option, it’s a bit strange,
a bit science fiction. But then, people like Richard Branson
is talking about building hotels in space,
so why not this? So, in 2014, you took
the pretty unusual step of buying a large parcel of land
in Fiji. What would that future look like? Moving a whole nation of people
to a parcel of land, in another country. The purpose of buying that land is to send a very strong message
to the international community which had not been
responding to our calls for something to be done. The invitation
from the Fiji Government to say “If ever the people
of Kiribati and Tuvalu “would need a place to go
due to climate change, “then Fiji would be willing
to receive them.” Fiji has been the only one
that has stepped forward. For those of us whose survival, whose very survival is at stake, our plea is very simple, let us not pay lip service
to an issue that demands immediate
and urgent action. You’ve spoken to a lot of people, to the UN, the Pope, media around
the world about climate change. Do you feel like
people are listening? I don’t believe
that I’ve always made people listen. I think a lot of people
still don’t listen. That is sad. Why climate is changing is because we’ve become
so materialistic as to exploit everything,
at any cost, and especially the politicians who are really far focused on
what it means for the next election, not the next generation. The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. The world’s leading experts
on climate change have released a report saying that
crisis could come as early as 2040 and we need to take drastic action
in the next 12 years. And a lot of people
have seen this as a wake-up call. Has this come too late? I think it’s getting very late
and I think, especially in the light of
some of the commentary coming forward
from our political leaders, we’ve got to unplug whatever it is
that’s plugging their ears, making them deaf to this call. It is urgent. It is serious. If you cannot change your policy
in response to a very clear, clear, science coming forward,
then maybe you should not be there. The majority of Australians
want to do something about it. I hear people, a lot of people,
people here in Australia, but the Government is not doing it,
but you put the Government there so don’t disengage yourself
from the responsibility. You talk about
your grandchildren quite a bit when you’re making speeches, do you think that gets
the message across to people? Why I am saying that
is we’ve been given custody. I really want to be able to
hand it down from me to my grandchildren,
so they can survive. For the people in Australia, so that the next generation can have
the Great Barrier Reef, still to enjoy. It’s not always just about you first. Think about us, not me. And I think,
if we can start doing that, maybe we got a hope
of turning this around. Is there a future where the people of Kiribati
will be able to stay? Absolutely. Absolutely. We should not accept the possibility
that we would disappear. But if we do nothing,
then definitely we will disappear.

3 Comments found

User

ARSHAD BAIG

'' Politicians are more concerned about next election than next generation '' well said sir.

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User

Georgie Porgie 888

Wise man! If only others would listen.

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User

Unspoken Truth

Stay strong mr. President. May Allah protect your country, ameen.

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