The human face of climate change can often be masked and lost in statistics, maps, and modelling. In stark contrast is this photo essay, which humanises the plight of coastal erosion and the ensuing contamination of freshwater supplies. This sobering reality looms over the inhabitants of the ‘frontline nation’ of global warming, Kiribati.
This, at once charming and shocking, photo essay of Rupee and her brother Tang sympathetically documents the ‘last generation’ to live in the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. Today Kiribati only lies a few metres above Pacific waters and is one of the first countries that may disappear into the ocean under the rising seas, caused by man-made climate change.
Due to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion into fresh water, Kiribati can expect to become uninhabitable as early as 2050. An entire nation, people, and culture could vanish only 35 years from now! No modelling, no maps, no far-off predictions; this is now, we’re talkin’ about our generation.
“It’s no longer a question of whether we’ll remain in this country. It’s a matter of when we’ll have to leave.” The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared Kiribati to be among the six Pacific Island nations most vulnerable to global warming. The study reported that these countries face “a serious threat of permanent inundation from rising sea-levels.”