-Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, at the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly New York, 24th September 2003
The canary is dying. The first to go is going. The small island nation of Tuvalu is asking for help from the rest of the world as it sinks beneath the ocean due to global warming. Flood damage caused by rising sea levels and saline intrusion into drinking water are already wide-spread.
The plea came during an environmental conference in South Korea.
Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus endorsed Tuvalu's message, saying rising temperatures are also "a matter of life and death" for low-lying nations like his own Bangladesh.
"For many people around the world this is an issue of concern but for us it's an issue of life and death," he said, urging global lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gases.
No one should shrug their shoulders when they hear the people of Tuvalu talking about their homeland being washed away by rising tides and higher sea levels. Tuvalu is a Member State of the United Nations, and under the Organization's Charter, deserved the same level of attention as every other Member State.
But, of course, it won't get it.
Tuvalu's former assistant environment minister Paani Laupepa, now assistant secretary for foreign affairs commented two years ago to photographer Gary Braasch in an article in Grist, "President Bush goes to war to protect his country, and talks of national security, but the security of my people is threatened by global warming. How can you tell the American people that the way they live -- having three cars, using so much energy -- is endangering lots of small countries down the track?"
One wonders where the children shown in the accompanying photo will spend their adult years.
One wonders how many people give a damn.
The following is from Reuters (UK).
Tuvalu about to disappear into the ocean
The tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu on Thursday urged the rest of the world to do more to combat global warming before it sinks beneath the ocean.
The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two meters 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.
He reeled off a list of threats to the country, one of whose few export earnings comes from its Internet country suffix which it can sell to anyone wanting their Website site to end with .tv.
Coral reefs are being damaged by the warming ocean and so threatening fish stocks -- the main source of protein.
The sea is increasingly invading underground fresh water supplies, creating problems for farmers, while drought constantly threatened to limit drinking water.
Annual spring tides appear to be getting higher each year, eroding the coastline. As the coral reefs die, that protection goes and the risk only increases.
And the mounting ferocity of cyclones from a warmer ocean also brought greater risks, he said, noting another island state in the area had been buffeted by waves three years ago that crashed over its 30 meter cliffs.
"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."