Tuvalu residents fight for their home in face of worsening tides and climate crisis

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"Culture shocking, overwhelming" . . . speaking at COP26 on the climate crisis-threatened future of Tuvalu. Image: PINA /Wansolwara News

By Monika Singh of Wansolwara

The fourth smallest country in the world with a population of just over 11,000 people —  Tuvalu — fears being “wiped off its place on the map”.

A report by ABC Pacific states that the low-lying island nation is widely considered one of the first places to be significantly impacted by rising sea levels, caused by climate change.

According to the locals the spring tides this year in Tuvalu have been the worst so far with more flooding expected with the king tides that usually occur during late February to early March.

Tuvalu residents are fighting for their home in the face of worsening tides and climate change. Image: Wahasi/ Wansolwara News

In 2021, Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, addressed the world in a COP26 speech while standing knee-deep in the sea to show how vulnerable Tuvalu and other low-lying islands in the Pacific are to climate change.

A 27-year-old climate activist from Tuvalu said he loved his home and his culture and did not want to lose them.

Kato Ewekia spoke to Nedia Daily and said seeing the beaches that he used to play rugby on with his friends had disappeared gave him a wake-up call.

“I was worried about my children because I wanted my children to grow up, teach them Tuvaluan music, teach them rugby, teach them fishing. But my island is about to disappear and get wiped off it’s place on the map.”

First youth Tuvaluan delegate
Ewekia was also at COP26 and made history as the first youth Tuvaluan delegate to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Despite only speaking limited English, he took to the global stage to tell the world about his home.

“Since I was the first Tuvaluan activist, people didn’t really know where Tuvalu is, what Tuvalu is,” he said.

“It was culture shocking, overwhelming. But the other youth gave me the confidence to just speak with my heart, and get my message out there.”

Ewekia has been the national leader of the Saving Tuvalu Global Campaign, an environmental organisation that aims to amplify the voices and demands of the people of Tuvalu since 2020.

“Going out there, it’s not easy. We really, really love our home and we want how our elders taught us how to be Tuvaluan, we want our children to experience it — not when it disappears and future generations will be talking about it (Tuvalu) like it’s a story.”

He shared that in the four years that he has been advocating for Tuvalu on the public stage, there have been many moments of frustration that are specifically directed towards world leaders who aren’t paying attention.

“My message to the world is I’ve been sharing this same message over and over again,” he said.

“If Tuvalu was your home and it [was] about to disappear, and you wanted your children to grow up in your home in Tuvalu — what would you have done? If you were in our shoes, what would you have done to save Tuvalu?”

Asia Pacific Report collaborates with The University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme newspaper Wansolwara.

King tide, Funafuti, Tuvalu in February 2024. Image: Wahasi/Wansolwara News
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