Just Two Cents From Every New Yorker Could Build Carteret Island's Climate Change Refugees New Homes

ursula rakova photo

Ursula Rakova screen-grabbed from the trailer for the documentary Sun Come Up, explaining the impact of climate change on the Carteret's.

I didn't initially schedule it this way, but yesterday at Climate Week NYC turned out to be one spanning the breadth of people trying to affected by climate change. In the morning was Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC; the evening ended with Ursula Rakova, who is leading the efforts to relocate her people on the Carteret Islands, which are already being submerged by rising sea levels. In case you don't know, here's the story (in brief) and what can be done to help (it won't cost anyone of us that much):

The Carteret Islands (also called the Tulun Islands, as in the map at left) lay 53 miles northeast of Bougainville in the South Pacific, and are part of Papua New Guinea. The islands themselves have a land area of just 0.23 square miles and are spread out over the ring of an atoll 19 miles across. The highest point is just 5 feet above sea level.

Climate Change Already Causing Severe Impacts
Already the sea is beginning to inundate them -- one island has already been divided in half and the distance between the sections is growing -- and the islanders are living mostly on fish and coconut as the lands they formerly used to grow vegetable crops are no longer fertile. Lack of food has caused the schools on the islands to have to close for part of the year.

Relocation efforts are underway, which is Ms Rakova comes in. She's been in town all of Climate Week but last night I had the opportunity to check out a screening of an excerpt of Sun Come Up, a documentary still in production, which follows her and the relocation effort.

The Sun Come Up site has a good summary of situation -- the voluntary aspect of the relocations (many elderly people don't want to leave), the resettlement in Bougainville, the youth outreach that is a big part of the transition -- but if there's one thing that really stands out for me in everything that Ursula said after the screening it is this:

Financial Support for Housing Absent
Other than support for education and training, there has be no government support (from any nation) to help with relocation, none. Land has been acquired thanks to action from the Catholic church, but there has been no direct financial assistance to help these people. And here's the real kicker:

To build houses for the initial 83 families that Ms Rakova's organization, Tulele Peisa, are moving to Bougainville will only cost $155,000.

Let's just put that in some perspective: If every one of New York City's 8.3 million residents made a one-time donation of 2¢ all those houses could be built. Heck, if just each resident within a three block radius of the screening itself gave up $1, it could be done.

Though it doesn't appear to be included as I write this, Friends of the Earth Australia will be including a link so that you can help the Carteret Islanders relocate.

More: Tulele Paisa and Sun Come Up
Map of the Carteret Islands: The Green Grok
Climate Change Refugees
First Official Climate Change Refugees Evacuate Their Island Homes for Good
Climate Change Refugees in Maldives Buy Land
Mass Migrations From Climate Change Forecast by Report

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