Losing Paradise: Stories of Adaptation and Displacement Between Kiribati and Fiji

Image by Janice Cantieri
Children play in North Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati. Image by Janice Cantieri.

I took this picture last summer, while I was living in a village on Tarawa, the capital island of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati. The children are playing and enjoying themselves in the cool water that separates the two villages of Buota and Abatao, on the northern side of the Tarawa atoll. This island nation, however, might become uninhabitable during these children’s lifetimes due to rapid sea level rise associated with climate change. Kiribati, like many low-lying island nations, is almost entirely at sea level, so any change in sea level has serious consequences, especially for villages and families who live right at the shoreline. Some islanders have already migrated from Kiribati to New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji, but many more are still on Tarawa, adapting to the changes and remaining on the islands until the possibility of migration becomes inescapable. Last summer, I interviewed families and investigated how these changes have and are currently affecting the culture, community, and daily lives of those living in Kiribati villages, and how these communities are adapting and developing solutions. This year, I will return to the islands to collect and share the stories of families and communities as they face the possibility of wide-scale migration and displacement.

This is me with the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong. When I spoke with Mr. Tong about Kiribati, he told me, “The biggest question we are facing is whether it makes sense to spend resources on development for a country that will be underwater.” Image by Janice Cantieri.



“The biggest question we are facing is whether it makes sense to spend resources on development for a country that will be underwater.” –Kiribati President Anote Tong
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