The village of Vunidogoloa lies on a small tropical island half the world away in the tiny island nation of Fiji. This week, locals continue their work on relocating the village from its current beachside location to a new mountainside region a kilometer inland.
The former village is an idyllic locale along the ocean with small huts, home gardens, coconut trees, and pristine views – all the quintessential elements you’d expect from a small Polynesian village. It might seem rather strange that a people would suddenly decide to uproot themselves from such a beautiful location – no doubt full of rich cultural history – and continue raising their families elsewhere.
However, in recent decades the village has been victim to sea level rise and flooding which has caused considerable erosion and destruction of natural and horticultural vegetation. The catalyst behind these sudden changes in the environment is, of course, climate change.
Many Fijians are well aware of the threat that climate change poses and the consequences of not being proactive in mitigating its impact. However the government of Fiji is actively working to increase awareness of the issue and has promised to assist in the rebuilding of the affected villages.
Vunidogoloa is one of the first of such villages forced to migrate due to the effects of climate change, but it most certainly isn’t the last. Many low-lying nations throughout the world have developed contingency plans to deal with the threat of sea level rise including the Maldives who are considering a plan to move the entire nation to Australia. Unfortunately, it seems that the countries who’ve contributed the least to the anthropogenic rise in global greenhouse gasses will be the ones who are affected the worst.
The United States is one of the worst contributors to global greenhouse gasses, yet little has been done in regard to policy. We are the most powerful nation on earth and while we persuade other nations to adopt green policies, we sit idly by. Europe has invested far more into wind and tidal energy, China is the largest producer of hydropower and has become a huge player in the solar energy industry, and Iceland gets a full quarter of it’s energy through geothermal.
We have a huge potential to create a vast network of diversified energy production due to our varying climatic regions, and we have plenty of people looking for work; what a perfect scenario to invest in cleaner, renewable energies.
Whether it’s through energy production, fuel consumption, or consumer responsibility the US needs to set a global standard on addressing climate change before it’s too late. Young people should be particularly alarmed: this is our future! Our world is slowly being destroyed and the politicians stand by in indifference. The story of the Vunidogoloa should be a wakeup call to the world. No longer is climate change just some impalpable problem that might impact future generations; it’s here, it’s happening.
Will we act now while the damage is minimal or will we wait until the water begins pouring into our own homes?