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Dan Box Blog - The Carteret Islanders

Dan Box

26th February, 2009

Something is starting to bother me about this trip. It’s not the travelling (though when I picked up my flight tickets yesterday, the travel agent warned me that people in Papua New Guinea still wear bones through their noses. I promised to keep an eye out).

Nor is it the fact that I don’t really know what I am getting into (the Carteret Islands, my final destination, can only be contacted by HF radio and telephone connections with nearby islands are scattergun to say the least).

It’s more that, having initially convinced myself that travelling to witness – and report on – the evacuation of the islands as a result of climate change would be a 'good thing', it may turn out to be anything but.

Partly I have been taken aback by the number of other journalists who have got in touch. People from the US, South Africa, France and Germany, among others, have written to say they too want to do a report / documentary on the Carteret evacuation, or in a few instances, have already been there. It’s made me start to wonder: do all of these people, me included, want to travel to the Carterets because we want to help? Or because it would make a good story?

This doubt was driven home when I received an email from Ursula Rakova, who is organizing the evacuation and had previously invited me out. She had spoken to the Chairman of the Council of Elders on the Islands, Andreas Rubin, who wanted to know “the purpose of your trip, how your trip will benefit the Carterets relocation program and whom you will advocate your program to…They wish to know why you’re coming after so many media people have come to the islands.”

Good questions.

On the one hand, showing the outside world some of the real, human, effects of climate change might convince more people that we need to work harder to confront this. On the other, how will it be of any actual benefit to the Carterets’ people themselves? What will another reporter do for people who are short of food, water and somewhere to sleep?

Except, maybe there is something that I can do. The evacuation of the islands has currently faltered, for the simple reason that it has run out of money. So far, the Catholic Church has agreed to donate land on which the islanders can live after they leave the Carterets. The building of a few houses was begun, but has stopped until Ursula can find the funds to complete it.

Until she does, the islanders will remain trapped, unable to leave their homes because there is nowhere to go to. Maybe by travelling to the islands I can help make people aware of this specific problem, maybe together we can find a way to raise the money they desperately need. It’s only the beginnings of an idea, but I would welcome any suggestions. Can you help?

As their island homes are swallowed by rising sea levels, the people of the Carteret Islands are being forced to leave in what will become the world’s first official climate change evacuation. Dan Box will be travelling to the islands in April and will be blogging live on his journey at www.journeytothesinkinglands.wordpress.com

The trip is made possible thanks to the Royal Geographical Society (With IBG) Journey of a Lifetime Award

 

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