Day M74: Alofa Tuvalu!
10.12.11: So then back to Tuvalu to pick up those containers we left here last weekend. This all reminds me of a riddle involving taking animals over a river. Back in Tuvalu hey? I better use this opportunity to write another inspiring rant about the undisputable (except by idiots!) fact of life that is Global Warming…
We arrived at around 7am and, after a hearty breakfast, I set off in search of adventure on the island that, quite frankly, will not be here for much longer. Here’s a clip from the BBC documentary series ‘South Pacific’ highlighting the plight of the nation of Tuvalu.
Those king tide floods used to happen once a year, but now the country is flooding pretty much every month. And it’s not just that people’s feet and Persian rugs are getting wet, it’s that the soil is becoming saturated in salt, destroying any and all vegetables or crops that the Tuvaluan people are trying to grow. And no, they can’t farm seaweed, Poindexter: seaweed only grows in temperate climes, the waters here are too warm. While coral is great for building reefs, atolls and Mount Everest, it tastes lousy on a sandwich. By 2050 Tuvalu will be underwater, but it will be rendered uninhabitable long before then.
Like I said last time I was here, Tuvalu will be the first country to be completely destroyed since, well, forever. It’s never happened before. Yep, that’s right: in all the murdering, pillaging, witch-hunting, slave-keeping, warmongering days of yore, never has the landmass of an entire country been literally wiped from the face of the Earth. But look on the Mr. Brightside: you get to be the generation to finally do it! Hell, we might all live long enough to watch the salty brine envelop Kiribati and the Maldives while we’re at it.
Yey! Ugly buildings, autotune, faltering economies, unwinnable wars, conspiracy nuts, overpopulation, World of Warcraft, unserviceable Apple products and global warming: what a truly loathsome legacy we’re leaving for our grandchildren.
Our grandparent’s generation fought and died so that future generations could live and prosper. We can’t even be arsed turning off the office lights at night. At this rate, we’ll go down in history as Generation Fail: the ones who accurately foresaw the future but then dismissed the concerns of every accredited scientist in the world on the grounds that they were ‘depressing’. The generation that had the opportunity to construct a sustainable model for the world: a sustainable model for the next 50,000 years of human civilisation, but failed miserably. We are the first generation – so, so lucky are we – to have all of humanity’s collective knowledge quite literally at our fingertips (Praise Be To The Internet!) but we are blowing it, we are blowing it big style.
How about I get up on a podium and claim to speak for everyone on the planet who isn’t evil or a moron? A bit too strong you say? Is everyone who disagrees with me an idiot? Well no, I think we can all have a healthy debate on the merits of Anchorman (I honestly don’t get it), and yes you are entitled to your own beliefs, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. The facts are:
1. Burning Carbon-based fuel releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere.
2. There is more CO2¬¬¬ in the atmosphere today than there has been at any time in the last million years.
3. Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas.
4. The world is getting warmer.
5. Sea levels are rising.
If you disagree with any of these statements, then I would wager that when you popped out of your mother the midwife heralded your arrival on planet Earth with the words ‘Congratulations! It’s a moron!’ – because these are facts, and, unlike opinions, beliefs and religions, facts are falsifiable. Go launch some CO2 monitoring weather balloons, go drill for ice core samples in the Antarctic, rig the world’s shipping fleets with delicate sea-temperature recording equipment, launch a network of temperature-monitoring fixed-position satellites, go stick a ruler in the ground in Tuvalu… go on, prove every single scientist working in the field wrong, I dares ya.
But let’s face it, even if you got off your fat arse and did all these things, you’ll only have wasted millions of dollars proving what all those Nobel-award winning scientists have been saying for years: Global Warming is real, is happening right now and it is up to us, ALL OF US, to damn well do something about it: not dither for the next four years and then maybe come up with a workable solution in 2015. Or 2017. Maybe.
Soylent Green. 1973. Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson, set in a dystopian future in which the world is overpopulated and – as a result of GLOBAL WARMING – can no longer feed itself. 1973. 38 years ago.
If and when I return to Liverpool, I do fully intend to set my home town a goal: to become the first carbon-neutral city in the world… and use my considerable powers of persuasion (I’ve got this far, haven’t I?) to help make it happen. After The Odyssey Expedition, I’ll need another seemingly impossible challenge to get my teeth into: hey Manchester, we’ll race ya!
In fact, let’s have everybody reading this blog go for it in whatever city or town you call home. Your local politicians will, no doubt, be a bunch of slack-jawed yokels. I’m sure being a genius as cunning, erudite, debonair and insanely good-looking as all my faithful readers are, you could whip them into shape and start your hometown on the yellow-brick road to energy self-sufficiency and the planting of lots of lovely lovely trees. Since I’m a modest chap, I think we should call it ‘The Graham Hughes Challenge’.
Just after disembarking the Southern Pearl, I met two French ladies, Gillian and Fanny, who were in the port filming the container operation on a fancy video camera. After a quick introduction, we arranged to meet at the hotel (there’s only one) at 7pm for drinkies.
I spent the day mooching around. After updating my blog I managed to grab a quick conversation with Mandy for the first time since I left Fiji. Tuvalu has a surprisingly speedy internet connection, but that makes sense when you consider how much wonga these guys have made out of selling their .tv domain. If only my country of xxxonia was recognised by the UN…
Today I decided not to rent a bike on the grounds that it was easy enough to grab a ride by just asking the bikes passing by. I went to see if anything was going down at the airport, but today was particularly scorchio and we all know that only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the noonday sun. Most of the locals took to the shade, enjoying their toddy (fermented palm juice) and shooting what little breeze they could find. The kids cooled off by splashing around in the lagooooooon, capping off a perfectly lazy, happy Saturday afternoon.
Come the evening, I headed over to the hotel to meet up with Gillian and Fanny. The hotel was closed for a private function, but not to worry, we headed out to the nearby Chinese restaurant. On the way I met a couple of British lads, Andy and Jay, who were here helping to set up a scout pack here in Funafuti. I told them what I was doing here and said they should check out my website, before continuing on my way.
I had already eaten on board the ship, but was more than happy to down a beer or two while Gillian and Fanny ate their din-dins. Gillian is a film-maker, much like myself, and has been coming to Tuvalu for the last ten years to document the slow death of this great little nation. Gillian and Fanny run a charity called ‘Alofa Tuvalu’ which seeks to raise awareness of Tuvalu’s plight and set out what we can do to help. After dinner, we headed back to their flat as they wanted to interview me about my travels and my opinions on climate change. We ended up chatting away until well after midnight. It’s great to meet people who are passionate and articulate about the same stuff I’m passionate and articulate about.
After saying my bon voyage and bon chance, I ended up walking most of the way back to the ship, as all the bikes zooming past already carried a passenger. Happily, for the final stretch the shipping agent picked me up on his quad bike. Turning into the port, I found Andy and Jay waiting for me. They had checked out my website and didn’t want me to leave without us having a good yarn about life, the universe and everything.
Being not particularly tired and excited by the lunar eclipse that I could see starting to happen up in the night sky, I invited them onto the Southern Pearl for tea and a natter. Andy has plans to travel back to the UK without flying, so he had a bunch of questions concerning the process of blagging oneself aboard cargo ships and the like. The thing I particularly enjoyed was being able to talk about British stuff like Derren Brown and Jimmy Saville without having to explain who they are (or were): I’ve been surrounded by Aussies and Kiwis for too long!
The eclipse was pretty damn sweet and, unlike the international treaty on nuclear proliferation, was total. We sat out in the barbecue area at the stern of the ship and put the world to rights until the moon was back in full working order and the first light of the next day’s sun began to peak over the eastern horizon. In just a few hours I would set sail for my 190th country, but you know what Tuvalu? You rock my world.
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