COMMENTARY; DISAPPEARING ISLAND: TUVALU

By Kota Yanagidani

​“We’re destroying the world because we are, in a very literal and deliberate way, at war with it,” said Daniel Quinn, an American writer known for his 1992 novel “Ishmael.”

How many of us can tell that the sea level is rising just by looking at the ocean? How many can tell that the scale of rising is much bigger than it was 20 years ago?
As someone from an island country, I grew up with the ocean. We depend on fish that comes from the ocean, and the ocean sometimes attacks us, as we saw in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. For people like us, the ocean is what you coexist with.

Tuvalu is one of the island nations that face a great danger from the sea. The population of the country is only 10,000, and it has only 10 square miles of land. The main resources for food, business, and energy are from the ocean. However, global warming and human development are causing Tuvalu to disappear from our Earth.

My point of view is that the globalization of human development is the main cause of Tuvalu’s disappearance. This globalization means that the modern world’s development, such as more supplies of vehicles and increased industrialization, is killing the traditional way of living.

This developments not only causes the global warming that contributes to the rise in sea level, but also creates conditions that can kill corals and the soil system. Coral plays the most important role in preventing the sea’s destruction of the land, according to the journal “Nature Climate Change.”

Acidification and the loss of protective coral reefs have a serious effect on the land. Ocean acidification kills the reefs, resulting in land erosion and soil collapse. The coral is an essential part of people’s life in Tuvalu.

Moreover, the rising number of tourists to this country also encourages the death of the corals by contaminating nature and changing the living behavior of local people.

The other perspective on Tuvalu issue is different; it considers the rise in sea level rise as a major killer. Many scholarly journals, such as Nature Climate Change and the National Geographic, give a statistic that the sea level will rise to one meter by 2100, and after that will rise by one-fifth meter every decade. Tuvalu is only two meters above sea level, and the country will see the gradual land erosion, they claim.

Also, the global temperature will rise by one to three degrees by 2100. In such an environment, more natural disasters will attack Tuvalu, which already is fragile against disasters like tsunamis and typhoons. So their perspective is that the primary cause of the threats to Tuvalu is global warming.

In my opinion, both of these perspectives are true, and we should combine both scientific approaches, because the sea level rise alone causes coral death. A one-meter sea level rise has a great impact all over the world. Most of Florida will be under the ocean in such a condition.

Let’s think about how human development should be. Is it an answer to change the traditional way of living with nature into a more convenient way? The top-ranked nations in the world economy got the biggest benefit from industrial development, while those small countries like Tuvalu have received only the drawbacks.

“Developing” can mean “destroying” if we forget that our lives are attached to the Earth. Tuvalu is just an example.

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