Sunday, February 16, 2014

Endangered Islanders Take on Global Climate Change

By Brianne Bishop

The Maldives, a group of islands southwest of India, has a population of 320,000 people. There are approximately 315 million people in the United States. The United States is over 900 times larger than the Maldives Islands. So, why is it that 320,000 people are devoting more of their time and energy into reversing global climate change than the 315 million people living in the United States?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because the people of the Maldives are experiencing first hand how global climate change is affecting the Earth. I am not saying that the people of the United States do not care, most do. But it is in fact difficult for Americans to relate to the Maldivians. Because Americans do not see what the Maldivians see or experience what the Maldivians experience. Hearing what is happening and living what is happening are two completely different terms. 

I was surprised I’d never heard of these islands, until a climate activist from the Maldives spoke recently at Ramapo College  The crystal clear blue water, the soft and pure looking sand, and the island getaway atmosphere is everyone’s dream vacation spot. I can picture myself snorkeling through the Indian Ocean, witnessing the colorful coral reefs, exquisite ocean life, and soaking up the sun. When I Google searched for image results of the Maldives, I found mostly tourist attraction photos exhibiting the scenic beaches and resorts. None of the photos showed the hardships that the Maldives islands have been enduring. No wonder most Americans have no knowledge of how climate change is hitting the Maldives.
These islands are breathtakingly beautiful, but their beauty is slowly diminishing. The Maldivians have been experiencing the bleaching and destruction of their once vivid coral reefs, beach and sand erosion, changing weather patterns and worst of all rising sea levels. The rising sea levels and damaging weather patterns have been a rising concern for the natives. The highest point on the islands has been measured at 5ft. above sea level. Destructive Monsoon seasons, tsunamis, and other drastic weather changing storms have been known to wipe out islands, forcing inhabitants to be relocated. Imagine that. Losing not only your home and all your belongings, but also your entire island. It is something almost completely un-relatable to most Americans, but may not be for long. Sea levels are rising and hurricanes are becoming more powerful and more destructive, for example hurricane Sandy.
Now imagine if this were occurring here in the States. What if our low-lying East coast places such as Long Island, Jersey City, etc. were being wiped out by tsunamis? How would we be reacting? I fully believe that we would be acting more like the people of the Maldives who have made the pact to become carbon neutral and are continually raising awareness and taking action to reverse climate change.

What struck me the most about the Maldives is that they have been taking steps in order to reduce their own environmental impact, but because of the location of the islands being on the equator, they are suffering from the carelessness of other nations around the World. Their own efforts to reverse climate change can only do so much for them; they need the entire world to be on board as well. If other people were experiencing similar hardships and fears that the Maldives face daily, they would undoubtedly be more concerned with the impact and effects that we humans are having on the Earth.

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