Friday, 28 October 2016

Dancing for environmental change and climate action

David Katoatau dances after his last weight-lifting attempt
Photo credit: Stoyan Nenov / Reuters

Weight-lifter turned dancer

You probably heard of or read about David Katoatau who danced during the recent Rio Olympics to let the whole world know about his country (Kiribati)’s plight. His somewhat well-crafted moves are shown in the video below.

Unlike the usual victory dances we are used to watching in most Olympics, David danced even after failing at his third and last weightlifting attempt. This must have sounded like the most absurd reaction to 'failure'.

Problem-Induced dance?

It later turned out that the dance was actually for a noble cause. Just last year, David made a passionate appeal through a letter to the nations of the worlds to save his beloved country of Kiribati.

The republic of Kiribati, which constitutes 33 atolls, is ranked by United Nations among the least developed countries of the world, and hailed as the only country in the pacific that spans all the hemispheres – North, South, West and East. The latest data (2015) from World Bank shows that its population is approximately 112, 423 and it continues to grow at an average of 1.8 per cent per year, down from 2.2 per cent in 2008.Due to the dominance of atolls in Kiribati, the ecological and human systems are highly sensitive to any changes in the environment.  The growing population immensely relies on ecosystem services especially those derived from the sea like fishing and tourism, as source of livelihood. The video below summarizes the plight of Kiribati.

How many more dances?

The Pacific Climate Change Science Program 2014 report documented observations and projections for Kiribati; 
  • Temperatures will continue to rise and warming is highly likely to hit a record 1.2 degrees by 2030
  • In a scenario of increased greenhouse gas emissions, most models project an increase in the long-term average rainfall
  • General increase in extreme temperatures, precipitation and drought (medium confidence)
  • Increased acidification as a result of the increased concentration of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere and subsequent warming of the oceans
  • Very high confidence for projected rise in sea level especially in the 21st century
  • Spatial variations in projected wind-waves
In agreeing with the above projections, Wyett,2014 suggests that an 'escape route' grounded on a number of policy options should be established. The author also proposes planned migration to nearby countries like Australia and New Zealand need, population regulation, preservation of the national heritage, and mobilization of funds.  These suggestions are consisted with Donner and Webber, 2014 's recommendations who underscores the need for periodical review of decisions that are backed up with reliable data, observations and predictions.
"I beg the countries of the world to see what is happening to Kiribati. The simple truth is that we do not have the resources to save ourselves. we will be the first to go. It will be the extinction of a race. Open your eyes and look to the other low lying level islands around the Pacific - they will soon fall with us. "David Katoatau, 2015.