Evacuation of the Carteret Islands creates environmental refugee population in Papua New Guinea

Sunday, April 26, 2009

From an article here. Kiribati is well-known as an entire nation that is under threat from rising sea levels, but the Carteret Islands is (I think) the first example of people abandoning an entire island to move elsewhere. The population in the Carteret Islands was around a thousand, and you can see why the islands couldn't really support people any longer:

Some parts of the island have already sunk under the water and the salt water makes it hard to make a living. So the residents there have moved some 80 km southwest to Bougainville, population 175,000+. This is a huge difference, although one would assume that the islanders there already made regular trips to Bougainville to get supplies that just can't be obtained on a tiny island with a population of one thousand.

Also note that since this is Papua New Guinea we have Tok Pisin spoken:

After the arrival, the men sat in the shade of two unfinished timber frame houses among the trees – the beginnings of the homes they are to complete. The women cooked; clams and corned beef sandwiches, greens, rice and cassava wrapped in palm leaves. After hours the two parties came together to eat, to pray and to formally welcome the newcomers to Tinputz. There were speeches in Tok Pisin, only a little of which I followed. The five fathers sat in a line and nodded their heads in silence.
In spite of the sadness at having to leave one's home, geopolitically it's probably a good thing for Tok Pisin. Generally, increased urbanization + larger population = more people using a single language and more people on the internet = more content in that language.

If you're curious what the language sounds like, take a look at this video below. Radio Australia also broadcasts in Tok Pisin here.


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