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Climate Witness: Blog Action Day

Climate Witness: Blog Action Day

For many of us, the idea of a changing climate is just that, an idea, something vague, distant and unfortunately irrelevant.  For Ursula Rakova, climate change is much more.  It is the source of a disrupted life, a community displaced, a paradise lost

Ursula Rakova is Executive Director of Tulele Peisa was born on Han, the main island of the Carterets, a small island in pacific southwest in Papua New Guinea.  Her story starts with:
“Once upon a time, we lived in a paradise in the Pacific.  It is a paradise no more.”
Ursula falls silent, recalling in her mind the beauty she once new.

From December to March, ocean seas wash over the atolls and homes devastating the islands.
Areas where traditionally farming has been done are covered with salt water.  Over 50% of land area has vanished.  Ursula showed me in a laminated photo showing how her island home has been split in two and there is now a four minute walk across permanent salt water to the other side of the island.

“My grandmother passed land to my mother and then it came to me.  Ten years along the line I would love to pass on this island to my daughter, but I will not be able to do that.”
“We have lost our staple crop, swamp taro.  People are hungry and survive on a steady diet of fish and coconuts.”

The residents of the Carteret islands are the worlds first climate refugees.


They must leave home, not just for vacation, but to make a new life for themselves.

The mission of the organization Ursula Rakova heads, Tulele Peisa is now to relocate residents to a new island and restore some sense of community.  Thus far, they have raised enough funds to relocate five families.
Sun Comes Up

Jennifer RedFearn is documenting the Carteret Islanders community wide relocation of 3000 people in a movie production currently filming.  The film is called Sun Come up.

Jennifer has invested in sharing the story of the Carteret Islanders journey out of personal interest.  Funds for Adaptation strategies are only part of the equation.  As she says, “It’s an issue of culture, dignity, human rights.”

Ursula Rakova isn’t asking world leaders to listen just for herself and her community.  By mid-century it is estimated that 250 million people will be displaced by climate change.  How will the world pay for that?

When asked what actions she would like world leaders to take, Ursula Rakova doesn’t hesitate,

“Agree to cut to 350 ppm. Right NOW.”

Listen to Dan Box dream trip audio report on the Exodus from Cartaret Islands

As world leaders get set to gather in Copenhagen this December, contact your representative and encourage them to pursue a robust deal that is fair, ambitious and binding.

What else can you do for the Climate? has a few suggestions that really do add up to make a big difference. If you have any other ideas, please comment.


  • The Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Try buying less, and reusing and fixing things when you can instead of buying new.
  • Buy organic and local. There’s a better chance the food was grown in an eco-friendly way, and if it’s locally grown, it didn’t have to travel that far.
  • Pay attention to packaging. When out shopping, try to go to stores that keep packaging to a minimum. Also, take reusable bags to the grocery store.
  • Ditch bottled water, which has a huge carbon footprint and is shipped many miles, when drinkable water comes right out of the tap.
  • Energy-proof your home. Think about small upgrades: make sure all of your windows close properly and that the attic in your home is properly insulated. This also allows you to save money on energy bills.  Many governements are providing subsidies to homeowners who tackle such projects.  Check with your provincial/state/national representatives.
  • Sign up, when and if possible, to a green energy supplier, who will supply electricity from renewable sources (e.g. wind and hydroelectric power) – this will greatly minimize your carbon footprint contribution from electricity.
  • Unplug your electronics: Most electronics still use some energy even when turned off. This ’standby mode’ or ‘phantom load’ drains up to 10 percent of electricity used in most homes.
  • Replace any incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive but last 8 to 15 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
  • Use surge protectors to make it easier to unplug lots of things at once when you leave a room.

  • Regulate your home temperature: Move your thermostat two degrees cooler in winter and two degrees warmer in the summer.
  • Dry clothes on a clothes line instead of in a dryer. Whether electric or gas, less use of any energy to heat air to dry your laundry is less energy consumed.
  • Use a low-flow showerhead and faucet aerators to conserve water.
  • Use the bus or a train rather than your car.
  • For short journeys either walk or cycle.
  • Purchase a carbon offset family plan and become carbon neutral.
  • Consider subscribing to my climate change blog at Climate Café.
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