High tide keeps getting higher on the islands of the Republic of Kiribati – 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean that rest only a few feet above sea level. In Kiribati culture, Nareau the Creator scattered stones to the north and south to create this mosaic of coral and rock. But, today, the effects of climate change are closing in and there’s no higher land to move to. Even as the atolls shrink, Kiribati’s population grows. The country is experiencing baki-aba: “land hunger.” In 2014, Kiribati president, Anote Tong purchased 20 square kilometers on Vanua Levu, a Fiji island making this the first international land purchase intended for climate refugees.
For Kiribati, adapting to climate change might mean relocating entirely.
Pacific islanders’ identities are very much tied to their ancestral land, the physical islands on which they live. Migration may mean a national and cultural loss, especially when most traditions are preserved orally.