Kiribati: A Disappearing Nation?

Ever since I read J. Maarten Troost’s hilarious book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, I’ve wanted to visit the island nation in which the story takes place: Kiribati. It appears that there’s not a whole lot to do there — except go diving and savor a culture fairly different from my own — but that’s sort of the point.

Kiribati — a remote nation of 33 islands, 14 hours by plane from the nearest land mass — occupies roughly 2 million square miles. Most of that, of course, is Pacific Ocean. Recently, the government shocked the world when it created the world’s third largest marine park in the area. In some ways, setting aside so much area to a marine park may have been proactive. After all, it appears Kiribati is disappearing one inch at a time.

Thanks to global warming, sea levels are rising, slowly claiming the land that hundreds of thousands of people currently occupy. Anote Tong, the region’s president, expects Kiribati to be unlivable soon; unless something is done soon, he fears the entire nation will be gone — its people, its language, its culture — within 50 years. If you’re interested in learning more about Kiribati’s disappearing act, check out Bill Weir’s excellent video report of the island that’s slowly sinking. Pay no attention to the ironic commercial that precedes the video.

Guess I need to make my travel plans soon.