Green Cities

The Front Lines of Climate Change: Where will Kiribati be?

The Learning Climate The Front Lines of Climate Change: Where will Kiribati be? To students, what does a couple feet of sea level rise really mean? Or a few degrees warmer temperature on average? If a student has no concept of climate change’s immediacy and catastrophic consequences, it is hard to encourage them to speak out or change their habits. But there are places that understand the immediate threat of climate change all too well. The island nation of Kiribati is already drowning. This small Pacific island is expected to be the first lost to sea level rise and is predicted to be uninhabitable within the next 30-60 years. Earlier this week I spoke with a former Peace Corps volunteer, now dedicated climate change activist, Mike Roman. In 2000, Mike was posted on Kiribati; an experience that altered his life forever. The family and the culture quickly became his own. The menaces of climate change hoarded the nation as Mike struggled with his adopted family to survive regular flooding that killed crops, poisoned water, and destroyed households. The fight against climate change was already personal, but became aggravated when his two-year-old niece died after drinking contaminated water. Kiribati’s President is already calling on other countries to help relocate the country’s climate refugees. Mike has left Kiribati and now dedicates his life to spreading awareness about his island home. Mike recently started to tour high schools back in the U.S. and he has been astonished by the impact of his stories from Kiribati. His first-hand experiences made the issue real. Students were immediately invigorated, ready to take action. Those two feet of sea level rise meant something now. They jumped onto their phones to share photos, encouraged their networks to care, and discussed how they could help stop climate change. Not only did the stories allow for one group of students to become better educated, it permeated into their social networks, schools, and homes. In order to effectively communicate climate change to students, we need to supply them with the scientific knowledge as well as tell the stories of climate change happening now. In Earth Day Network’s new iTextbook on climate change for middle schoolers, The Story of Climate Change, we delve into the science, collect stories, and provide examples of actionable solutions. Kiribati is a country with a story to be heard, “the people of Kiribati are [our] teachers.”  Thank you for sharing it with Earth Day Network, Mike!   Johanna Bozuwa, Director of Education