Anke Richter of Der Spiegel has a piece on tourism at the epicentre of climate change catastrophe: the islands of Tuvalu. According to Der Spiegel, the small group of islands is milking the catastrophe scenario for all it’s worth. Call it Tuvalu-gate.
The tiny islands may disappear under the rising oceans in just the matter of a few decades, so it is claimed. Book now and travel to Tuvalu and see a sinking island for yourself! Catastrophe tourists are now jetting in to the Tuvalu island of Funafuti.
5000 people live on just a few square kilometers on the island of Fogafale, the inhabited island of the Funafuti atoll. The remaining 5000 Tuvalu inhabitants are spread out on the other atolls and islands, which are accessible only by boat.
A paradise it is not. Groups of tourists check into the only hotel on the island. Behind its courtyard one finds rotting garbage between the stones. It reeks of raw sewage. The lukewarm shallow lagoon is littered with broken bottles and cans. Eco-tourism seems as remote as it could get.
But don’t bother with that. Tuvalu is raking in the money with climate catastrophe. Tuvalu even has its own Climate Change Official who telephones and organises tours, interviews, studies or projects for climate journalists and tourists. Even though no one is in danger on the islands, the PR machine needs to tell a different story, describes Der Spiegel.
One main attraction for climate catastrophe tourists is beach erosion. Uprooted palm trees, bleached by the sun, lay on the coral beach like corpses as tourists snap photos from every angle.
Another sight is the island of Tepuka Savilivili, which, writes Der Spiegel, is the Ground Zero of the south seas: a barren moonscape. But don’t mention that three typhoons wiped out the island’s vegetation back in 1997. That’s just a minor detail. The day trip out to the island costs $200 – catastrophe tourism pays big.
Afafoa Irata, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry freely admits it:
We’re sensationalizing the topic.
The Japanese are especially attracted to the islands. Der Spiegel writes:
No where has the “sinking” of Tuvalu captured more interest than in Japan. Every year in February, when the annual spring flood hits and temporarily divides the island for a short time, an Asian camera-team storms the island. “They always film the same thing over and over, they always ask the same questions”, says Shozo Tsunashima, who works for a Japanese NGO in Tuvalu. “Indeed all the hype is completely beyond reality.”
As the circus takes place, the island inhabitants wonder what all the fuss is about. Focus on other real problems is non-existent. Westerners don’t care at all about the rampant problems of alcohol, diabetes, violence. corruption and pollution.
Der Spiegel writes:
The international audience hears nothing about that.
Instead a media sympathy crusade is being conducted. The propaganda machine is humming. Four years ago then Tuvalu Prime Minister claimed before a UN assembly that the climatic threat for his people was like a slow and insidious form of terrorism. One of his predecessors even called it “genocide through environmental destruction”.
That’s the way to attract international funding.
Not surprisingly, what is being conveyed to the world has nothing to do with reality. Many of the islands are in fact growing a couple of millimeters annually. The situation is the same for all the atolls.
Arthur Webb is coastal specialist at the geoscientific organisation of Sopac in Fiji and says much of it has to do with decadal tidal cycles. Erosion is a natural process that has always existed. The sea takes away the beach at some places and deposits it elsewhere.
Surely climate change is a big problem. But that’s not all that is going on in Tuvalu. That’s only a part of it . The atolls are constantly changing. A lot of this is just getting confused. Suddenly everything is getting blamed on climate change.
Meanwhile, writes Der Spiegel, the Finance Minister of Tuvula has to attend a conference in Brussels to take care of some things involving the UN Global Environmental Fund, which will funnel money to the islands. How much can Tuvalu expect? The Minister says:
We’re supposedly at the top of the list.
Catastrophe have never been so profitable. Meanwhile the next plane lands. Der Spiegel writes:
White people pour out of the plane. One is a photographer, one is a sociologist, and two are volunteers who want to plant trees. The show must go on.
It’s the little island that bilks big – all helped along by the UN.