Sometimes we feel metaphorically, due to changes in our lives, as if the ground under us is shifting.
For the 11,000 people of Tuvalu, a Polynesian country in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia, the ground is literally shifting. To be more precise, the ground is sinking into the sea. In the foreseeable future, Tuvalu will become uninhabitable, perhaps even disappear beneath the ocean.
They’re talking about sea walls and artificial islands, but you know that’s not going to work. These are poor people, and there’s nothing on the island other than increasingly salty dirt and rocks and sand and dying palm trees — nothing that is worth saving. Offshore the coral is dying too, and fish feed on the toxins from dead coral and make the people who catch fish and eat it sick.
Fiji has offered the people of Tuvalu a home, but they don’t want to leave their island and culture and customs which — as it is for most of us — are tied to the land where we were formed and our temperaments shaped. I still talk of myself as having a Midwestern temperament like my father, even though I never lived on an Iowa farm the way he once did. It’s in my DNA.
I feel for the people of Tuvalu. Polynesia has always seemed like a paradise for me, far enough away not to have plastic washing up on its shores and toxins killing its coral. But that’s the least of their problems now, when the sea threatens to rise up and swallow them whole.