Bill Weir Takes Your Questions About Kiribati

Question: There are so many special things about the Kiribati culture and language. Their language is very robust and, unlike other Pacific peoples', not in danger of losing to English. But if they are scattered to the winds -- even en masse to Australia or New Zealand -- it may be hard for the traditions and the language to survive. The best hope is for some Pacific country with small islands to spare (Fiji?) to allow these atoll folk to inhabit them. Is there any such plan or strategy from the president to maintain their culture this way? I lived in Kiribati for two years and miss the people very much. I'm praying that the Kiribati president is wrong in his prediction. But a plan B -- many plan Bs! -- is necessary. -- Ken

Answer: The problem is space. Fiji has population problems of its own. A glib Aussie told me, "They can have the center of our country." Gallows humor, since much of central Australia hasn't had a decent rain in years (but that's another climate story). President Tong told me, "The strategy that I'd like to see beginning as soon as possible is to encourage the international community to provide assistance for us to educate our people, to train them so they can go to other countries as worthwhile citizens with skills to offer. In that way, it will be a gradual process of integration to other countries. But the question as to what happens to our sovereignty, I don't think anybody has the answer."

Question: Interesting story on Kiribati but the issue of the threats to small islands is actually a lot closer to us than you realize. A few years ago I remember the former ambassador from Antigua sounding the alarm regarding the threat to his country from the rising sea levels. Can the islands of the Bahamas be any safer?

Answer: The altitude of the Bahamas goes up to about 120 feet while the altitude on Kiribati is around six feet. Kiribati is also ON the equator, where the water is warmest and thus, highest. But all those gorgeous beaches everywhere are bound to get smaller.

Question: ABC/Mr.Weir, interesting story about Kiribati. I must confess that I had never heard of the country before. Your story did not convince me, however, that the tiny island nation is disappearing due to "global warming." Couldn't land so exposed to the ravages of the ocean just simply erode away over time? -- labtech7337, Lewis Center, Ohio

Answer: Maybe time and water has simply caught up to a 3,000-year-old civilization. Or, maybe the IPCC is right (see above) and this is the first generation to notice sudden changes for a reason.

Question: Hi Bill. When were you in Kiribati? I can't believe that I didn't hear about it. Tarawa is a really small place to miss news like that. I'm a U.S. citizen living in Kiribati now for nearly 10 years. No one can tell me that global warming isn't affecting Kiribati. I live right on the lagoon, not far from some of the places where you shot some photos, and even though we keep building up the sea wall higher and higher, the tides are still coming over it. My home has been in jeopardy and suffered damage time and time again. Waves washing through the house, if there's any kind of storm during high tide -- and the storms here are pretty mild. It is a serious issue for nations like Kiribati and nearby Tuvalu. Thank you for covering the issue. I sure would have liked to have met you when you came. Maybe next time … -- NeiTaean

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