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Oceania in a Sea of Troubles
Alex Steffen, 19 Jan 04

The twelve million people who live scattered on the islands of Oceania are having a rough go of it. Many have been ruthlessly exploited by outside investors or colonial rulers (although perhaps none so baldly as Nauru), many more are experiencing serious extinction crises as their native plants and animals are wiped out, most have had a difficult time finding sustainable ways to meet the needs of growing populations, and all live in an ocean which is rising and growing more volatile.

It's the last, the impacts of climate change, that may ultimately doom many, if not all, island societies. It's not a problem for which there is an easy fix, if, in fact, there's any fix at all.

Take Niue, a relatively successful island nation which has made a pretty big chunk of its government revenue off selling its postage stamps and .nu domain name. Two weeks ago, Cyclone Heta flattened the place with 300 kph winds and 30 meter waves. While heroic action has gotten its Internet connection up and running again, almost all its infrastructure has been destroyed, the reefs and forests which once drew visitors are shattered, and the island's future is very far from clear. More importantly, no one expects Heta to be the last category 5 cyclone to roll over a pacific island, as all the studies show a rapid increase in catastrophic weather.

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I'd hardly call Niue "relatively successful" when it's supported by a neighbouring country to the tune of around $16,000 per capita.,2106,2779495a10,00.html

Posted by: Malach on 19 Jan 04



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