Wednesday, March 18, 2015

green lagoons submerged

green lagoons submerged 
in the deep open ocean --
live on in the clouds

Climatologist Simon Donner has spent 10 years studying the impact of climate change on coral reefs and human adaptation in the Pacific Islands. In "Fantasy Island" (Scientific American, March 2015), Donner reviews how islands in an atoll grow and crumble over time, some rising, some falling in a few centuries. Ocean currents can build one island with sediment while eroding another, and human activities such as constructing a pier or causeway can alter the balance. Accelerating climate change leading to sea rise adds to the complexity of the situation, threatening to submerge island nations such as Kiribati. But rather than short-term international aid for a quick fix, Donner calls for consistent aid for careful, customized adaptation plans. 
          In his poetic conclusion, Donner reflects on the future of these atolls. "As you travel out to sea in Kiribati, the flat islands quickly disappear below the horizon. In the old times, fishers navigated home by looking for the reflection of the shallow, greenish lagoon waters in the clouds. One day in the distant future, many of the islands of Kiribati could succumb to the sea. The people may leave, the trees may die and the land may become a submerged reef. The lagoons, still shallow in contrast to the deep open ocean, would remain green as before. To outsiders, Kiribati would be gone. To the Kiribati people, the ghost of their former homeland would live on in the clouds."
          I wonder, when I am gone, submerged in the deep black earth, will the spirit of my former self live on in the clouds?

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