I’ve tried, but I can’t erase the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu off my mental radar. Tuvalu you ask? Yes, Tuvalu, better known as the first nation that may disappear under rising sea waters produced by global warming — you know, the environmental catastrophe some argue isn’t real. I’m willing to bet some naysayers believe every minute of their favorite TV reality shows. I’ll address this wacky tangent a little later.
So back on point. Located midway between Hawaii and Australia, Tuvalu became an obsession after I learned about eco-artist Vincent Huang. The Taiwanese artist may also be obsessed with this low-lying nation of about 10,000 Polynesians. He uses his thought-provoking art to direct attention to the plight of a shrinking Tuvalu, which for the past decade, has earned millions by selling .tv internet domains. Cyber fairy dust rained down on the world’s fourth-smallest nation more than a decade ago when it received its unique country’s suffix of .tv. Such domains are great marketing tools for television companies as well as video businesses and hobbyists.
But as fascinating as all that is, my obsession is with the indigenous people who call Tuvalu home. What is their history? What will happen to their simple way of life? Where will they go?
Afelee Falema Pita, the nation’s ambassador to the U.N., sounds the alarm wherever he can. While there is disagreement about what causes Tuvalu to be one of the most vulnerable places on earth to the rising waters, the Tuvaluans are certain about this: high tides are ruining their main crop, submerging fruit plantations and eroding coconut trees. Sea water actually bubbles up through soil.
But, real life, like on reality TV, be it about shallow housewives or inebriated slackers, is so much more fun to discuss than Tuvalu being the first nation to bear the brunt of nature’s fury with the polluting lifestyles of industrialized nations.
How I long to visit and tell this story about a distant people and place not on many mental radars but whose climate woes may be fueled, in part, by our nation’s gargantuan carbon footprint. That kind of makes this distant story a local one, regardless of where you live. Tuvaluans have some amazing stories to share. I feel a need to share them. Actually, I must be precise: I am obsessed with sharing them.
So there, I put my dream assignment out on Internet blast. Who knows? Maybe someone can help make my pet project happen. All I know is if I never talk about my desire to go and report on Tuvalu’s plight, I have a head start on nothing happening. Unlike Huang, I can’t draw. But I know a thing or two about delivering compelling stories that amplify voices that need to be heard. And my passport is updated.