The first time I heard about Kiribati was in 1996 when I was a participant in an orientation program for volunteers as a co-ordinator had previously volunteered on one of the atolls for a couple of years. This was also the first time I had been made aware of climate change and global warming because during her time there, she had witnessed the effect of rising sea level, the diminishing fish population and the preparations that the I-Kirabati people were undertaking for their future survival. Kiribati is a country in the centre of the Pacific Ocean with most of the population of just over 100,000 living on Tarawa Atoll, one of 33 atolls which this country comprises.
Kiribati is the first country in the world to celebrate New Year and I wonder what exactly it is they are celebrating this year knowing the fate of their country. It is rather ironical that parts of the United State of America, namely Samoa Island and Baker island are the last in the world to celebrate as America is usually considered number one in the world.
Celebrations around the world at midnight on the last day of the year are spectacular, dazzling, colourful and the tumultuous noise of the crowds heralds the start of the new year. Fireworks are the focus of the celebrations and preparations begin in earnest months in advance as cities around the world compete against each other hoping to entice huge numbers of tourists and locals to their event. Organisers are less concerned with the costs involved and more with the performance, the production, the success and the fashionable tradition. Each city proudly boasts the amount of money they commit to this production with just two examples being Sydney which will spend over 7 million dollars and London which has a budget of over 2 million pounds.
Meanwhile, for many years, it has been reported by media across the globe that climate change is threatening the existence of the Republic of Kiribati as water levels rise. As the island is only about six feet above sea level and scientists predict sea levels to rise six feet by 2100, it is difficult to comprehend the fear that these people live with each day. Just one king tide, combined with a storm and strong winds will result in the atoll being completely covered in water.
Apart from the I-Kiribati people, millions and billions of people around the world exist in a world were poverty, homelessness and fear are the only life they know. In 2005, there were some 100 million homeless people wandering the planet and that figure was anticipated to rise to over 2 billion within a decade. It is frightening to consider what that figure has now reached. Poverty affects half of the world’s population, in particular more than one billion children.
But not everyone is homeless or lives in poverty. More than one third of the billionaires in the world, a total of some 1,500, live in America. It is estimated that there are now 15 million people who are millionaires in the world. I personally have never known hunger, have always had a cozy bed and comfortable home and never had to fear for my future.
Just for a moment, I would like you to image this scenario – as preparations begin for New Year’s Eve celebrations you are standing on Sydney Harbour Bridge watching as event crew carefully place more than seven million Australian dollars cash on the bridge from north to south of the city. One of the official organisers then approaches you and indicates for you to bend down and pick up the entire amount. Next you are given two choices and the opportunity to decide how this money will be spent –
- Continue with the fireworks spectacular
- Distribute the money globally to help resolve homelessness, poverty, animal cruelty and extinction and to help the people of Kiribati and other nations threatened by climate change to be re-located
Seven million dollars and one person can make a difference
so imagine what billions of people and
billions and billions and billions of dollars can achieve?
Would you choose the first option or the second?