By Arielle Duhaime-Ross for VICE News
Kiribati, a tiny nation on a chain of 33 atolls and reef islands in the South Pacific, could be the first entire country eliminated by climate change. As seas rise, the islands are increasingly inundated by high tides, and islanders believe the sea will swallow their lands in less than a generation.
That has thrust former three-term president Anote Tong into the spotlight. Facing the reality of his country’s rapid disappearance, Tong spent his presidency making practical preparations for the relocation Kiribati’s 100,000 citizens out of their homeland to ensure that when it truly becomes unlivable they won’t become refugees.
Planning for what he calls “migration with dignity”, Tong purchased 6,000 acres of land in Fiji for the I-Kiribati to move to and relocated 75 citizens a year to New Zealand. But dignity, he maintained, also means having a homeland for the diaspora to remember, so he suggested raising one of the islands to protect it for posterity.