Vanuatu is a cluster of 70 small islands in the Pacific east of Australia. Over 200,000 people live in a remote region where a category five cyclone named “Pam” struck in mid-March. Over ninety percent of all buildings were damaged by the intense wind according to UN agencies, OXFAM and confirmed by officers from Australian and New Zealand military units.
Why should we be concerned about the other side of our world? We might all be paying attention because storms more intense than Katrina have been pounding the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, China and most recently, Vanuatu.
We live in a political culture that strives to deny environmental realities unless six feet of snow are heaped upon our own eastern states. North Carolina and Florida government servants are ordered not to even speak of “climate change.” Refusal to pay attention will not lead to better weather.
Occasionally meteorologists will dare to mention that melting ice in the Polar Regions and Greenland will send tons of moisture into the atmosphere. Moisture must return to Earth in the form of flooding or blizzards. By contrast, California’s drought continues. Hydrologists fear the state has one year remaining before even tighter legislation must be passed to save the most important resource we have.
Interest in that remote Pacific region goes back to my WWII childhood when an older brother Richard joined the US Marines and found himself posted in Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides. Portuguese explorers were the first to exert colonial domination of the Pacific islands in the 1600’s. As found in the “Age of Expansion” by European Christians, the territory was first called Espiritu Santo (“Holy Spirit”) by a Portuguese navigator. Not until 1975 did the indigenous residents form a representative assembly under the influence of English-speaking Melanesian Protestants.
Late in 1980 the area became known as the Republic of Vanuatu in the Commonwealth (British).
In 1993 the territory was first struck by a devastating nameless cyclone.
During the years of our atomic testing in the Marshall Islands and other Pacific victim states, National Security adviser Henry Kissinger infamously said, “Who gives a damn? Only several hundred thousand people live there.”
We are wiser to heed words of international bodies in which researchers conclude we are harming our environment extensively. Atomic radiation will remain forever. Unlimited burning of fossil fuels will certainly lead to planetary warming, acidification of a rising ocean. Our future depends upon the ocean.
Cosmologist Brian Swimme in his series entitled Canticle To the Cosmos advised, “We better change now or nobody will have jobs in the future.” (excerpt from Volume XII). Katrina in Louisiana and Pam in Vanuatu are deadly sisters.