Photo Credits: Muse Mohammed
Selena is a local of one of the Carteret islands, a small cluster of islands located in the Pacific with a combined landmass of a little over 0.5km2. She was born on one of the tiny islands before moving to the nearby mainland where she did her studies. She was partway through her studies at the University of Technology in Lae when she was faced with the difficult decision to return home due to the fact that her family no longer had money to provide for her education.
Despite having to return to her small island, life for Selena has been calm over the last several years.
“Life here on the island is so much simpler. Here, all we have to do is go fishing, harvest coconuts and other foods. That’s it.”
However, for Selena and many living on the Carteret islands, they are aware that this small pacific paradise will not last forever. The Carteret islands have been largely affected by climate change over the last several decades. In particular, the islands have been slowly shrinking due to costal erosion.
“When I was a little girl, this island was much bigger, the coast line stretched more than 20 meters into where the sea is today.”
Selena now lives with her grandchildren and husband on Heune – an island smaller than a football field. Originally, it was connected to a nearby island before costal erosion separated them in the 1960s.
“I knew that my home was shrinking and understood what was happening but many on the island did not. There were groups of people who came a long time ago to try and educate us on the greenhouse effect but many where still confused until IOM came and explained costal erosion to us.
Many are afraid now that there won’t be any more places for them to live. Some tell us we only have five more years left to live here and others have said as many as 10. Some people have already made the transition to the mainland including my children who live in the city of Buka.
I know that when the day comes for us to move to the mainland that we will have to adapt. Life in the cities is different. Even life in rural areas on the mainland is different from here. Here, the land is very easy to grow fruits and vegetables on without much effort and difficulty. I had an aunt here who grew a banana tree a decade ago and it still stands today. Land on the mainland is much more difficult to grow food from. You must put much more hard work into getting the same results.”
As her home continues to get washed away in the sea, Selena knows that she will likely have to make the move in lifetime.
“We have to adapt, because we have no choice.”