I believe in climate justice.

Over the past 20 years I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege to work with Pacific Islanders towards the goal of improving their health and safety.

Though many of us picture an idyllic life, in reality…

Pacific islands are some of the most disaster prone areas in the world, facing over two thirds of the world’s hurricanes and 90% of the world tsunami’s as well as frequent outbreaks of disease.

And now a new danger is added to the list…that of climate change.


I first became aware of this very real and present danger eight years ago when I was asked to assess the public health impacts of an event thought to be related to sea level rise.

After a long journey to the outer islands of Micronesia, there I found several populations of people nearly starving because water levels had risen to the point where saltwater now poisoned their fruit trees and gardens.

What had once been an easy life of highly productive gardens, bountiful trees with plentiful coconuts and breadfruit had now abruptly changed. The trees and gardens were dead; the soil was poisoned with salt and would no longer give any harvest; and the water in their wells had all become brackish and unpalatable.

What had once been a serene (“pacific”) life – long adapted to an age of hunting and gathering – was now being disrupted by the age of industrialization.

Here’s a copy of the scientific article. 

Poor choices based upon myopic and short-term goals made by a society thousands of miles away were now robbing these islanders of even the most basic and essential needs of food and water.

Most of us would agree with Aristotle’s notion that it’s unjust for someone to steal from people or not to give them what is owed to them, and that it’s also unjust if someone influences the distribution of something good (like life-sustaining food and water) among members of a group (or human-kind) using an arbitrary and self-serving rule. Both are the case here.

Societies producing greenhouse gases have stolen a way of life, a national sovereignty and now misappropriated even the basic means for livelihood from Pacific island societies.

Ironically, these Pacific nations have, in fact, contributed the very least to the global problem of climate change. And yet industrial societies, still question their own responsibility to (at the least) offer assistance and reparations (and at the most), to cease using fossil fuels and prevent the catastrophe of further climate change and its worldwide damages.

Climate justice is a form of social justice. Social justice is a sign of civilization.

Until climate justice occurs, civilization declines.

Leave us a comment or check out another DisasterDoc blog: “Small islands are the canaries in the climate crisis coal mine”


Leave a Reply