When I read the following article in the New Zealand Herald my immediate thought was that our government is now funding disaster tourism. What other point can there be in seeking to develop tourism in such a fragile and vulnerable place as Kiritimati island?
Funding a transition away from dependence on imported diesel to self reliance with solar energy is fantastic. But are tourism and fisheries developments a smart move for an already very fragile atoll environment? Fisheries throughout the Pacific are already under huge pressure as this story of one person’s journey captures so powerfully. And of course climate change will have major impacts in the Pacific in coming decades.
A better approach would be to focus resources on fostering greater self reliance among the approximate population of 5000 on Kiritimati. At present they are almost wholly dependent on imported food. In 2012 I learned about successful trials with atoll agriculture in Ontong Java, a remote atoll in the Solomon Islands. The short term focus of this work is to increase self reliance. The long term plan as sea level rises is to relocate people. This sort of approach makes a lot more sense but unfortunately we’re not seeing a lot of sensible decision making.