Mangaia 2050: Our Paradise Under the Sun

Anthony Whyte
Feb 2009

I originally come from a long line of Irish migrants who traveled for a new life in Australia back in the 19th century, they had done it hard with drays and bullocks for transport and grinding out a meager existence.

They had been relatives I had never met but would read about in the history books.

My life had taken me to my favorite home here in Mangaia. This island I call my home is surely one of the most beautiful places to ever live. Beautiful oceans surrounding us, with salt spray smells in the air, the green of the coconut trees filling your eyes and the birds sounds in your ears. It was all enveloping.

When I first came, my friends and I would swim daily in the old harbor with no fear of anything, the ocean was a rich blue and you could always see to the bottom. There would be fish of all sizes swimming around you with not a hint of running off, we would also see balls of fish scooting about on the edge of the reef like some huge bubble under water.

We would walk along the reef and through the lagoon looking for sea food, like clams and ungakoa and the stray small fish darting about, if we were lucky we could find the odd crayfish and that would be a treat.

When it would rain you did not have to run for cover for fear of catching cold, but it was warm, in fact some of my friends would grab the soap and just with shorts on have a good shower, a gift from God. It’s like being a child again, some things as a grew up you want to keep.

In the news we would often hear of Climate change, Kyoto and green house gasses. For us here in Mangaia it surely was a world away. These were the stories of far away lands, of Governments in countries that most of us had never seen. Talking of figures in money that sounded out of this world, by the big people of the world that we knew we would never see.

But slowly this began to reach our shores, it was not as far away as we had thought. We had not been protected by the huge ocean in distance, our air had not been separated by a mythical balloon that would protect us against all the evils of the world. And our people had not been as immune to disease as our forefathers had led us to believe.

It all was coming step by step on to our shores. Had we not done all the right things, our rubbish was going into the pits never to be seen again, so we thought.

It began to contaminate our water, heavy metals and oxides made it no longer fit for humans, we would get sores if we washed from it and coughing fits if we drank it.

When we would go out fishing, no longer could we be sure we would get any fish at all, the tuna had gone, the wahoo and the marlin. These had been well sought after by the foreign fishing companies and slowly fished out of existence. Our stable diet was vanishing.

The air began to get greyer, it no longer had the sweet smell of salt, air pollution had been drifting from lands far away and depositing its poison on our trees and our land. The coconut trees began to look grey and the coconut nu had a bad taste, it might not even be good for the pigs, but we had to feed them with something.
This also brought problems for the old with respiratory diseases, asthma and pneumonia for the infants.

It was not the paradise under the sun that I knew when I was younger.

The sea had also began to rise and those of us living down by the ocean had to slowly, year by year move to higher ground. We all had to be ‘te makatea’ people.

Gone was the traditional village of Tavaenga and Kaumata, that was now the ocean’s edge. The old harbor had long gone, the boats would dock where the old administration buildings had once stood, long since gone from the many cyclones that also came with climate change.

This was Mangaia now, our old Paradise under the sun.

I had come from a long line of migrants, but now my family and I will not be going any where, we will also have to grind out a meager existence. There is no where to run, to make a new life.

If we had known long ago and listened to the people about climate change and acted then, we could still have Mangaia our Paradise under the sun.

Its not to late in reality for us to all do something about it, if we are willing change.

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