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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Riverbend" is not Kiribati


Pronounced Kiribas. So why spell it Kiribati? Well, when missionaries came to the islands to transcribe the spoken language, they had in their possession a faulty typewriter which had no 's' key or the 's' key was somehow damaged, and so they devised the use of 'ti' to replace the 's'.

In more recent times, they tried to reintroduce the 's' in the Kiribati language but this was resisted on the grounds of national tradition - a tradition created by a faulty typewriter! And so they keep writing sentences like this: I a butiiko ma kawiiremweko riki n taetae ao tai kaboonganai taeka aika a kaangaanga b'a I aonga ni waetata n rabakau. Look mum, no 's's!

Sounds like an urban myth to me - well, without the 'urban' perhaps. I mean, if the 's' key was missing, why didn't they simply pencil it in? Or were their pencils broken as well?

Anyway, you knew all this already, didn't you? Just as you already knew that Kiribati's 33 low-lying atolls are under threat, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which predicts that sea levels will rise by about 50 cm (20 in) by 2100.

Of course, the low-lying islands of the South Pacific have been subject to seawater inundation as well as cyclones for as long as they have been inhabited, and their people adapted to it by erecting only semi-permanent structures which could be rebuilt in a day or two.

(That was in the days before reinforced concrete and before refrigeration when they still shared their food before it went off. And when they had no litter problem because their only wrappings were biodegradable banana leaves. Now it's beach-to-beach plastic.)

But back to climate change and global warming: it's a hell of a lot of theory balancing uneasily on too few facts. Of course, there have been changes. There have been and will be changes for as long as this little blue planet keeps spinning but have they all been anthropogenic? In short, is there anything we can do other than simply adapt to them?

"Riverbend" is not Kiribati and we have plenty of altitude - ALTITUDE! okay, plenty of attitude as well ☺ - more than 10 metres of it, and unlike Batemans Bay at the mouth of the Clyde, or New York at the mouth of the Hudson River, or Shanghai in the Yangtze River delta, or Calcutta at the mouth of the Ganges River, or London just upriver from the Thames estuary, we have nothing to fear from rising sea levels.

Still, my attitude regardless of altitude is to go to bed with a snorkel in my mouth. It's the only heavy breathing I do these days.