Saturday, 11 July 2009

Seastead - an Ark for Tokelau

I returned from a few days off-net to a barrage of articles and emails that I really should get down to but a couple came together so appropriately that they interested me far more than the  dry stuff about business process that I usually have to force into the brain.

In a well thought out article in the NZ Listener  , Ruth Laugesen describes the plight of the Tokelau islanders in the face of climate change.

New Zealand these days, idle conversation can turn to climate
change and what it might hold for our children and grandchildren. In
Tokelau, which has been settled for 1000 years, such conversations are
almost too difficult to have.

“At the end of the day we will be
the first people to go underneath the water,” says Toloa, the ulu, or
head of Tokelau’s governing council.

“It could happen at any
time. There could be one cyclone where the whole island could go
underneath the water. It’s quite difficult and it’s quite painful to try and
accept the fact that one day we may wake up and we are underwater,”
says Toloa, on the phone from Apia, Samoa, where Tokelau has its
administrative base.“So it’s not a good feeling. We’ve heard the
Al Gore presentation and know all [about] global warming and all that
kind of stuff,” he says.

Tokelau, population 1416, is a
self-governing territory of New Zealand and a forgotten frontline for
climate change. Two other Pacific atoll micro-states, Kiribati and
Tuvalu, have become international symbols as some of the first nations
that could become inviable as a result of climate change. But Tokelau,
as a low-lying atoll state, is just as vulnerable.

New Zealand’s
history as a tinpot colonial power means Tokelau’s people are New
Zealand citizens, have a New Zealand flag and, bizarrely, observe
Waitangi Day as their national holiday. In Wellington, the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs has an Administrator for Tokelau. This year New Zealand
will give Tokelau about $17 million in aid.

Coincidentally, an article from Inhabitat, described the current thinking about The Seasteading Institute whose modest mission is 

To further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous
ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social

Seastead have this visionary approach to above the waves living with a fairly modest $5/sqm target.

On the one hand, we have pacific islands, atolls actually, and their populace disappearing beneath the ocean. On the other, a plan for establishing communities living on the ocean.

Although the Seasteaders aim to avoid problems with territorial authorities by moving around on the high seas, Tokelau and other island groups could utilise the same technology to address the rising seas that will eventually engulf them. Even awash, the atolls would provide protection from extreme waves. With mobility a design  feature of Seasteads, getting out of the way of cyclones would be a benefit sought by many pacific islands.

Why even think about spending large amounts of money on keeping the islanders in the middle of the ocean rather than relocating them to South Auckland? Well NZ does claim a large Exclusive Economic Zone around Tokelau which would be hard to sustain if they are abandoned.

1 comment:

Megan said...

This is tongue in cheek right - the Seasteading Institute - as a solution to the effects of sea level rise for Tokelau? Don't overlook SOPAC's advice (in Largeson's article) - there is an environmental resiliance that may see atolls like Tokelau's survive better than - and for longer than we expect. This is by no means proven, but neither is the rather sensationalist argument that places like Tokelau are on the verge of being washed away.