Climate voices

Background - March 16, 2006
The real meaning of climate change can not be fully grasped from scientific charts and equations alone; one needs to hear the stories of those who are living through it, grappling with its implications, and struggling to find ways to halt it. Part of what we do is to give a voice to these first hand witnesses of climate change. Here is what some of them have to say:

A family living next to the sea in the village of Tenoraereke, stand with Greenpeace Climate Change campaigner on the South Pacific island of Kiribati, beside some collapsed coconut trees, fallen over due to sea erosion.

John Kulowiyi, Sr. - Savoonga, Alaska

"When I was younger, we used to go out on the ice. It was real solid. But as the years go by the ice started getting thinner and thinner... We have shore ice here about a mile and a half to two miles out. That's solid ice, but out beyond two miles is loose ice now. It's always loose, all the way to Nome. It used to be frozen all the way to Siberia. Solid,big, ice. Good, thick ice."

Jimmie Toolie Savoonga’s eldest elder, Savoonga, Alaska

(translated by Jamie Seppilu)
"There used to be heavy snowfall in the spring time; there used to be three feet of slush where we walked and now I don't see it anymore. Instead of dog mushing we had dog slushing".

Jack Stalker, Point Lay, Alaska

"There was no landlocked ice like there used to be, in front of our land claim which is 50 miles from Kotzebue and 40 miles from Kivalina. There was only slush ice, and it was right down to the beach. In previous years we'd have icebergs and ice build up right next to the shore. This year there was hardly any. Slush ice is usually the fall ice, but when it happens in January and February it's strange."

Pete Schaeffer, Kotzebue, Alaska

"What I've seen over the years is that there is earlier break up of the ocean, and the ice is getting much more difficult to hunt on than it used to be."

Benjamin Neakok, Point Lay, Alaska

"It makes it hard to hunt in fall time when the ice starts forming. It's kind of dangerous to be out. It's not really sturdy. And after it freezes there's always some open spots. Sometimes it doesn't freeze up until January."

Gail Moto, Deering, Alaska

"We've really been hurting for berries the last three years but this is the worst. We knew that was going to happen because the elders know that the rain is connected to the berries, and they know if there is no rain, the berries are going to be poor. There's been less and less rain.  It's easy for us to tell too because this is a desert region, the arctic desert and we don't have much rain to begin with."

Lonnie Dupre, explorer, describing an expedition to circumnavigate Greenland

"We came to a place where the map (dated 1982) showed that two glaciers should be jutting out a mile to sea.  Not only were the glaciers no longer there, they had receded about a mile inland."

Reverend Suamalie Iosefa, Tuvalu

"[Tuvaluis] already very close to the equator. We don't have a winter. During the months of October we have strong winds. But in the last 50 years there has been a big change in the weather. The cyclones are more frequent and very strong, and the people have experienced tidal waves…
A few years ago, TV was introduced and that's when people understood. Now people can see and understand. The knowledge worries them. They ask a lot of questions and it's very hard to give an answer. They know that the tide is coming up slowly but because of the sudden changes in climate even the weather forecast can't be relied on. A tidal wave can come just like that. The people are very frightened."

Murali Dhara Malick, Orissa, India

"When I was a child, the village of Kanhapur was not on the beach, but among paddy fields. I know that my grandfather was born in this village and that people have lived here for at least one hundred years. Until two months ago, I lived in a house my father built 20 years ago. It used to take us a whole day to go out to the sea and come back home.
But the sea moved nearer and nearer to our home until it was only 100m away. On a full moon night two months ago, the whole house was destroyed by a huge wave. My wife and I had no time to save anything. Once the water washed over the house, it collapsed. One of my sons became trapped and I had to pull him from the mess. We ran for our lives."

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