Through watching film, an aspect of interest for me is very often the meaning and truth behind a story, and its relevance on society today. My previous post on La Haine was a good example of this, where the corruption, discrimination, police brutality and stereotypes were a reflection of present day societies. Or my post before that, talking about Her, which made me think about the rapid development in technology; and The Talented Mr Ripley, on the issue of repressed homosexuality. My new main focus on this blog I have decided will be on relevance: how the movie manages to relate to societies today.
The Hungry Tide is a 2011 documentary by Tom Zubrycki, exploring the state of Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kiri-bas’)- a Pacific island nation made up of 33 atolls (islands formed of coral), 21 of which are currently inhabited. In the continent of Oceania, Kiribati has a population of 102,351 (World Bank, 2013), and a GDP per capita of USD 1650.71. Vulnerable and under attack, this beautiful nation has become a victim of rising sea levels. The land of Kiribati has been laid bare to the seas. Across the oceans, humans are going about their daily lives of high mass consumption, while Kiribati – amongst other developing countries all over the world – takes the hit for climate change.
In this documentary, we follow Maria Tiimon – a Kiribati woman living in Sydney, Australia – as she presents viewers with the consequences of climate change in her birth town of Kiribati, and the struggles the country and people are facing. We are introduced to her family and the community, as well as hearing from the then president Anote Tong. Maria – although shy to begin with – is conveyed as a passionate activist and NGO worker, whose confidence has grown by the time of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, where she voices the concern of the Kiribati people. Whilst facing her own family troubles, with the death of her mother, and eventually the illness of her father, Maria shows constant determination. Their efforts are valiant, and as a viewer we too feel frustration for the lack of urgency from those in power. Watching this film only now – 7 years after the Copenhagen Conference – the failed conclusion comes as no surprise (ie. no legally binding treaty made). One of my favourite moments of the movie was when Maria performs the dance of Kiribati at the conference: a taste of this barely voiced nation conjures up thoughts of a vibrant culture, brimming with life; yet, it was only a matter of time until global warming would wipe this away…
The documentary informs us of some of the local consequences of climate change: displacement of people, as they are forced to move to other areas of the island due to the rising sea levels; drought; and erosion of the land – to name just a few. We watch desperate efforts of rebuilding a sea wall. Is it tall enough? Will it last? Probably not. Highlighted furthermore, is the issue of lack of resources: they are not provided with enough sandbags for a sea wall to be even close to sustainable.
It is not certain where the future of Kiribati and its people lie. Whether or not in 40 or so years, this beckoning island is encroached by the raging sea, it will be down to our actions. What is needed is innovative, effective, and sustainable ideas on how to adapt to climate change, so that the people of Kiribati can rightly live and die where they were born.
“…it’s all due to the white man’s advanced knowledge. Us brown people, our knowledge has also increased but our knowledge has not destroyed anything.”
Post-The Hungry Tide (2011), at the most recent climate change conference held in December 2015 in Paris – the 21st annual conference of the parties (COP21) – 195 countries adopted the first ever (!) universal, legally-binding agreement. The Paris Agreement has governments agreeing on “a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”, aiming to “limit the increase to 1.5°C”. It is about time that these conferences had slightly more success. This agreement, however, is only in writing; action is needed immediately – there is now no time for later.
Unfortunately, the most efficient and fastest way for change (namely with our use of natural resources), is from the enforcement of those in power. Therefore, we need system change. We need our people in power to be those who care about these issues, who will listen to those who do care, and who will promote more interconnectedness with governments all over the globe. The more awareness being raised about climate change, the more knowledge being shared, the more actions being taken – by anyone of us – are taking steps further to taking control on climate change, and getting voices heard by those in power.