Funafunti: Pulaka in cemented pits
The island nation of Tuvalu, whose airline baggage tags read FUN (short for Funafuti), has attracted an increasing amount of media coverage. Tuvalu is expected to be one of the first islands to be covered by rising sea-levels.
In 2002, the Tuvaluan government investigated the possibility of legal action against the worst emitters of greenhouse gases, namely the USA and Australia. This solution would require a global feeling that everyone should bear responsibility for anthropogenic environmental changes that affect the planet. This response is likely to divert attention away from the Tuvaluan people towards an international political squabble over individual climate change responsibilities, such as what happened with the Kyoto Protocol.
The Tuvaluan government has considered resolving their predicament themselves by buying land from nearby nations such as Fiji. This would seem to be the most appropriate solution as it would not place any extra burden on other nations, other than requiring international support in donating funds for the purchase of new territory. This would permit the Tuvaluans to continue governing themselves and enable them to retain a large proportion of their customs and way of life.
Pulaka (Cyrtosperma merkusii), or swamp taro, is a crop grown in Oceania (especially Tuvalu) and an important source of carbohydrates for the area’s inhabitants. It is a “swamp crop” similar to taro, but “with bigger leaves and larger, coarser roots.”
Pulaka roots need to be cooked for hours to reduce toxicity in the corms, but are rich in nutrients, especially calcium.
Pulaka is an important part of Tuvalu cultural and culinary tradition, now under threat from rising sea level and displacement from the growing use of imported food products.
The pulaka is grown in pits dug into the limestone atoll and is fertilized by adding leaves from different plants. The plants derive water from the freshwater lens found a few meters below the atoll. As such, the cultivation of pulaka is threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming: the plant does not thrive in the salt water which seeps into the pits: it rots the roots, turns the leaves yellow, and stunts the plant’s growth. These saltwater intrusions occur more so now that the high tides have become higher, and more frequently flood the islands. To alleviate the problem of saltwater pollution, some islanders have begun to line the pits, side and bottom, with cement.
The capital island of Tuvalu, Funafuti, is only 2.8 km2 but accounts for more than half of the population and two-thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.
Named the only nation in the world above reproach for human rights violations by a panel of observers in June 1998, Tuvalu is also the earth’s first sovereign nation faced with becoming totally uninhabitable due to global-warming related flooding within the next 50 years. Its 11,000 citizens are thus threatened with becoming the planet’s first entire nation of environmental refugees.
Today global warming is an increasingly recognized fact and we know that human activities are one of the causes of this phenomenon.
—Alofa Tuvalu: Small is Beautiful
Tuvalu (i/tuːˈvɑːluː/ too-VAH-loo or /ˈtuːvəluː/ TOO-və-loo), formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls spread out from 6° to 10° south.
Its nearest neighbors are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji.
Its population of 10,544 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants.
In terms of physical land size, at just 26 square kilometers (10 sq mi) Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than the Vatican City at 0.44 km2 (0.17 sq mi), Monaco at 1.98 km2 (0.76 sq mi) and Nauru at 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi).
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