Floating in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, the country of Kiribati is one of the most isolated places on the planet. So, it’s ironic, even tragic, the island’s destiny is entwined with one of the more pressing issues of the modern age – climate change and the success or failure in confronting it.

The documentary “Anote’s Ark” follows former Kiribati’s President Anote Tong and his race to save his country, a journey that takes him to Rome and the arena of international climate and human rights negotiations. As the October 16th selection of the Salem Progressive Film Series, the film’s showing at Salem’s Grand Theatre will feature guest speaker Dr. Eliot Dickinson, a professor of politics at Western Oregon University, and the author of “Globalization & Migration: A World In Motion.”

For the island of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) the threat of annihilation for its 100,000-plus population is very real, something which could occur within the next decade. Two uninhabited atolls in the island’s chain have already been submerged. As sea levels rise and storms intensify, Kiribati residents now live with frequent typhoons and flooding, plus all that much water brings: including loss of crops, homes, hospitals, schools, fishing industries and highways. Director Matthieu Rytz said his film came out of his love and obsession with the people of Kiribati, according to www.anotesark.com. His New York Times photo essay on the country facing extinction led to the film. He was particularly inspired after he got to know people facing loss of their country, their history, families and ways of life. “…I felt both righteous anger at the injustice of her situation, and a sense of powerlessness in the face of such an inevitable outcome. I wanted people around the world to see the impact that climate change is having on vulnerable people and nations today, far away from the news cameras and the centers of power,” he wrote. The film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

“Anote’s Ark” also tells the story of Sermary Tiare, a mother who left Kiribati to find work and migrated to New Zealand due to the damaging impacts of climate change. But, in New Zealand she found new hardships of isolation, difficult working conditions, plus the haunting thought of her homeland disappearing forever.

Environmental destruction throughout the world is leading to a rise in refugees seeking new places to live after their own countries become uninhabitable. The refugee crisis that goes hand-in-hand with environmental destruction will be the focus of the talk and discussion following the Salem showing. In his book, Dickinson wrote “Environmental destruction could cause hundreds of millions of people to move out of the hardest hit places, likely in the Global South. (This area includes developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.) “The outlines of such a scenario are already visible in the form of rising ocean levels, flooding, melting glaciers, shrinking polar ice caps, deforestation, desertification, severe drought, ocean acidification, air pollution, super storms and record setting rises in average global temperatures,” he wrote. Extreme weather has left millions without homes as crops, water supplies and livestock are destroyed. A Los Angeles Time reported climate change is adding to a refugee crisis, the worst since World War II.

No country will be spared, but some regions of the Global South will suffer more than others.

The crucial question is whether enough nation-states will react to the looming global environmental catastrophe in time to stave off the climate refugee crisis that is sure to follow. “Unfortunately, current policies in Europe and North America suggest that we are likely to see a mix of procrastination on climate policy, stricter immigration laws, militarization of border areas and more war over dwindling natural resources. If this indeed turns out to be the case, planet earth and all its inhabitants face a future in which potentially huge numbers of people will be forced to migrate.” Those living in the Global North, Dickinson wrote, have a responsibility to deal with climate change as these countries have contributed the most to the problem.


“Anote’s Ark “

Salem Progressive Film Series
Guest speakers & audience discussion follow,

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7:00 pm

The Grand Theater
191 High St. NE, Salem
(503) 881-5305