Google Street View – Maps, Place
Street View has been extended to 87 countries across the world, including Swaziland, American Samoa and even Antarctica. It has captured more than 10m miles of imagery and taken on a significance to many users that goes beyond its utility as a navigational tool. During Covid, searches spiked 10-fold, as users roamed the world in search of open spaces beyond the confines of home, supermarket and park. “It was a way for people to feel more connected to the real world,” Flynn says, “see places and take virtual tours.”
Street View rewards the most intrepid explorers with obscure flourishes. Above Hawaii, Pegman transforms into a mermaid; on the banks of Loch Ness, he becomes the fictional monster. Users can even journey to the International Space Station and observe themselves through a pane of thickly reinforced glass, 400km from Earth.
On Street View, we have a panoptical view of the world and all the mysteries, non-sequiturs and idiocies that are part of everyday life. Here is Sherlock Holmes hailing a cab in Cambridge; a car submerged in a Michigan lake containing the body of a long-missing person; Mary Poppins waiting on the sidewalk at an amusement park; a caravan being stolen by a thief.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says David Soanes, a 56-year-old teacher from Linton, Derbyshire, and the owner of said caravan, which was stolen in June 2009. His son discovered the suspect on Street View and police were able to identify the man involved, although sadly this wasn’t sufficient evidence for a conviction. “I go back and look at it from time to time,” says Soanes, of the image of his former caravan mid-transfer to a new owner.
Maps have always been a vessel to try to contain the daunting abundance of the world by putting a cartographical stopper in it. “Maps have been around since time immemorial,” says Flynn, “and technology… enables digital representation. It is one thing to digitise maps and make them widely available and accessible. But that reflection of the real world is something that people are also looking for.”
Rather than offering a facsimile of the world we live in, Street View offers something more profound: the opportunity to spot loved ones on familiar streets, unaware that their errand or commute would be captured for posterity by the all-seeing eye of a camera-mounted Street View car.
‘My dad died three years ago, but I can still see him in the garden…’ Illustration: Phil Hackett/The Observer
“You take photos,” says Adam Bell, 33, an oil worker from St Ives, Cambridgeshire, “but this is something that is there by chance. You see someone who’s no longer there, and it’s like a snapshot of that time.”
He’s referring to his grandmother Maisie, who died in 2013, but forever sits in the window of her Belfast house, looking out at a passing Street View camera. “Her favourite seat was next to the window,” he says. “She was always looking out into the street and commenting on who was going by. The Street View car was a strange thing and that’s why she was taking a good look.”
Street View reveals us for who we really are, rather than the versions we present to the world. The criminal mid-theft; the inquisitive grandmother at the window. Because most of the people captured are unaware they are being photographed, the images evoke a sense of intimacy and verisimilitude. The artist Jon Rafman, writing in Art City, describes Street View as an impersonal, abstract eye that is neither sparing nor sentimental. “The world captured by Google appears to be more truthful and more transparent because of the weight accorded to external reality,” Rafman writes, “and the perception of a neutral, unbiased recording.”
When we see ourselves on Street View, we are reminded that we are peripheral players in a much greater narrative; passersby in another person’s story, rather than the centre of the photographic frame. When we catch a glimpse of our loved ones on Street View, we see their hidden, solitary life. For the artist and lecturer Lisa Selby, 44, from Nottingham, Street View was a way for her to reconnect with a mother she scarcely knew growing up.
“My mother was not maternal,” says Selby, matter-of-factly. “She didn’t want to have a child. I am not saying that in a sad sense. I get it. She wasn’t ready.” Selby’s mother, Helen, died in 2016, aged 61. She was an alcoholic and Selby was mostly raised by her grandparents, although she did spend time with her mother in her teens. “She had this world of partying and drugs and alcohol,” Selby says. “I used to be bitter about it until I educated myself about it being an illness.”
‘Here is Sherlock Holmes hailing a cab in Cambridge…’ Illustration: Phil Hackett/The Observer
Selby always felt her mother’s absence in her life. “On Street View,” she says, “I would go and look at her house in Greenwich and see how it had changed. But I couldn’t walk past there in real life, because it felt too traumatic.” Selby would often look for her mother around Greenwich on Street View. “I searched the streets for her,” she says, “as if I was walking around in real life.”
And then one evening, someone messaged Selby, to tell her that Helen was on Street View, on the steps of Greenwich library. “I was so excited when I found her,” she says, “My heart was racing fast. I was zooming in as much as I could. My face was close to the screen. It was like seeing a ghost.” She’d once bumped into Helen there. It was one of her favourite spots. Helen didn’t recognise her and asked her for any spare change. “I said, ‘Helen, it’s Lisa, your daughter,’” says Selby. Seeing Helen on the steps of the library, Selby felt as if “she’d been preserved in time. Like, digitally pickled or something.”
Selby has no pictures of her mother from this time. “Instead of taking a picture of her and putting it in a frame and hanging it on my wall,” she says, “it’s like a time machine that I can revisit when I want to see her again.” She has not revisited the image of her mother since that night. “But it’s nice knowing it’s there,” Selby says. “If I want to, I can place myself in front of her and look out at the things she was looking at at that moment. The busy street. The buses. The shops across the road. And then I can stand in front of those shops and look back at her.”
Street View traps the dead and the living alike between pages of cartography, like dried flowers. The dead may not be visible to us in the living world any more, but on Street View, they achieve permanence. “They keep updating the images for her street every few years,” Bell says, “but you go back to that year, and she’s still there. Sometimes I think about it and have a little look. I turn back the clock on the dial and she’s there again.”
But Street View does more than just capture our loved ones in candid moments. Because you can turn back the clock on earlier versions, Street View allows us to move through digital space in a non-temporal, non-linear way and connect with the past on an emotional level. “A sense of place is so important in memory,” says the photographer Nancy Forde, from Waterloo, Ontario. Her Addressing Loss project asks users to submit stories and images of loved ones they miss, and the comfort they’ve found remembering them via Street View images from when they were alive.
I searched the streets for her as if I was walking around in real life
“We tend to remember addresses or places that were meaningful, and how things looked like when we were kids. And that’s what’s so special about Street View,” Forde goes on. “Even if a home is renovated or changes, we can recognise something familiar in it. If something meaningful happened to us in that spot, it implants in our hippocampus.” The interface of Street View, Forde says, mirrors the ways in which humans remember. “You can zoom in and out,” Forde says, “and there’s this telescoping. It’s a little blurry at first, and then it rights itself. And I find that very evocative of how our memory works. We can try to remember something, and it sharpens as we’re talking about it or encountering it.”
To all those who use it, Street View evokes a sense of freedom, in a rules-based, time-bound world. “You can see bricks and mortar that aren’t there any more,” says Selby. “Shops you remember that aren’t there any more. I just wish it went all the way back to when I was born. But then I’d spend all my time on Street View, not in the real world. It’s almost like a game but based on reality. A driving game. You’re in the seat and you can go wherever you want to, to whatever year you want to.”
I return to my school and click back through history, to see what the page looked like in 2008. There is sunlight glinting off a silver car, the same colour, manufacturer, and model as my mother’s. The image is too blurry to see who is behind the wheel. Although it is probably not her, I like to think it is. I am waiting, and then she is here.
Ihttps://www.wired.com/story/great-resignation-misses-the-point/ N EARLY MAY, Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, did an interview with Bloomberg about a possible spike in job turnover. “The Great Resignation is coming,” he warned. A few weeks later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed a record 4 million Americans had left their jobs in April. Suddenly, people were reaching for ways to refer to the phenomenon unfolding before them—to brand it, to make sense of it. Klotz’s catchy off-the-cuff terminology, now printed on Bloomberg’s pages, seemed to fit the bill. And just like that, a name was born.SUBSCRIBE
We are in a moment of pervasive change across American life, and in turn there are many new things we must now put into words. One of these has been a radical shift in Americans’ relationship with work. Spanning industries and income levels, people are, as Klotz predicted, leaving their jobs in unprecedented numbers. They are changing employers, “downshifting” on the career ladder, or taking time away from the workforce altogether. With new clarity and savings from the Covid era, some workers have stepped back from precarious frontline jobs made brutally hard in the pandemic. Others report forgoing opportunities for money or status in exchange for greater flexibility and self-determination. Collectively, this reckoning has gained momentum under different titles: the Big Quit, the Great Reshuffle, among others. But the Great Resignation has gained consensus as the clear winner.
Names can feel emergent and messy. After all, there is no one unassailable source that is charged with providing the language for how we come to call our collective moments. Instead, naming at scale is a reckoning of influences that compete for public adoption, typically sprung from journalists, politicians, academics, celebrities, or those of influential reach. The titles that they choose often become part of our common reference, sometimes without much thought. But what we call things matters. It characterizes what we deem important, how we conceptualize a movement, and what we remember. So it’s worth considering what a phrase like the Great Resignation centers about this seismic shift in American mindset—and, perhaps more important, what it leaves out.
WHILE THE GREAT Resignation’s recent lineage can be traced back to an interview in the spring, it evokes events far older. “Names are ways of making connections,” says Harold James, a professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University and author of The War of Words. In their form and content, names often employ analogies or metaphors from our past as a bridge to how we might grapple with the present. Different naming analogies will suggest alternate pictures for how to conceptualize an event or idea. The Great Depression, for instance, is largely accepted as a direct analogy to the Great War, a once-common name for World War I. This was a way to underline the severity of the moment as a delayed aftershock to World War I, while also framing something that felt unprecedented in familiar terms. In the years since, echos of the Great Depression have been applied to many economic downturns, but finally stuck for the period between 2007 and 2009 that we now commonly know as the Great Recession. For economists or historians who adopted the term in public, this was often a deliberate move to recall the past crisis and “to bring people back to the lessons of the Great Depression,” says James.
In that sense, the Great Resignation frames this moment as a crisis. While Klotz may not have consciously linked these past eras, the name likens this to a period of withdrawal. It also centers the immediate consequences for employment status and the job market. But focusing on resignation as a crisis flattens the dramatic change for American values, which could have far-reaching consequences outside of the workplace. For Americans who live with few social safety nets or identify by their work, quitting is a touchy business, often shrouded in a mix of secrecy, shame, and emotional labor. Under the banner of the Great Resignation, individuals are nudged to confront a constellation of questions around the immediate act of leaving a job: Should I do it? Can I afford to? What would I do afterwards? This reflection has real value; people may more actively take stock of their work situation, think through the steps it would take to change, and get the gumption to act amid a broader cultural moment focused on resigning. But in their own words, many people who have been part of this movement explain their choices as a result of reevaluating their lives and where they derive meaning. In this case, a resignation crisis feels like a limiting metaphor when leaving a job may just be collateral to a deeper realignment in American work life.
But perhaps what’s most notable about the name the Great Resignation is that its main substance—resignations—may be the least consequential thing about the moment that it’s come to represent. The real takeaway is why people are leaving their jobs in the first place—rampant stress, the shift to remote work, a forced reckoning with what matters in light of the pandemic—and what resigning is leading them to do next. Taken on its surface, the Great Resignation foregrounds the language of job status, but misses a parallel, arguably bigger story: the radical realignment of values that is fueling people to confront and remake their relationship to life at home, with their families, with their friends, and in their lives outside of labor.
“In many ways, this is really a mental health conversation,” Klotz says, acknowledging the limits of the terminology. Though burnout is now more widely recognized, it’s another thing to deeply grapple with its consequences at work and across all sectors of life. There’s also the issue of workers feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace, another reckoning feeding into the large scale shift. For some employees, this is a time to interrogate what their work environment asks of them in order to perform a job. Even more expansively, perhaps, this is a moment to question the workplace status quo altogether. In the face of abject loss and society-level trauma, how does work bring meaning to our lives? How would we begin to build a different relationship to it? These questions are bigger than the workplace itself, and answering them would require us to expand the conversation to include family, friends, government, spiritual life, and personal reflection. Of course, these discussions can happen regardless of what we call this moment, but in referring to this era as the Great Resignation, we are collectively deemphasizing the issues that matter most.
BEAUTIFULLY, LANGUAGE DOESN’T happen by fiat. There is a natural process of competition for terms, a constant evolution of expression, and an endless variety of ways for saying things which have a chance at entering our common lexicon. The Great Resignation is a pithy phrase that does work to name an evolving moment around people quitting their jobs. It is, in some ways, a useful term—but it’s important that we not stop here in thinking about how to conceive of this era.
We should ask how else we might characterize this movement, according to the people who are in it and the topics at the heart of their shifts. Terms like the Great Reshuffle focus on what happens after someone has resigned, in this case the mobility of transitioning to new work. Pandemic Flux Syndrome captures the toll of rampant burnout experienced specifically as a result of Covid-19. The Great Reprioritization emphasizes the shift in values as workers weigh what’s most important. Each of these names has its own set of uses and tradeoffs, but they all attempt to seed important, deeper reflections about work that may lead to different ends.
We are in the midst of massive change and it’s essential that we continue to understand and describe it, rather than grasping for a single, overloaded term. There is tremendous power in a name; it has the potential to shape how a given time in history is processed. And as its primary title, the Great Resignation does not do this period justice. We can derive more from this era if our language centers the underlying causes that are reordering our relationship with work and where it’s leading, rather than an incidental change in job status. To do this, we need to develop a larger vocabulary for how work is evolving in light of the pandemic. Embracing an era of description, even if it isn’t tidy, is crucial for us to find meaning in life in upheaval.
To Hell With Drowning
For people living in Oceania, climate change is the fight of our lives, and we need more than science to win. We need stories.By Julian Aguon
NOVEMBER 1, 2021SHARE
Iknow nothing of the night sky.
This saddens but does not surprise Larry Raigetal, a master navigator who is chewing betel nut beneath a canopy of stars. He is from Lamotrek, an outer island of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia. But we are meeting in a canoe house on the neighboring island of Guam, where I call home. As we speak, Raigetal is using his hands to split the horizon into a 32-point star compass. He is drawing on centuries of knowledge to explain to me the art of wayfinding—a method of non-instrument navigation that has been used by his people for thousands of years to voyage between the many atolls and islands of Micronesia.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
To my surprise, the compass he is conceptually grafting onto the sky is more than a map of stars as they rise and fall from east to west across the horizon. Wayfinding is a manner of organizing an elaborate body of directional information collected and committed to memory by countless navigators before him and passed down through chants to his grandfather, to his father, to him. It’s a living repository of spectacularly specific details about sea swells, wind currents, reefs, shoals, and other seamarks—including living ones. A pod of pilot whales. A shark with special markings. A seabird.
As a Pacific Islander, I knew that the canoe house has long been a place of learning, and I’d come to ask Raigetal about whether wayfinding had been compromised by climate change. As a human-rights lawyer working at the intersection of indigenous rights and environmental justice, I’d also come because I believe that the peoples of the Pacific have important intellectual contributions to make to the global climate-justice movement. We have insights born not only of living in close harmony with the Earth but also of having survived so much already—the ravages of extractive industry, the experiments of nuclear powers. We have information vital to the project of recovering the planet’s life-support systems.
Finally, I’d come because my personal and professional reserves were depleted. Like so many others working in the climate space, I’d been feeling overwhelmed since August, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released part of its sixth assessment report. The conclusions were bleak. Reading the report felt like being buried alive by an avalanche of facts—the facts of sea-level rise and progressively severe storms, among others—and I was looking to claw my way out.
As the darkness deepened around me and Raigetal, I realized two things. First, the climate-justice movement must listen more carefully to those most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change, such as Oceania’s frontline communities. Second, we who are waist-deep in that movement need more than facts to win. We need stories. And not just stories about the stakes, which we know are high, but stories about the places we call home. Stories about our own small corners of the Earth as we know them. As we love them.
- When the U.S. Military Came to GuamSARAH ZHANG
- North Korea: The View From GuamLENIKA CRUZ
- The Ghost of Climate-Change FutureADRIENNE LAFRANCE
In my corner, Micronesia, the facts are frightening. We are seeing a rate of sea-level rise two to three times the global average. Some scientists theorize that most of our low-lying coral-atoll nations may become uninhabitable as early as 2030. Faced with the prospect of climate-induced relocation, some leaders have contemplated buying land in other countries in anticipation of having to move some or all of their people.
One leader has already sealed a deal. In 2014, the then-president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, entered into a purchase agreement with the Anglican Church for more than 5,000 acres in Fiji, paying nearly $9 million for them. (Kiribati has since begun using the land for farming.) Though the deal was seen as visionary by some, to others it marked a kind of death. After all, at what point does an agreement that envisions the relocation of an entire human population—now some 121,000 people—become more eulogy than contract?
In Fiji, the government keeps its own kind of death list—an official record of all the villages that may have to be relocated because of sea-level rise. Using internal climate-vulnerability assessments, the Fijian government has determined which of its coastal villages are most susceptible to coastal erosion, flooding, and saltwater intrusion. As of 2017, 42 villages were on the list. If and when they are forced to move, they won’t be the first: In 2014, Vunidogoloa formally relocated to higher ground, some two kilometers inland.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
When I spoke with Sailosi Ramatu, that village’s headman, in July, he told me the move was hardest on the elders. In the months leading up to the relocation, they held prayer circles. They fasted. They readied themselves for the rupture of having to abandon their ancestral lands. In Fiji (as in many of our islands), the people are tethered to the earth, as enshrined in the concept of vanua, a word that means “the land” and “the people” at once. Vunidogoloans live and love and die on their lands, most of which they do not even own, at least not as individuals. Rather, theirs is a system of communal land ownership. They tend to their gardens. They bury their dead. They even bury their umbilical cords. So it was no surprise when, as about 30 families set out for the new site, some of the older women wailed as they walked.
Perhaps that’s a sound the sea makes when it rises: old women wailing.
Not everyone made the journey; the dead remain interred in a cemetery at the old site. According to Ramatu, one of the biggest struggles his people faced was leaving their buried loved ones behind. Some worry they’ll be cursed for abandoning their deceased relatives. Others walk around with holes in their heart. Like the old man who visits the cemetery nearly every day to sit by the grave of his dead wife. I’m not sure which flowers he brings her, if any. But I imagine they’re beautiful.
Perhaps the story of climate change is a story of flowers.
These are the facts in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the country where the U.S. military houses its Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site: There, a crucial study on sea-level rise found that coral-atoll nations may not be able to sustain a human population past the present decade. This conclusion was met with trepidation by the Marshallese people I spoke with, who hear the ticking of the climate clock louder than most.
The 2018 study, led by the United States Geological Survey and commissioned by the Pentagon, focused exclusively on an island in the Kwajalein atoll that supports some 1,250 American military personnel, contractors, and civilians living there and on nearby islands. For the most part, the U.S. otherwise ignores this region. Wake Island, where an additional study on sea-level rise is now being done, is proof of that fact.
Wake, an island with no permanent inhabitants that the U.S. considers an unincorporated territory, is run by the Air Force under authority of a caretaker permit issued by the Interior Department. For its part, the RMI not only has a competing vision of what caretaking looks like; it also has a competing claim to Wake. In April 2016, the RMI formally claimed Wake Island when it filed its maritime coordinates with the United Nations secretary-general.
The truth is that neither government is entirely correct. The strongest claim is that of the Marshallese people themselves, who say the island is theirs by way of history, culture, and birthright, and who long to be able to take proper care of it. They also say that Wake is not the island’s true name.
Its true name is Enen-Kio. The island of the orange flower.
Famous in lore for the beauty of these flowers, Enen-Kio is also known for its rare assemblage of nesting seabirds—frigates and albatross, among others. Legend has it that local warriors, seeking to prove their worthiness, would journey to the island in search of the wing bones of one such seabird. Fourteen years ago, on another starry night, a high chief explained to me that the retrieved bones were used as chisels in traditional tattoo ceremonies.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
I did not grasp the significance of the strip of orange splayed across the RMI flag until much later. Former President Hilda Heine would tell her poet daughter, Kathy, who would tell me: For the Marshallese, orange is the color of bravery.
On my island, climate change is a story of storms. Guam—the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands and an unincorporated territory of the U.S.—lies within one of the most active regions for tropical cyclones in the world. The typhoons that have historically battered the island are so strong, they’re often called “super typhoons.”https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Everyone here remembers their first. Mine was Omar, in August 1992. We were unprepared—my mother, brother, sister, and me. This was in part because my father, who typically did the preparatory work of putting up shutters and removing debris from around the house, had recently died. I remember the four of us huddled behind a cream-colored mattress. I remember tracing its embroidered flowers with my finger.
I remember everything, really. Trees and telephone poles cracked in half. The roof of our neighbor’s house went flying, as did his canopy and one of his cars. I remember glass everywhere, as several windows and a sliding door shattered. I remember the sound of the wind as it blew under the bottom of my bedroom door. Like an old man sucking his teeth.
Pamela is the one my mom remembers. May 1976. One of the most intense storms to strike Guam last century, Pamela generated eight-meter waves and ravaged the beaches on both the northern and eastern sides of the island. She sank 10 ships in the local harbor. She did an estimated $500 million worth of damage. But none of this is what my mom remembers. What she remembers, what she will never forget, is a single white toilet. American Standard. The one thing left of her house when Pamela was over.
Then there was Paka. December 1997. The wind and rain beat down on us for 12 hours. The barometric pressure was so low that it was believed to have induced labor in nine pregnant women. Paka, like Russ in 1990 and Yuri in 1991, unearthed untold numbers of dead bodies when it slammed into the southern cemeteries of Yona and Inarajan. Corpses spilled out of their coffins. Coffins bobbed like buoys in the bay.
Several families spent weeks combing the beaches in search of their loved ones. Some were never found. My aunt, who worked for one of the cemeteries, said that one family was able to identify their father’s body only because of a cherished baseball cap, which they had buried him in and which had stuck to his skull by way of a mess of seaweed. Suffice it to say, when the IPCC dropped its latest report, confirming that tropical cyclones are just going to get stronger, my corner of the world shuddered.
After all, although 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming will make these storms even more severe, that same severity will increase dramatically with 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 3. I can’t begin to imagine what any of this will mean on the ground—and not just for Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands, but for Vanuatu, Fiji, and Solomon Islands, whose communities already seem to be lurching from one Category 5 cyclone to another.
Throughout oceania, the story of climate change is also a story of ingenuity. In the Carteret Islands—off the coast of Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea—the women are taking matters into their own hands. Frustrated by how slowly the Papua New Guinean government was implementing its relocation plans, they sought to mobilize the community around the issue of relocation. They formed an organization and named it Tulele Peisa, which means “sailing the waves on our own” in the local Halia language.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
To date, Tulele Peisa has organized several community consultations as well as visiting missions between the Carteret Islanders and potential host communities in nearby Bougainville. According to Ursula Rakova, the group’s leader, Tulele Peisa has also secured several tracts of arable land on which it is now growing gardens of taro and cassava. She told me the group has planted more than 30,000 cocoa trees and even established a cocoa-bean refinery. All told, Tulele Peisa has developed an 18-point relocation plan for its community. Rakova said other coastal communities have followed suit and are currently formulating their own relocation plans.
So it would seem that the Pacific Climate Warriors were right. The youth-led group fighting climate change across Oceania, as part of the global 350.org network, famously declared: We’re not drowning. We’re fighting.
And we are.
The Marshall Islands has spearheaded the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 48 countries that works to amplify voices that have long been marginalized in the climate realm. Fiji, too, has taken a leadership role, presiding over the Conference of the Parties for the 23rd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and spearheading the so-called talanoa dialogues—sessions that use storytelling to foster more empathetic decision making.
One could argue that Fiji is also leading the way on the complex issue of climate-induced relocation. Consider the list of 42 villages slated for possible relocation. However heartrending, the very existence of the list is a testament to Fiji’s efforts. Conversations about relocation are enormously difficult to have, but that country is having them.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands have joined forces with the Maldives to form a coalition of coral-atoll nations to advocate for the financial resources necessary to adapt to climate change. To date, what money most of them have been able to secure has been limited to funding the first-generation stuff of seawalls and early-warning systems—nowhere near the level they will need to actually adapt, let alone adapt in place. But they press on, planting mangroves and plugging away at their national plans.
A group of law students from the University of the South Pacific led a different charge in Vanuatu: They advocated that that climate-vulnerable country take the lead in pursuing an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice. As these students see it, the lack of clarity around state duties is impairing the collective efforts of the international community to respond effectively to the climate crisis. In September, the students succeeded in their initial goal, and Vanuatu announced that it would spearhead the initiative. (I should note here that I am leading the global team assisting Vanuatu in this effort.)
In the Marianas, many indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are fighting the destruction of our lands and seas by the single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world: the U.S. military. On land, these activists are opposing the construction of a massive firing range, which they say will destroy a limestone forest and imperil a whole host of nonhuman life. At sea, they’re challenging the Defense Department’s attempt to militarize a section of the ocean almost the size of India.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
All this to say, if my corner of the Earth had an anthem, it’d be this: To hell with drowning.
That anthem was never more clearly on display than during the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, held in the summer of 2016, when the Lucky Star arrived at the local harbor. Lucky Star was one of three canoes sailed to Guam from Lamotrek by the wayfinder Raigetal and his crew of apprentices. What made this particular canoe so special was the fact that its sail was traditional, meaning it was woven from pandanus leaves by the women of Lamotrek.
There, in the weeks leading up to the voyage, it was discovered that the knowledge of how to weave such a sail was very nearly lost. Literally one woman still knew how to do it.
Her name was Maria Labushoilam, a 90-year-old master weaver, and she was dying.
Maria would spend the last two weeks of her life teaching 15 women how to make that sail. From her deathbed, she taught them how to harvest, dry, and split the leaves, and then how to weave them. After she died, the women completed the sail without her. The community raised it together.
The Lamotrekese are emblematic of the predicament all Oceanic peoples are facing today: We come from cultural traditions rich in beauty and resilience—the same traditions that have enabled us to thrive in our ancestral spaces for thousands of years—but that is simply not enough to ensure our continued survival. The part simply cannot save the whole. The answer to the question of climate change must come from everyone, or it will come from no one.https://de2af1799bddc1e357e5789d9a46e324.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
You could say Maria performed something of a miracle in her final days. With nothing more than pandanus leaves and love, she opened a window to a world—a future in which good people refuse to simply lie down and die, a future rooted in respect for possibility, a future with room for us all.
May we have the courage to climb through it.Julian Aguon is a human-rights lawyer and writer based in Guam. He is the author of The Properties of Perpetual Light.