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Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on the theme 'Are tiny islands viable in the 21st century?' by J. Rainer, 18 November 2005

List of contents

Planning future island growth and development
Pedro M. Alcolado, Cuba
John Bungitak
Tutii Chilton, Palau
Jan Collander, Philippines
I. A. Economides, Cyprus
Susan G. Field, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Paul Harris, Australia
Will Johnson, Saba
Paul Roughan
Suresh Venkatesan
Denny Ward

Using Biosphere Reserves to protect islanders' interests
Pierre Campredon and Augusta Henriques

Alternative industries and investment proposals
Sabra Kauka, Kaua'i, Hawai'i
Mark O'Brien, Vanuatu
Eunice Smith, Grenada
Edwin Tamasese, Samoa

Importance of information and communication technologies
I.A. Economides, Cyprus
I.A. Economides, Cyprus
Michael McManus, Papua New Guinea

Emigration from small islands
Ginny Nakamura, Palau
Angelique Songco, Palawan, Philippines

Additional information sources about island viability
Tanya Hellams, Australia
Ron Sawyer

Classification of small islands by size
Peter Hehanussa, Indonesia
Peter Hehanussa, Indonesia

Climate change
Kelvin Char, USA
K Etuati, Fiji
Alf Simpson, Australia


Planning future island growth and development

From Pedro M. Alcolado, Cuba

An important point is to take into account what do local people really want, and what are their real expectations about their lives (that on an absolutely democratic basis, not on the desires of richer or privileged classes). I believe that only the most primitive native people in their respective countries will be the ones best fit to survive in the future, if an eventual 'world's end' or 'civilization bankruptcy' takes place, after wars for oil, water, territory, religion reasons, national greed, etc. I think they are the only ones that live closer to the sustainable potentials of nature's human life support.

I am not so pessimistic, but I believe that another world is possible and that humans can save their civilization if we stop the neo-liberal capitalist way of living (with high consumerism, high spirit of prevalence, competition, and hegemony, national greed, etc.) and promote instead solidarity, ideological diversity, and more ecologically sustainable and planned development approaches, and move to a very different, more solitary and rational way of living

From John Bungitak

You hit it right on top of the nail, so to speak! The issues you mentioned are so scary, yet real, and all we need is great leadership among our leaders to steer our small islands to a course that is sustainable and promising for our people. With very limited resources and a growing population, our small islands will soon reach their maximum carrying capacity, and thus self-destruction of our fragile environment will be inevitable. I agree with the idea that leadership training and public awareness may provide solution, but I would also like to include 'code of ethics' as part of the leadership training.

From Tutii Chilton, Palau

Apologies if what I'm writing is repetitive, I haven't been able to access all the discussions on this subject, I just received the email by Mr. Jimmy Rainer of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). My name is Tutii Chilton and I teach at Palau Community College and one of the articles I use in my classes is an article by Mr. Sione Tupouniua, entitled Can Island Nations Avoid Dependence? The ideas of Mr. Tupouniua are interesting, specifically as they relate to island nations around the world, I believe and am still researching the idea that island nations are dependent because of our attitude that we only have tourism or fishing as a resource to be independent. I think this is why we (small islands) question whether we can compete or develop in the 21st century. We have to remember that Europe and specifically U.S.A. developed their political, social and economic independence over a 200 plus year period. Most of us in Micronesia are using a new 'democratic' government with a new economic system for only the last 25 years of self government, before that we were under the U.S. Trusteeship. 25 or 50 years is not a long enough time to truly see if we can be independent, but it is a long enough period to look at what went wrong and how can we resolve our own conflict between traditional and contemporary forms of government and economy. I'm asking because I've yet to find in the Pacific, a private, non-profit think tank that can help research, plan and work with our governments to set up a sustainable plan for the growth and development of our nations. This is my 10 year observation in Micronesia that we have a lot of good plans, but done by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, or other government agencies from Australia, U.S., Japan that don't address the voice of the people. They only address economic and political development without taking into consideration cultural, traditional and small island issues that are very different from industrialized nations. Again, our plan will take 50 to 100 years of slow, consistent development in order for it to be viable and sustainable. Again these are just personal ideas that need to be developed and expanded. If anyone is interested in discussing this idea more please contact me.

From Jan Collander, Philippines

Dear Small Islands Voice, being a Swede now living in the Philippines, I am interested in much of what you say. So I am for economical/political/ideological reasons. I am an isolationist. My Filipina wife and I have 4 children,10-14 years. In spite of all we intend to stay on our small island, Leyte, Philippines. Given more time I intend to reply to you.

From I. A. Economides, Cyprus

I think that small islands can compete or develop in the 21st century even if their only resources are tourism or fisheries. I do not think that the answers towards political, social or economic independence can address the development question. In this globalized world everyone chooses to depend on somebody else, and that is true even for the mighty US, EU or Japan. Self determined dependence is not bad. It drives the world towards more peace and cooperation, towards higher productivity and economic efficiency.

Regarding the plans and studies by the IMF, the World Bank etc., I think that they can be enlightening and useful. They identify the gap with the rest of the world; they propose solutions that work for the rest of the world. It is up to the local governments to adjust and modify the content and pace of those plans to their own aspirations and goals.

I do not think that development has to take 50 or 100 years to happen. Cyprus has managed to make the transition from poor to rich, in less than a couple of decades after a bloody independence, amongst inter-communal strife, political unrest, war, destruction, occupation and division. If the Cypriots have done it, I am confident that anybody can.

I think that Will Johnson from Saba is on the right truck. People are the primary resource for any place. Education is the primary tool for developing that resource towards better, happier, and more fulfilling self determined lives. Education can help us wisely choose more dependence to the ones we love, trust or enjoy doing business with, and more independence from those we don't. Education can help us choose and retain what is of value but which money cannot buy.

From Susan G. Field, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Hello, I am an American, living and writing a column for a small paper in the British Virgin Islands. We do have a 'system' to govern life here and it seems to work. However, conditions are very different from what is described in the letter from and about Micronesia. I suppose that organization of some type of small government systematic and the same throughout the territory is what is needed to keep the life ball rolling without chaos. Surely, how to implement this is the problem. And who has the answer? Every small island should have a SYSTEM for the running of health, education and welfare organizations. This is all news that is not new! So, I am interested and not very informed or brilliant.

From Paul Harris, Australia

As fossil fuel depletes I am sure there will be more survivors on an island like you describe than there will be in any major city. Be very careful about what 'new' things you do adopt.

From Will Johnson, Saba

I have been following the debate on whether one should stay on a small island and seek a future there. When I grew up on Saba there was no electricity, no airport, harbour, roads or motor vehicles. We had to live from the land. The island is five square miles. I went away to school, came back and have spent the last forty years in politics. With l500 people living here our GDP is over US $30 million per year. We have a Medical School with 300 students. We have around 25 thousand visitors a year and we now have l5 College graduates of our own who have chosen to return to Saba and make a life here. Tomorrow is Saba Day. I started it 30 years ago to give the people more pride in their island. I chose the road less traveled and I stayed on my small island and have happily served my people. Even small islands have many business opportunities. Look around you, and show the way to the large countries that small is beautiful.

From Paul Roughan

What sort of viability must certainly be part of the question. Tikopia in the south east corner of Solomon Islands has neither tourism, nor communications (until 6 months ago), nor electricity. A ship arrives only every 4 months. At least 1100 people live on the 2 square miles of land (less if you subtract the brackish lake), and have for centuries. There are virtually no food imports, no exports and very little contact with the outside world. When Cyclone Zoe, with winds of more than 200 miles per hour (350 km/hour) hovered over Tikopia for more than 24 hours, the expectation was of terrible loss of life. The island was stripped completely bare of vegetation, villages turned to clear white sand beaches and the lake was penetrated by the sea. Instead, the casualties in total were one old woman's broken leg.

In terms of the basics of life, traditional societies on small islands must certainly be the most viable. Social, economic and physical systems - if maintained in total - almost certainly are able to provide basics for island peoples. But social change and global contact moves the goalposts - what kind of viability? Three staple foods and no contact beyond your shores for the average person? Occasional rice and corned beef and a visit to the capital every few years? Satellite TV, cola and corn flakes on a daily basis and a trip to Honolulu/Brisbane/Auckland every Christmas?

While the rhetoric of 'keeping the best of the old, while embracing the new' is attractive, doing it is another thing altogether. Knowing what is 'the best of the old,' and what of the 'new' really can be 'embraced,' requires knowing what we really -want, who 'we' really are (old, young, men, women?), and understanding how our island systems really work. Dropping a little of the old, or picking up a little of the new, is not a simple addition/subtraction exercise. The connections between systems of agriculture, biodiversity, religious beliefs, social practice, weather patterns and models of governance are just as complex as each of those systems in itself. Understanding how they work is a precondition to making good decisions about how to change them.

This is where Tutii Chilton's expression of the need for a think-tank on island-centred solutions is very important. 'Ownership' needs to begin with the way problems are thought about, the knowledge used to frame those problems, and not be emphasised only at programme or project levels. Such a body would do well to be instigated and organised from within islands and by islanders themselves.

From Suresh Venkatesan

I saw the article 'What kind of viability?' quite interesting and also helpful to discuss with my graduate students in my coastal resource management classes. Secondly it is good idea to propagate the issues at the global level and to invite opinions and suggestions to save the many such vulnerable islands through a transdisciplinary approach.

From Denny Ward

I have worked on small islands in the South Pacific for the past 10 years. I have spoken to many young islanders that love their islands and to my surprise never want to leave their home for any other place. The future is in their hands. We should do what we can to support their desires for the future. We all know that most of these islands were occupied hundreds or thousands of years before they were 'discovered' by the European explorers. The people had skills that allowed them to survive in spite of the limited resources available.

Believe it or not there is a possibility of disasters or calamities that could again result in the isolation of many islands. This world is no longer safe and could succumb to environmental or economic woes or suffer the effects of a nuclear war. If such a situation occurred there would be no tourism and the fisheries resource may not be as productive as it is now. People would need to rely on many of the skills of their ancestors just to survive.

In my opinion, considerations for long term survival on small islands include the following: (1) planning for the future, (2) working towards less dependency, (3) reducing population growth, (4) conserving natural resources, and (5) reviving skills used by early islanders.

Even at best this will not be enough for all islands. There is no magic prescription that will apply to every small island. Realistically there are some small islands that could not survive without outside help. In these cases alliances should be formed with larger countries that would commit to long-term assistance if conditions threaten their survival.


Using Biosphere Reserves to protect islanders' interest

From Pierre Campredon and Augusta Henriques

Please see summary of a paper prepared for the 1st World Congress on Marine Protected Areas (Australia, Oct 05) which relates an experience done by a traditional community in the Bijagos Archipelago, in order to better manage their space and resources that are becoming more and more exploited by outsiders. This kind of experience is interesting more and more traditional communities in African coastal zones and small islands as a way to get back their power over their land.


Alternative industries and investment proposals

From Sabra Kauka, Kaua'i, Hawai'i

Have Faith - Our islands, and the ocean that surrounds each one of our islands, have sustained us for thousands of years. We're up against some real short-sighted people but I sense a shift in the thinking and the realization on the part of world leaders of the importance of oceans in sustaining life on earth. We recently had the pleasure of visiting Te Puia, a center of Maori culture and arts, in Rotorua. They totally sustain their very important carving school on tourist dollars. And they do this by being true to their own culture. We are working, here in Hawai'i, to do the same. So many of us kanaka maoli, or native Hawaiians, myself included chose not to work in the tourism industry. I work in cultural education but I am increasingly called on to do presentations to tourist groups. If I could sustain my cultural activities and continue to be true to my culture, supported by tourist dollars, then maybe we've got a partnership.

From Mark O'Brien, Vanuatu

Some thoughts of mine that were published locally here in Vanuatu after a new tax was declared:



Monday, January 16th 2006, was just another day in the life and times for us here at Bel Mol, or so we thought. We were busily preparing ourselves for our 1st live cattle export of 2006 and our 1st shipment since March 2005.I was home for lunch after having prepared all but 87 head for the export and was waiting for another mob to come to the yards and then weigh them and move the mobs down to the export yards at Aiken. The telephone rang and it was Andy Ayamsiba, who called to inform me that there was a new tax imposed on the sale of Live Cattle from Vanuatu, this new tax was set at 30% of the gross FOB (free on board) price. As you can imagine I was devastated by this and started to make some calls.

My 1st call was to our accountants to confirm or not the existence of this Amended Bill, it was concluded that at the least a draft was in play somewhere, but no confirmation was received thru state law office or other sources that the Law was passed. I then contacted Hon. MP Willy Jimmy, Minister for Finance, I inquired as to what he knew of this new tax, he was unaware that it existed and suggested that I should contact Rubin Lini, Northern Manager of Customs and Inland Revenue to make sure this was the case as he had not been Minister of Finance for very long and as such was not familiar with this question. I contacted Rubin as suggested and Rubin told me that No there was no new tax in existence as per his diary notes for any changes to the tariffs for January 2006. Being satisfied with this I decided to proceed and load the vessel with 1,116 head of cattle. We completed this task at approximately 11.30pm on the night of the 16th.

I arrived in the office the next morning (17th) and Tory and Andrea were finalising all weights and cross checking all numbers, preparing for the Customs clearance and Health certificates which need to be signed off on by a whole host of different authorities to allow the vessel to sail, when a fax arrived from .who??? at 7.42 am, the fax was simple and noted that Live Bovine animals attracted a 30% export duty. I contacted Rubin who informed me that the vessel could not sail unless we paid 30% of our FOB sale price to the Government upfront. This new tax with the existing animal inspection tax means that the Government would be receiving over 38% of the value of the cattle. Obviously there would be those that would believe this to be fair, they would not be in private sector very long if this was their attitude.

I contacted several sources and was able to seek assistance from Richard Kaltongga who indicated that this new tax was not acceptable and had been rushed thru parliament whilst his Minister Hon. MP Barak Sope was overseas. Richard contacted the Attorney General and discovered that the Amendment had in fact not been passed and that the AG had informed him that it was illegal to charge a fee or duty before it had been gazetted, and that the President has signed the amendment. These steps are required before any act becomes law.

I contacted Customs who informed me that it was gazetted and that I had to pay this new tax. Rubin confirmed that his director in Port Vila had confirmed to him that the new tax was law and as such was enforceable. I contacted the Minister of Finance Willy Jimmy and informed him of the situation, whilst he was sympathetic for the problems that we faced, he told me that if the new tax would prevent the sale of cattle from Vanuatu and increase the National Herd then he felt the New Tax was proper and it had his support. I informed the Minister that whilst I respected his opinion I had my own thinking on this matter. What would the Government reaction be if we told them our intention to do the following would occur if our right to a free market was destroyed by the Government of Vanuatu.
1. Sell for slaughter our entire herd.
2. Remove all fencing.
3. Remove all pipes and pumps.
4. Demolish all dwellings on the property.
5. Go to the overseas media and advise the unsuspecting people that this was not the place to come and invest due to the Government's ability to impose new taxes overnight. Of course to do this would be sheer insanity.

This new tax was buried in the Import Tariffs amendment Bill and I would suspect that not many of the members of Parliament were even aware of its existence on page 554 of the tariff book. Along with Bovine (cattle) were Live ornamental fish and Live eels. These businesses all have the same thing in common, they are working and employing many locals and are new industries to this country that have never been done commercially before.

I guess you can see the sense in effectively shutting down 3 businesses of this size and increasing the unemployment by over 300 as well as the flow-on to other sectors that will be affected by the closure of these businesses. Not to mention the foreign currency these businesses bring into Vanuatu or in SGS's case the huge amount of freight they pay to Air Vanuatu daily for the export of their Ornamental Fish.

Edgewater and Deepwater Holdings Limited came to Vanuatu in June 2001, specifically to do live cattle exports as we saw this as the only means of operating a financially successful business. The government of the day consented to this thru Council of Ministers Decision 109 in September 2001. We have had nothing but obstacle after obstacle put in front of us at each turn since then. We have never been granted duty exemption for any goods that we have either purchased in Vanuatu or overseas.

We have developed Bel Mol as well as cultivated and encouraged the small holders as producers of weaner cattle on a much larger scale and this has benefited us as well as the other larger producers who effectively supply both the domestic market as well as any of the available overseas markets including live cattle exports. We are currently working with Roy Mickey Joy (Trade) and Sandy Rolland (Ni-Vanuatu small Business and Cooperatives) to establish 2 holding areas in Malekula to assist the development of the cattle industry on that island. We export overseas less then we produce each year and our breeding herd has increased significantly over the 4 years we have had Bel Mol. Governments are supposed to facilitate business and assist in the development of areas that need developing. If they really cared about the industry and the grass roots people they would remove the 35% tax on Barb Wire and the 25% tax on fence posts to give the small holders the edge they need to fence their holdings and increase their herd size. The small holders of Vanuatu do not want aid or hand outs they want good leadership and steady markets and the right to choose which market suits their particular operation. If these farmers are encouraged and can gain confidence in the industry and the industry is left to grow itself, we will be successful, if we are continually badgered with increased taxes (in a tax free country!) and existing taxes we will not be able to grow. The youth will have no incentive to stay on the farm and as a result of more urban drift, there will be more pressure on the Government for schools and clinics, a higher crime rate and generally a poorer economy which will be forced to rely more and more on foreign aid.

If the constraints are lifted these people the grass roots people will do all this themselves and they will grow their own economies first, build their own schools and clinics and the youth will stay at home because there is a reason to stay at home and the positive cycle will kick in and slowly but surely we will become less reliant on foreign aid and become truly independent.

All we need is a strong Government that truly cares for its people and is capable of understanding their needs not their own and concentrates on fixing the problems and stop being frightened of anyone being successful and most importantly become facilitators for the people of Vanuatu for both overseas investors and indigenous alike. We do after all have the common goal of trying to create successful business in a less then business friendly environment. With attitudes like those displayed by the Government over this issue it will be little wonder if any one will succeed in this country, I believe that the people of Vanuatu deserve better, trouble is how!! I am afraid I do not have the answer to that, I do know that if you work hard you will be rewarded, so I shall continue to work hard and hope I will be rewarded.

We just want to be left alone to enjoy the rights of being able to sell our cattle when and where we like, they are not the Government's and yet they seem to believe that they own 30% of them if they travel overseas and are live. If however they are dead and processed then they do not care. The government is already enjoying 3,000vt per head as a documentation fee, bringing the Government 3 to 5 million vatu per shipment. We came to this country as it was publicised as being tax free, now we are here and they have our money they just want more, it is not theirs to have, so more taxes it is. The whole idea behind business is too pay the people who work for you and then they pay someone else and so on it goes and before you know it you have a fiscal cycle. And yes it is something you can ride, only if you play the game can you be a part of it. And like all games we need to have rules and when we play the game we need to have the rules maintained so as we can compete.

We are hopeful that the President of the Republic of Vanuatu has the where-with-all to stop this amendment and not sign off on it so the people of Vanuatu in the cattle industry, and export industries such as ornamental fish and live eels trade can get on with our jobs.

From Eunice Smith, Grenada

Perhaps it is too late to weigh in on the discussion but I do agree with the commentary provided by Tutii Chilton from Palau on the development of small islands and the time and difficulty that would be necessary to achieve 'western' style developed status given present economic conditions and limited natural and physical resources of the islands. At a presentation in Paris last June (2005) on development strategy from a historical perspective, Ha Joon Chang argued that developed countries have used protected industries and protectionist policies to develop their economies over centuries. Today, the third world and island states are expected to do the same without protection (subsidies, rebates, preferential markets, infant industries, etc) and in much less time. Of course we do not want to waste precious island resources playing the blame game, but instead recognize the limitations and possibly look at developing alternative industries that are not labor or land intensive. The development of the health, education and some aspects of the technology industries, including that available to the local population, could complement our (over) dependence on tourism as a source of foreign exchange.

From Edwin Tamasese, Samoa

I live on the island of Samoa in the South Pacific. I have been following the articles with interest and would like to throw my 2 cents worth into the discussion.

One day I was wondering how I could reduce the cost of feed for my chickens because I import it from Australia. I know that Samoa does not have the land mass to plant corn, wheat or sorghum in big enough quantities to make it viable. Then I had a thought - Why do we always focus on the limitations of our island environment? If we don't have the land mass in Samoa why don't we buy farms in Australia? They have heaps of good wheat/corn/sorghum growing land! Are we focusing too much on the limitations of our islands and ignoring the opportunities of the world that surrounds us? Should we not see the world for the global community that it is and look at how we can take advantage of it to provide for sustainability of our small islands?

This thought lead to questioning how we structure island investment - I began to wonder how much income could have been generated to support local infrastructure if the island diverted money into off-shore investments? Dare we think that we can manage funds in this manner without the crippling fear of corruption and mismanagement? Can we take these factors into account as an expected cost of doing business in the islands and implement structures less prone to mismanagement? I know that we can if we took the time to do it. Another thought that I had is why don't we look at having students who leave school pay 1 dollar a year back to their high school which could be placed in an investment fund? Depending on the size of the school and the performance of the investment fund it could take 10 years for it to pay off, but once a significant amount of money is generated, the potential for passive income would be extremely significant (I have actually taken the time between collecting eggs and planting cabbage to put this plan on paper in a format that reduces mismanagement potential).


Importance of information and communication technologies

From I.A. Economides, Cyprus

I think that if small island communities have managed to be viable in the 20th century there is no reason not to be able to be viable in the 21st. As a matter of fact, in this era of information technology revolution and the internet, it is generally perceived that smallness is much less of a handicap than what it was during the industrial revolution. The reasons can be attributed to the dramatic reduction of some external transaction costs. It costs much less to do business and obtain information through the internet, than any other existing internal or external channel today. As a result there are more opportunities for small communities in the 21st century than any time before, AS LONG AS THEY ARE CONNECTED WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD. Cell phone technology has become much better and cheaper than it used to be and could be the ideal solution for groups of small islands. I think that if small island communities can manage to find solutions for better education and telecommunication infrastructure, then they can be more viable than any time before, even with smaller populations. Emigration is not necessarily bad, if high population densities are perceived to be a problem. Better educated and connected islanders will make better leaders as well as more successful emigrants. What I think is important is to ensure that those that do stay on the islands do so out of choice for a simpler more natural lifestyle, not because they cannot do any better somewhere else. I think that the ultra-small island lifestyle will always be in demand and I wish I get the opportunity to someday experience it during my lifetime.

From I.A. Economides, Cyprus

I don't think that it is really any single individual's or any single government's or any think-tank's decision which of the old should be retained or which of the new should be adopted. Everybody has a role to play accelerating or slowing down change but 'there's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come' (I have read this somewhere but unfortunately I cannot recall to whom it was attributed). We live in a changing world and being able to adapt to our environment is a necessary skill for the survival, the well-being and happiness, of ourselves, during our lifetime, and our siblings through time. Small isolated islands will change. First of all, because increasingly they will stop being isolated. I absolutely agree with Paul Roughan that the best initiative for change rests within the islands themselves. However, if change does not come from within, it will come from the outside. I do not think that in this era of information revolution and globalization, any society can survive for long based on isolation, ignorance, or government suppression. What kind of viability then? My answer is: The kind of viability that meets the collective aspirations of free, connected and informed islanders.

From Michael McManus, Papua New Guinea

Thank you for this wonderfully insightful piece. I shall certainly be using this article as a basis for discussion with our students in the Communication Arts Department, with due acknowledgement to the authors. The students are struggling to confront the clash of cultures in their own lives, as well as in their professional lives as journalists and communications officers.


Emigration from small islands

From Ginny Nakamura, Palau

Perhaps, we should follow what the Philippines are doing. The Philippines have over 80 million people with fewer job opportunities for their people. Their President is encouraging them to migrate to other countries to work and send money home to help their families and the economic development of their country. Why are we confining us to our little island? Economic development could be attained like that of the Philippines. It is up to our leaders to seriously put time and effort into economic development of our small islands rather than putting funds into infrastructures that are not beneficial to the lives of the people. It is time for the young people to take their future into their own hands and help the government in finding the most suitable solutions to the problems. Tomorrow is not for the old (parents and grand parents), tomorrow is for young and the generations to come. Establish your group to be part of the solutions to your country. Do not be spectator be part of the solution. Small communities are much easier to work with. Take that opportunity and initiate a group to help address and seek solutions to your community issues. No man is an island and therefore, you need assistance and cooperation from the community to make a difference.

From Angelique Songco, Palawan, Philippines

Please extend my congratulations to Jimmy Rainier for his article. It gave me a better picture of his area and challenges they face. It appears that it is the fate of small and poor localities to lose their more skilled and educated people to cities where opportunities for economic advancement are perceived to be greater. We are not a small island but lots of our people are moving out to look for jobs elsewhere in the world. Those of us that remain by choice need to keep on believing that conditions can and will improve, and continue to do our share to achieve this. This is not always easy. However, reading about others in a similar situation is a source of encouragement. Hang in there, Jimmy!


Graduation from undeveloped country status

From K.D. Pillay, Seychelles

Seychelles is a group of many islands (96) with a total population of about 80,000. 5 to 6 islands have airstrips and communications connection with the main island, Mahe. 10 - 15 islands have small workforces to maintain the islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited. At present, the problem we are facing with the world bodies is that we are not recognised as an undeveloped country because our GDP shows higher in the international index. So we are not getting the concessions, financial helps, grants and other facilities given to the undeveloped countries. It is time to organise a conference to deal with the issues by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as early as possible.


Additional information sources about island viability

From Tanya Hellams, Australia

We read with interest the article by Paul Roughan entitled 'What kind of viability.' Recently the Australian Catholic Bishops through Earthcare Australia published a booklet entitled "Climate Change - Our Responsibility to Sustain God's Earth.

From Ron Sawyer

I recently finished reading COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. I am sure some of you have heard of it. It is am impressive book and interestingly examines the dynamics of a number of small islands both past and present. Jimmy Rainer touches on some of the same elements that make small islands both unique and often socio-politically, economically and environmentally fragile.


Classification of small islands by size

From Peter Hehanussa, Indonesia

We in Indonesia have been using another term on island classification based on its size. They are small, very small, and very-very small islands. The limits are 2000, 200, and 20 sq km in size. There is an additional limitation based on the width of the island. In the 1980s I proposed a morphogenetic classification of small islands that was divided into 8 classes, firstly they were grouped into two larger clusters i.e. flat islands and mountainous islands. Hope this can add information to the discussion.

From Peter Hehanussa, Indonesia

In the late 1980s we faced problems of providing sustainable water sources (options) to the islanders. The fact is there are many islands in Indonesia, a total of over 17,000 islands and about 9,000 with permanent inhabitants. To help start water resource exploration in small islands and planning by local government, we proposed a morphogenetic classification (with new developments I called it now an eco-hydrology classification). This classification can help to simplify survey planning and its implementation.

The two major types are further divided into eight classes. They are:

A. Flat islands 1. alluvial islands
2. coral islands
3. atolls
B. Mountainous islands
4. volcanic islands
5. tectonic islands
6. uplifted coral islands
7. monadnock islands
8. mixture type islands

This is a rather complex classification based on the fact that the origin of islands in Indonesia is also complex because of the tectonic geo-history of the region.

Recently we have published a small book on research results of water resources surveys by LIPI in Indonesian small islands (2005). The book is titled Sumber Daya Air di Pulau Kecil, 371 pp., edited by P.E. Hehanussa and Hendra Bakti, LIPI Press, Jakarta. They are available at Gramedia Book Stores. We are working on the next book; small islands and coastal area water resources, to be published in 2006.


Climate change

From Kelvin Char, USA

I've been a participant in this forum since the beginning and found it highly informative as well as entertaining. I'm a Pacific islander living in Hawaii and have spent many years working with governments and communities in the Pacific Basin.

Last year I had the opportunity to spend time with my Alaska Native cousins in Bristol Bay and was struck by the similarities between my experiences in the Pacific and the remote native villages and tribes in Southwest Alaska. The history and cultures of the Yup'ik Eskimos, Aleuts, and Athabascan peoples seemed to closely parallel those of Pacific islanders. Indigenous knowledge still lives among the people as well as their dependence on subsistence living. The issues facing these communities also reflect the same concerns experienced in the Pacific with respect to social change and the growing influences of western behaviour.

What the future holds for my cousins in the higher latitudes is anyone's guess; however, they recognize changing global conditions (such as the effects of 'global warming' over which they have little control) and are making efforts to sustain their cultural base and provide for the future of generations to come. As such, I have also taken the liberty to share the posts from this site with our cousins who live in 'island Outposts' in Alaska. Keep up the good work.

From K Etuati, Fiji

Greenhouse pollution poses a clear danger to Fiji and other Pacific Island Nations. Coordinated, prompt global action to deal with this threat is a matter of our very survival. Yet in Sydney last week our Big Brothers, Australia and the US, were holding a meeting that threatens to detract from an already insufficient global response. Climate change threatens Pacific Islanders with rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and higher king tides. Inundation of the land by seawater poses a major risk to water supplies, food crops and entire coastal populations. Rising sea temperatures, along with increasing ocean acidification are other impacts that threaten to turn our marine ecosystems into lifeless deserts. And the list goes on.

The poorest of the developing countries will be hardest hit by climate change, while the wealthiest are the biggest perpetrators. Yet Australia, the developed world's highest per capita greenhouse polluter, and the United States, the world's largest overall emitter of this pollutant, are the only industrialized nations to refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. They have been condemned on the international stage as a result, most recently at the November climate negotiations Montreal, which I attended as a Greenpeace delegate.

Attempting to deflect such criticism, the US and Australia have formed the Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, and signed up Japan, China, India and South Korea as members. Because these countries are the world's greatest users, importers and exporters of coal, the Partnership has been nicknamed the "Coal Pact" by environmental groups.

With the Partnership's first meeting over and done with, what can we expect? Unlike the Kyoto protocol, which focuses on reducing greenhouse pollution within set timetables and emission targets, the new Partnership is completely voluntary. It focuses on the development of new, costly and unproven power generation technologies, which continue to use fossil fuels, as a way to limit emissions.

The structure of the secretive meeting reflects its fossil fuel emphasis. While green groups had not been invited, chief executives from global minor Rio Tinto and oil company Exon Mobil footed part of the bill for a Sydney Harbour cruise, and were among other major industry representatives received at Australia's Government House on Wednesday afternoon, according to media reports.

This clearly fits with Australian Prime Minister John Howard's public admission that he would rather find a way to make coal 'cleaner' than further develop proven clean renewable energy technology like wind and solar. Just as worrying, the United States has emphasised the importance of nuclear power as a 'solution' to be promoted by this Partnership.

Greenpeace is very concerned that Australia and the US are using developing nations' attendance to undermine any international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and divert attention away from their own lack of substantive action on climate change. Without timetables and targets, the Partnership will achieve little other than allowing these climate renegades to delay real action.

As for the developing countries within the Partnership, they find themselves in a tricky situation. Though they need energy to develop, fossil fuels threaten their long term survival. Yet the most practical solution is not costly, unproven attempts to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. Instead the way forward lies in energy efficiency and clean renewable energies such as wind, solar and biofuel.

Some Pacific Island Countries, including Fiji, have already set voluntary policies to phase in renewable energy technologies. Fiji is also developing biomass energy that turns sugar into the fuel ethanol. Countries including Papua New Guinea are looking at using coconut fuel for shipping while Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and the Cook Islands already use coconut oil as fuel for diesel engines, albeit on a relatively small scale.

The Government of Niue has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Greenpeace to work together to move to a 100 per cent renewable energy future. These efforts are worthwhile and must be expanded. But there is only so much Pacific Islands Countries can do about this global threat.

This is why Greenpeace is calling on those attending this week's meeting to prove it is not just a 'Coal Pact' aimed undermining the Kyoto Protocol and presenting coal and nuclear power as climate change solutions. Greenpeace challenges these leaders to stop funding coal, and to introduce binding targets and financial mechanisms to strongly support the development of renewable energy.

Their response will be a litmus test of their political will to grapple with climate change. It will also be a matter of the survival of many Pacific Islanders. The Kyoto Protocol is the first step in a process that will protect the world from climate change. With most of the world in agreement the next step will be to seek stronger emission cuts and standards. However, it would be beneficial for us all if the US and Australia worked within this framework instead creating new and diversionary pacts to protect their own interests.

Urgent, global emissions reductions are needed, on the order of 70-80 per cent by industrialised countries by mid-century, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Voluntary technology agreements, negotiated in secret by the world's worst polluters, are not going to get us there.

Even though they talk about it, Australia and the US are not using technologies such as carbon capture and storage technologies in their own countries and development of these as viable long lasting solutions are many years away, if ever. Unfortunately both these rich countries are seeking to protect the interests of their domestic fossil fuel industries and to deflect criticism for their total failure to address climate change.

For Pacific island countries the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Australia and United States of America is a matter of survival. The increase in global surface temperatures will impact the marine life that Pacific Islanders rely on for survival.

The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have huge negative impacts on the survival of coral and plankton, which make up the base of the marine food chain. The loss of these organisms would turn the oceans into lifeless deserts, affecting an important source of food and our fishing industry. These developments will also have irreversible impacts on coastal infrastructure and the tourism industry.

Climate change will also disrupt weather patterns in the region. An increase in rainfall is already causing flash flooding in the Eastern Pacific and will lead to larger more destructive cyclones in the Western Pacific.

Climate change is a reality and is happening around the world (including in Australia and the United States) but the people that are most affected are the poorest of the developing countries.

If these countries truly want to protect the climate they would ratify the Kyoto protocol and provide more financial and technical assistance to turn Pacific Island Countries into sustainable economies fuelled by renewable energy.

From Alf Simpson, Australia

For your information I am forwarding the Executive Summary of a report (Policy Note) to be released this Friday 2nd February as well as the Media Release from the World Bank on the need for Pacific islands to take proactive measures to adapt to natural disasters. I hope you will find the report useful. Copies of the full Report can be obtained from the World Bank Sydney Office.


To get involved, contact :


Coastal Regions and Small Islands Platform
UNESCO, Paris, France
fax: +33 1 45 68 58 08

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