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Pacific News Minute: Documentary “Anote’s Ark”: Climate Change Treaty Comes Too Late for Kiribati

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A new documentary about climate change and Kiribati screened at film festivals in New Zealand and Colorado this last weekend. We have more on “Anote’s Ark” from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The Anote of the title is the now former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong. We see the president in suit and tie at the United Nations, in the Vatican (where he meets with Pope Francis) and at the Paris climate change conference – where Kiribati and other small islands states drove the agenda.

We also see him in a t-shirt and shorts, explaining to village elders why the climate change agreement came too late for the low lying atolls of Kiribati. Scientists project that rising seas will swallow the entire archipelago by the end of this century.

In an interview withRadio New Zealand in conjunction with the Documentary Edge Film Festival, Anote Tong said, “We can’t just wish for it not to happen.”

The documentary shows how President Tong explored alternatives including futuristic floating islands.

“If we cannot adapt,” he told Radio New Zealand, “we have no choice but to relocate.”

Credit Takver / Flickr
Former Kiribati President Anote Tong

“Anote’s Ark” also follows Tiemeri Tiare, who gets a visa to pick kiwifruit in New Zealand and eventually brings her family of six after her. They are not likely to be allowed to stay. Speaking from New Zealand with an audience at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado, director Matthieu Rytz said New Zealand does not grant climate migrants refugee status, for fear that the precedent would open doors to the entire Pacific. 

At the conclusion, “Anote’s Ark” notes that the new government in Kiribati has dismantled most of Anote Tong’s climate policies.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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