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Sila: Clue in to Climate Change.
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Sila: Clue in to Climate Change.
Introduction. Adventure. Awareness, What Now? Quiz.

Answering the Ocean's SOS!

Ryan: Sweet! This looks like a Polynesian paradise!

Morgan: (enthusiastic) Oh yeah...I like it. I've often dreamed of going to Hawaii during those long arctic blizzards.

Inukshuk: You're not too far off. Just another 3,600 kilometres south of Hawaii is the island nation of Samoa. Some might call it paradise, with its long stretches of golden sand, snorkelling lagoons and black lava pools.

Ryan: (suddenly nervous) Did you say...lava? Is this paradise ready to explode any second?

Inukshuk: These are indeed volcanic islands. You can still visit a half buried town where lava engulfed several churches and burned to ashes all the traditional Samoan wooden houses over 90 years ago. But there are other more pressing natural disasters lurking here, many of which may be worsened by climate change.

Pictures of Morgan, Ryan and Inukshuk.

1) A picture of a tropical beach.
2) a drawing of a Somoa storm.

Ryan: Like what?

Inukshuk: Well, like tropical cyclones, coastal flooding, river flooding, landslides, storm surges...

Morgan: (interrupting) I know all about storm surges. I was in Tuktoyaktuk once when a big storm hit. It seemed like the whole Beaufort Sea was crashing into the shore.

Inukshuk: Your open water season is only about four months long. But when those arctic storms get blowing - look out! In a matter of hours, coastal water levels can rise up to seven times higher than normal. A single storm can knock out 20 metres of shoreline, threatening buildings, people, and wildlife habitat.

Ryan: Where do you hide from a storm like that way out on the bald tundra?

Morgan: All we could do was bolt the door, break out the cards and hope the roof stayed on!

Inukshuk: It's no different for Samoans when those tropical storms hit. Their communities are as exposed to the wild elements as yours. And their livelihoods are also based very much on the land and sea.

Ryan: So...if the environment suffers, the economy suffers, right?

Inukshuk: That's very true. From 1989 to 1993 Samoa was hit by severe cyclones every spring. The worst struck in 1992 - "Cyclone Val" they called it - which severely damaged 90% of Samoa's forests and destroyed about half of its coconut trees.

Ryan: Ouch! That must have put a lot of people out of work.

Inukshuk: Coconut farming is a major employer in Samoa. Fishing too. This industry also suffers whenever a cyclone hits. And climate change may add more punch to these storms.

Morgan: How's that?

Inukshuk: With changing atmospheric conditions, tropical storms may become more common.

Ryan: But cyclones are part of the natural scene down here aren't they?

Morgan: Yeah, just like blizzards up north?

Inukshuk: They are indeed. But they may become stronger and more frequent, damaging sensitive coral reefs beyond natural levels and allowing little time for healing between storms. These reefs are extremely important to small island states like Samoa because they protect the islands from strong waves and provide shelter and food for countless fish and other marine creatures.

3) A picture of a healthy coral reef.

Morgan: I've heard that climate change is causing sea levels to rise. How do corals feel about that?

Inukshuk: This is not good news. Rising sea levels are a problem for corals because many species can absorb sunlight only in shallow water. And if the seawater warms up too much, corals get stressed and expel the algae which help make food.

Ryan: The corals starve to death?

4) A picture of a bleached coral.

Inukshuk: Precisely. As the coral dies, it turns white. They call this coral bleaching, an impact of climate change already seen in Samoa.

Morgan: What do all those fish eat then?

Inukshuk: Not much. If the corals suffer, so do the small fish that feed on them...

Ryan: (interrupts) And so do the bigger fish that eat the small fish!

Inukshuk: And the people that eat the bigger fish. Are you getting the picture?

Morgan: Yes, and it doesn't look very rosy! What are Samoans doing to paint a happier picture of the future?

Inukshuk: You've heard the saying, 'Knowledge is power'?

Ryan: I hear it all the time from my history teacher.

Inukshuk: Well that's just where these people are starting. Kids in Samoa are learning about climate change in school and working hard to raise community awareness about this problem.

Morgan: Empower the kids. Great idea. But what about adults?

5) A picture of a community meeting.

Inukshuk: At the same time, community groups and governments in Samoa are working together to keep tabs on climate change impacts and figure out ways to adapt to them. They're learning how to do scientific surveys of fish stocks, water temperature and coral bleaching.

Morgan: Sounds fine...but what good will all that do?

Inukshuk: These studies will help communities identify exactly where climate change troubles are brewing and plan ahead for them. Conserving the reef and protecting fish stocks will be a whole lot easier with better community support and information. In the meantime, they are exploring ways to reduce their dependency on fishing by looking at other ways of making a living.

Morgan: Like beefing up the tourism industry?

Inukshuk: Definitely.

Morgan: I'd be happy to support that cause if given a chance.

Ryan: I'll go too. We could do some serious snorkelling... (suddenly nervous again) That is, if you're sure about those volcanoes. Being dormant, I mean.

Inukshuk: Come and see for yourself. Samoans can't predict the future any better than you. But they are doing all they can to prepare themselves for change.

Image Sources:

  1. Microsoft Clip Art
  2. Canadian International Development Acency (CIDA)
  3. Microsoft Clip Art
  4. Microsoft Clip Art
  5. Canadian International Development Acency (CIDA) and A. Kaloumaira


Last Update: 2006-08-09    © nature.ca    Important Notices
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