"The Making of a Climate Refugee"

"How an unsuspecting farmworker from Kiribati became the brand ambassador of climate change — despite barely knowing what it was."

"A cold New Zealand rain pelted the broad, weathered face of the man from the tropical Pacific. He squinted up at the gathering storm before refocusing his attention on crates of freshly picked Chinese cabbages, carefully adjusting and wrapping them to make sure they would arrive at market in perfect condition. Over the years, such attention to detail and dependability have elevated him from field hand to foreman of a vegetable farm on the outskirts of Auckland. Typically, Ioane Teitiota (pronounced Tess-ee-yo-tah) reports to work every day, for eight-hour shifts or longer, though he takes an occasional Sunday off. “Some people say it’s hard work,” he said. “I say it’s good for me and my family.”

Teitiota was born on Tabiteuea atoll, one of the 33 tiny islands scattered across a vast expanse of the central Pacific that belong to the Republic of Kiribati (Keer-ree-bahss). The country reaches across 1.35 million square miles of ocean, but all its islands combined add up to just 313 square miles, a landmass the size of Kansas City, Missouri. The nation’s atolls formed millions of years ago around what were once the rims of sunken undersea volcanoes. As the seas rose and dormant volcanoes sank under their own weight, reefs of living coral grew toward the light and produced enough rubble and sand to form land. The lone exception is the raised-coral island of Banaba, which peaks at 266 feet, the nation’s highest point. (Banaba was left defaced by the British, who strip-mined its rock phosphate for nearly eight decades before they finally abandoned it and the other islands when granting Kiribati its independence in 1979.)"

Kenneth R. Weiss reports for Foreign Policy January 28, 2015.

Source: Foreign Policy, 01/29/2015