In the Shadow of Climate Change

Tuvalu is a low-lying country whose 26 square kilometers rise to only four and a half meters above sea level at its highest point. Most of its nine islands are atolls; islands based on coral, which makes for porous earth, limited brackish ground water and limited plant life that can flourish in the harsh conditions. Despite this, communities have thrived in Tuvalu for over 2,000 years.

There are many predictions that Tuvalu will be uninhabitable within 50 years due to the effects of climate change. The Tuvaluan government has made pleas to the international community since 1994 to lower emission rates to slow the progression of global warming. Globally, the people suffering most from climate changes environmental consequences have contributed to it the least.

In the Shadow of Climate Change aims to look at the current impacts that climate change is having on families and everyday life, the subtleties, and far-reaching implications of future cultural loss. These images show my experience in the small community of Funafuti where I was based. This project was photographed over ten months funded by a Fulbright grant in 2010/2011.

Excerpts of this work have been published in:
As Danger Laps at Its Shores, Tuvalu Pleads for Action, The New York Times Green blog

As Water Rises, There’s No Place Like (or for) Home, The New York Times Lens blog

Scenes From an Island Nation Facing Its Own Demise, The Atlantic

http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange02.jpg
Groups representing the Tuvaluan islands of Nanumaga and Vaitupu participated in a Fatele, a presentation of song and dance by two alternating groups. Andrew Puga danced with the Vaitupu island community. April, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange03.jpg
On Nanumean Women's Day, a group of women from Tuvalu's northern most island, Nanumea bring donations and songs to the homes of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT) church's pastors. This weekend is also an opportunity to relax and be together.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_tv-square014cc.jpg
Lua Sini, left, sits with her mother in their home on Funafuti.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_tv-square08cc.jpg
Funafuti's lagoon on a rare rainy day.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange04.jpg
One of Funafuti’s islets, Amatuku is home to the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute (TMTI.) Since 1979 the institute has trained seafarers to work on international cargo ships. There are about 40 graduates per year who go on to serve mostly year-long contracts. Many young men see this as an attractive option as there are few job opportunities on Tuvalu. Remittances from sea farers make up a large amount of Tuvalu’s economy.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange05.jpg
On a Sunday evening in May a churchgoer is seen through the wall of Vaitupu's only guesthouse located behind the islands Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT) Church. The climate change discussion in a religious context is based around interpreting the story of Genesis, of Noah and the ark. General Secretary of the EKT, and chairman of Tuvalu’s Climate Action Network, Tafue Lusama argues “the issue of climate change does not reflect theologically on Gods position - it reflects human failure in their part as good stewards of earth, of creation… God has nothing to do with climate change it is human induced and Noah during the covenant did not make a promise not to flood the world.”
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange06.jpg
There are a few earth moving machines, bunkers and other relics of the American Marines who were stationed in Tuvalu from 1942 to 1946 during WWII when Tuvalu was still a British colony, then called the Ellice Islands. Kids play on a rusty machine likely from those years in Funafuti’s lagoon. December, 2010.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange07.jpg
Margaret, 12 in a Form 1 class at Nauti Primary School in Funafuti. There are two primary schools in the capital island and one on each of Tuvalu's eight outer islands. November, 2010
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange07a.jpg
Early morning light filters through the door of a house in the village center of Nukulaelae, one of Tuvalu's southern islands.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvlimatechange.jpg
Harbor of Vaitupu, Tuvalu's largest island in land mass
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange09.jpg
Bingo, a popular pastime in Funafuti is played at You and Me Bingo on Vao road. March, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahk05.jpg
University student, Teanu works in the kitchen of her families' home. "Climate change is really happening right now, its not just myth as some older people says here." She hopes to take environmental studies later on in her academic career, and does a lot of volunteer work with the Tuvalu National Youth Council, and recently became involved with Tuvalu Climate Action Network. "I belong to Tuvalu, I’m a Tuvaluan...I believe I was made to live in this country and to help… migrating to other country for me its not important, because I don’t want to lose my identity as a Tuvaluan."
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange10.jpg
Once the heat of the day has passed Funafuti's runway becomes a community gathering place for recreation and games such as Te Ano, a traditional ball game. The rules differ regionally, though there are always two opposing teams of varying numbers of players.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange11.jpg
Kids fly homemade kites in the southern Funafuti settlement of TeKavatoetoe. The neighborhood sits along a narrow section of Fongafale, Funafuti's main islet. The area is low-lying and prone to flooding. Homes exposed to the Pacific side are vulnerable to occasional ocean swells. The Red Cross of Tuvalu has described the TeKavatoetoe as one of the most vulnerable areas in Funafuti. February, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahk25.jpg
The remnants of a fishing vessel slowly decays in Funafuti's lagoon.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange12.jpg
Mourners gather for a community members funeral in Funafuti.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange13.jpg
The main port in Tuvalu at Funafuti is bustling just before a ship departs for Tuvalu's southern islands, which are only accessible by boat. All goods, travelers and mail utilize these ships.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange14.jpg
En route through the coral passage from the shores of Nukulaelae to the Manu Folau vessel, which is too large to go through the passage itself. At low tide this passage is difficult to navigate safely over large swells. The ship will take passengers to Tuvalu’s capital. May, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange15.jpg
The last light of the day hangs in the sky as street lights come on over the smallest of two government owned shops in Funafuti.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahk26.jpg
In northern Fongafale, Funafuti's main islet the causeway separates the Pacific Ocean on the left and Funafuti's lagoon on the right.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_-1.png
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_krales03.jpg
Akelita Pesega in the home she shares with her family on Funafuti
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange20.jpg
Outside the front door of the Pesega's home, members of the family relax on the Umu, an open wall-less structure named after it's traditional role as the working space outside of the traditional outside oven with the same name. Now many homes with indoor gas stoves still have an Umu as an extra gathering space, or comfortable place to sleep on hot nights.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange19.jpg
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange17.jpg
Akelita Pesega searches for the leaves and flowers necessary to make Nanumean style fo, flowered headdresses, which her grandmother will construct for the Po o Tefolaha or "Day of Tefolaha" celebrations. The holiday commemorates when Christianity came to Nanumea, Tuvalu's northernmost island.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange18.jpg
Melitagi Lifuka, 77 makes fo in the Nanumean traditional style in preparation for Po o Tefolaha celebrations beginning that evening.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange21.jpg
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange22.jpg
Akelita wears a titi around her neck made of dried pandanus fronds. Pesega is dressed in traditional bridal attire before the first part of her wedding at the Fale Kaupule, or town council. There she and her future husband and thier families will answer questions about their decision to get married and sign paperwork to join them as husband and wife.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange23.jpg
After signing the paperwork at the Fale Kaupule that officially marries Akelita (left) to her husband, she and her maid of honor, Kate walk home. It is traditional for the pair to walk to and from the Kaupule as an announcement to the community that she is getting married.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange24.jpg
Akelita Pesega poses for a photo before the second portion of her wedding, which will be held at the main EKT church in Funafuti. Akelita's mother Suia holds her son, Peseia.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange25.jpg
Pesega Lifuka holds his grandson, Peseia in their home in Funafuti in January, 2011. When asked about his families future plans and the possibility of migration because of climate change or other forces, Lifuka responded, “people have to survive, right? They have to change; they have to find resources for survival". "...I really invest in education. Maybe that is the only land that we have. It is through knowledge - then we can survive. Hopefully, if there is a change in Tuvalu I think that it is better to have this.” “…As a Tuvaluan or maybe as a Pacific Islander, … there is an old saying that I said to you before: where you grow up that is your identity.”
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange26.jpg
Vaileta Antenela, 21, sits with her daughter Monica in their three-room home in Funafuti. In Tuvalu woven mats of pandanus leaves cover the floor. January 24, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange27.jpg
Vaileta works in the kitchen while her children and her sisters children help with chores, play, and eat. Nine people live in their small three-room household. January 3, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange27a.jpg
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange28.jpg
Losa Foutanu, 27 Vaileta’s sister holds her one-week old son. There is currently a drought in rainwater dependant Tuvalu and Foutanu’s household is out of water. She explained that they have been relying on neighbors for water until they get their household tank filled by the Public Works Department. January 19, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange29.jpg
Low tide on Funafuti's Pacific Ocean side.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange31.jpg
Peyona, Vaileta’s nephew runs under the window of his families’ home, which is situated at the edge of a borrow pit. The area and others like it were coined ‘borrow' or 'burrow pits’ because rock, soil and coral were excavated from these sites by American Marines to help build Funafuti’s runway during WWII. The pits are often below sea level and during daily high tides they fill with water and often collect trash.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange32.jpg
Tuvalu's wet season traditionally runs November to April. In 2010 however, many of those months were dry. Very little rain fell from October through January creating water scarcity and drought. The end of January, 2011, brought the first of a few days of heavy, much needed rain. Kids played in the downpour outside of their home and drank from a basin put out to collect as much water as possible. The household had nine family members with only one water tank.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_slide3.png
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange34.jpg
At low tide, around 11am Peyona, 9, enjoys a rare, calm moment in the ocean near his home on the thin, main islet of Funfuti, Tuvalu's capital. In a few hours the water level will raise over two meters to mark 2011's King Tide, the highest tide of the year.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange35.jpg
Starting at 6am lines formed outside the Funafuti maneapa (community meeting hall) of household representatives who have come to claim thier allotted water from one Funafuti’s largest water cisterns. During times of water scarcity four buckets are allowed per household each in the morning and evening. The definition of a household is the structure itself, not the number of people. It wouldn’t be unheard of for 15 people to live in a household, so families must always conserve water where they can. At this point a drought has gone on for about four months and many families collect water from the cistern to supplement the dwindling water levels of their household rainwater catchment tanks. July 26th 2011.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange36.jpg
On World Water Day samples of water were taken from a group of household water reserves and before and after boiling. The completed testing was displayed to underline the importance of boiling water before drinking or using in cooking.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange37.jpg
Water pulled from Funafuti’s lagoon goes through a filtration system the capital’s de-salination plant, then the only one in the country. Here seawater is turned into drinking water that the Public Works Department sells to homes and businesses. Even though practically all structures have water catchment systems to collect precious rainwater, Tuvalu’s primary source of drinking, bathing and washing water, water scarcity is a constant problem in Tuvalu.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange38.jpg
Vix Kfuli, a water delivery truck driver for Tuvau’s Public Works Department (PWD) waits for his trucks 2,000 gallon tank to fill at Funafuti’s de-salination plant. Once the truck is filled he and his colleagues will make deliveries all over Funafuti, filling patrons' water tanks.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange39.jpg
World Water Day was marked with an expo in the Vaiaku maneapa where the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Pacific Adaption to Climate Change (PACC) presented facts and activities on a variety of water issues such as effects of waste on the ocean and marine life, the importance of boiling water, water conservation and more. At one of the stations demonstrators taught school groups the most effective ways to wash your hands and stressed the importance of doing so to prevent the spread of diseases. March, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange41.jpg
Siaosi Finiki, 77, has tended to a plot of root vegetables called Pulaka for 40 years. In this Pulaka pit on Fongafale, Funafuti's main islet. Finicki recalls that there used to be 20 families who tended to crops there and now he reports that he is one of a few remaining. There may be a dwindling interest in Pulaka farming on Funafuti, which takes time, but crop failure could also be blamed on increased in flooding and possible higher salinity levels in the ground water.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange40.jpg
Siaosi Finiki, 77, tends to his pulaka crop plants morning and evening as he has for over 40 years. Finiki recalls that about six years ago he started to notice that his plants weren't thriving as they had normally and he raised the beds, which seemed to work. Pulaka always thrived in Tuvalu’s brackish ground water, but some think the salt levels in the soil has increased. The traditional diet in Tuvalu is based on fish, coconuts and starchy vegetables like breadfruit, taro and pulaka. During a conversation about climate change and the future of Tuvalu Finicki noted, "We have to make up our mind whether to migrate or build up... It's a pity, if we move away we lose our way of life, our custom will vanish completely."
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange42.jpg
Banana plant seedlings from all over the Pacific have been brought to Tuvalu by an initiative of The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The program is introducing different banana plant species to see what can thrive.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_4ahktuvclimatechange43.jpg
Three-year old mangroves planted by the Japanese non-profit organization Tuvalu Overview grow in a tidal area on Funafala, an islet in Funafuti. The organization believes the trees will help to prevent erosion in the future.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange44.jpg
A bleached tree trunk lies on the shores of Tebuka, one of Funafuti’s islets about a 35 minute boat trip across the lagoon from Fongafale, Funafuti’s main settlement. Many people have noticed significant erosion on the islet and walking it's perimeter is a navigation of fallen trunks.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange45.jpg
Fallen palm trees lay in Nukulaelae’s lagoon
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange46.jpg
William Iliala waits for the signal to turn the switch at power substation One, which is one of five that control power for the main island of Tuvalu's capital. From 8:30 to 9:30pm on March 26th, 2011 Tuvalu participated in Earth Hour, a global event started in 2007 that creates climate change awareness by calling for a complete break from electricity usage for one whole hour. With a few exceptions, all electricity in Tuvalu's capital Funafuti was shut down in observation of the event.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange47.jpg
A long exposure taken during Tuvalu's Earth Hour dramatisizes the lights from motorbikes riding along the road parallel to Funafuti's runway.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange48.jpg
Children sleep soundly on the top floor of the three-story government building in Funafuti, Tuvalu's capital after the earthquake in Japan on March 11th sent tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific. In Tuvalu, an evacuation warning was issued predicting a tsunami would hit Funafuti around 1:30am. People calmly waited for news until the early hours of the morning when the warning was called off. Many residents said that they have evacuated for tsunami warnings before. March 12, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange50.jpg
On the day before the King Tide, the highest tide of the year, pools of water collect in the north end of Funafuti's runway as people go about their end of the day tasks, such as feeding the pigs, many of which are housed in pens on the ocean side of the runway. February 17th, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange51.jpg
Flooding doesn’t deter a game of volleyball in an enclave of homes in the in the Kavatoetoe neighborhood of Funafuti on the day after the King Tide. February 19th, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange52.jpg
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange53.jpg
Toward the end of cyclone season waves easily overcome a dock in the lagoon in the business area of Funafuti called Vaiaku. January, 2011
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange54.jpg
Seafarer Fatina Vaiafua, from the central Tuvaluan island Nukufetau, sweeps floating trash in an effort to keep it away from an enclave of homes in the south end of Funafuti. The trash comes from a former dump site a few dozen meters from the path dividing the two rows of houses. Though this is the king tide and therefore the highest of the year, He says he does this once a month as it floods during every high tide.
null
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_ahktuvclimatechange55.jpg
http://www.ameliahkrales.com/files/gimgs/4_tuvaluslide04.png