Local weather Activist Vacationers are Serving to to Save Fijian Mangroves • Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Imagine flying thousands of miles to a tropical island so you can spend all day digging holes.

Fijian tourists help islanders adapt to climate change

By Emily Woods
Updated January 8 2024 – 5:05am, first published 5:00am

But under the surface of this tropical paradise is a vulnerable archipelago living through the daily impacts of climate change.

Rising sea levels have caused saltwater intrusion, depriving some Fijian communities of their freshwater sources.

“We have some vulnerable communities, so we’re trying our best to adapt whatever we do to this current climate change,” Ilisapeci Botevou told AAP, while planting mangroves with dozens of tourists on the island of Senautari.

Mangroves protect Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands from rising sea levels, trap 10 times more carbon than other trees and are a source of food as a breeding ground for fish, mud crabs and oysters, Ms Botevou tells the group.

She hands out roots, from adult mangrove plants, which are then plunged into the shallow sea water and covered with stones to stop the seedlings from moving when waves and currents come in.

Read more: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/8478860/fijian-tourists-help-islanders-adapt-to-climate-change/

I visited Fiji just before the Covid epidemic.

My overall recommendation, if you visit stick with the tourist resorts. I went walkabout in Suva, or rather asked the taxi driver to take us to a local cafe so we could see how ordinary people live. In my opinion Suva is one of the most dangerous place I’ve ever visited, far worse than more famous dangerous places like Manilla in the Phillipines. The taxi driver and the people in the cafe were decent, they warned us not to walk on the street. The driver stayed in his taxi with the key in the ignition, so he could move if things got tense. When we walked onto the street briefly to get back to our taxi after spending half an hour in the cafe, a gangster who’d been watching us from across the street started approaching, then changed his mind – I was too big, and he knew I knew what he was thinking, so he didn’t have the element of surprise. Thankfully he hadn’t had time to round up a crew, and didn’t have a gun. We got lucky, maybe by only a few minutes.

I had a interesting conversations with the people I met, my impression is most Fijians are decent people who are trying to live normal lives in difficult circumstances. One conversation was particularly interesting, we bumped into someone who was highly educated, who was happy to talk about the local situation. He told me about why Fiji is so messed up.

The problem is twofold, their corrupt government and the drug Kava. Kava is legal in Fiji because it is a cultural drug, like coffee or beer, or coca leaf tea in some South American countries. 2-3 cups of Kava prepared the traditional way gives the drinker a moderate buzz, much the same as 2-3 glasses of strong wine. But drug dealers have taken advantage of this cultural acceptance, and now sell Kava concentrate, which from what I saw is as dangerous and addictive as concentrated cocaine. Many of Fiji’s teenagers are hooked on Kava, because in the train wreck Fijian economy, weighed down by government corruption, there is very little opportunity for the kids. So instead of trying to find a job, many teenagers spend all their time getting wasted, selling themselves or committing burglaries or mugging people to pay for their drugs.

The Kava concentrate shops in Fiji are obvious – they look like jail cells, they are the shops with heavy steel doors and steel window frames with bars on the windows. That glass looked really thick when I had a look at one up close, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was shatter resistant glass. The shop wasn’t open when we looked, but I’m guessing they had armed guards during opening hours. Given the meagre local income, they must sell a lot of Kava concentrate to make it worth paying for all those expensive protective measures. A lot of the locals would like these shops shut down – but the drug dealers have lots of well connected friends.

You know what? Deluded greens flying thousands of miles to plant a few mangrove roots probably aren’t hurting anyone, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the locals dig the roots up afterwards and hand them to the next bunch of tourists – much easier than walking a couple of miles through a nasty swamp and chopping fresh roots. But I doubt they are contributing significantly towards genuinely solving Fiji’s real problems.

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