The earth is more than an environment we live in, it defines aspects of our culture, identities, and relationships. The greater meaning of Earth gives voice to an intrinsic responsibility to preserve and protect our world from future destruction. While it may be hard to realize climate change in developed countries from a more distant relationship with the environment, those of developing countries who depend on the land for life are hyper aware of global warming and other issues in climate change. The gap between experiencing and understanding climate change is a huge issue for many across the globe today. Western countries are generally more industrialized and commercialized therefore disconnected from experiencing climate change on a person level in nature. Yet, developing countries like Papua New Guinea whom depend on natural resources for survival are all too aware of the deadly implications of climate change. This gap does not discredit moral obligations to take care of the environment; it merely identifies areas of deficiencies. The intrinsic moral responsibility to care for the earth is not enough to take action. Instead, this obligation coupled with our dependency on nature for sustainable life creates the motivator for action. For example, staple food items like the taro root and banana for Pacific islanders are core parts of their culture intertwining nature with the daily life of a farmer, mother, or islander.
“In 2009, some residents of the Carteret Islands 80km off Bougainville became the first climate refugees following years of worsening storm surges and king tides”
As sea levels rise, Papua New Guinean islands like the Carteret Islands are hit hard by the pollution of crops and water via ocean waters. Worsening storms and king tides lend to infected water supplies from flooding. Over time, the staple foods and traditional actions or rituals associated with the harvesting, cooking, and consumption of those items are diminished as the food disappears from climate change. Other aspects of the culture change when rising sea levels sink houses, ruin gathering places, and force people to leave their homeland. The climate refugees of the Carteret Islands fled in 2009 to another area of PNG, the island of Bougainville. With a new environment came new ways of life and a change of culture. The integration of nature and culture along with the intrinsic moral obligation to protect the environment give motivation to take action against the depletion of the earth.
Nowadays, there are more environmental organizations distributed across the globe. In Papua New Guinea, the 350 PNG is a youth climate organization that aims to educate the youth of PNG about the effects of climate change. Originally created through Youth Against Corruption Association in 2013, 350 PNG is working to have one voice through youth in businesses, politicians, government, and many other organizations to fight climate change. 350 PNG is fighting rising sea levels increasing “at a rate more than double the global average, at 7mm per year”, increasing average temperature, acidic oceans, infrequent, intense storms, extreme rainfall, and climate refugees. Amid these environmental issues, PNG is degrading its natural resources through deforestation. The WWF, World Wide Fund for Nature, is one of the world’s largest conservation organizations involved in the deforestation issue in PNG with an office in Port Moresby called, “Western Melanesia Programme Office”. With over 70 percent of the island made up of forests, over 2 percent has been felled due to deforestation via logging, hunting, grazing, firewood collection, and monoculture plantations, the growth of one crop on a tract of land often demanding a lot of space and forestry.
The immense biodiversity of the country is depleted by the loss of natural habitats. Other effects of deforestation includes a loss of biodiversity, modified climate, and the loss of water cycling. As fewer trees populate the island, “less carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees, which accumulates in the atmosphere as a result of pollution. At the same time, there may be an increased presence of CO2 if trees are being burnt” Without as many trees, the water cycle may be effected since trees help reduce water pollution, increase evapotranspiration, the amount of water returned to the atmosphere, and combats erosion.
All of these environmental changes are working to create a different world than the one today. This change will perpetrate if not already everyday life through different food staples, gathering places, transportation methods, and many other aspects of culture. The only way to minimize environmental change and preserve our livelihoods is to take action.