Monday, June 27, 2011

Nauru, the paradise island being swallowed by the ocean

Endless hours of travel have left me more than a little raw.

The 12-hour layover in Australia's Brisbane International Airport is a whiz-bang. I find myself shopping for crystal unicorns and staring at duty-free liquor. Two entire shifts of employees come and go while I down 14 shots of espresso.

It's 14 hours from California to Australia, then one more flight to Nauru.

Where? Exactly. It's a tiny island nation about 1,800 miles from eastern Australia. It's in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, beyond Papua New Guinea, beyond the Solomon Islands. If the world were flat, this might be the last stop before you fell off.

Nauru first hit my radar as the last country that CNN iReport waited on to complete its Global Challenge, a race to net an iReport story from every nation on the planet.

Soon, Nauru will also hold the chair of the U.N. Alliance of Small Island States, a group of 43 countries working together to slow climate change.

It's a new role for Nauru and its 9,000-some inhabitants. They'll be the voice of places like Tuvalu and Kiribati, tiny islands that might well be erased by rising oceans; tiny islands trying to make the case to the world at large to cut emissions and extend the Kyoto Protocol, lest the ocean swallow them up. (read more)