165° E, Micronesia

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“We have nowhere to go.”

— Ben Namakin, Environmental Educator

The increase in sea level rise was very prominent in Micronesia in 2006. Namakin noticed the issues of greenhouse gas emissions early on and how it affects everything around us. As the oceans warm, the ice caps melt, creating sea level rise. The impacts of flooding result in coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, and destroyed infrastructures. The Island of Deketik is now two islands after the water created a divide where sand once was. The sad truth is that Micronesia’s emissions made up less than a percent of the globe’s total greenhouse gas emissions yet was one of the first places to be affected by climate change. Namakin traveled to the US to share the issues that we are facing today, hoping to make an impact on someone here so it doesn’t have a harsher impact on someone’s life elsewhere. 

In 2006, when Longitudinal Installation was first developed, many others were not sure if the rise in sea level was man-made or caused by natural cycles. Today, sea level rise has only gotten worse. The island of Nahlapenlohd has now completely vanished, which used to have a very large coconut forest. Surveys of 12 islands in the same area have shown that they have shrunk over the past decade, some having shrunk two-thirds of their original size over time. At this rate, they will likely be gone within the next decade. Islands in the west pacific are seeing so much detriment due to sea level rise since the levels in this region have risen 2-3 times higher than the global average. In Micronesia, the sea level has risen by around 10-12 mm each year. A lot of the reefs are eroding due to the sea level rise as well. Many islands that are thriving today may be inhabitable in the next 30 years and scientists warn there will probably be 3 or more feet of sea-level rise in less than 90 years with 6 1/2 more feet as the highest rise. Masao Nakayama, a permanent representative of the Federated States of Micronesia says, “The threat is to our existence, survival, not only as a people — as a culture. We now have just flat beaches — the wash comes in and hits the roots of coconut trees.”