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King Tide: A Preview of What Rising Sea Levels Could Look Like


By: Brook Meakins, DrowningIslands.com

March 5, 2013 - As surrounding water levels continue to rise, some of the oldest island cultures and most idyllic natural landscapes are in danger of being washed away. For most of us mainlanders that's sad news, but for the people of those islands it's a tragedy. When their homes become uninhabitable, these populations will face forced migration, rapid loss of cultural identity, and the shock of entering modern, high-tech life. Some are beginning to take pre-emptive steps. Recently the Pacific island of Kiribati, which lies a little over 1,300 miles north of Fiji, announced that they are considering purchasing land in that country to accommodate future displaced islanders. Palau and other island nations have formed an expert advisory committee to bring the issue before the U.N. General Assembly. They hope to eventually go to the world court in the Hague to determine the legal ramifications of climate change under international law.


Brook Meakins, a thirty-year-old attorney, activist, and author of the blog DrowningIslands.com, is sounding the alarm about the plight of island nations. Along with her grassroots activism, Meakins hopes to eventually build the kind of legal infrastructure that can protect displaced island populations. Currently the immigration laws of most of the likely host countries, including the U.S., are woefully inadequate to the unique challenges that islanders will face if they are forced from their homes. According to present law, they would not fit the definition of "refugee," so the protections that flow from that status would not apply to them. They also don't fit into any of the existing immigration categories. "If any of these populations had to relocate today they would be in a legal limbo, with no way to gain recompense for their loss of livelihood and few resources for adjusting to a radically different lifestyle," says Meakins.

The government of the Marshall Islands turned to Meakins for advice on building legal strategies to aid their citizens in the wake of climate crisis. Meakins has also conducted fact-finding missions in the Maldive Islands, the Phi Phi Islands, and the Cayman Islands, where she has seen firsthand the impact of climate change, including flooding and erosion. She has partnered with grassroots organizations and local activists in a variety of island nations to fight global warming and build awareness of the threat to their existence.

On her blog Meakins chronicles the stories of islanders who are confronting the loss of their homes and way of life. "Those that have the smallest impact on the world's climate are carrying the brunt of climate changes impacts. Their struggles become less foreign and more crucial when their stories are told," she says.

Brook Meakins, attorney and activist, on how the recent King Tide gave us a preview of what rising sea levels could like.


Brook Meakins is an activist and attorney in Berkeley, California with a practice that specializes in providing legal assistance and advocacy for the populations of low-lying island countries who face imminent threat of climate-related disaster. She regularly visits and reports from endangered island nations, including The Maldives, Kiribati, Fiji, The Marshall Islands, Grenada, and many others.

Meakins has advised the government of the Marshall Islands on legal options and strategies to address the effects of climate change. She is a sought-after presenter at climate change conferences throughout the world and has participated in United Nations negotiations regarding the fate of islands off the coasts of Thailand and Panama.

Visit Brook Meakins at: www.DrowningIslands.com


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