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The Maastricht Diplomat

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A Drowning Dream

Welcome to St Vincent

Island full of Sand and Wind and the Scent of summer and salt

surrounded by the dancing waves

of the Caribbean Sea

blue and warm and full of life

you just have to close your eyes

and you can see

the paintings in the sand

created by innocent souls

only waiting to be taken away

by the infinity of a never dying ocean

Come and fall in love

with the rainbows covering the hills

where the coconuts and the bananas grow

and the colorful work of art

only visible when the sun goes to sleep

and the infinite beauty of the sunset unfolds

but getting closer you will come to see

that all the beauty might not reach as deep as it seems

you just have to open your eyes

and you will see

that there’s more plastic than sand

covering the oh-so breathtaking beach

Big white yachts in turquoise bays

floating on the water far above

fisher nets and empty plastic bags

that live together in the sea

where they agreed on taking turns

stealing the fish’s air to breathe

There is a message in that plastic bottle

tangled between trash and the weakly moving fin of a crying, slowly dying sea turtle

A warning about what our actions are gonna cause screamed right into our ear

by these voices we cannot seem to hear

because after a time that is still unclear

if the sea level keeps rising

then under the rising sun

St Vincent will eventually disappear leaving behind nothing

but a trace of what once was

There’s no way of denying it anymore

temperature increases and so does fear

because time runs fast and we can’t run

but it’s not too late, we have to change

so we don’t close the door

to a future full of possibilities

Welcome to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: at first glance, a small island nation in the heart of the Caribbean Ocean that with its palm-fringed beaches and a deep blue ocean appears to be paradise on earth. Every year, thousands of tourists visit the island to discover hidden waterfalls, explore the colours of the underwater world while diving or climbing the volcano - all of this to escape their daily concerns. But don’t be fooled. Behind this beautiful scene, thelocal people from St Vincent are far from living this untroubled and easy-going life. Instead, they are facing an uncertain future. Consequences of climate change such as rising sea levels, increasingly severe weather conditions, and the destruction of maritime ecosystems are threatening St Vincent and other islands in their entire existence. Even though island nations do not contribute significantly to the rising temperature in global comparison, they are by far the ones suffering the most from its consequences. What makes this even worse is that most of them do not have the financial resources to protect their country and citizens from these effects.

While the severe consequences of rising sea levels will become a painful reality for people living in St Vincent, it is unlikely that the island is going to disappear entirely. This fate might however await people from Tuvalu’s main island and capital, Funafuti. Scientists estimate that in less than thirty years, approximately half of the island will be swallowed by the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The question of what this means for Tuvaluans can hardly be answered, their pain too deep to be expressed through words.

“We are sinking”, was how Tuvalu’s foreign minister phrased it, standing knee-deep in the water to visualize the urgency of his country’s struggle. His emotional speech to the United Nations climate conference in 2021 was a call for action for an international response to the rising sea levels threatening small islands all around the globe. Highlighting the global consequences, he further emphasized that even though Tuvalu might be one of the first countries to feel “the dying effects” of climate change, eventually, everyone will be affected: “We are sinking, but so is everyone else”.

Two years later, Tuvalu, together with St Vincent and seven other island nations, is now seeking for help from the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea. They aim to determine whether greenhouse gases and the impact they have on the maritime ecosystems can be considered ocean pollution. Since most countries are legally obliged to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution through their signature of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, this could set a precedent for holding countries accountable for their contribution to climate change and its impact on the oceans.

Whether or not the consequences of climate change are covered by this Convention and what legal responsibility the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions have as a consequence, is currently being ruled by the court in Hamburg, Germany in what is being considered the first climate justice case aiming for ocean protection. Should the island nation’s claim be acknowledged, the responsible countries could face obligations including the reduction of their carbon-emissions as well as the protection of already damaged maritime ecosystems.

Irrespective of this case’s outcome, the question of moral responsibility still remains. Maybe, we, as the one’s causing these problems, should question whether our convenient living standard is worth risking other people losing their home, the home of their ancestors?

In the end, we must ask ourselves how we could possibly justify our actions being the reason why places like St Vincent or Funafuti might disappear forever?


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