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?