'Losing one's identity'
At the same time, Olap said, for natives of his home, there is resistance to leaving. When he lived on Chuuk State, he served two terms as a representative in the Legislature. He offered a bill that would have created a task force to study how to move the population from the island because "water is coming, and there is no place for us."
The measure was defeated in a vote, he said, explaining that other lawmakers were concerned it would hurt them politically if they backed the bill.
There is similar push-back on other islands. Jocelyn Howard, from Micronesia, left home in 1989 and now lives in Hawaii. She last visited her native island in 1995. At the time, she said, grasses for cattle were dying, endangering food supplies. The then-mayor was talking about purchasing land on Guam for Micronesian residents.
"The people did not want to move from their island," Howard said. Most of her family still live there and want to stay. They resist the idea that it might become uninhabitable.
"People, they do see the impact of the eroding of the beaches, but not the reality of it yet," Howard said, referring to climate change. "They haven't comprehended it yet."
Howard worries about what's ahead. "There's going to be a lot of social impact. Losing land is losing one's identity."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500