global warming the pacific islands top issue for 2008

nasa satellite image of an island, rarotonga, in the midst of a globally warming ocean.
by jason brown, editor, avaiki news agency
Exactly 365 days ago, this agency predicted global warming becoming the top issue for 2007.
So it proved.
Heating up environmental politics the most was the Al Gore documentary, an Inconvenient Truth, the forth highest grossing documentary in United States history, gathering $49 million worldwide.
Interesting to note, then, the first three.
Two of the documentaries belong to the man who reinvented the documentary, Mike Moore and his Fahrenheit 9/11, in first place, and Sicko, in third, exposing realities behind the so-called war on terror and the United States massively powerful 'health' industry.
The second, surprisingly enough, comes from the French, attacked in the United States as cheese-eating surrender monkeys by right-wing militarists, only to see themselves mocked with the same phrase as the Iraq war turned into anything but a 'mission accomplished.'
March of the Penguins was an astonishingly well filmed and apolitical documentation of the lives of some the globe's southern most creatures.
Like the rest of the planet, penguins now face a collapsing global environment, natural planetary cycles accelerating under breakneck levels of economic expansion.
Success of the documentary points to a more reassuring sign - an even faster growing fascination with what's wrong - and what's right - with the planet.
These trends are set to continue in 2008.
Especially, finally, in the Pacific Islands. Election of a new government in Australia quickly saw stubborn refusal by the Howard government to sign the Kyoto Protocol fall away.
Observers doubting whether new prime minister Kevin Rudd will make any difference across the region may be in for a surprise.
Penny Wong is the new minister for Climate Change and Water, the first openly gay member of an Australian cabinet.
Born in Malaysia, her political background tends more towards activism and union concerns than global warming, first running for the Senate in 2001. But it is a background that led her to take over, in June 2005, as shadow minister for Employment and Workforce Participation, and for Corporate Governance and Responsibility. In December 2006, 12 months ago, this was changed slightly to shadowing Public Administration & Accountability, Corporate Governance & Responsibility, and Workforce Participation.
Obviously a quick learner, Wong, 39, accompanied the new prime minister to the world's latest and biggest conference, in Bali, on international climate change talks, making enough of an impression globally as an Oz factor to chair the closing days of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
It is a short way from her law and art student days as a part-time worker at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
Experiences at the literal coalface of modern industry equips her well to address the symptoms and causes of global warming. So too in politics, issues of corporate governance and public accountability being increasingly recognised as two sides of the same coin. Yes, our oft-repeated issue of corruption. Her track record suggest potential for meaningful progress than the right-wing corporate correctness of the ineffective Howard administration, hopeless at most things other than misrepresenting public opinion.
Are Pacific Islands ready for a sudden and possibly dynamic change of direction in global climate politics?
Almost certainly, the answer is a resounding no. The Pacific Islands, after all, have had lashings of aid thrown at them for all sorts of climate activity, except where it counts most: at the senior policy level.
SPREP, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, for example, currently features a website frontpage about protecting a rare bird in Samoa. Four years after the current website was first published, however, there is still "no project" for Policy Development on Climate Change.
This blogsite has been a noted critic of Australia and its policies in the past, along with those of New Zealand, as hopelessly ill-advised when it comes to the region.
Expect that to change, as the Pacific Islands move into post-Howard years, and as the sand runs out on the even more disastrous Bush II administration.
In the final hours of 2007, it is predicted here that 2008 will be a year of astonishingly positive change, thanks to voters finally waking up to where decades of unrestrained growth is leading us all.