from heroes to zero

stripey iceberg - an antarctic oddity pointing towards global collapse? EDITORIAL | COMMENT
by jason brown, editor, avaiki nius agency
Yesterday, we called for Fiji to grow up from its increasingly infantile preoccupation with its own little dramas of the day. Judging from the deafening silence, the comment hit a nerve. This is not to suggest Fiji suffers from any more immaturity than neighbours, each with their own childish controversies. Where this media outlet sees particular focus falling on Fiji is in it's regional leadership role and as a recipient of most of the regional-level aid for the Pacific Islands. Especially when it comes to global warming. Newspaper readers around the world were last week treated to a full page width photo of the latest sign of planetary stress - a striped iceberg. The New Zealand Herald helpfully exlained that this might be from dust and rotting vegetation eras ago. What it did not explain was what these stripes may represent - an icy continent melting alarmingly close to the borders of bedrock. Couple of years ago, former Samoa Observer editor Peter Lomas criticised what he saw as an overly fashionable preoccupation with hiv.aids, at the cost of more urgent concerns about global warming. At the time, the criticism raised eyebrows among those facing up to the realities of a disease spreading fast enough to claim one in every five people in Papua New Guinea inside of a generation. In hindsight, the newspaper's editorial was ahead of its time.
Last week's report calling for zero carbon emissions by 2050 is the latest in a series of reports calling for yet more reductions.
Taking a step back however, reveals emerging context - the utter collapse of timeframes surrounding impacts from global warming.
Not so long ago, less than five years it seems, a majority of scientists talked in terms of centuries and millennia.
Now, we are warned, action must take place within current lifetimes or face disaster by the end of the century.
Details of exactly what the scale of that disaster might be and who it will effect most are not easily gleanable.
What can be said with certainty is that in global terms the Pacific Islands rate very lowly in terms of awareness of impacts. Other countries discuss economic loss, human displacement. Pacific Islands face loss of entire islands, for low-lying states, sovereign extinction. Lack of awareness can be traced back mostly to a lack of cohesion among island nations which, as they do with hiv.aids, regard global warming as a distant threat. Why is it, for example, that Tuvalu remains the region's leading advocate of global warming concerns, far ahead of much bigger and better resourced neighbours? Fiji attracts more headlines through outlets like google news, but that is to be expected when the stories use Tuvalu as a primary example. In urging Fiji to grow up, this agency is not focusing just on a lack of political maturity, more the astonishing scale of the challenges facing us as a region. We're young, we are not particularly wise in the ways of the world, and, economically, the world tends to do to us as Fiji does on the sevens field - fast, furious and defiant of laws of nature. There are big stories, in other words, to be tackled, savagely. How to start? Forty years ago, popular culture lept forward to a planet focused far beyond its own earthly boundaries.
Instead of mysteries of interplanetary travel, however, 2001 is now remembered for an uncomfortably wide range of questions about the origins of a terrorism attack on the same country that inspired generations with visions of freedom, democracy and prosperity. Seven years later, the globe remains preoccupied with fallout from the deaths of 3,000 people in New York on 11th September 2001, on a planet where ten times as many people die every day from hunger and disease than could be solved with a snap of fingers in the same city. So, yes, global warming represents more of a challenge than hiv.aids, it can be said, but the same set of obstacles stands in the way of meaningful solutions - a postcolonial passion for divide and conquer and tactics. Clumsy context, to be sure, but Fiji media needs to aim higher than its current preoccupation with commander Bainimarama - or whoever else is next on the coup top 10. Already operating beyond the call of duty, Fiji media needs to learn how to fight smarter, not harder, in answering clear and present dangers not just to itself, but the whole of the region. Oh, alright, the world. Hopefully, it won't take the an iceberg floating into Suva harbour to wake up our media elites to those clear and present dangers - stripey or otherwise.