The Kiribati Project

A Human Approach to Climate Change



Why The Kiribati Project? (pronounced KEER-ə-bahs)


Kiribati is an island nation made up of thirty-two coral atolls, sixteen of which are inhabited with a population of 110,000 thousand people.  It is located in the Central Pacific Ocean where the International Dateline crosses the Equator.  It is about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.  The tiny islands are generally between 1/8 to 1/2 mile wide with an elevation no greater than 15 feet above sea level.  There is no running water or electricity except on the capital island of Tarawa.  The fresh water comes from very shallow wells which tap into a freshwater lens.  Essentially the fresh water sits on a coral / calcium rock bed that is just above the saltwater foundation.  This is a very fragile ecosystem and one of the most vulnerable places to feel the effects of polar / glacial melt and the rise of the ocean.  As a result, there are predictions that at the current pace of change in overall ocean levels, the Islands of Kiribati will be uninhabitable within the next fifty to seventy years.  Where will the I Kiribati people go?  What happens to the culture when the people leave their homeland? What about the millions of others who live on low lying islands throughout the world.  How will this migration of climate change refugees affect the rest of the planet?


How it Works:

Kiribati, and many other small developing countries are frequently unknown to most people and therefore ignored in the greater climate change discussions.  The Kiribati Project is dedicated to bringing greater awareness of vulnerable nations and people by partnering with schools and classrooms.   At the beginning of a school year students will learn about Kiribati and other similar countries where they are introduced to the people, culture and the effects of climate change on their lives.  However, The Kiribati Project is not only focused on awareness.  While awareness of places like Kiribati helps understand the impact of climate change, it is connections that help develop a stronger sense of how we are all interconnected.  Throughout the school year, and by utilizing the skills and connections of returned Peace Corps Volunteers (or others who have spent time in vulnerable nations), The Kiribati Project works with the teacher and students to partner with schools in those nations.  A classroom in Minnesota will be connected to a class in a country like Kiribati to begin a dialogue, exchange cultural information and  share what effects climate change is having on them, the community they live in, and their way of life. 


At the conclusion of the school year the students will present and share the information they have collected in a symposium. They then add what they have learned about the people and the culture to an archive site hosted by The Kiribati Project.