The Island Nation Doomed to Disappear Within Half a Century

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Image: Jon Lewis

A young boy covered in mud in Kiribati

With its white, sandy beaches and coconut palms, Kiribati appears to be the quintessential island paradise. However, in a world threatened by rising sea levels, this tiny island nation in the center of the Pacific has been put in a precarious position.


Image: Jon Lewis

Men race model canoes in Buariki, North Tarawa.

These stunning pictures are the result of photographer Jon Lewis’ six-month stay on Kiribati’s atolls, during which he interacted with the local inhabitants, called I-Kiribati, and learned about their fascinating culture. Sadly, this culture, and indeed the whole of Kiribati, could be the world’s first entire nation to disappear thanks to climate change.

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Image: Jon Lewis

Anniversary dancers in the Eita Maneaba (community center), Tabiteuea.

“What we are looking at here is the eventual extinction of a distinct race of people, through loss of their home lands, and with it their vibrant social system and culture,” Lewis has said. “This is irreversible.” Kiribati president Anote Tong says that the nation will be uninhabitable within just 30 to 60 years, although the effects of climate change are being felt there already.

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