Small Island States - the canaries in the coal mine of Climate Change

Posted by muriel / on 06/25/2009 / 2 Comments

The Canaries in the Coal Mine of Climate Change

The songs of canaries were very important indicators for life and oxygen levels in coal mines. When the canaries stopped singing, the miners knew for sure that it was time to beat a hasty retreat from the mine. A singing canary signified life; a dead canary warned of impending or imminent danger.
What are the singing canaries as regards Small Island States? Are there many left? Or are there dying and dead canaries, indicators which are either not understood or ignored, thus affecting the need for immediate action or mass departures, mass flight from these countries vulnerable to Climate Change.
In a recent interview with Ambassador Chieck Sidi Diarra, on United Nations Yak ,, he shared what I would call some dying canary indicators for SIDS. Many countries that are termed least developed countries (LDCS) and land-locked developing countries (LLDCS) are reeling from the shocks of those crises which affect their food supply, their energy, and their ability to trade, among other issues.
Rapid spikes in the price of oil coupled with the 3F syndrome - food crisis, fuel crisis, financial crisis have affected enormously these 3 groups of countries -high prices affect imports as financial assets decreased resulting in import - export disharmony.
The situation has changed so dramatically that the Food and Agricultural Organization believed that about 70 million new people went hungry in 2008; the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals having been negatively affected as a consequence.
Given their position and situation geographically, SIDS, the 37 Caribbean and Pacific Island States and the 15 low-lying Territories (including the American and British Virgin Islands), face additional challenges relating to Climate Change. The potential negative impacts of a dramatic rise of sea levels can almost wipe out their existence. In the meantime, reduced tourism and services, scarcity of drinking water, erosion of land on which to live and to produce, etc., these are all potential consequences of the effect of Climate Change on SIDS, and to the lives and livelihoods of populations on these island states.

SIDS can be seen as the metaphor for canaries in the coalmine called climate change
Are the canaries still singing despite the fact that their oxygen levels are being depleted? Are some dying, or already dead?

 There is a need to marshall all efforts to support SIDS in their quest to remain alive, to keep the oxygen flowing so that there would be a plethora of singing canaries on the 37 Island States and 15 Territories that comprise Small Island Developing States.

Muriel Glasgow, June 2009


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  • muriel says:

    Please go to for more indepth information on Small Island Developingt States and their challenges

    July 11, 2009 at 4:00 AM | Permalink

  • caitlin says:

    Everyone should go visit these island states and see the devastation for themselves. I think that rising sea tides, which are occurring, are also a 'canary in the coal mine'. When visiting make sure to get proper International Health Insurance. Might even want to see about some Temporary Medical Insurance before you leave. International Travel Insurance might also be helpful when traveling abroad.

    November 22, 2009 at 3:40 PM | Permalink


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