Panamanian island dwellers prepare to leave ancestral homes - 24 Jul 2010  
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For the indigenous Kuna people, who have lived for hundreds of years on islands in an archipelago off Panama’s northwestern coast, the increasingly intense effects of climate change such as stronger winds, storms and higher tides are now leaving them in ankle- or knee-deep water, often for days on end. Their situation has also been made worse by the harvesting and acidification of many offshore coral reefs, which previously provided protection.

Sea level rises of up to 59 centimeters have been forecast by the United Nations to occur by century’s end.
However, those calculations did not account for what is now known to be the accelerated melting of vast ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, and scientists more recently warned that the seas could rise two meters instead.

Thus, with the prospect of conditions only worsening, some of the islands’ 32,000 people have begun to prepare for a move to the Panamanian mainland. In other areas of the world, communities on island nations such as Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji have already had to relocate due to rising sea level effects such as inundation of buildings and salt water contamination of crops.

Hector Guzman, a marine biologist specialist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama states, “This is no longer about a scientist saying that climate change and the change in sea level will flood (a people) and affect them. This is happening now in the real world.” We send our prayers for the strength and resiliency of the Panamanian Kuna people at this difficult time. 

May we all heed such warning signs from science and nature alike to act quickly in sustainable ways and
avert the loss of lands, cultures and lives.  
Supreme Master Ching Hai has on several occasions spoken of the devastating effects of rising sea levels and
how to address this urgent matter, as during an October 2009 videoconference in Indonesia.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: The threats imposed by global warming are more than imminent; they are already here, as you can see through many disasters, upheavals, climate refugees, phenomena around the world.

It’s the rising sea levels as well that force people to lose their home, their ancestral home, to go begging elsewhere; losing also their dignity, losing everything, not just physical possessions, but losing their loved ones as well.

We must change while there is still time. So please, everyone, plant veg, be veg and we can go green later when we’ve already saved the planet.