Interview Territory Magazine 08

Tuvalu is the world’s smallest and most remote island nation. This collection of four reef islands and five atolls located midway between Australia and Hawaii, is slowly sinking under the rising seas caused by global warming, even as industrialised nations continue to pollute the air we breathe by mining and burning more fossil fuels.

Juriaan Booij uses a simple but effective method of design to promote awareness of these problems. The project consists of a book, website and documentary which give an insight into the traditional life, culture, customs and unfortunate future of the people of Tuvalu.
Juriaan gets the island’s inhabitants to write or draw with pen, pencil and ink on paper sheets and takes pictures with of them holding their work. Each placard speaks a simple but straightforward message, such as “Climate change in Tuvalu is getting very serious” and “Sea level, it’s a sad story about the sea arise because I love my peaceful land the approvement of the sea level searching is true, PLEASE HELP US”.
Through these media, a global audience, alongside Tulavuans who are banned from their homes, watch their homelands wash away, making us unwitting witnesses to one of the most dramatic climate change events so far.


What do you think will be the effects of Tuvaluan cultural identity relocating to another country?

Without their home islands to anchor them, their beliefs and cultural identity will probably be lost. It would imply the irreplaceable loss of the island’s unique traditional skills and knowledge, including agricultural technologies and long-established societal arrangements. The islands are their life and soul and the connection to the land and sea makes up an indispensable element of local cosmology.
Within the coming decades the atolls of Tuvalu will almost certainly revert to sandbars and then nothing. Making the name Tuvalu, like Atlantis, fade into myth. The ideal solution would be to move the entire population to another island, so they can stay as a group, this way making their culture survive. But where do you find an island to relocate 11.700 Tuvaluans?


What would you like to say to world leaders such as George Bush and John Howard who have a very public voice, globally and regionally, in the regulation of climate change?

That climate change could result in a global catastrophe in a near future, but that is something they already know. The wide gap between Tuvalu’s global share in greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences it faces because of climate change brings forward the question of responsibility. The United States and Australia are the single largest and largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gasses. They have further failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Recent events around the globe like melting ice sheets, more frequent and violent heat waves, storms and flooding, are evidence that major parts of our economic system are not in balance with the environmental reality. We have the resources and technologies to move on to a more intelligent and sustainable balance. We only require the will to address the challenge, to inform ourselves, to consciously make adjustments in our attitudes and consuming habits, particularly in our use of fossil fuels. That’s why we need to elect representatives to the government whose records reflect ongoing concern for the long-term health of the planet.


Would you like to put the rich white businessmen who profit out of coal and petrol burning on a sinking island and see how they felt as the water crept into their homes?

That would be interesting. According to its inhabitants, the unusually high or "king tides" where once rare for the islands. They now occur every year.
As I witnessed one of these king tides, the feeling I had was fear mixed in with the fascination of watching it happen. Saltwater bubbled up through the porous coral island bottom, flooding main parts of the island. You can imagine the idea of Tuvalu being wiped of the map must be like a constant Damocles Sword for the inhabitants of Tuvalu.
So if you need to move the rich white businessmen to a drowning island to make them understand, that their way of living causes huge environmental problems, that would be quite a good solution.


How did you first come to start on this Tuvalu project?

The first time I heard of Tuvalu was when I read about it in the newspaper. I had never heard of the country, let alone I knew where it was. It said the country is in danger of disappearing beneath the waves due to the effect of global warming. A few years later I was on board a small propeller plane on my way to the capitol island of Tuvalu. I went to this frontline of climate change, to get a real sense of the impacts on the nation. From an idealistic point of view, but also as a graphic designer. By the use of film, photography, text and illustration I was able to bring the story without using abstract numbers or future scenarios, but give it a real face. Tuvalu is symbolic for the rest of the world, I wanted to capture it before it’s gone.
Second of course was the fascination I had for the place itself. It’s the smallest and most remote country on earth, barely noticeable on the map. The adventure appealed me, to live there for a couple of months. Who doesn’t want to spend time around white sand beaches and turquoise waters? And what a waste it would be…


Tatou ne Tuvalu Katoa
We are all Tuvaluans


Territory Magazine 08

Territory is a quarterly  art and design magazine that is focused on featuring artists. Every magazine has a different theme. In this issue the theme is the art of the artificial. The magazine is sold in select book stores spanning the globe.


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