Warming will destroy island tribes


The atmosphere on the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union Wednesday night was jovial and… The atmosphere on the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union Wednesday night was jovial and welcoming, but the people who gathered focused on serious and politically charged issues of global warming, the violation of human rights in other countries and the world’s need for change.

Sponsored by Pitt’s Office of Cross-Cultural and Civic Leadership, the human-rights-themed event was designed to educate students about the adverse effects of global warming and what can be done to help prevent it from progressing.

Michael Roman, a former Peace Corps member who now works for Pitt’s department of anthropology and public health, facilitated the event.

“If someone walks away tonight with just an energy-efficient light bulb, that’s great,” Roman said prior to the start of his presentation.

Roman discussed the many ways in which all individuals can help prevent the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. He listed simple tasks like driving less, recycling more, checking tires to improve gas mileage, using less hot water and planting trees.

Roman advocated the use of Pitt buses as an easy way to reduce gas fumes. He also recommended that people use electricity providers with “green energy” – energy produced without the use of fossil fuels.

Roman focused his talk on the tiny country of Kiribati, formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, and the atoll on which he was stationed during his work in the Peace Corps. Roman described how global warming has seriously impacted the lives of the island’s inhabitants because of rising sea levels, severe weather conditions and seasonal changes.

These issues have caused the atolls to erode and shrink. Roman demonstrated this problem in an activity that required participation from the audience of roughly 20 students.

Colorful mats surrounded by cones represented the island. Roman instructed all of the students to squeeze together onto the small mats. He blindfolded one person, ordered another to stand on only one foot and slowly limited the colors the students were allowed to stand on until the jumble of bodies could no longer remain standing in the tiny space.

Roman explained that the mats represented the shrinking island. The two students who played the game handicapped represented health issues such as blindness, diabetes, diarrhea, tuberculosis and malaria, that can be caused by poor living conditions, indirectly resulting from the effects of global warming.

Roman said the United Nations has continually ignored aid pleas from the people of Kiribati.

“Those people are not the ones making the problem, but they are the ones suffering the problem,” Roman said.

Eliada Nwosu, a graduate fellow for the international component of the Office of Cross-Cultural and Civic Leadership, supervised the event and said that the office sponsors three events per month, and each month has a unique theme.

“Next month’s theme is building meaningful relationships,” Nwosu said.

Huiping Xie, also part of OCCCL, said the organization focuses on programming, training, mentoring, advising and building a supportive environment.