Kiribati is an island country made up of a chain of 33 islands in Oceania (the central Pacific Ocean). Though picturesquely beautiful and rich in unique cultures, the country is one of the first to suffer from the damage that climate change has done to our world. Ice caps, ice sheets, and glaciers are all melting due to climate change, causing rising oceans that threaten an island nation like Kiribati since most of their islands are less than seven feet above sea level (1). Already, two of their islands Abanuea and Tebua Tarawa are under water — they became fully submerged in 1999. Though neither of these islands were inhabited, Tebua Tarawa was popular with fishermen, who now can no longer take advantage of the island. Storm surges are another problem. The sea water that washes ashore during storms floods houses and kills crops. Kiribati soil is not very fertile or accommodating for agriculture as it is, and the salt from storm surges only makes it worse.

Climate change is also causing coral bleaching in the ocean — which in turn causes the fish population to decline — and spoils Kiribati’s fresh water sources. Fish are the main source of protein for the people of Kiribati; with their agricultural prospects looking bleak and their main source of protein diminishing, the people of Kiribati are running out of food. With less access to fresh water, health problems are growing. Typhoid fever, diarrhea, dengue fever, malaria, and leptospirosis are some of the most prominent diseases commonly found in places negatively impacted by climate change. Citizens have tried to build walls made of coral rocks in an attempt to keep the sea water out, but they are ruined in the high tide. The islands of Kiribati will not last much longer, and drastic changes need to be made if the islands are to be saved.

The government and citizens of Kiribati are working to find solutions to their imminent problem. Residents have started to take simple actions, such as moving towns farther inland and planting mangrove trees to keep storm surges at bay. However, these actions alone are not enough. One solution is to build houses on large floating platforms. The problem with this idea is that it would cost around $2 million (2). Considering that the cost of building floating platforms exceeds Kiribati’s GDP (2), this plan is not feasible. At this point, the best solution is to relocate elsewhere. Kiribati’s government bought land in Fiji and currently uses it to grow crops; they also plan to use it as a place to evacuate Kiribati’s citizens if the country does become submerged. The New Zealand government has also opened its borders and allows 75 (3) Kiribatians to migrate there per year.

The most unfair part of this entire situation is that Kiribati only contributes about 0.6% (4) of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, yet they are disproportionately being affected by climate change. While Kiribati is the one of the first countries to be harmed, it is only a matter of time before more countries are hurting. If climate change continues on its current path, cities as far inland as Los Angeles and London will eventually become submerged as well. Kiribati has joined with other island countries to fight climate change and are openly pushing for policies that cut down on the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted. Kiribati is working to save their islands, but they cannot do it alone. They need the support and cooperation of everyone. Climate change is not a problem that people can solve individually, we all need to work together to fight it.

(1) “Effects of climate change in Kiribati”. The World Bank, uploaded by The World Bank, 8 August 2021.

(2) Iberdrola, n.d., para. 8

(3) Iberdrola, n.d., para. 9

(4) Iberdrola, n.d., para. 6

Cover Photo: BBC Future

Do you know what the biggest salt lake in the western hemisphere is? It’s the Great Salt Lake, located in northwestern Utah. Unfortunately, the Great Salt Lake is drying up. The lake grows and shrinks in response to wet years and dry years, but it is at its lowest point in history this year. Usually, the Great Salt Lake gains about two feet of water per year; this year, it has only gained about six inches (McKay, 2021, para. 2). One major reason for this is that Utah’s population is growing, which increases the demand for water. Because there are more people and thus a greater demand for resources, more water is rechanneled away from the Great Salt Lake for use in cities. Climate change, causing hotter, dryer weather, is another reason for the lake drying up.

The Great Salt Lake drying up is a big problem for multiple reasons. The lower water levels of the salt lake hurts the $2 billion mineral extraction, brine shrimp, and cyst harvesting industries (McKay, 2021, para. 2). The tourism industry has also been hit hard by the Great Salt Lake (GSL) drying up, especially since the lake is a major tourist destination. Besides industry and tourism, Utah’s wildlife and residential populations are suffering due to the lack of water.

The Great Salt Lake is a unique and important ecosystem. It has an abundance of brine shrimp and brine flies, which are a nutritious food source for birds. The Great Salt Lake is also located along the path of a migratory trail for birds called the Eastern flyway—up to ten million birds gather at the Great Salt Lake each year (The Nature Conservancy, 2021, Part 1 para. 7). These birds use the Great Salt Lake for many different purposes: some birds use it as a breeding ground, others use it as wintering grounds, and still others use it as a break on their migration journey. No matter what the birds use the lake for, it is a means of survival to them, and if it disappears, their chance of surviving migration decreases significantly. While the birds are able to acclimate to different lake levels, it’s only so much. Changing lake levels cause changes in the birds’ feeding and breeding grounds. For example, nests that used to be protected by the water are now vulnerable to predators. Additionally, when the water levels decrease, the salinity of the Great Salt Lake increases. While the organisms living in the GSL are adapted to a certain level of salinity, they are not able to tolerate too much salinity. Some of the species that the birds eat are impacted and/or killed by the higher salinity level, causing increased competition for food among birds. The Great Salt Lake is an essential habitat for migrating birds and its lowered water level is already having consequences.

Brine shrimp are a species of tiny shrimp that live in the Great Salt Lake. Cysts are what their dormant eggs are called. Each year about 9,000 tons of brine shrimp cysts are harvested from the Great Salt Lake (The Nature Conservancy, 2021, Part 2 para. 12). Then, they are shipped to hatcheries all over the world to feed fish and shrimp that we eat. Close to 40% of the world’s stock of brine shrimp eggs come from the Great Salt Lake (The Nature Conservancy, 2021, Part 2 para. 12). The problem is, the rise in the salinity of the GSL threatens the lives of the brine shrimp. If the lake keeps drying up, it will keep getting saltier, which will eventually kill them off. This cannot be allowed to happen, not only for the sake of hatcheries, but for the sake of the ecosystem they support.

Another concern with the Great Salt Lake drying up is the release of the dust particles the lake used to cover. What used to be the lakebed becomes dust particles so tiny that they can get into a person’s nose, lungs, and throat. Once inside, they can cause cancer, heart attacks, asthma, bronchitis, and cardiac arrhythmias. These are serious health problems that can be prevented. At this rate, the Great Salt Lake will eventually need to be refilled in order to prevent the dust particles from getting out of control. This would be an expensive process. Owens Lake in California had to be refilled for the same purpose, and it cost more than two billion dollars (The Nature Conservancy, 2021, Part 2 para. 6). Refilling the Great Salt Lake would cost even more because the GSL is 16 times bigger than Owens Lake (The Nature Conservancy, 2021, Part 2 para. 6). This is a costly solution to a preventable problem.

Fortunately, people are starting to realize the importance of the Great Salt Lake. Different environmental groups are raising awareness of the problem and educating younger generations on the importance of the lake, and Utahns are becoming more conscious of their water usage. We still have a long way to go, but if we all pitch in, we can start reversing the damage done to the Great Salt Lake.




Cover Photo:

If you have a lawn in your backyard, you know that maintaining a perfectly uniform and green field of grass is incredibly hard. If you don’t water your lawn enough, the grass dies, but extra water is costly, both for your wallet and for the environment. That’s one thing I find so fantastical about professional sports fields like baseball and football: their turf is superbly manicured, but what was sacrificed for that picture-perfect grass?

San Diego is home to the Padres baseball team, who play at Petco Park located in downtown San Diego. Petco Park is one of 25 parks out of the 30 baseball teams in the MLB that use real grass as opposed to artificial turf. Each baseball field has approximately 120,000 square feet of grass (1). To give some perspective, the average backyard of a house in the US is roughly 10,000 square feet, meaning that the amount of water needed to water one baseball field is equivalent to the amount of water needed to water 12 backyards (2). That’s around 75,000 gallons of water for one field at one time. In addition to that, they sometimes have several games a week at the stadium, and the field is watered before every single game, which could mean watering it five times in one week!

While people at home have cut down on water use during the drought in California, Petco Parks and other baseball fields have not lowered the amount of water they are using on their turf. Although it is important for these professional teams to have good fields to play on, does it justify Petco Park and the other four baseball fields in California using all those gallons of water on the field while the state is battling a severe drought? Worse, Petco Park uses drinking water to irrigate their turf since the field is located downtown and is too far away from any recycled water distribution pipeline (3). All that water that has gone through the process of being filtered and purified is being poured back into the ground when recycled or grey water would more than suffice. Especially in Southern California, an already desert-like area fighting a severe drought, drinking water is very valuable and needs to be conserved.

So what could we possibly do to solve this problem of wasted water in Petco Park? One answer is one that some other teams have taken: artificial turf. It will be just as suitable as real grass, and you won’t get grass stains either! More importantly, it doesn’t need any water, so those gallons and gallons of water used to irrigate the field can be put to other use instead. Another solution is to use recycled water instead of drinking water; a new recycled water pipeline can be built closer to downtown San Diego to be used by Petco Park. The water could also come from all the residents and shops downtown whose water might have otherwise gone towards polluting the ocean. Both of these ideas may be expensive in the short run, but it is worth the cost in the long run for helping to limit the amount of water wasted and to lessen the severity of the drought and the environment as a whole while still maintaining a nice green.

One final suggestion would be to simply cut down on the amount of water used by Petco Park. The grass may not be as vibrant a shade of green, but at the end of the day, having clean water to drink is more important than a pretty field.




Cover photo: VAVi Sport and Social Club