The customary Fijian greeting, bula, doesn't mean "hi" or "how's it going?" It means "life," and while that may sound quaint, it's also bittersweet given Fiji is sinking.
The island nation's low-lying seaside villages are bearing the brunt of climate change. A year after being the first community to be relocated due to encroaching seas, the villagers of Vunidogoloa are relieved to be away from the surging tides that would flood their township after their sea wall failed. The village was moved a mile and change up a hill on land that the village previously used for crops.
Other threatened areas include the Kubulau peninsula of Karoko, as well as Vunisavisavi, where the sea water reaches their doorsteps when tides are particularly high. Nukui village, an hour's boat trip from the capital, is protected for the time being by a sea wall, while on the other side of the village, the tide causes the river to burst its banks.
According to scientists including [rofessor Elisabeth Holland, author and director of the Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific, the sea has risen faster over the past decade than at any time in the last century. "By mid century, on the current emissions trajectory, sea level is projected to rise an additional 30 millimeters [two inches] for a total sea level rise of about a half a meter [one and a half feet]," she told VICE.
Spending time photographing these communities, their reactions to the crisis were mixed. Some were frustrated that various NGOs had come and discussed relocation but nothing had come of it. The sense of who was to blame also varied. Some villagers weren't aware of the causes of climate change, only that it was happening. The more educated ones, such as the teachers, knew where emissions were coming from and how this was affecting the climate.
Pacific Islanders, however, are not ones to complain. This is particularly true of the villagers I spoke with, who were very laid back and cheerful people. These attributes, as well as their resilience, will be tested as the waters continue to rise.
For more on climate change and how it affect sea levels, watch our new VICE HBO episode, "Our Rising Oceans."