The Gustavian Weekly

Desperate Push for Relocation | The Gustavian Weekly

By Jordan Schwakopf - Opinion Columnist | January 22, 2016 | Opinion

Many Americans are unaware of issues that others around the world face. This is particularly true regarding the people of the Marshall Islands, who face devastating effects of climate change.

Many Americans are unaware of issues that others around the world face. This is particularly true regarding the people of the Marshall Islands, who face devastating effects of climate change.

As you read this, the world is suffering from the effects of global climate change. The oceans are becoming more acidic, plankton are dying at an unnatural rate, and entire species have gone or are going extinct within our lifetime. Brazil and Ethiopia are facing some of their worst droughts on record, with no end in sight. California is also facing water shortages following a four-year drought, with predicted El Niño storms more likely to cause flooding than cancel out the effects of the drought.

While all these problems continue to build in severity, one Pacific Ocean island system is calling to the United States for help, or at least a different kind of help than what they are already receiving.

Mainstream media and Congress are ignoring the relatively simple solution to this particular issue, so I would like to take the time to share some information about this issue that deserves far more attention than it is receiving.

Mainstream media and Congress are ignoring the relatively simple solution to this particular issue.

This island system in question, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, with a total land area comparable to that of Washington, D.C., is facing disaster on multiple fronts, yet I am willing to bet few people in the United States are aware of it.

The U.S. Interior Department Office of Insular Affairs, which coordinates federal policy regarding island systems in association with the U.S., reported in October of 2015 that the Marshall Islands have concerns about the livability of the islands due to increased frequency of storms that contaminate the local freshwater supplies and damage what few crops can be grown in the island conditions.

The report also mentioned issues with crowding, and now rising sea levels and higher tides are reducing the livable surface area even more. The Marshall Islands also have high levels of unemployment due to a lack of jobs, and children are often sent to the U.S. for better opportunities and access to quality education. These issues are not going to go away, instead they will only get worse, and the United States is currently in the best position to help.

If the Marshall Islands sound familiar to you, it is likely because the Marshall Islands, located between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, were used for U.S. nuclear testing from 1947 to 1962.

Specifically, the U.S. conducted nuclear testing on Bikini and Enewetak Islands, paying for the islanders living at those sites to relocate to a different island in the system, and formed a relocation fund to pay for future expenses associated with living on the different islands.

These issues are not going to to go away, instead they will only get worse, and the United States is currently in the best position to help.

Now, however, these islands are becoming unlivable, and the people of the Marshall Islands want to change the terms of the Compact of Free Association.

The Compact of Free Association gave the Marshall Islands independence after coming under U.S. control during World War II, but the Islands are prohibited from taking any actions that go against the interests of the United States, and must allow the U.S. unrestricted military access to the Islands.

This also means that the protection of the Marshall Islands is the responsibility of the United States. The Compact of Free Association also allows the people of the Marshall Islands to come to the United States as nonimmigrants to live, work, or go to college, but, for some outdated reason, the relocation fund cannot be used to offset the costs of coming to and living in the United States.

The 2010 US Census reports 22,434 Marshallese living in the United States as nonimmigrants, and this number has continued to grow as the Islands face growing environmental and economic problems.

With the laws already set up to welcome and encourage the people of the Marshall Islands to relocate to the U.S., all that is missing is the ability to use the money set aside for relocation purposes. Drastically affected by climate change, the people of the Marshall Islands are asking for the ability to use relocation funds in the United States with increased desperation, and it is about time we responded.

Drastically affected by climate change, the people of the Marshall Islands are asking for the ability to use relocation funds in the United States with increased desperation, and it is about time we responded.

Allowing the people of the Marshall Islands to use relocation funds to relocate to the U.S. creates a mutually beneficial situation. The money paid to the Marshall Islands will be spent in the U.S. as people move here, and the people of the Marshall Islands can escape the damages caused by climate change without losing the money they earned when the United States tested bombs on their islands.

The government will be paying the Marshall Islands the money regardless, and the people of the Marshall Islands are already permitted to live, work and go to school in the U.S. as nonimmigrants, so why not combine the two policies into one policy that benefits everyone?

The U.S. Interior Department Office of Insular Affairs is currently proposing that Congress introduce legislation to allow the relocation funds to be used here in the U.S., but so far no progress has been made, and no bills have been introduced regarding this issue. Maybe more progress could be made, on this issue and many others, if more U.S. citizens were invested in the well-being of their fellow humans, or if more people paid attention to politics beyond headline-worthy news.

The issue getting ignored are still affecting people, even if the media neglects to discuss them.

I am not saying the discussion of divisive issues isn’t important, but I am saying that the issues getting ignored are still affecting people, even if the media neglects to discuss them. I don’t have a solution for changing this situation, nor can I claim to be knowledgeable of every issue affecting the world today, but I know that I am trying to be more aware of the world around me outside of mainstream media influence, and that is the first step.