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Pacific 2nd prize: Ms. Elsei Tellei from Palau

The Republic of Palau is the nation which I hail from. It boasts a diverse array of wildlife and tropical vegetation, and is ranked among the world’s top dive sites because of its beautiful coral reefs. Unfortunately, urbanization in our islands, and other factors in other parts of the world, has brought climate change in the form of heavier and irregular rainfall patterns, unpredictable sea level changes, and most devastatingly, coral bleaching. These corals lose their life and their colors until they are nothing more than deadened rock. Then, the creatures which depend on these corals for shelter, such as smaller reef fish, die, and in turn the larger fish which prey on the small reef fish die as well, and the cycle continues on.

In my cartoon I have depicted the coral bleaching process. The black and white appearance of the land and city above the water represent the extreme heat caused by global warming and climate change. The city and cars, with the smoke issuing from them, in particular represent the urbanization which contributes to this warming. The top half of the reef, with Palau’s mushroom-shaped Rock Islands that appear to be sinking from sea level rising, has been colored in the same black and white manner to represent the coral bleaching. While the bottom half is still colorful and full of life, the distressed faces of the fish and sea life I have drawn suggest that it will not remain that way for very long.

This change in coral reefs is devastating not only from a tourism standpoint, but from a local perspective as well. Reefs where local fishermen throw their nets and their lines are growing emptier and emptier as the corals die. Even as I go swimming in my home state of Melekeok, I have noticed that the reef colors and diversity are not as vibrant as before, and more fish go missing every day. Obviously, climate change is decimating the most beautiful aspect of Palau. I strongly hope, for the future of our country and for our economic and cultural survival, that climate change can slowly be reversed and coral bleaching can stop.

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Taken on February 21, 2012