With even the Pentagon now facing up to the reality of the threat of climate change, we might spare a thought or two for those who are likely to first feel its effects. The people of Tuvalu may have the unhappy distinction of becoming the world's first climate-change refugees. Trouble in Paradise is a snapshot of their increasingly precarious life.
The group of Pacific islands known as Tuvalu constitute the world's second smallest nation, after the Vatican. Its 11,000 inhabitants are spread across nine islands whose surface area is less than that of Manhattan. The average income is around $1,000 per year. But, as this film clearly reveals, the God-fearing inhabitants of Tuvalu are proud and happy to live where they do, and seem to possess a keen insight into the benefits of a tranquil and unhurried life. There is no television; bingo and music are the most popular pastimes. Many earn their living from fishing the pristine waters that caress the shore.
Due to the effects of global warming, however, these same waters may soon engulf the whole country. The Australian National Tidal Facility has recorded a rise in sea levels of 4mm per year over the last ten years: most of Funafuti, Tuvalu's largest island, lies a mere five feet above sea-level. The rising seas have contaminated fresh water supplies, making it necessary for most families to start using water butts. Crop growth has been hindered by the encroaching seawater, which occasionally comes up through the ground. Whereas floods used to only occur at high tide in February, they are now occurring on an almost monthly basis. Typhoons have become more frequent. And erosion is a major problem: several smaller, uninhabited islands have already disappeared entirely.
It is disturbing to think that Christopher Horner and Gilliane Le Gallic's film may one day be watched as a sort of time-capsule, a portrait of a nation (and member of the Commonwealth and the UN) swallowed up by the sea, the first victim of the unsustainable lifestyle of some of the world's people.
Trouble in Paradise ends with the phrase “We are all Tuvalu” - and in many ways, this tiny country is a microcosm of our whole planet, since its inhabitants face the same environmental dangers as all of us, yet far more tangibly and urgently than most of us can imagine.