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The First Dots on May 5—Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands

Climate

350.org

By Aaron Packard

As the sunrises on Saturday, May 5, there will be a gathering held on Majuro Atoll—in the North Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands—unlike any other there before. The people there will arrive carrying large cardboard-cut-out dots, and as the sun creeps over the horizon, they’ll hold them up high while the local reverend will start chanting a prayer for the day.

It sounds like it could be some sort of local ritual, but rest-assured it’s not. It is in fact a sort of global ritual—a blessing for the hundreds of events across more than 100 countries taking place on that day for Climate Impacts Day. The dots are especially important—at each of those hundreds of events people will be holding dots up to in a bid to help the world ‘connect the dots’ between the recent deluge of extreme weather events and climate change.

Walking from one side of Majuro Atoll to the other takes just a couple of minutes, so over the coming decades residents will have to start planning for relocation to a place higher above sea-level. Already since 1993, they have seen of 7mm (0.3inches) per year—which is twice the global average. This is set to keep on increasing. But on Saturday, they’re raising dots to connect the fact that about one quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans each year is absorbed by the oceans. This extra carbon dioxide reacts with seawater and causes the ocean to become gradually more acidic. And this coupled with the increasing temperature of the oceans is and will continue to put a tremendous strain on coral reefs in the Marshall Islands. It’s those reefs that provide the food and livelihoods for much of the Marshall Island’s population. 

I arrived in Majuro on May 1 to be part of the opening ceremony on Saturday, from where we’ll be loading up footage to global broadcasters. There’s also a team of divers here who will be taking a dot down to a coral reef and getting footage with underwater cameras. But the other reason I have arrived in Majuro is that starting today we have an action packed two days of 350 climate leadership workshop.

One of our amazing organisers from Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Mary-Linda Salvador, has traveled with me as a facilitator-in-training so our partners in FSM—the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (who Mary-Linda works for) and the Micronesia Conservation Trust can continue training local organisers themselves. They’ve got plenty of momentum building in FSM. Just yesterday we wrapped up a 2-day workshop in Pohnpei with 35 young people. It was remarkable to see how many of the participants who may not have spoken in front of a large group before start to step up and speak their voice. By the end of the workshop, the participants were super charged for their action on Saturday and in the months and years ahead.

But back to here in Majuro Atoll and the Sunrise ceremony on Saturday—it’s no light task—because so many of the impacts we have seen from extreme weather in the last couple of years have devastated and killed, carrying a great cost to life on Earth. Remember the 20 million refugees from flooding in Pakistan, Thailand, Fiji and countless other places? The hundreds of deaths from the wildfires in Russia and Australia?

Joining a Climate Impacts Day event on Saturday, May 5 is one of the most important ways that you can help prevent this extreme weather from irreversibly tightening its grip on our planet. So check out climatedots.org and get your dots ready.

For more information, click here.

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