Three Little Pigs: Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands: The tall tale of resilience

Pasifika could draw upon the story of the three little pigs to illustrate how Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands might be the very countries to stand up to the economic tyranny of eco-neoliberal efforts to devalue their homes.

Providing solutions for the climate crisis requires the collaboration of local communities, national governments, and international policy stakeholders. Currently, financially based climate solutions ultimately benefit the very same countries most responsible for the climate crisis. Whether aid-for-climate adaptation initiatives, insurance schemes, cap and trade, or blue/green bonds, these schemes are either unsustainable or predatory, systemically excluding people and communities from benefitting from advancing their own interactions with their environment.

Focusing on local methodological engagement as well as the slippery topic of political and economic self-determination, Intemerate Earth has produced an index to gauge countries that would most benefit from rethinking how we account for our ecological biodiversity while providing inclusive market solutions for local and sustainable well-being. For example, as we begin to produce indicators of National well-being, how we aggregate that data as a cooperative side table to adjust GDP, we could collectively build upon our economic capacity for resilience, adaptation, and/or mitigation.

The children’s tale of the Three Little Pigs is generally understood as a story of adaptation. One pig builds a house of straw that does little to protect him from the hungry wolf who will huff and puff and blow his house down. The second little pig assembles his house out of wood, once again succumbing to the terror of the wolf. The third little pig constructs a brick house that withstands the wolf’s advancements. The story concludes with the wolf being driven away by the resilience of the pig who had adapted technologies to stop the wolf’s aggression.

If this were a story about the predatory ambitions of international finance and the profit motivations of capitalism’s worst abuses, then the wolf would not stop at a brick house. The geopolitical ending would result in the demolition of the brick house through either military force, legal shenanigans, or debt. The wolf in this story is a persistent predator and as long as we remain in this fairytale, the wolf will continue to find back doors and cunning motivations to get what he wants.

Pasifika could draw upon the story of the three little pigs to illustrate how Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), might be the very countries to stand up to the economic tyranny of capitalism’s effort to devalue their home. A policy consultant has described the situation of these three atolls as such, “Tuvalu has an amazing plan, but no money; RMI has an idea for a plan but hasn’t consulted and has no money; Kiribati has no plan but a ton of money!” Despite over a quarter-century of data measuring the fragility factors of low-lying countries, the very survival of these countries has been compromised by dismissive inaction, revealing how climate-based solutions have only been as good as profit-based motivations. By regionalizing alongside a multilateral system, a better outcome for the three little atolls would be to manage a market for their own ecological data, one that would provide better access and more capable technologies for resilience. People should benefit from their interactions with their environments as it is that value that is intrinsic to the ecological biodiversity of the region.

Presently, we are in a time when the hegemonic system of predator and prey could potentially be dismantled, giving way to a mutual understanding that the rules of nature need not be defined by privatization and predatory capitalism. Climate negotiations should be applying a notion of mutual fair play in market economies, where the rules of an economy reflect the well-being of straw dwellers, branch dwellers, and brick dwellers as they do economic predators. The ecological biodiversity of our planet is entwined with the economic stewardship of peoples, traditions, and communities and it is the interaction of these markets that should benefit from ecological services most.

If the wolf were the global capitalist institutions, the three little atolls would have little or no defense against the predatory advancements of large economies leveraging aid or citizenship for duplicitous resource or data management schemes. However, if the three island nations were to change the rules by adopting a regional plan that would altogether sidestep its relationship with the wolf, then we could begin to transition away from the predatory nature of spurious climate financing.

Financing mitigation and adaptation, the three atoll nations should consider a regional alliance where they would own their ecological data across their combined EEZs, and leverage that data to create the kind of infrastructure that would allow them to stay in their own homes, research and develop their own technologies, and develop their own accounting protocols to account for the value of environmental data that is both global, as well as locally owned and derived.

Profit and privatization motivate eco-neoliberal economies to undermine sound climate policy. Over the years, we are seeing both green and maritime protected areas created and normalized in the non-self-governing territories of the Pacific, and that includes the occupations and territories of Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States. The accounting of these large swathes of maritime areas is not owned, managed, or accounted for by Pasifika governments or the customary rights holders, rather they are for the benefit of the administering power. The creation of these maritime protection programs utilizes technologies developed by Department of Defense contractors and the environmental data is owned by federal agencies.

By itself, this may not seem like much, but that is because the little pigs are only concerned about mitigation and adaptation. As time goes by and severe weather becomes more and more of an issue of existence, the large economies understand very well that small economies will surrender their territories for citizenship. What the little pigs might not know is that how we account for our environment may soon be adopted into national accounting matrices.
But what if the three little pigs understood that sharks, a lion, and a bear would create a biodiversity of power that facilitates a program to determine their own future, whether straw, stick, brick, or reconstituted plastic waste, and devise their own resilience schemes?

Consider that the combined exclusive economic zone and total interior area (EEZ + TIA) of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the RMI is about 6.18 million square kilometers (an area in size between Australia and India) and that the combined population is about 183,000, this would put their population density at about .0004. As a reference, the population density of Australia is about 3.3 (population/area). When you consider the population index of an area of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and RMI and realize that the average GDP per capita is about $2,444 annually (compared to Australia at about $58,000) one should wonder if a new accounting scheme that embraces environmental stewardship would essentially raise the national accounting figures of the population several thousand percent, thereby affording these atoll nations with the ability to not only stay in their homes but to access the kind of financing that could produce technologies as inspired as Laputa, the floating island in Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

If left unchallenged, it may take decades for national accounting systems to fully transition from GDP to an SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Account), but for the smallest and most vulnerable economies to initiate that transition away from a unipolar market to a new multipolar market and begin to write the rules for what this accounting scheme should look like, financial benefits might be measured in years, if not months. Without an appropriate institution that is inclusive of the customary, indigenous, and national rightsholders, no market economy of any significance is possible, and all climate policy will be driven by the same hegemonic institutions and industrial entities that benefitted from exploiting and perpetuating our climate crisis.

Regime change is a threat that is more immediate than any typhoon and the huff and puff of the most militarized economies coupled with the manipulations of the media can topple nearly any government.

Adopting a multipolar financial scheme that would create a market for ecological data (one that is outside the rule-making processes of Wall Street) would have been impossible after the advancement of the 1991 post-Perestroika Washington Consensus that enforced a global economic and legal regime dominated by the United States and the international institutions.

While the unsustainable markets of this economy had been challenged, alternative systems were undermined by regime change, uprisings, sanctions, and any number of advancements that the wolf could muster. Regional groupings like the Bolivarian Alliance, BRICS, the EEU, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group had sought to provide economic stability outside the dominant sphere of the Washington Consensus and there have been many attempts to undermine these integrations through a litany of coups and assassinations reminiscent of the decade of decolonization in the 1960s. Even the containment and obstruction of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative is hypocritical and provocative, particularly as the debt of the advanced economies has far surpassed the GDP debt thresholds by trillions of dollars, far more than the collective debt of the developing countries. When you consider that trillions of dollars of debt can only be leveraged by militarized promises of private access and ownership, one must wonder why the relatively low debt obligations of developing countries should be an issue of concern to the stability of global markets.

It wasn’t until the 2008 financial collapse that fissures in unipolar global governance emerged, and a new multipolar system occurred with the rise of the BRICS economies. Having created an alternative operational system that can bypass US sanction power, currency exchange, and investor-state enforcement, the possibility for countries and economies to transition towards a more balanced trade and infrastructure development seemed promising. Unfortunately, as every government has become aware, regime change is a threat that is more immediate than any typhoon and the huff and puff of the most militarized economies coupled with the manipulations of the media can topple nearly any government.

But while the shroud of the wolf looms large, that should not prevent a new operational system that accounts for the management of our ecological biodiversity to occur. We should not have to surrender to Wall Street’s climate financing schemes to reverse climate change, particularly when the option for a fair and equitable transition is rooted in our very existence.