The president of this island nation just gave an unusual thank you for a sobering reason.

Islands don't have to be underwater to become uninhabitable.

The only country with parts in all four hemispheres, Kiribati, sits in the middle of the Pacific, straddling the Earth's equator.

It seems nice — the beaches are white-sand-and-palm-trees scenes right out of a travel guide. Just over 100,000 people live on its 33 atolls and islands.


South Tarawa, Kiribati's capital and most populous area. Image from Government of Kiribati/Wikimedia Commons.

But its president just thanked Fiji for helping them be able to leave this paradise.

“It's so heartening to hear that Fiji has undertaken to accommodate our people of Kiribati in the event that climate change renders our homes uninhabitable," said Kiribati President Anote Tong during a speech at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, as reported by Adam Vaughn from The Guardian.

Fiji is nearly 2,000 miles away from Kiribati. Traveling that far is like moving from Los Angeles to Chicago.

So why would 100,000 people need to abandon their homes and travel across the ocean to an entirely new country?

Because for them, the climate talks have come way too late.

Kiribati, though beautiful, is pretty poor, and local diets are often supplemented by crops grown in the atolls' thin, sandy soils. Of course, you can't grow plants in seawater, so much of the water for drinking and irrigation has to come out of a thin underground reservoir of rainwater.

But Kiribati's average elevation is less than 6.5 feet above sea level, so it doesn't take much for a large wave or storm surge to flood one of its islands.

Image from Erin Magee/DFAT/Flickr.

And when the sea rises over the land, that layer of freshwater can become polluted with salt. People can't drink it. Plants can't grow in it.

These palm trees, starved of fresh water, have turned into a forest of ghosts. Image by Government of Kiribati/Wikimedia Commons.

People can't thrive in a place with no food and clean water.

Malnutrition is becoming a serious problem in Kiribati. And it hits kids especially hard. A UNICEF report stated that 15% of children under 5 on Kiribati are underweight. This can stunt growth and make it harder for them to fight off illnesses.

This is just one effect of climate change. I'm not even getting into the other problems flooding and sea level rise can cause, like the destruction of houses or drowning risks.

Islands don't have to be underwater to become uninhabitable.

This is one of the things about sea level rise: A little bit doesn't look that serious. After all, the islands are still above sea level, aren't they? But islands don't have to be underwater to become uninhabitable.

Hence the evacuation plans.

President Tong has been outspoken about this existential threat for years. He's been building seawalls, protecting marine environments, and giving speech after speech. Even so, he's accepted the fact that Kiribati may soon be gone.

“We have to relocate people because the landmass is going to decline. That's common sense. Simple common sense. ... I can say that I refuse to move, but that's being stupid isn't it? Because it will not be me that will be affected. It will be my grandchildren," a March 2015 report from The Guardian quoted Tong as saying.

President Anote Tong meets with U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely in 2013. Image by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet/Flickr.

In 2012, he said he was in talks with Fiji to buy land for resettlement. This latest speech in Paris seems to confirm some sort of deal has come through. He also has a program to help the people of Kiribati leave and get job training in other countries such as New Zealand.

Climate change is going to end up forcing a lot of people out of their homes.

This wouldn't be the first time islanders have had to move because of the sea, but it would be the first time an entire nation was evacuated.

Some of the people of Kiribati are worried about whether their national culture will survive or be absorbed by Fiji's.

"Let us not pay lip service to an urgent and pressing issue."

Of course, Fiji may have its own climate change problems to deal with. Other island nations such as the Marshall Islands and the Maldives may also be under threat.

"For those of us whose very survival is at stake," President Tong said Monday, “our plea is very simple: Let us give substance to the pledges that have been made. ... Let us not pay lip service to an urgent and pressing issue."

That's why Paris is so important: These aren't hypotheticals anymore.

President Tong has had to make some incredibly tough decisions, and his message deserves to be heard by more people. Listen to his urgent address here:

If you're looking for something more concrete to do, sign this petition from the NRDC to demand climate action from our world leaders and make sure voices like President Tong's are heard.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

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"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

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Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

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In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

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The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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