I have become used to daily reports in the press about fuel shortages all around the world. Asia in particular is suffering from acute diesel shortages in part because their electricity systems are inadequate and everyone is relying on generators to do business. This article, however, made me cringe.
It seems the tiny Pacific island of Rotuma has no running water because of a fuel shortage on the island. Rotuma who? That’s what I thought. Their own website is here and a respectable Wikipedia article here.
Why should this matter to us? Because these are our neighbours. When the basics of water for drinking and hygiene are not available, it’s not just inconvenient, it’s a major health hazard. It is insane that a basic infrastructure like this is dependent on shipments of fuel from outside, when localised alternatives are available and possibly cheaper.
If simple compassion is not enough to move you, consider who will most likely be picking up the pieces when their health collapses? Who will be dealing with poverty in the Pacific and forced immigration from such a situation?
I have no doubt that the island functioned well without reticulated water for most of its years of human occupation. But now the good people are used to reticulated water and could still have it in abundance without the need for fossil fuel.
This is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. We need to wake up and make sure that our nearest Pacific neighbours are ready for the shocks associated with peak oil.