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6 Minute English

Intermediate level

Island life: Is it paradise?

Episode 220616 / 16 Jun 2022

Introduction

Pacific islands like Tonga and Tahiti look like paradise! They have tropical rainforests, white, sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea. But in reality, life is far from perfect for these island communities. Rob and Sam discuss some of the many problems Pacific islanders face, whilst teaching you the vocabulary you need to discuss this topic!

This week's question

What percentage of the world's population lives on an island?
a) 11 percent
b) 15 percent
c) 20 percent
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

tsunami
large wave caused by an earthquake that flows inland causing death and destruction

handicrafts
skilfully handmade traditional objects like jewellery, textiles and pottery

vulnerable
unprotected, weak, open to harm

food security
the ability of a country to produce or obtain enough food to feed its population

heartbreaking
causing a strong feeling of sadness

get back on your feet
be okay again after having problems or difficulties in life

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript.

Sam
Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Sam.

Rob
And I'm Rob.

Sam
What do Britain, Greenland, Australia, Hawaii, and Cuba all have in common, Rob?

Rob
Are you planning your summer holidays, Sam? Or is it that they're all islands?

Sam
Right, Rob, they are all islands, but that's about all they have in common. There's as much variety in the world's islands as in the people who live there!

Rob
In tourist holiday magazines, Pacific islands like Fiji, Tonga and Tahiti look like paradise, with tropical rainforests, white, sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea. But in reality, life is far from paradise for these island communities. In 2022, the island of Tonga suffered a tsunami - a huge wave caused by an earthquake that flowed inland, killing people and causing largescale damage. The destruction was terrible and added to the continuing crisis of rising sea levels threatening the island's survival.

Sam
In this programme we'll be hearing some Pacific islander voices and, as usual, learning some new vocabulary too. But first I have a question for you, Rob. We already named some islands, large and small, but how much of the world's population, do you think, lives on an island?
a) 11 percent
b) 15 percent
c) 20 percent

Rob
Ooh, that's a tricky question! It can't be that many, so I'll guess a) 11 percent.

Sam
OK, Rob. I'll reveal the correct answer at the end of the programme. The South Pacific is home to thousands of low-lying islands dotted across miles of Pacific Ocean. With rising sea levels, it's predicted that many of these islands will simply disappear in coming years.

Rob
And if that wasn't bad enough, the effects of climate change are making life difficult for these island communities right now. The tsunami that hit Tonga left the main island, Tonga Tarpu, in ruins. One of those leading the clean-up was, Ofa Ma'asi Kaisamy, manager of the Pacific Climate Change Centre. She told BBC World Service programme Business Daily the extent of the problem.

Ofa Ma'asi Kaisamy
The projected impacts of climate change on agriculture and fisheries will undermine food production systems in the Pacific. Our Pacific people are also dependent on crops, livestock, agriculture, fisheries, handicrafts for food security and income, and these sectors are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Sam
The economy of many islands like Tonga depends on tourism, farming or fishing, and on handicrafts - skilfully making traditional objects like jewellery, textiles or pottery by hand. These are usually sold to tourists, but when tsunamis keep the tourists away, local jobs become vulnerable - unprotected and open to damage.

Rob
This affects not only handicrafts, but Tonga's ability to produce enough food to feed its population, something known as food security.

Sam
As the effects of climate change hit the local economy, young people are leaving Tonga to find work elsewhere. Tonga Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship is a project working with local organisations to help young people start businesses and find jobs. Here's project director, Lusia Latu-Jones, speaking with BBC World Service's Business Daily.

Lusia Latu-Jones
It can be emotional, very emotional and heartbreaking to see what's happening in our island… but it's even harder when you see young people coming through… just looking, looking for chance to help their families, for them to get on their feet again. So the question we ask ourselves as an organisation is how can we address these challenges to better support our people so that they can get back on their feet, feed their families.

Rob
We can hear the emotion in Lusia's voice when she describes the situation facing young Tongans as heartbreaking - causing strong feelings of sadness.

Sam
She says her role is to help people get back on their feet, an idiom which means be able to function again after having difficulties in life.

Rob
The many problems Tongans face are made worse by perhaps the biggest problem of all - the fact that poverty, hunger and the loss of their traditional culture is being caused by the carbon emissions of larger countries halfway around the world. If we all learned to adapt our lifestyle, just as Pacific islanders have done, it may not yet be too late to change the fate of their island paradise.

Sam
And the fate of the millions living on other islands too, which reminds me of my question, Rob! Eleven percent of us are islanders, which works out as over 730 million people.

Rob
OK, let's recap the vocabulary from this programme starting with tsunami - a very large wave that flows inland causing death and destruction.

Sam
Many islanders produce handicrafts - handmade traditional objects like jewellery, textiles and pottery.

Rob
Someone who is vulnerable is weak or unprotected.

Sam
The phrase food security refers to a country's ability to produce enough food to feed its population.

Rob
When something is heartbreaking, it makes you feel very sad.

Sam
And finally, to get back on your feet means to be okay again after having difficulties in life.

Rob
Once again our six minutes are up! Goodbye for now.

Sam
Bye!

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