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Stunning images of a drowning nation

Ellen Husain

The sea around the Solomon Islands is rising three times faster than the average for the rest of the world, due to global warming and regional changes. Five islands have already disappeared beneath the South Pacific.

Film-maker, photographer and marine biologist Ellen Husain has been to see how local people are adapting.

(Photographs by Ellen Husain)

The Solomon Islands are thought to be the first populated place to see islands disappear under the sea.

Land has always been at a premium in the Solomon Islands. When one wave of immigrants arrived they found all the prime land occupied by fearsome headhunters. They responded by building artificial islands on top of reefs. These are incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise. Storms or tsunamis can wipe them out at a stroke.

Despite the risk, the "saltwater people" continue to build new islands and celebrate their heritage at events like the Shell Money Festival.

Money has been promised by international donors to help the low lying islands of the Pacific but it’s already too late for some.

When their coastal farmland was spoiled by rising sea water the residents of one of the islands were forced to abandon their land, their homes and their church.

Traditional practices are also threatened by sea level rise.

Megapode birds bury their eggs in the lava-heated sand of the volcanic island of Savo. Locals have to dig a metre into the beach to harvest the eggs.

The beaches where the birds lay their eggs can be inundated and eroded by the rising waters.

Life seems certain to get tougher for the people of the Solomons but as communities and individuals they are showing the way ahead in a time of climate change – adapting their lives when possible and moving their homes when necessary.