Mark Robinson is a Canadian television meteorologist and storm chaser. He co-hosts the television series Storm Hunters and Unearthed, has appeared on the television series Angry Planet, and has made numerous other media appearances. Recently Mark Robinson came to Vanuatu planning to see the Ambrym volcano and talk to locals about the climate change and its effect on daily life. We got to meet Mark in Port Vila right before he caught a flight to Ambrym, asking about his plans and first impressions of Vanuatu.
Hi Mark. So is it your first time to visit Vanuatu?
Yes. I have never been to South Pacific before, it’s my first time in South Pacific. And that was my first chance to see how it is here. Things are so different here compared to how everything is in Canada, totally new.
And you also filming the highlights of your trip to Vanuatu, right?
Yeah. Hopefully I’ll be able to use some of it in my show. As you know, I’m doing a show about climate change in Canada, and I thought this is the area which gets really affected by climate change, so while I’m here I should do some stuff on the climate change.
Vanuatu, and other Pacific states, should be the places affected by climate change the most, right?
It’s the opposite end of the world for us. But Canada is affected by climate change, so it is here. And I wanted to see how it is affected here versus how climate change affects Canada. Because those are two very different cases. You know, we are losing our ice in the North, and we are losing all of our glaciers and stuff like that. And down here rain is changing, rainfall patterns are changing, the ocean is becoming acidified, causing issues with the reefs.
So I want to ask locals on their opinions. I want to ask people what they are seeing. What they see on different islands. Because we always hear in Canada that islands are going under water, and sea level rises, and basically everything is going under water. So I want to get out, and see what’s happening, and talk to people about it to know what they think.
If you talk to people in Canada, and you say “Vanuatu”, and they like “what?”, I mean nobody has any clue of what is on that side of the planet. So what I want to do, I want to bring some of that information about Vanuatu to Canadians. To tell them: you know the stuff we do here in Canada, like melting glaciers, it is all affecting the other side of the planet.
So you do believe that climate change on the planet is caused by people, that it is all our fault basically?
I hate using the word “believe” when talking about climate change, cause it’s not scientific, right? So I would say I accept the preponderance of evidence, the weight of evidence, saying that not only is the climate changing, but it’s changing very fast, and we have something to do with that. And the next question in my mind is – what do we do about it? In some ways we can not stop it, it’s going to change, so what do we do to adapt to those changes. And that means changing the kinds of crops that we have, changing our approach to construction and other things. For example, on these islands, when we are dealing with cyclones. When the cyclone comes over these islands, it just doesn’t slow down. It hits the full category five, like cyclone Pam, whereas if you are in United States, and cyclone comes on shore, it starts to break down and loses a bit of the wind speed, not causing that much damage.
When it comes to islands like these, it just destroys everything. But for me there was something really cool to find out. I was talking to a lot of locals when I was doing the drive around the island, and it seems that they have rebuilt everything really fast, and the island got going again very-very quickly, compared to the other places, like the States, cause they are still rebuilding after the hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. And down here they had a stronger hurricane, and here a lot of things were destroyed, the crops were destroyed, but they rebuilt very quick and are like – “we are good”. That for me was something very cool to see. That they are ok, and they can handle a disaster of that scale.
When filming shows on climate change you visited lots of places around the world, right?
Yeah. I have been to the Northwest passage, in the Arctic, I’ve been to Antarctica, and all over Caribbean. Actually just came back from Mexico, where I was filming whale sharks. In the show about climate change we are talking about whale sharks and how they are affected. So I’ve been to a lot of Caribbean places, and now I wanted to come here to South Pacific.
Compared to Caribbean and other places you’ve been around the world, what are the unique, different things you noticed here in Vanuatu?
The biggest thing that I noticed were the coral reefs. You can see them from the sky. As I was flying, I could see them, and it was all there. It doesn’t quite look like that in the Caribbean, you just don’t see that much. The other thing, it is not nearly as built up as on the Caribbean islands. There are lots of resorts, hotels and everything else there, it’s just built up like crazy. When you get here, it’s really different. So that was also really amazing thing to see.
And also the ocean color was among of those things that struck me right away. And then we got off the plane, and started driving around, and the other thing that really struck me was how well built everything is. Like when you get to Caribbean, and you see some places with such a poverty, really really bad. And you see this on all those islands. But here I haven’t seen that, and it’s really good. Things are much nicer here.
That’s kind of what I like here. You don’t get to see those thousands of resorts. Cause in Caribbean there are so many of those resorts, and everything is just dedicated to those people staying there, and that’s it, you don’t even have to go out of the resort. But here it’s totally different. You are here on the island, you can go wherever, and you sort of get integrated with the people. That is one of the things that makes Vanuatu for me way more interesting than Caribbean.
In your opinion, Vanuatu has a good potential for tourism market development?
Oh yes, huge. Even despite such a long distance and the need to take long flight to get here, I almost want to encourage more people from Canada and United States to come out here and see this, cause it is such a different part of the world. And when I talk about this place, they have no idea.
So that’s what I love about Vanuatu. And on top of all that mentioned above, you have the volcanoes. And for me it was a childhood dream to see Marum. I wanted to see this, I wanted to go down, and to actually be down by the lava lake. And that’s what we are planning to do in the next couple days. I will film it all, and hopefully it will make into the show. But again, climate change, that’s something I really want to jump on.
How was your impression of local people here in Port Vila and around the island?
What I love about locals, everyone is so friendly. Everyone is awesome. I talked to many people, and they were chatting with me, taking photos. No problem. And I felt really safe. I have been in some dangerous places, and this island is like the exact opposite of that. When we climbed on a volcano in Congo, we were in Goma, and that place just finished being a war zone, so there it was really dangerous. So that’s the kind of impression that I got. Everyone was really helpful, to help me out and do things.
You think you’ll come back to Vanuatu someday?
Yes. My wife didn’t come with me this time, but I plan to bring her next time. We are going to come back here, for sure.