"We know it's going to happen."

Sink or Swim

The indigenous residents of a tiny island off the coast of Panama are being forced to flee as rising waters threaten to engulf their homes.

"We think we're going to sink," retired teacher Magdalena Martinez, a resident of the island Carti Sugtupu — sometimes stylized as "Gardi Sugdub" — told Agence France-Presse. "We know it's going to happen."

Martinez and most of the tiny island's other inhabitants, of which there are fewer than 2,000, are members of the Guna tribe. She and hundreds of other residents are planning to move soon to a new settlement built by the government on Panama's mainland as rising waters in the Guna Yala island region make the tiny landmasses inhabitable.

To be fair, life was never easy on Gardi Sugdub, which is roughly the size of five football fields and where, on the island's north side, houses are crammed so closely together that there's barely an inch between them. There's no potable water or sanitation on the island, AFP notes, and its main industries are fishing, cassava and plantain farming, the production of gorgeous "mola" textiles, and a bit of tourism.

"There is no room," a recent Human Rights Watch report on the island notes, "to expand homes or for children to play."

Rising Tide

To make matters worse, as the report notes, rising sea levels are taking the already low-slung islands — which were barely above sea level to begin with — basically underwater.

"We have noticed that the tide has risen," the 73-year-old Martinez said matter-of-factly.

"Floods and storms have made life even harder... affecting housing, water, health and education," the HRW report continues. "Such extreme weather is only expected to become more common as the climate crisis accelerates."

The sinking of one's island home is, as one might imagine, devastating, but in her interview with the AFP, Martinez exhibited an amazing resiliency.

"This will change our lifestyle quite a bit," the elderly Guna woman said. Nevertheless, "it won't change our spirit, it won't change our habits."

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