- Climate change footy's biggest threat in Oceania
Australian football appears to be on an encouraging trajectory in Oceania (the region around Australia, New Zealand and PNG and including the island countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and many others). The formation of AFL Oceania appears set to continue the exciting growth of recent years.
Possibly the biggest threat to the game's future in this region is climate change. Many of the small countries in the area are low-lying and particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and increases in severe storms. Salt damage to soils will precede the inundation. Already we are starting to see the first repercussions of these effects, such as in Climate change refugees to be resettled in PNG.
Of course these people have a lot more to worry about than sport, but as a football website, it is interesting to ponder what the effects climate change will have on Aussie Rules. We've seen drought delay football seasons in Australia, and in the years ahead we may even see whole emerging football nations threatened. It seems unlikely that the public and political will exists to prevent some of the serious medium to long terms effects - most of the world's countries continue to increase their per capita energy usage, and most countries are still fundamentally committed to population growth as a cornerstone of their economic system. Population tends to be the proverbial "elephant in the room" that doesn't get mentioned.
Ironically the vulnerable smaller island nations that will suffer first are amongst the least polluting both in terms of per capita and in total. They are also less well positioned financially to deal with the changes.
Many of the low-lying coral atolls will probably disappear such as in Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu. There will be social dislocation, often with population shifts from smaller outer islands to the larger ones. This will bring economic pressure. Hopefully their more affluent neighbours such as Australia and New Zealand will also take people in where necessary, and help fund some of the resettlement and economic re-structuring. These changes will probably happen as soon as the next 30 years.
But Oceania will certainly survive, be it the majority of areas or just the bigger island countries. And as long as a healthy civilisation persists people will still want to play their sport. So stay positive about Australian football's prospects in the region, and who knows, maybe if some star AFL players emerge from the area, they might just be the people who will most effectively raise the profile of the plight of their homeland. And spare a thought for those small countries that didn't cause this problem but are already having to deal with it.