Ep.8 “Island of People” by Keerti Gopal

Keerti Gopal shares three stories of climate resilience from the Tao, the indigenous people of Lanyu – a tiny, climate-susceptible island off the coast of Taiwan.

Ep.8 “Island of People” by Keerti Gopal

Inherited is a critically acclaimed climate storytelling show made by, for, and about young people. We’re a production of YR Media, distributed by Critical Frequency.

In today’s season finale, storyteller Keerti Gopal shares three stories of climate resilience from the Tao, the indigenous people of Lanyu – a tiny, climate-susceptible island off the coast of Taiwan. From a deep-sea diver on the hunt for increasingly scarce fish, to the keeper of an underground house, to a taro farmer whose fields are destroyed by polluted water, Keerti talks with community members whose way of life is threatened. Together, they look toward a better future.

For more information about our podcast, head to our website at yr.media/inherited, and follow us on the socials @inheritedpod.


AIR DATE: 9/6/23

[hopeful, wistful synths] 

HOST SHAYLYN MARTOS: The island Lanyu is home to the Indigenous Tao people of Taiwan. For centuries, Tao daily life was governed by self-reliance, with their island providing for them, and their practices reflecting the island’s natural cycles. Taro farms broke heavy runoff from the mountain, and homes built underground protected the Tao from typhoons.

But since it’s been opened to the public, Orchid Island’s undergone tourism, industrialization, and environmental degradation — dramatically changing the landscape of Lanyu, especially for the younger generation.

Håfa adai, and welcome to Inherited. We share the work of young audio storytellers, hoping to uplift a new generation of climate advocacy. I’m your season host, Shaylyn Martos, and this is season 3, episode 8: “Island of People”.

[fast paced synthy music]

Today’s storyteller, Keerti Gopal, spent a year in Taiwan as a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, and much of that time with the Tao community of Lanyu. She built community, meeting new friends through not-so-old friends, and listening to the stories of older generations.

Today, she shares the voices of Tao friends she met on her journey, on climate resilience, and cultural memory.

Here’s Keerti Gopal, with “Island of People”.


KEERTI GOPAL: Picture this. 

[piano music fades in, waves]

The sky is black and full of stars, with a crescent moon overhead, and we’re treading water in the middle of the ocean. In reality, we’re not that far away from the shore – maybe a quarter of a mile. But in the dark of the night, the water looks endless, stretching out on all four sides. We’re equipped with flippers and snorkeling gear and underwater flashlights. And there’s four of us, fanned out in a circle around our leader: Shi Shun Ji.

We drop our eyes below the water’s surface so we can see him scour the ocean floor, our underwater light beams trained on the sand below.

He pauses. He’s seen something that the rest of us don’t, and his body rolls over into a dive. 

[deeper water sounds]

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Shi Shun Ji dive, but every time, it’s just as striking. When he dives, he goes down gracefully, gliding headfirst to the ocean floor and piercing a fish with his spear or wrestling a mollusk from between two rocks. When it’s time to return to the water’s surface, he rises slowly, scraping moss or kelp off his find with a knife, easing his way back to the surface, like a rising feather, unbothered by his weighted belt, never seeming remotely anxious for a breath. 

I met Shi Shun Ji through a friend while I was staying on Lanyu, an island off the coast of Taiwan, where I was doing research on climate action and resilience.

Lanyu, or in English, Orchid Island, is a volcanic island that has been occupied for centuries by the Tao people, now categorized as one of Taiwan’s sixteen indigenous groups. In the Tao language, Tao means, simply, “people,” and Lanyu is called Pongso no Tao: Island of People.

SYAMAN WOMZAS: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KEERTI: This is Syaman Womzas, an elementary school principal on Lanyu.  He’s speaking Mandarin, which is the main language all these interviews are in. Hang on for translations in a sec. 

SYAMAN: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN YANG, TRANSLATION:  Tao, or 達悟, fundamentally means to be a person.  I’m different from a dog, I’m different from an animal. Which means you’re also Tao. 

KEERTI: This is our intrepid translator Kathryn Yang. 

KATHRYN: But although the name of our ethnic group is, um, it’s important, the most important thing is that you identify with this land. That’s most important. “I’m a person of this land.”  “认同” – identity – is actually the most important piece. 

KEERTI: Lanyu has a population of about 5,000, and there’s two ways to get there: a thirty minute plane ride from Taitung City, or a 2-3 hour boat ride notorious for inspiring seasickness. 

When northeastern winds or typhoons hit Taiwan, they hit Lanyu first, and winds or storms can shut down transportation. During the stormy winter months, planes are canceled multiple times each day, and even boats stop running during heavier storms. I was there while a typhoon passed us by last summer, and the island shut down: no tourists could come in or out, the usually full shelves in Lanyu’s main grocery store were empty. 

I went for a walk on the beach on one of those typhoon mornings, and a friend called at me from the road, beckoning me to come sit in the shade of a wooden seaside platform, where he and his friends were drinking beer. I asked them if they had any work that day, and my friend responded. “It’s typhoon day! Typhoon day’s work is to sit and drink beer!”

I went to Lanyu several times during the year I spent in Taiwan as a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, researching and documenting stories of climate action. 

[music fades out] 

While I was staying on Lanyu, I learned how its natural environment, especially its water, defines life on the island. On Lanyu, transportation and imports are at the mercy of the winds and seas.

SYAMAN: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: A really important issue with climate change is people’s relationship with the land. As climate changes, that will influence our lifestyle.

On our little island, we used to be self-reliant. We grew things on our own, ate for ourselves, we didn’t need to depend on food from the outside.

SYAMAN: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: But now, after entering the nation’s system, receiving the nation’s education, the kids will slowly grow distant from the land. They eat outside food instead of the native food that we grow. 

[begin harp music] 

KEERTI: Water is the lifeblood of this self-reliance, essential for life, for growing food, determining peoples’ daily rhythms. Our most essential resource, water is central to the climate crisis: as we continue to misuse and overuse our earth’s resources, as we deal with hurricanes and typhoons and floods and droughts and heat waves and earthquakes and more, water becomes more precious and precarious, more important and more dangerous, than ever. 

The Tao people were subjected to Japanese Colonial Rule from 1895 to 1945. During their colonial rule, the Japanese had designated the island as an anthropologic research reserve and placed a ban on travel to Lanyu from outside — to preserve indigenous culture on the island from disturbances from outside influence. After World War II, the government of the Republic of China took over, but the Indigenous culture was kept in majority until 1967, when the island was opened up for tourism. Until the mid-1900s the Tao were mostly able to live as they always had, building and living in underground houses, fishing and farming taro and sweet potato and other indigenous crops, bartering and operating a cooperative subsistence economy, and speaking their own language.

Since then, Lanyu’s industrialization has been swift. In just two or three generations, the socio-political landscape has changed immensely, so that today, the island’s elders still remember a closed society, while many young people speak little or no Tao, and have limited knowledge of Lanyu’s history or culture.

Syaman Womzas, who’s 54, saw that change from his parents’ to his kids’ generations.

SYAMAN: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: They had a traditional lifestyle, cultivating the land. They didn’t really have jobs, they just did the traditional work of Tao people. 

SYAMAN: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: We only started doing Han people’s work – like becoming teachers or working other jobs – after my parents’ generation, who are now about… 70 years old. Only after did we start doing work on the outside, other work. Otherwise in that generation they lived traditional lives. It wasn’t heard of to become a teacher, or to do other work. 

[ethereal high pitched music]

KEERTI: Capitalism, plastic waste, gas operated vehicles, and Mandarin education have transformed the island’s landscape. Opening up the island has brought increased opportunities for business, education and globalized living, but it’s also brought cultural and economic challenges and put strain on the Tao language and the island’s resources. The island’s been subjected to policies they have little say in, overrun with imported trash, and  saddled with toxic nuclear waste that they’re still fighting to get removed.

When I traveled to Lanyu for the first time, it was December, and the waters were rough. Let’s just say I made good use of the plastic barf bags provided on the boat, and leave it at that. After nearly 3 hours at sea, I teetered off the boat and onto a dock, grateful for fresh air and solid ground. Then I looked up, and was greeted with the magnificent sight of Pongso no Tao: a towering mound of green, protruding out of the brilliant blue ocean. 

The island is small, made up of six villages connected by a single perimeter road. In the center of the island are mountains that hold farmlands and wilderness. 

It’s in these mountains that you can often find Shi Shun Ji, the diver. 

Shi Shun Ji lives behind the island’s one post office, underneath the guesthouse that his son and daughter-in-law run, and he spends a lot of time sitting outside his house there, on some folding chairs. We’d join him there to sit and chat, or go to his fields, or to the water, listening to his stories as he taught us how to chop trees in his forest farm, or how to use his spear gun underwater. 

[plucky strings music starts]

Here he is trying to teach me how to chop down a tree. 

[KEERTI and SHI SHUN JI/MARAN speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Wherever you want, whatever makes you happy, just cut. If you cut your foot that’s okay too. 

[KEERTI shouts “Go!” Laughter, SHI SHUN JI/MARAN speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: Everyone else uses one hand, you’re using two hands!

KEERTI: Shi Shun Ji is always laughing–often at us, but just  as often at himself. He never takes things too seriously, and when young tourists came to the island for a day trip, or a weekend, he’d welcome them into our adventures. We called him Maran, the Tao word for uncle, a respectful term on the island for an older man. He called me Qiǎokèlì – the Mandarin word for chocolate –  an affectionate term for me, cuz I’m brown. 

Shi Shun Ji told us about the Lanyu of his childhood, his memories of a subsistence economy where people would fish and farm for the things that they needed.

SHI SHUN JI: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Before, we would all just get everything ourselves. And after I took it, if it was too much to eat, we’d give it to others.

SHI SHUN JI: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Green island people used to have boats. Boats for catching fish. Their worldview is different than us Lanyu people. They catch fish to earn money, but we’d harvest sweet potatoes just to eat. So they catch fish to earn money to buy food to eat, but we harvest to eat. That’s how the mindset was different.

KEERTI: Shi Shun Ji has been diving in Orchid Island’s oceans since he was five years old. He never told me his exact age, but that’s something like seventy years ago. He knows these waters like the back of his hand. After we dove he’d often comment that the waters have changed drastically in his lifetime. 

SHI SHUN JI: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Oh there’s so many changes! Before, um, before – even the stuff we didn’t have before, even if we don’t talk about that, the way you catch has changed so much. Before, we only used goggles, or we went to the mountains, where there was this fruit tree that we shook, we chewed a bit on it and spit it out. And then you could see to the bottom. They did this in the far past, when there weren’t goggles.

KEERTI: He said that when he was young, they’d dive without any kind of snorkeling gear, staying underwater only as long as they could hold their breath, without any kind of goggles to see through. Back then, he said, the fish and lobster were so plentiful, all you had to do was reach into the water and you’d be sure to grab one. 

SHI SHUN JI: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: You could just use your hand! Unless you wanted to hit them with a rock. 

[slow piano music again] 

KEERTI: That’s not true anymore. On that starry-skyed, crescent mooned night, we didn’t get a single lobster. We didn’t even see one. I asked him one day why the fish were so much less, and he didn’t hesitate. Climate, he said. 

He said it was changes in the ocean, weather, the reefs, overfishing, human interventions. The environment’s not the only thing Maran has seen changing, it’s also the ways that people are using the environment around them. 

One day when we were swimming and looking for fish, several motor boats cut through the fishing grounds: each time, they left a hazy fog in their wake, and a resounding buzz that – from underwater – cut through the ocean’s silence. Listening to that sound underwater, I felt like I was getting a taste of what it’s like to be a fish, and I asked Maran later if the boats disturb them. “Of course,” he said. “Boats don’t have eyes! They can’t see the fish, they just go right through.”

Maran was swimming with a rope that held a life preserver, a red-and-blue netted bag to hold his catches, and a fishing gun: a long wooden contraption with a spear at the end, where when you pull the trigger the spear shoots off the end, still attached with a rope, and pierces its prey. We swam for over two hours and he only shot one fish. It was small, and bright yellow, and he watched it carefully for several long moments, positioning his weapon, before pulling the trigger and puncturing its center. The fish continued to struggle as he wrestled it, by hand, off the end of the spear and dropped it in the netted bag. A few more times throughout the dive, we spotted other fish that might have been hunted, but each time, he just laughed and shook his head. “I don’t like eating that one,” he’d say, and swim on.

Later, Laura and I asked him if they used to have those kinds of guns when he was younger.

[Mandarin conversation with SHI SHUN JI

KEERTI: So you didn’t have this type of gun? 

KATHRYN: Oh, in the past, we just didn’t have that much metal!

KEERTI: None? No metal?

KATHRYN: Let me tell you another story – the liquor bottles that people drank from, like the used-up soy sauce bottles, they would throw it away. The  elders would bring it back home to use it for what? They would still use it inside. 

KEERTI:  What’s that? Oh, like they’d cut your hair with it?

KATHRYN: If you want to go bald, I can help you. If you get a bottle and smash it I can help you shave. 

KEERTI: Help me shave, help me shave!

KEERTI: Shi Shun Ji told us a lot of stories about the past, and the way he remembers people living on Lanyu when he was younger, before the pressures of tourism, industrialization, and environmental degradation. But he didn’t want to stay in the past. He told us to look to the future.

SHI SHUN JI: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: If you keep sticking to the lifestyle mindset of the past, that’s not good. Whatever direction the times are is taking you, you need to go in that direction.  Continuing with the old life is not the way.

[MIDROLL – 20:38 ] 

KEERTI: If you hop on your scooter at Maran’s house and drive down past the post office, onto the island’s main road, then turn right, you can take the thirtyish minute drive past bright blue oceans and towering cliffs, to Lǎng dǎo Village, or Iraraley. 

When you get there, you’ll be met by a bright, colorful pier with a smattering of shops and stalls selling foods like flying fish, or little souvenirs and jewelry. You’ll pass a beach lined with the Tao’s traditional red-and-white wooden fishing boats, and turn into the village, where you’ll drive through increasingly narrow roads until you’re forced to dismount and go by foot. 

There you’ll find Langdao’s underground houses: On a slight hill of brown and green, all you can see are their dark black roofs. You’ll walk on a path around the houses, past a small church, on a dirt road where little kids are usually chasing each other or riding their bicycles, and dogs and chickens frequently dart across your path. 

At the end of the road is Sinan Hana’s cafe, where she lives, and her underground house. 

Sinan Hana is a Langdao resident in her thirties, with straight, jet-black hair and bangs. She owns and runs her cafe — which is covered in art done by her, her business partner,  and guests from around the world. The cafe is tiny, just a few tables on the ground floor, and a loft upstairs that fits two more. There’s often many guests waiting outside to get in,  but Sinan Hana doesn’t kick people out. There’s a sign in the cafe that says: “no wifi, talk to each other.” At night, she pulls out a mattress and the upstairs loft turns into her bedroom. 

Sinan Hana’s underground house is just paces away. Many Lanyu residents lived in underground houses up until the 1970s, when Taiwanese government actors encouraged upright, cement dwellings and caused many underground houses to go into disrepair. But the underground houses are uniquely suited to the landscape of Lanyu, designed to be resilient to the disasters the island is most known for: earthquakes, typhoons, flooding. The foundations for the houses are dug into the side of the mountain, and the houses are built within them so that the roof is at ground level. Each house is equipped with a moat and has underground drainage that allows rain or floodwater — instead of pooling — to flow back into the ocean.

Sinan Hana inherited her house from her uncle 16 years ago. Traditionally, on Lanyu, women didn’t  build underground houses, but Sinan Hana’s family was never much for gender roles, especially her father.

SINAN HANA: [Speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: He did lots and lots of things that let me – that impacted me deeply. Before, us women couldn’t fish, because if a woman was fishing that meant there were no men to do so. But from a young age my dad taught me how to fish  – yet he was scolded.

And I was also scolded. So I asked him why did you – even though you obviously knew that in this culture women couldn’t do this work, why did you teach me to fish? 

His perspective was, one day he’ll become old and won’t be here. He said, “Later, it’ll be you, living on this island. Without your father, if your husband doesn’t fish on this island what will you eat?”

My meaning is, what’s left of our culture? The elders are gone, there’s no one to manage the underground house. Then, what’s left behind? 

KEERTI: Sinan Hana’s parents emphasized self-reliance.

SINAN HANA: [Speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: And the influence that my mother gave me – she told me, you young people are pitiful, because you don’t grow food. You don’t grow anything anymore. You all only rely on outside things coming in, and buying things. But I said, why is this a pity? She said, if this boat breaks, and the weather is bad, and nothing can come in, if there’s no food here, what will you eat? 

KEERTI: Sinan Hana knew people would talk, seeing her, as a woman, building a house. But she didn’t care. She started renovating the house, which was in total disrepair, learning from her uncle and others as she worked. Last year, she opened the house as an extension of her cafe, a coworking space, and a hub for community orgs to meet and do activist or cultural programming. 

SINAN HANA: [Speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Like this house, why did I want to do this? I could’ve not let other people know about this here, but I want people in the future to see that people are already doing this. You don’t need to be afraid, that you only have yourself. I hope that there’s this kind of motivation. I was the first to be reprimanded by the elders who thought,  why is this girl doing this kind of thing? I thought, no problem. Because other people have walked this path before – because we laid down this path, people in the future may have an easier time. But I hope it’ll help them understand where the meaning of all this lies. 

KEERTI: The inside of Sinan Hana’s underground house is warm and inviting. You walk down some stone steps, lined with big green plants, and walk through a clear plastic curtain into what feels like an underground cabin, all wood, with books and art covering every wall. Most of the art is made by Sinan Hana and her friends — a lot of it is repurposed trash she’s rescued from Lanyu’s shores.

The underground house is an important piece of Tao history and culture. It came up again and again when I spoke to residents about climate resilience and cultural memory. The houses were built with deep knowledge of the unique landscape of Lanyu, with the understanding that safety and lifestyle are specific to the environmental parameters of a place. 

So much of our current climate crisis comes from human beings trying to force ourselves onto our natural environment, and bend it to our will. We cart genetically modified crops on high-emitting planes and trains for thousands of miles so we can ignore our local seasons. We burn fossil fuels to keep our buildings temperate all year round. We systematically mine every corner of the earth for resources so that the wealthiest among us can be comfortable. 

Sinan Hana and I spoke about this often. Comfort is overrated, she said. She remembered how her father used to sit outside her cafe in the sweltering heat, refusing to come indoors. 

SINAN HANA: [Speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Inside, in the cafe, because it was really too hot, customers – they would all be afraid of the heat. My father would be outside carving and I’d say, do you want to come inside, sit besides the guest and carve? Because it’s too hot. Actually his heart, if it’s too hot, he would hyperventilate, because his heart isn’t in good health. Then he’d say, “AC will make people freeze.” But his meaning was, a place that’s too comfortable, too easy, will make a person become “草莓族” – a strawberry – pampered, and unaccustomed to hardship . 

KEERTI: Too much comfort isn’t the answer. For Sinan Hana, ideas around comfort relate directly to climate change and how we live with our land. Adaptation will require something more than comfort. The underground house is attuned to the natural environment, a means of resilience that requires deep knowledge of water and storm patterns, that could otherwise be deadly.

[music fades out]

KEERTI: For centuries, Lanyu residents have relied on their natural water sources for sustenance. Like Shi Shun Ji, many have found food in the waters around the island – through diving, and fishing on small, traditional wooden boats that have become increasingly rare as motorized fishing grows. 

But they’ve also relied on water that comes from the rain…for drinking, cleaning, and growing their food. And on an island that’s susceptible to storms, water can be a gift or a means of destruction. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: So this water, to us, it can become evil. Become the devil, become the angel. 

KEERTI: That’s what Syaman Ngalignug told me, as we sat on a forested mountain, near the rainwater source of his family’s water-bedded taro fields. 

Syaman Ngalignug, who also goes by Awen, is close to 50 years old, and runs a convenience store in Ivalino, or Yeyin Village. 

[peaceful strings music fades in] 

He also founded and runs a nonprofit, called Kasiboan, which translates to dumping ground, or the place for trash, in Tao. Kasiboan is an environmental organization that’s dedicated to waste management and education on the island. On my last trip to Lanyu, I spent a month camping on the grasses of Kasiboan’s property, right outside of their exhibition building, a one room house that Awen and a team of mostly volunteers constructed out of rescued plastic water bottles and cement.

On Lanyu, there’s no trash disposal. There’s a landfill, where trash piles up higher than most houses. But growing tourism and imports, as well as the two 7-Eleven convenience stores, the first of which came to the island in 2014, have led to trash overflow and litter. On top of that, Lanyu gets sea trash washing up on its shores from all sides. It’s all too much trash for the island, where, until the late 1960s when outside influence began, there was hardly any plastic or disposables used at all. 

Syaman Ngalignug is on a mission to clean up the island and help its residents build more sustainable practices. He also wants to reinvigorate Tao traditional knowledge, especially with regards to farming, agriculture, and building a more symbiotic relationship with the land. 

Taro farming on Lanyu is traditionally women’s domain, and when his mother became sick a few years ago, their family’s taro fields fell into disrepair. He told me that’s happened to a lot of families on the island. As elders age, and are unable to care for the lands, they fall into disuse. When I met him, he was trying to bring his taro fields back to life. Laura and I were helping him some mornings, digging weeds and stones out of the water beds, and carving out room for the taro to grow again. Water would flow into the beds of taro from spouts that seemed to never turn off, and he promised to take us to his water source up the mountain, so we could see for ourselves where it came from.

On the day that Syaman Ngalignug brought us up the mountain, we walked and hiked and clambered over trees and rocks and boulders, even doing some light rock climbing. There were thin metal pipes everywhere, criss-crossing each other, lining the side of the mountain. Sometimes, he’d motion for us to wait, and then he’d scale a small cliff himself and adjust the pipes, pulling leaves or debris out of them, or detaching them to let water flow, and clear out their insides. 

AWEN: [running water sounds, speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: You see, when it gets to the faucet, for you to brush your teeth, and wash your face, all these things are all industrial, poisonous things. It’s all discharged into the ocean. And through all the chemical treatments, you have the industrial wastewater. When it gets to the faucet, it becomes evil.

KEERTI: “Angel” water is life-giving and clean, but we pollute it with our human actions and make it dirty, he explained. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: If humans produced less, all we need is our taro fields and our stomachs won’t let us go hungry. But today, people are just focused on making money, making money. There’s no way. 

KEERTI: So they’ll buy from outside?


KEERTI: Changes in farming practices and lifestyle do more than just impact Lanyu’s people. They also impact the way the water flows.

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KEERTI: You said before, the water used to be more?

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: The water was just like this. We had enough to use. When it rained heavily, the water would divide. It wouldn’t be concentrated. Look, our Lanyu ancestors were really impressive. They put the taro fields next to the waters, so when it rained heavily, the water wouldn’t be too much, because there were separate flows, each in each flow. So the water, always like this, wouldn’t be too much. 

KEERTI: So the fields would separate the water?

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Yes, they’d separate. You saw when we came up here, from the bottom to up here, weren’t there a lot of abandoned taro fields? So the water would be too much, and flow to the taro fields. Now, without the taro fields, it’ll go “boom.” 

KEERTI: Syaman Ngalignug is describing a flood management technique that was employed by Lanyu’s taro farmers. They’d built the taro fields into the mountain, each irrigated by the same unbroken flow of rainwater, coming from the top of the mountain. With each field the water hit, its flow would lessen, so that by the time the water reached the road and the shore, it had lessened enough to avoid a landslide. 

Now, without the taro fields as mitigation, the water pours down the mountain all at once and could flood the roads.

[sparkly, ethereal synths begin faintly] 

Syaman Ngalignug talks a lot about our changing relationships with the natural world. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: You need to peacefully get along with it. You need to tell it human beings are… weird. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: Lanyu is the best. Of places where people live, Lanyu is the best. 

KEERTI: Because it has peace? 


AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: But now, people don’t know. They just destroy and destroy. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: So why did I bring you to see the water? The meaning is this.

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin]

KATHRYN: To let you know. SO you can share with more people, or else they wouldn’t know things like this. 

AWEN: [speaking Mandarin] 

KATHRYN: The future, I don’t know. Right now I just want to… reduce its speed. 

KEERTI/LAURA: Reduce its speed… of development? Or destruction?

AWEN: Yes, destruction, jianhuan, to reduce, make it not too severe. Using just a tiny tiny might to change. I believe in that might. Like how I’m doing Kasiboan, with one person starting, other people slowly will know. I really believe in that might. Just doing is right. And there’s no need to think about too much. 

KEERTI: This story would not be possible without help from so many people. So to shout out just a few of them, first of course thank you to my amazing interviewees: Shi Shun Ji, Sinan Hana, Syaman Ngalignug, and Syaman Womzas. Thank you to the Fulbright Program and the National Geographic Society for funding my work, and to Kasiboan for letting me camp on their grounds. And of course a huge thank you to Kathryn, Georgia, Jules, Shaylyn, and the rest of the Inherited team.


[fade in shaylyn’s theme]

Hey folks, it’s shaylyn again. Thank you so much for listening to “Island of People” by Keerti Gopal.

That’s our final episode of season 3! For those of you who have stayed with us throughout this season, our producers, storytellers and creatives sincerely thank you. And if this is your first time listening to Inherited… I mean there’s three whole beautiful, sound rich seasons to catch up on!

This Friday, we’ll finish our storyteller interview series: Our final craft interview with Keerti on her journey and the importance of developing more equitable journalism practices.

Our goal since the beginning of Inherited was to provide a platform for young climate storytellers, while maintaining the support and structure they need to thrive in a harsh environment. And hopefully inspire others to share their own perspectives on climate resilience. 

Saina Ma’ase’ for joining us for episode eight! May these stories carry across land and sea. 


Inherited is brought to you by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation. We’re distributed by Critical Frequency, a women-run podcast network founded by journalists. 

The story “Island of People” featured in today’s episode, was written, produced, and voiced by Keerti Gopal, an Inherited season 3 storyteller. Translation help and voicing by Kathryn Yang. 

I’m Shaylyn Martos, your Season 3 host and producer. The co-creators and senior producers of Inherited are Georgia Wright and Jules Bradley. Our audio engineer is James Riley, and our audio engineering fellow is Christian Romo. Dominique French and Nyge Turner provided production support, and our intern is Esther Omolola. Our Executive Producer is Amy Westervelt from Critical Frequency. YR’s Director of Podcasting is Sam Choo, and our Sr. Director of Podcasting and Partnerships is Rebecca Martin.  

Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR Media:

Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, Noah Holt, Jacob Armenta, Chaz Whitley, Michael Diaz, Sean Luciano Galarza, and Jay Mejia Cuenca. Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler. Other music licensed from APM Music.

Art for this episode created by YR’s Marjerrie Masicat. Art direction by Brigido Bautista. Michella Rivera is our web designer. Project management from Eli Arbreton. YR Media’s Creative Director is Pedro Vega, Jr. Special thanks to Maggie Taylor, Jazmyn Burton, Shavonne Graham, Donielle Conley, and Kyra Kyles. 

Please throw us a rating or maybe even a review on the Apple Podcast app – it goes a LONG way towards getting these stories out there! You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter @inheritedpod. If you want to learn more about our show and this season’s cohort of storytellers, head to our website at yr.media/inherited. 

That’s a wrap!

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Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
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