Thursday, 13 December 2012

Action for the Pacific

The final day of Power Shift was all about action. How the participants could bring together all they’d learnt over the last few days along with their ideas, passion, motivation and experience to foster action in their respective regions to address climate change.

The morning plenary provided a platform for an inspirational presentation from young New Zealand local Councillor; Jinty McTavish and an update from the NZ youth delegation to the UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar. Jinty spoke about how local government can be useful in fostering a change; through the provision of new bike paths, changes in rubbish collection and planning issues. The presentation by Jinty highlighted how important the youth voice is in a government setting and how youth involvement brings with it real innovation and change.

Following the plenary, all the participants from the Pacific gathered together to discuss how to deliver a unified campaign across their geographically diverse region. The theme ‘100% possible to be heard’ was chosen and the vision was drafted and is currently being finalised.

The campaign will focus on highlighting the pacific voice to portray the very real effects of climate change that are being felt in the region. Driven by pacific islanders and youth in particular, the campaign aims to take advantage of existing strengths in the region. Plans include utilising the region’s strong cultural identity and traditions as well as mobilising the tourism industry.

The main message to come from day three and the conference as a whole was that there are many young people across the Pacific ready to stand up and speak, they are already acting on climate change within their own nations what they need is support from the rest of the world. It was extremely heartening to see the strength of the Pacific voice and the passion within the young people that attended, thanks for a fantastic three days Power Shift! 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Pacific women stand up

Day two of the forum belonged to the Pacific and to its women in particular. The day was packed with performances, workshops, panel discussions and presenters but it was the closing plenary that provided the highlight of the day. Two very strong, inspiring Pacific women stood up to highlight how climate change is affecting their islands and what they are doing about it.

There were some incredible presenters billed for day two including co founder of Bill Mckibben, who amongst other things spoke of the specific vulnerability of the pacific region to climate change and Dayle Takitimu who spoke of battling environmental issues from a legal perspective.  However, it was Claire from Kiribati and 14 year old Brianna from Samoa that stole the limelight.

Claire evoked an emotional response from the crowd as she discussed her pride in her culture and the very real threat from climate change that the people of Kiribati are facing. She outlined the effects on food and water security, economic pressures, as well as the overarching fear that her homeland will eventually be completely swamped by water. The defining point was that in the face of all of this Claire remains optimistic; faithful that if things are changed her culture and national identity can be saved.

Although Claire proved a hard act to follow, Brianna put a smile on everyone’s face by showing that age is no barrier to activism and “being an agent of change is cool”. Brianna inspired us all with her impressive work on raising awareness and fostering change in her native Samoa and around the world.

In a region that still struggles with gender inequality and a lack of safe spaces for women’s voices to be heard, it was extremely inspiring to see such strength and passion from these two beautiful women. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Speak with us, not for us!

Speak with us, not for us!

This past weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the youth led climate change forum, ‘Power shift NZ-Pacific’. Held in Auckland, Power shift brought together 700 youth from across New Zealand and the Pacific to learn, inspire and plan action to address climate change.

Day one of the forum brought an electrifying atmosphere to Auckland University; the buzz of such a large, diverse group of young people, brought together by their passion, optimism and hope. Amongst these young people was a small but vibrant group representing the Pacific Islands. The contingent was hard to miss, shouting out greetings in their native languages as their respective countries were called out. Their enthusiasm and passion quickly spread throughout the room and shouts of “Bula Vinaka” echoed everywhere.

The Fijian Contingent

The highlight of day one was a panel discussion entitled ‘Climate Change and the Pacific’ which featured some of the key climate activists from the region including Christina Ora from the Solomon Islands and Claire Anterea from Kiribati.

The Panel

The discussion focused on the effects being felt on the ground, as well as exploring mitigation and adaptation measures being trialed in some of the islands. They discussed how the effects of climate change are adversely affecting the most vulnerable members of their societies; namely women, children and those with disabilities. Indeed not only are these groups specifically vulnerable to the rising levels of disease and problems with water and sanitation, climate change also has the potential to exacerbate existing social ills that perpetuate conflict, gender based violence and inequality.

 The speakers expressed a desire for people around the world to visit the Pacific and experience the effects of climate change that are already occurring in their homelands. To drink the saline contaminated water in Kiribati, or to see the failing crops on some of the islands of Vanuatu. The message was that for the Pacific, negative effects of climate change are real and are already happening.  

As members of the audience started asking questions about what they can do to help, the message from the panel was clear. We are already standing up and shouting for action, now we need your support. We need more than just the support of our governments; as young people we need our brothers and sisters from NZ and Australia not to speak for us, but to point to us and tell the world to listen.

Mika from Tokelau making his voice heard