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

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