Why The Pacific Climate Warriors Are Fighting For Climate Action In The Pacific

Member Taualofa Totua explains why you need to be paying attention to this youth-led collective


John Ainiu; Christopher J. Tenisio; Aigagalefili Fepulea’i Tapua’i; Taualofa Totua; Brianna Fruean; Sabrina M?nu; Puhimoana Samuel. Photo / Babiche Martens

The Pacific Climate Warriors are a grassroots youth network and we exemplify leadership, agency and true unity. We have a unique approach of empowering young people to understand the issue of climate change and to take action.

The violence of climate change is very real for Oceania; rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion destroying plantation crops and a warmer atmosphere are just some of the preventable but painful repercussions. Food shortages can be severe and it is predicted that Tuvalu will become the first climate refugee nation, resulting in the displacement of an entire collective.

Our organisers guide us in amplifying the vulnerabilities of our island countries to climate change while showcasing our strength and resilience as a people. It is integral that we are the narrators of our own stories, particularly when it comes to being heard and included in climate spaces.

Pacific Climate Warriors is active in 15 Pacific Island nations, (as well as various nations in the diaspora) and was formed under the name of 350 Pacific, to join with the global grassroots climate change movement, 350.org. 350 was named after 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Here in Aotearoa, the Pacific Climate Warriors is made up of about 30 individuals. Our country’s group is packed with a range of passionate youth with varying levels of skills: policy specialists, community organizers, artists, students, educators, a librarian – our very own book of knowledge – teine toa in Pasifika engagement and in the Management of Halls of Residence; many of us choosing fields working closely alongside or for our Pacific communities.

Viva photographed a some of the Pacific Climate Warriors in Tāmaki Makaurau recently. The tapa cloth was provided by Aigagalefili's school Aorere College where she is the Head Girl.

Puhimoana Samuel; Aigagalefili Fepulea’i Tapua’i; John Ainiu; Sabrina M?nu; Brianna Fruean; Taualofa Totua; Christopher J. Tenisio. Photo / Babiche Martens

The Wellington team makes the most of being in the Capital, at the heart of where significant decisions are made. As well as leading a 40,000 strong march to Parliament in last year’s Climate Strike, the small team implored our government to take heed of our urgent appeals and to stand with us through our submission for the single most significant piece of climate legislation of our time – the Zero Carbon Bill.

The ways in which waste, pollution and other effects of climate change have been messing with the norm of Pacific nations, long before Greta Thunberg was born, demonstrate how environmental inequities are not by accident. The fact that Indigenous climate experts are still not leading conversations in climate justice is frustrating and reflects the same attitude that allowed for the Pacific’s dark history of nuclear exploitation.

Today, our diverse sea of islands of Oceania emit the least amount of carbon and yet are the most resilient when it comes to responding to the devastating effects. Tokelau is the first nation in the world to be 100% sustained by solar energy.

Our people are not victims, however time is not on our side. It is a costly resource and each day our Pacific communities across the world – entire livelihoods, cultures and histories – are disproportionately impacted by racism, Covid-19 and climate change.

This year, our September month of solidarity and climate action has challenged us to work around the unpredictability and restrictive nature of Covd. Our Auckland team has planned an action week of tree planting and will be joined by Pacific influencers in celebration of the nurturers and gardeners we are - Matagi Mālohi or strong winds.

A reality for Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour is that we often find ourselves stuck in the traffic of colonialism, a long tiring line of issues that threaten to silence us and our existence. Admittedly, it can be tiresome to function, what with the pollution of ignorance.

Despite this, we patiently and consistently continue to push daily for change. Uplifting BIPOC communities across the globe must go hand in hand with caring for our planet and letting Indigenous Climate leaders like the Pacific Climate Warriors show us the way is necessary in reimagining a safer, inclusive future.

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