BLOG: Pacific Warriors declare, "We are not drowning, we are fighting"
When you think about the Pacific Islands, what comes to mind? Palm trees, cocktails, white sandy beaches, and hammocks? For many people, that is exactly how they see the Pacific, as nothing more than a holiday destination, a tropical getaway and the perfect place to escape to.
But there's more to the Pacific than that.
The harsh reality is that many of the islands in the Pacific are facing the extreme effects of climate change. Our agriculture, coastal systems, ecosystems, water resources and economy, are all at risk.
Places like the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Solomon Islands and Kiribati are already being adversely affected by the climate crisis and scientists have warned that if the world does not change track now and reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, the people of the Pacific face losing much, much more.
For many years, the story told about Pacific Islanders is one that portrayed us as mere victims, a far away people who cannot do anything about the causes or realities of climate change. The media has portrayed Pacific Islanders as helpless victims ready to drown with their islands or become refugees.
We are as much helpless victims of climate change, as the Pacific Islands are ONLY holiday destinations. The truth is, we are not drowning, we are fighting.
The thing you have to understand about us Pacific Islanders is that we don't see ourselves as separate of our islands and oceans. My island is part of me. The ocean is part of me. Therefore if we lose our land, it is like losing a part of us.
This connectedness with our land and oceans mean at times we must rise to protect it, as if we were protecting ourselves.
Changing the Narrative
While I work for an organization (350.org Pacific) -- who I really serve is a movement of thousands of Pacific Islanders -- across 22 nations and territories -- that this year will be rising to protect ourselves in the face of climate change.
Already more than 600 of us have taken a pledge, to make 2014 the year that the Pacific Islands stand up for ourselves in the face of climate change, and in the face of the fossil fuel industry. Together we will change the narrative from that of "we are drowning victims" to we're powerful, peaceful warriors, drawing on our cultural strength to confront the fossil fuel industry that threatens our very existence.
As we get further into 2014, we'll be turning the pledges into action, pressuring multinational corporations that operate in the Pacific Islands to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Let's just say that if they don't they will be confronted by peaceful, warrior action.