Pacific Warriors sound climate change alarm
A few short weeks ago, on Sunday, February 17, some 40,000 citizen activists gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C. It was not the first time people have gathered to raise awareness of the ecologic plight of our planet, nor will it be the last. It was largely ignored by mainstream media, who gave it not much more than a passing glance.
Those tens of thousands came from all of America, and some from around the world, to march to the White House demanding a better approach to the threat of climate change which is manifesting itself on our planet in myriad ways.
The main focus for the activists was the White House's pending decision on the Keystone pipeline, a project that would deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The activists argue that the carbon-intensive project would only exacerbate the climate crisis, helping to extract and burn some 170 billion barrels of oil, not to mention threatening other environmental catastrophes in Canada and the United States.
(It should be noted that the oil is not even meant for U.S. consumption, but is scheduled for export, so having the XL pipeline would not reduce our dependence on foreign oil.)
The event brought together religious leaders, climate campaigners and Canadian indigenous rights activists. Bill McKibben, the founder of the worldwide environmental organization, 350.org, noted that they were "the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever.”
If there's any hope that our politicians will make the kind of dramatic policy changes necessary to avoid climate catastrophe, it’s going to require more public pressure.
Responding to some of that public pressure, President Obama made it clear in both his Inaugural address in January, and his State of the Union speech in February, that failing to confront the threat of climate change in his second term would be a betrayal of future generations.
“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science,” Obama said, “but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
Unfortunately, President Obama is also promoting more oil drilling and gas fracking, accelerating our rush toward the cliff rather than reversing course.
For the small islands of the Pacific, the threats attributed to climate change, particularly melting polar caps and rising seas are not theoretical and distant, they are real and their impact is being felt daily.
In tiny island nations such as Tuvalu, “climate refugees” must leave their ancestral home because the ocean is covering the limited land space of their atolls and islands. For them, climate change — is changing everything.
Recently a five-day conference was convened in Auckland, New Zealand which was given by and for Pacific island nations and territories. Paid for by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the University of Auckland, hundreds of young climate activists came together to learn, discuss, and strategize a way forward.
Called “Power Shift” it was created to ignite the youth climate movement in New Zealand, and the Pacific.
Climate science, climate solutions, leadership, communication and passion were the order of the day, as the youth realized their own power and stood together.
“We’re gathering at a time of urgency. Climate change is no longer a political game, or a problem of the future. It is here, and its effects are being felt all over the world, and in particular by our friends in the Pacific. Yet, all around us, our leaders are failing to address the issues” says the Power Shift welcome manual.
“Together, we can step up and shift the power from big polluters and politicians to those who have the most at stake — us!”
American Samoa’s representative to the Power Shift conference visited Samoa News recently. Just 18 years old, Sandra Purcell of Tafuna told of her experiences at the conference, where she met young people from New Zealand, the Solomons, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
She said that she came away from the conference with a sense of urgency, and also a dedication to sounding the alarm. For the past few months, Sandra has worked with members of the local group 350.org American Samoa to do just that.
Today, Saturday, March 2, is the first of many rallies which Sandra and her peers are planning for the territory.
Beginning at 11am, Utulei Beach Park is the site of their rally — the Pacific Warrior Day of Action.
“We are not drowning, we are fighting,” says the ad. And they invite everyone to join the fight.
There will be games, volleyball, prizes, dancing (both traditional and DJ) with island leaders, scientists and dignitaries speaking.
The community has jumped in to help, according to rally organizers, which is an encouraging note.
“It’s hard to believe that people are not taking this seriously” Sandra told Samoa News.
The rally is taking place in conjunction with other South Pacific islands, who are holding their own events.
Some filming will be done here, produced mostly by the kids themselves, and this film will be edited into a larger film being created by UNESCO.
“Together, we can do something. It’s time to call up our Warrior Spirit!” said Sandra.
350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist.
All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350.
This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.