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Op-Ed: The sea levels are rising but so is our awareness

The recent unusual weather experienced here in the Pacific and around the world is beginning to awaken people to the fact that climate change is real and it is here, now.
 
Last Saturday, March 2, 2013 a successful event (Pacific Warrior Day of Action) was held by the local NGO youth group, American Samoa 350 Environment Club. It was held in conjunction with fourteen other Pacific Island 350 Youth Groups. Ours was a joint effort with other members of the community—the purposes being to enlist, educate, and inform other youth (and their parents) on the impending and uncertain future with climate change.
 
The local 350 Club is a part of the international organization 350.org. and it officially began in July 2011 when our first local youth leader, Suluama Fa’aiuaso was sent to a conference held in Fiji.  Our second youth leader, Sandra Purcell, was sent to Auckland this past December. Both were introduced to other youth leaders from around the Pacific and they exchanged information, discussing immediate and future problems of their various Islands. They also developed plans on how to organize and teach others how to deal with climate change.
 
The idea behind both conferences was that it would be the youth who would be dealing with the effects of climate change. Therefore it was decided the best approach would be to teach the youth to organize, spread the word to their peers and eventually the public at large. Together this group of young people decided they had to make the world listen to their plight with one voice.
 
“Pacific Warrior Day” was the result.
 
Through the end of 2011 and all of 2012 there was very little interest and a lot of disbelief about climate change.  It seemed that the community and our past local government were uninterested in dealing with the problem (there were some exceptions however.)
 
With very limited funds to support our efforts, not much help from the community, no help from the government, we trudged on. We wrote newspaper columns, did media interviews, press releases, and whatever we could think of to keep what little momentum we had on the subject of climate change moving forward.  (Often the tide took us backwards)
 
All of that changed this past Saturday. 
 
Pacific Warrior Day was a success because many in the community understand what the climate change phenomena means, not only to our Island’s future but also to the planet's future.  It's all connected.
 
Malo to the Lt. Governor for acknowledging and sharing with the Pacific Warrior Day youth his understanding of the seriousness of climate change.
 
The same goes for the new Director of DOE, Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau whose active support  and understanding demonstrated a new attitude and direction from government. Pa’u Roy .T. Ausage Director of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs also shared his thoughtful concern and support, as did Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga, Director of Land Grant, and Aufa'i Apulu Ropeti Areta, Associate Director/Acting Land Grant Extension Program Coordinator.
 
Many generous local business people also chipped in to make this event possible. (See our thank you ad in today’s paper).
 
First off, a special fa'afetai to Vince Iuli for his masterful job as master of ceremonies.  He made what could have been a bumpy road at times, a smooth ride.
 
We had off Island support from groups like the Pacific Voyaging Foundation, and UNICEF. On island, all of the High School JROTC teams lent their support, as did the Boy Scouts, and their leader, Fiamatai Faitau.
 
Various high school clubs and groups such as the National Honor Society from Fagai’tua High School and the American Samoa Wrestling Club should be thanked for adding to our attendance.
 
Church groups such as Ierusalema Fou Church (Youth Group) and Free Tonga Wesleyans Church (Youth Group) lent their support and encouragement.
 
We are especially grateful for the (literally) last minute help from ASPA’s acting director Reno Vivao, Rose Malae, art teacher at Tafuna High School, Billy Young of Pago Print Shop and Dick Young at Origin Energy. 
 
Also adding immensely to making the program a success were, Lydia Falefene Nomura, and Tumua Matuu and their Measina Volley Ball Club. Likewise, thanks go to Eleni Nansen at Parks and Rec for defusing a serious problem on Saturday morning, and Sight and Sound’s Sam Samia & Mafa Samia for filling in at the last possible moment.
 
Congratulations to the volley ball tournament team winners— the JROTC Girls team from Tafuna High School and JROTC Boys team from Fagaitua High School.
 
The many other volunteers too numerous to mention whose help made things go smoothly.  And of course the well behaved youth who entertained and raised their voices on behalf of all of us.
 
Fa’afetai Tele Lava
 
Sandra Purcell is the Youth Coordinator and R. Dale Long is the Adult Coordinator for the American Samoa 350 Environment Club



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