YOUNG ENVIRONMENTALISTS RECOGNIZED AS “PACIFIC ISLAND WARRIORS”
The 350.org global team has made its presence known in the territory, with local youngsters yearning and eager to learn more about ways to save the environment by promoting awareness on climate change.
Pacific organizer for the 350.org global team Koreti Tiumalu who is based in independent Samoa for now, departed the territory yesterday after visiting the territory to witness the awarding of Pacific Island Warrior certificates to 13 local high school students who have pledged: “I will not drown, I will fight.”
In an interview with the Samoa News last Friday, Tiumalu explained that their work in this area of the world includes 15 Pacific island nations. “We are a grassroots organization that focuses on climate change solutions,” she explained. “A lot of our work is in capacity and awareness building, finding and implementing practical solutions that we can achieve.”
350.org is an international environmental movement founded by author Bill McKibben, with the goal of building a global grassroots movement to raise awareness about anthropogenic climate change to confront climate change and to cut emissions of carbon dioxide in order to slow the rate of global warming.
Tiumalu is originally from Wellington, New Zealand and has spent the last two months in Samoa where she will remain until end of the year and maybe — well into next year.
She travels throughout the pacific to promote new initiatives. Tiumalu explained that earlier this year in March, “we launched a Pacific Warriors campaign themed: ‘We are not drowning, we’re fighting’.”
The Pacific organizer said the campaign “was born from ideas that came out of the New Zealand Pacific Power Shift last December, which was an event that brought together 750 young people from the pacific.” American Samoa was represented at the three-day forum held in Auckland.
The idea of launching the Pacific Warriors campaign, according to Tiumalu, was born on March 2, 2013 which is what she called the “day of action,” when 15 pacific islands performed their own native warrior dances in a show of solidarity for climate change and their efforts.
At the moment, said Tiumalu, they have put together a three-year strategic plan “and part of that is delivering Pacific climate warrior training in all of the pacific islands involved in 350.org” which kicked off in Vanuatu last week where they held a climate symposium.
Tiumalu said the same training program will be held in Niue, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and independent Samoa by the end of the year. The training in Samoa will be combined to include American Samoa.
“These Pacific Warrior trainings,” said Tiumalu, “the idea is to do it in each island. We come from a long history of warriorship. We want to take positive things from that and highlight them in the program. Traditionally, pacific islanders have always protected their land, culture, and oceans and we’re taking those positive elements and adapting them to 21st century plans to use those things to take on climate change with peacefulness, non-violence, unity, strength and power of being united in climate change.”
She continued, “We’re of the mind that it’s time to go big or not at all because this is too serious of an issue to be ignored. We understand that this is literally the fight for the survival of the pacific nations. Some of the islands have been greatly affected by rising sea levels and some have been given life spans of 8-15 years. We are basically the last generation that can do anything about this.”
Tiumalu said everyone needs to realize that “our strength is in our unity, our sense of cultural identity, our passion and desire to preserve our islands and the way of life we know.”
“Can you imagine living sustainably for generations and being at risk of losing it all? That potentially means people will be displaced. What does that mean for their culture?” she asked.
Locally, those in the 350 Club are not taking things lightly, as far as their commitment to getting the message across. Thirteen of them were recognized last Friday during an award ceremony held in Fagatogo.
The Pacific Warriors certificate reads: “certified Pacific Island warrior dedicated to bringing awareness to the problems of Climate Change and has pledged ‘I will not drown, I will fight’ by employing knowledge, determination, and teaching skills for the future of our people, our island and our planet.”
The recipients are Crystal Faasoosoo (FHS), Leiema R. Fano (FHS), Ellen-Amber Ropeti (FHS), Penelope Mareko (FHS), Destiny F. Su’a (FHS), Josslyn Fagaesea Lauvao (FHS), Duncan Seva’aetasi (SHS), Genius Ma’ae (LHS), Kerupi Moi (LHS), Alisa Sa’o (LHS), Lalovi Tugaga (NPTHS), Judyann Fagalilo (NPTHS), and Margaret Lam-Yuen (NPTHS).
Tiumalu stressed that there is a lot of support available to AS 350 club members and there are many plans in store for the Pacific region for the next twelve months.
On the local scene, Dale Long has been working with 350 groups in high schools and has been part of a program that works with student teachers on projects that include stream cleanups and teaching young people about the science of climate change and the importance of it all.
There are 16 student teachers and through permission from the local Department of Education, they volunteer to educate 7- 8th graders on climate change during science period.
“These kids are serious about what they are doing,” Long said, adding that student teachers are from all over the island and they volunteer their personal time to carry out projects for 350.