Political inaction threatens Paradise

Stories from Pacific Islanders

Feature story - 7 July, 2009
As leaders from the eight richest and most polluting countries in the world gather this week in Italy, our ship, the Esperanza, is witnessing the direct impacts of climate change on Pacific Islands. People of this beautiful and culturally rich region are at the front line of climate impacts.

Many children in the Pacific will have to leave their homes in the coming years due to the impacts of climate change.

As Ulamila Kurai Wragg, a mother of four living in the Cook Islands, explains, this is not a problem they caused, but they are amongst the first to suffer the consequences, their voice must be heard, their way of life must be protected and their environment saved.

"We are living with the impacts of climate change"... "to the global leaders that will be meeting this year in Copenhagen - please act and please listen!" ... "you know can you can stop it - please give us a good deal! Please give us a chance!"

This is just one of many alarming stories from Pacific Islanders the Esperanza crew has heard so far on their two months tour in the Cook Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu. They are meeting government leaders, community groups, scientists and NGOs.

Pacific people are confronting sea-level rise as it threatens their homes, contaminates soil and ruins their crops, while sea temperature rise threatens their food supply from the coral reefs and the sea. Although most of us think of climate change as an issue that our children will have to deal with, Pacific people are already experiencing the impacts today.


People have been living on these islands for over 1,000 years with a strong and vibrant culture and they they have managed to live a largely self-sufficient lifestyle. But these islands are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts such as cyclones, shifting rainfall patterns and coastal erosion. At the end of this year, world leaders have an opportunity to agree on a strong global climate treaty that will significantly reduce these emissions - securing a future for the Pacific nations and the rest of the world. They will be setting the foundations for this climate agreement at the G8 meeting this week.

Voices for change

Teava Iroa is a local organic farmer and fisherman who educates his community about self-reliance and biological farming. As a boy, Teava's father taught him how to fish the lagoon, where a vibrant coral reef attracted an abundance of fish. Today, Teava doesn't even bother fishing. The coral is bleached due to sea temperature rise and the fish that are all but gone.

Both Teava and Ulamila ask that regional and global leaders listen to their stories and take action now - before it's too late.

During a visit to Pukapuka island (Cook Islands) our team documented reports that the droughts are more severe, the seasons have changed, storms and cyclones are worse, and mosquitoes are increasing while the fish species are disappearing.

Many people are worried about their future and the future of their community. They have heard about other Pacific Islanders, like those from Tuvalu, being forced to leave their homes, and they are worried that the same thing may happen tothem soon.

The injustice of climate change is starkly apparent here. These people live such low-impact and largely sustainable lifestyles and yet they are the ones suffering first (and likely the most) from the lack of political will to properly tackle the causes of climate change in countries such as Canada, Russia, France, Germany, the US, Italy, Japan and the UK -- collectively known as the G8. While Pacific communities adapt as much as possible with limited resources, they are demanding action to avert a climate catastrophe.

"Paradise on Earth"

Keisha Castle-Hughes, the Australian-born New Zealand star of the film 'Whale Rider', has been with us on board and is helping to collect stories and raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island nations.

"Aitutaki is beautiful, the people are friendly and the land is plentiful. I would go as far to call it Paradise on Earth. Seeing the effects of climate change and knowing there's a possibility that the land could possibly be ruined someday is devastating." -- from her blog on day 5

Read Keisha's blog here

The Esperanza will be in Samoa for the next few days for a range of exciting events. Check out the live webcam and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates about the rest of this Pacific tour and our ongoing work to save the climate. Meanwhile, the Arctic Sunrise is currently in the high Arctic where the crew, including world renowned scientists, are documenting the impacts of climate change there. The changes they have found surpass previous predictions.

Take Action

Make sure these voices from the Pacific are heard loud and clear - join the call for world leaders to attend the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December - to ensure a safe future for the Pacific, and the rest of planet.

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