Well I have had a jam-packed day!
Firstly, we had an open boat of the Esperanza this morning. The weather didn’t start out looking too flash but that didn’t stop people flocking to come and learn about life on board and more about what Greenpeace are doing here. A lot of locals came through and just talking to them about climate change and seeing them nodding along showed me that they are aware and that it is affecting their everyday lives. This is very real to them and I have to salute Greenpeace again for being here as a helping hand and a louder voice. We are here to listen to the Cook Islands and gather strength.
Obviously, climate change is already threatening Pacific nations, I witnessed some of this stuff first-hand today. During the open boat tour, some of the Greenpeace reps from Australia showed a video of Kiribati in 2005. The damage already done was shocking to me, sea-levels rising and soaking into soils, ruining crops and putting their food security at stake; people have had to move inland as the tides are encroaching further and further; the highest point above sea level in Kiribati is only four metres! The Pacific has some of the most climate-affected communities; they are paying the price for our irresponsibility. It’s shocking.
There have been other, more personal moments today. I went for a stroll this morning and found a wee café in Raro centre, I got talking to the owner and found out she’s my great-Aunt! What a small world eh? She offered to show me some of the affected areas and a bit of Raro so we took up the offer and embarked on yet another fantastic journey. I witnessed the erosion along some of the coastline, in one particular place the ground was at one point level and is now two metres above sea level. It just sort of dropped away. Also saw a lot of the damage from a series of cyclones in 2005 (there were five within five weeks, three of which were category 1), some houses have still not even been re-built or repaired yet. There was one iconic hot-spot, Trader Jacks, that has been blown over and damaged more than a few times by high waves or cyclones, but the owner keeps re-building and will even run the place out of a container if he has to I’m told. This highlighted the mix of the climate change and tourism, obviously it’s a huge part of the economy here in the Cook Islands but the reality is, if we don’t give our Pacific neighbours a chance – there won’t be the opportunity for further tourism.
I’ve just come from a function onboard. We had the Honourable Prime Minister of Cook Island, Jim Marurai; the Environment Minster, Ngamau Munukoa; NGO’s; representatives from a local climate change committee and all our Greenpeace campaigners and crew. It was great to meet Mr. Jim Marurai, he is very supportive of us being here and we are meeting for lunch tomorrow. If any of you have any questions or words of support you’d like me to take to that meeting, please leave a comment below and I will try my best to deliver that for you. It’s really important that the Prime Minister knows that New Zealanders DO care.
John Key, if you are reading this, please know that our Pacific neighbours need us now more than ever. It is time to come together and act on climate change, because we can and because we should. The Alliance of Small Island States is calling on countries like NZ to sign up to a 40 per cent by 2020 emission reduction. The Sign On campaign is asking the same thing. And from what I’ve seen today, I could not agree more.