“There is power and truth in who we are as young people in the face of this climate reality”
If there is one thing that we as the Pacific Climate Warriors know to be true, it is that climate impacts in the Pacific do not discriminate. Young or old, living on the frontlines of climate change is challenging. The unique challenge with living with climate change in Fiji can be best told through the experiences of a young person from the village of Vunisavisavi, as relayed to us by 350 Fiji Coordinator, George Nacewa.
Here are two things that I know to be true.
1. Climate change is real and impacts each of us in similar and very different ways.
2. There is a movement of people in the Pacific and around the world that are rising to protect our islands.
Let me explain.
My name is George Nacewa, and I am the 350 Fiji Coordinator. I work closely with a village called Vunisavisavi on Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji. Vunisavisavi is a village impacted by climate change. Living on the frontlines of climate change is challenging. Living in Vunisavisavi comes with its unique set of challenges. To bring you in that world, I will, with his permission, share the experiences of a young man living in that village.
Vunisavisavi was the traditional birth place of the Tui Cakau - the paramount chief of the province of Cakaudrove. The traditional order of the Fijian village is such that occupants of the village exist to look after it. Despite the people of Vunisavisavi having relocated to a new location, Somosomo on the island of Taveuni, the Tui Cakau insisted on having a few people remain because of the traditional values of that land.
This young man, a remaining caretaker in Vunisavisavi, shared with me that despite the village being impacted by sea level rise and despite the long dry spells resulting in dried-up drinking pools,the idea of relocation is a source of anxiety. Despite an urgency to move to safer ground, there are still a few young people that remain at the village site, steadfast in their refusal to move due to the strength of their traditional and emotional connections to the land. Each day, they carry on their lives and the steady flow of daily chores: planting yaqona, fishing and tending to traditional obligations, all as if the next wave won’t flood the village and the dried pools won’t pose a health risk. These young people have learnt to adapt and overcome the challenges, all to be strong custodians of the vanua. The land.
In Fiji and across the Pacific the impacts of climate change arereal and similar, but also quite different. While we are living in the face of climate change, we also must fulfil our traditional obligations, no matter the circumstances.
To honour these obligations, young people all across the Pacific will be mobilizing come September 8th, to demand a transition to a fossil free world. The Pacific Climate Warriors and their communities have lived through these climate challenges, and do not want a future marred by it.