Shalvi Shakshi, Shedding Light on Environmental Issues in Fiji

Credit(s): Theirworld

“This is the time to do something to slow down the rising of sea levels.”

These are the words 12-year-old Shalvi Shakshi uttered at the UN’s COP23 in 2017. Shalvi Shakshi is a young girl from the island of Vanua Levu. On February 20, 2016, her life would change forever.

The tropical cyclone Winston struck the country of Fiji. Making history, as the second strongest cyclone to hit anywhere in the world, it affected more than 540,000 people. With 185-mph winds, it was a Category 5 hurricane. The cyclone caused mass destruction over a 2-day time period with the island of Koro bearing the brunt of it. The larger islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu were also severely impacted.

Credit(s): NZ Defence Force via Reuters

After the 2 days, Shakshi emerged to find many people on Vanua Levu now homeless. The cyclone had caused enough destruction to create losses of up to 1.38 billion USD. “Some of my schoolmates lost their homes and had to stay at our school. We had dirty water, or at times, no water at all.”, she exclaimed.

Experiencing a lack of access to clean water, Shakshi was inspired to speak out and bring awareness to the effects of climate change on Fiji. While already facing soil degradation and rising temperatures, Fiji’s main danger is the fact that it could be submerged in a couple of years. Due to climate change, the ocean water has continued to warm, which leads to expansion and thus, increases the volume of water. By 2050 alone, the sea levels are expected to rise by just 43 centimeters. Some scientists claim that if the world continues to pump greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, the islands of Fiji will completely disappear in less than 60 years. Shakshi decided to take action.

Credit(s): UNICEF

Participating in a local oratory contest, Shakshi chose to speak about the topic of climate change. She ended up winning and was sent to Labasa College to give her speech and later presented in front of the Prime Minister. After winning her division, she was invited to speak at the United Nation’s COP23. At the time, she was the youngest speaker present. Traveling to Germany, she spoke about climate change’s effects on Fiji, speaking from experiences in her hometown. In her speech, she urged world leaders to stop releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Shalvi Shakshi is a force to be reckoned with. Sharing her personal experiences and bringing awareness to environmental issues in Fiji helped showcase how climate change affects communities and our planet. She is an inspiration in the current climate change movement as we fight for a sustainable future — one that will include clean water and lower greenhouse gas emissions!

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