For a 22-year-old environmental activist and student journalist the adrenalin was pumping as my comrade-in-arms Apisalome Waqanisau and I were just about to board Greenpeace’s largest ship, Esperanza, as deck hands.
Sitting at the Namba One café serenading the harbour, we could see the ship as I held in my hands copies of the Vanuatu Daily Post with the ship in colour splashed on the front page and strong words from a representative from the Vanuatu Prime Minister Edwad Natapei on climate change.
The Prime Minister said: “When we come to Cairns for the Pacific Island Forum in August, climate change must be high on our agenda. Copenhagen in December is quickly approaching and we need ambitious but bold global action to ensure the survival of the Pacific’s most vulnerable and low-lying countries.
“We need developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.”
And Cairns were where the ship was headed for the leaders’ forum in August.
This was where I was one of the Greenpeace activists that staged a non-violent protest at the Mackay coal loading facility in Queensland, Australia.
Incontestable evidence The coal loading facility chosen was one of the largest ones in Australia, and even with incontestable evidence that the burning of coal is one of the largest contributors to climate change; the Australian government had plans for expanding that industry.
Just trying to comprehend why anyone in their right mind would do that, made me sick to my stomach, as we Pacific Islanders contribute the least to climate change – and yet, are the most affected by it.
In my lifetime I have witnessed sea level rise, food security problems and a drastic change in weather patterns. Climate change is a reality and one of the largest threats to mankind.
I cannot quite remember, but there was an interesting article that I read a while back that has always been my silver lining during times of grey clouds.
My mind raced back to the thoughts of this professor’s thoughts as he gave a speech to students at the University of the South Pacific, and ambitiously summed up the plight of each and every individual involved in working towards a greener, peaceful future.
When asked if people should be pessimistic or optimistic about the future, he would say: “If you look at the science of climate change and you are not pessimistic, you don’t understand the data, and, if you look at the amount of hard work, dedication and determination of the individuals world over involved in the fight against climate change and you aren’t optimistic, you don’t have a pulse”
What inspired me to stand up and be part of Greenpeace’s non- violent direct action and be the voice of the unspoken people back home was our Pacific Islanders – we were being taken for granted and perceived as individuals who would not fight for their right to the future we deserved.
Setting boundaries The non-violent direct action was about setting boundaries, you won’t know what your inheritance is, unless boundaries are set, how far? How wide? Where is the fence line?
You will never have the opportunity to either protect or enjoy you inheritance unless you clearly define your boundaries.
There is a story in the Bible’s Old Testament about Shammah, who fought for a tiny lentil patch. I was wondering why the Bible recorded that, and my version of this story is that it was told because that lentil patch was an inheritance from his father.
For Shammah, that lentil patch meant that he could put food on his family’s table, like his father could before him and he could for his children and their children. This is exactly what we should be fighting for, our inheritance, a future for generations to come.
Our boundaries are our values, what’s important to us, defines who we really are. When I was chained to the top of the coal loading facility, I hoped my voice would clearly sound the gong that my boundaries had been violated by industrialised countries – and closer to home our so-called brothers Australia and New Zealand were not bucking down to lower emissions, yet they are part of the Pacific Islands Forum.
This violation of boundaries, forced me to make a decision. Some may have not liked the decision I made, but I know where I got my boundaries from and you would not like me without them. Like Shammah, he took his stand and established his boundaries.
This is our God given right, our land and areas of our life that belong to us alone, and no one should be allowed to take that away from us, let alone damage it.
Take ownership I encourage you to take ownership and continue to establish your boundaries.
Coming up next month is the most important climate change meeting. This could clearly dictate the longevity of our lives, our futures, our cultures, and the sustainability of our islands and off course our boundaries in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The fate of our lives, our children’s lives and their future will be determined.
We have an opportunity to see our leaders be our voice at this year’s United Nations Framework on the Convention of Climate Change meeting, and a decision made that is fair, that is powerful, that is empowering and that represents the very essence of who we as Pacific Islanders are.
I am confident that this battle against climate change is one that can be won by the Pasifika people if we all stand together in camaraderie to ensure those most responsible for climate change are held responsible and those most affected by it are fortified.