I N G B U L E
I A A K
N A D
I O N
I L L U S T R AT
catastrophe. And the textbooks say nothing about what’s happening right now. Because actually this isn’t just about our future, it’s also about standing in solidarity with those who are experiencing it already. We’re trying to educate our fellow students about that.
How do you find adults respond to young people in political spaces? Brianna: I think the biggest barrier, before we even begin to speak, is the stereotyping. We get: ‘they don’t know what they’re saying’, ‘they’re just there to get a day off school’, or this idea that millennials, or subsequent generations, are only obsessed with their cell phones.
Even if you go back to the first UN climate talks at the Rio Summit in 1992, when young Canadian activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke, there was hardly anyone there listening.
A lot of young people didn’t know about Severn, unless they watched CNN or the BBC. I think it’s different for Greta Thunberg. She’s a youth voice that has come up in the generation of social media and technology where her message can be amplified. All my friends know Greta – and I’m from a small island in the South Pacific. Greta stabbed strong and she hasn’t backed down. I think that she is going to do great things for this generation.
The Pacific Warriors have carried out some daring actions. Were you involved in the Newcastle canoe blockade in 2014, when Pacific activists and their Australian allies confronted gigantic coal ships? Brianna: I wasn’t part of the blockade itself because I was underage, but I was very close to everyone who took part. It was someone in our Pacific Climate Warriors group who had the idea: to sail canoes out to Australia and blockade the canal where all the oil and coal ships come through, the busiest in the country. And that’s exactly what they did. All these police came and they were trying to move them; at one point the police boats were hitting the canoes and flipping some over, and they just went back onto the land, fixed the canoes and went back out into the water.
Anna: I’ve done person-blockades on roads before but never canoe blockades… Brianna: I think it was one of those civil disobedience events where the world saw that the Pacific is not going to stay quiet about climate change. Our slogan is, ‘We’re not drowning. We are fighting.’
For the atolls – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu – it’s just been a really hard time this past cyclone season. My island, Samoa, is volcanic, so we can move up the mountain. But the atolls don’t have higher ground. This month, our Pacific co-ordinators’ WhatsApp group has just been full of images of damage – the Marshall Islands’ airport was completely flooded with ocean water. Extreme weather patterns are just getting worse. It’s the biggest issue in the Pacific and we’re having to look at climate migration. Anna: I hadn’t heard about any of that in the UK. The Pacific should definitely be in the media more. I’d love to share those images on our social media and help publicize it.
With the speed of climate changerelated impacts accelerating, how do
MAY- JUNE 2019