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Byron Shire
January 26, 2022

Pacific Climate Warriors spread the word

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Pacific Island Warrior Kaio Tiira Taula from is the 350.org Assistant Coordinator on the island. Photo Eve Jeffery.
Pacific Island Warrior Kaio Tiira Taula from is the 350.org Assistant Coordinator on Tuvalu. Photo Eve Jeffery.

As the Pacific Climate Warriors prepare to head back to the twelve regions they have travelled from, members of the group have visited five cities in an effort to continue to spread the message: We are not drowning we are fighting.

The Canoes vs Coal action last Friday gained worldwide attention as the warriors took to Newcastle harbour in canoes to stage a blockade of coal ships leaving the port. Since then the Warriors have continued to take their message to the streets with events in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney and last night the final event for the tour in Brisbane.

About 200 people gathered at the Colossus Reception Hall in Brisbane’s West End to see two of the warriors, Kaio and Arianne, speak of their journey and the fight against what is happening to their land.

Kaio Tiira Taula is a 29 year old seafarer from Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation. It is the fourth smallest nation on the planet, and is located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia.

Kaio, who works as a volunteer for 350 Tuvalu, says his aim is to deliver a strong message from the Pacific Islands to the people and government of Australia in the hope that we will reconsider any plans to expand coal mining, a process that has a direct effect on his home and the homes of thousands of island people.

Kaio lives in a very tightly knit family and community. He watches daily the threads of his life dissolve as the sea rises around his people.

‘I was born and raised on the island and I live in a family house’, says Kaio. ‘There are about 42 of us, there is a whole extended family there.’

‘We are now facing more and more king tides than ever before. Normally we have the worst in February but currently we are facing the same thing almost every month. Our lands are slowly being eaten way by the sea and the water comes further inside.’

Kaio says that when there are tsunami warnings, the community are urged to go inland for safety, but there will soon be no inland to go to.

‘We used to have Tsunami warnings about once every three to five years or so, now, they are coming about once every three months.’

Kaio says the elders of the island are devastated by the encroaching danger and are really sad about what may not be a future on the island for the young people. They themselves will not be moved and are prepared to be consumed by the water rather than leave.

‘They just don’t want to leave their home. It is said that we may be the first country to be climate refugees, but the elders won’t accept that. They just won’t leave.’

Kaio says the response from Australians has been very strong.

‘There were hundreds of Australians out to watch the flotilla in Newcastle and I feel the local people have been very supportive.’

Arianne Kassman is a Pacific Climate Warrior from PNG. Photo Eve Jeffery.
Arianne Kassman is a Pacific Climate Warrior from PNG. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Arianne Kassman works as the Youth Integrity Program Coordinator with Transparency International Papua New Guinea, but at just 24 years of age, Arianne is spending more and more of her time trying to save the island nations of the Pacific.

Arianne is also 350.org’s PNG Country Coordinator setting up the 350 team in PNG earlier this year.

Arianne lives with her brother’s family and her mother in Port Moresby and sees her mission is Australia as an important step in helping bring the voice of her people and those of others who call the Pacific their home to Australia.

‘It is important to bring our stories and to bring to light the realities that my people are facing in terms of the impacts of climate change. I felt that I needed to be here to be that voice for my people and those who don’t have the opportunity to come here and tell their stories.’

Arianne says she feels there is a risk of other things apart from land being lost to the ocean.

‘I feel that my culture and my traditions, the things that are important to my life, I feel that at the rate climate change is happening, we stand to lose all of that. If the impacts of climate change continues we will only have passports to call home. We don’t want to threaten anyone here, we just want a chance at life as well.’

Janelle Rees, the Brisbane co-ordinator for 350, thanked the pair for speaking and being so open with sharing their stories. 

‘There isn’t really much more that you can say after hearing stories such as this – the real world effects of climate change are impacting so many people’, said Ms Rees. ‘After hearing these stories, it makes it even harder to fathom how the powers that be continue to put their heads in the sand, and ignore the reality that so many people are facing.’

‘The Pacific Climate Warriors are here to say to Australia that our reliance on extracting coal and fossil fuels, and our continued export of these products to other nations, is not good for humanity. It is in fact killing humanity.’

‘Their stories gives us hope that the power of the Australian people will rise up and make the change we need to see.’

Arianne summed up her feelings about the trip saying that the reason the group came to Australia is that we are seen as a benevolent force in the South Pacific.

‘We have a lot of local support here and we believe that by sharing our message and by raising that awareness and telling people that this is what we face every day, it’s our hope that in time Australia will start to move away from fossil fuel industry and move toward more renewable clean energy.

‘We came here because Australia is like the ‘big brother’ of the Pacific and we felt that in the Pacific, we are one nation. It doesn’t matter how much ocean separates us, we are one Ocean and we thought it was important to start within our family first. There is no better place to start than here in Australia.’

For more information, visit the 350 website: world.350.org/pacificwarriors.

 

 


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