Communities in the Pacific islands are on the front lines of climate change. Many are being forced to adapt to ever-changing and dangerous weather conditions or flee their lands. Despite this, the Pacific Islands are leading the call for global Climate Action. Auimatagi Joseph Moeono-Kolio is a Pacific Climate Warrior and is also a Consultant for Caritas Oceania. Here, he offers his reflections on the current Climate Crisis to Daniel Hale, CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns.
Daniel Hale: Talofa Auimatagi, thanks for making time to do this. First up, tell me something of the context of Oceania.
Auimatagi Joseph Moeono-Kolio: Talofa, Dan. Thanks for invitation. Well, where to start…the Pacific has been described in many ways by many people. For me, Oceania is a vast, “ocean continent”, with many different cultures and peoples spread over an area of more than 3 million square miles. We are connected by our ocean and shared history of resilience.
We have thousands of small islands, each with their own unique cultures. There’s Hawaii in the north, Rapanui to the West and Aotearoa in the deep south. In Oceania there is Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia and the many islands communities within and then Australia to the West.
Together, there are about 40 million people. We are very much connected to one another, to our Ocean and to our many rich cultures and languages.
Martin was six when his small bamboo home in Myanmar’s southwestern jungle was blown away by a terrifying 145mph tropical storm.
I ask him what he remembers most from that night and the small, talkative boy is quiet for a few seconds, then smiles nervously: “I couldn’t hear other people calling out or crying, I could just hear the screaming voice of the wind.”
In minutes, houses where generations of people had lived were snatched from the ground and splintered across the land. Essentials like food, money and clothes were thrown into the nearby river and for miles across the land. Countless people were killed. In one village down the river, one out of every two were taken by the wind.
“It was dark and the wind was all around,” Martin says of that Friday in 2008. “My dad picked me up from our home and ran and ran. We didn’t know where to go or where to hide, but we went to the school.”
Myanmar – the country formerly known as ‘Burma’ – faces small, localised cyclones every year. But nothing on the scale of Cyclone Nargis. Martin’s family, like many others in the village, ran in that May darkness, but they didn’t know where to or what to do when they arrived at their destination. Rebecca Murphy, CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction expert says: “This is the key moment when the initial effects of a disaster can be managed. So many lives can be saved just by ensuring a community has access to an early warning system, knows where to go and what to do when a cyclone hits.” Continue reading “Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster”