Thirty-six young New Zealanders who identify with or have a connection to the Pacific gathered for the KiaMuaNZ Climate Change workshop at the McGuinness Institute in Wellington in July.
The workshop highlighted Pasifika youth’s perspectives on exploring the climate futures for New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours.
Amongst those in attendance were two Pasifika representatives from South Auckland’s Youth movement, Do Good Feel Good (DGFG). The leaders, Mariner Fagaiava-Muller and Fereni Peti are part of DGFS’s Creative SKWAD. SKWAD stands for Serving Kindness with Acts and Deeds.
Mariner, an AUT Communications student of Samoan and Tongan descent, grew up in Mangere East and says he didn’t realise how much the Pacific especially, Micronesia are being affected by climate change.
“Before attending the workshop I read the Green Party Zero Carbon Bill but I didn’t realise just how serious it is for the people of the Pacific, “ he says, “But when you look closely, natural disasters are occurring more frequently in these areas.”
“There just isn’t enough awareness or education amongst our people about the issue of climate change, the change needs to start happening from the bottom up,” says Mariner.
Fereni, an Auckland University Engineering student says her interest in climate change was sparked after watching a Netflix series, Our Planet. She then applied for a place to attend the workshop and was thrilled to be accepted.
Like Mariner, Fereni expresses she didn’t realise how bad the issue of climate change was in the Pacific.
“We got to hear from a range of people, economists, ceos, urban planners, people involved at policy level. It was really interesting to see what is being done about climate change right now by many different people.”
She says she thinks about the younger generations and how they will be affected.
“It’s our job to now share what we have learnt and start the conversations because we have a responsibility to raise awareness but not just on climate change on the small changes but what we can do in our day to day lives that will reduce greenhouse gasses,” says Fereni.
“We need to be more mindful about what we are eating, consuming less meat and eating less fast food, eating organic vegetables, refusing to buy one use plastics.
Since attending the workshop, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at the Pacific Forum in Tuvalu, a $150 million dollar commitment to help fight climate change in the Pacific.
Mariner and Fereni are now on a mission to educate as many people as possible, to share their insights and learnings with fanau and friends. Both are committed to making small changes to reduce their own carbon footprint.
Mariner believes climate change education is vital to the survival of low-lying Pacific islands in atoll archipelagos such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tokelau.
“ I feel climate change should be lead by Pasifika people as we are under represented in these conversations. It’s our issue to claim and it’s our job now to educate our people.” says Mariner.