If someone was to google “Kiribati,” search results will speak of the sad realities of this Pacific Island nation.
“Plagued by sea-level rise,” “Besieged by the rising tide of climate change,” and “Climate change destroys Pacific Island Nation” are the headlines you are most likely to stumble across.
Sadly, this island nation, rose to fame as steadily as the level of seawater has been rising to consume their islands.
Recent news articles about the people of Kiribati speak of them becoming climate refugees, having to relocate to another Pacific Island nation close by, Fiji, because of the continuous threat of climate change to its people.
But these headlines miss the fact that there’s still several decades before such a move caused by climate change might be necessary.
Constantly, the reality of the people of Kiribati have been brought to life with a common narrative — that they are mere victims of climate change. This is not a narrative only unique to Kiribati, but one that is slowly blanketing the rest of the region — from Tuvalu to the Marshall Islands.
Yes, they are a vulnerable group of islands at the forefront of climate change, akin to the canary in the coal mine, but the way Kiribati is talked about by global media is like climate change porn. Its superficial and there’s no character development — Kiribati has become defined as the nation that is drowning.
Yet when I travelled there earlier this year, I saw a dramatically different side of Kiribati. My experience was defined by the people I met, the strength of their unique culture, and their warrior-like commitment to fight for their islands in the face of climate change. Armed with nothing more than a smile, a spring in their step, and the conviction of their forefathers — they are the caretakers of these lands and the vast ocean that surrounds them.
The place is beautiful, the people are joyful and their positivity is infectious. It was shot on the fly, during our 350 Kiribati Climate Warrior training. It shows just a snapshot of what it is about Kiribati that makes it worth fighting for.
The people I met in Kiribati refuse to remain silent as they continue to be talked of as climate change porn. Sure, the fossil fuel industry and the burning of coal may result in the map having less green dots and more blue in their region one day, but they are convinced that they must continue speaking their truth, and showing the humanity of what is at stake.
While they are aware of the realities of climate change, they are not defined by it.
They choose to be defined by the commitment to a better future, they choose to be defined by hope, they choose to be defined by resilience, they choose to change the narrative of the Pacific, shouting, we are not drowning, we are fighting!
The enemy of Kiribati is not just climate change, but it is the disempowering notion that its time to give up on the people, and the nation.
Right at this time, Kiribati needs all the allies we can muster around the world to fight its enemies. These allies are the people who will no longer just read the headlines, get depressed, and do nothing. Instead, they’re the people who realize that wherever they are in the world, there is something they can do to be part of the solution.
Are you one of them?
The work that we do at 350.org is to act as a focal point for those people all over the world to take action – before it really is too late.
You can read more about the Pacific Climate Warrior campaign, at 350pacific.org