We are Subhashni & Joe: two activists writing from two entirely different parts of the planet–Suva, Fiji & Vermont, US. Our paths first crossed through the 350 network, and that friendship felt somewhat predestined when both our homelands were recently devastated by extreme flooding.

In Fiji, this past January, record breaking floods devastated Fiji. And then again in April, cyclone Daphne slammed into my entire Island Nation, leading to a country-wide ‘state of emergency’. Last August, an unprecedented Tropical Storm named Irene wiped out much of Central & Southern of Vermont, a green, mountainous state. Fiji’s deluge led to $30million (USD) in damages,and 14,000 people, including 5,000 children, joining the ranks of the homeless. Vermont saw about 200 bridges either damaged or washed out entirely, and hundreds of mobile home residents left struggling to find shelter. It was the 6th costliest hurricane to ever hit the America’s East Coast, and the name was forever retired to mark it’s impact.

So, how have the places we call home responded to such catastrophe? In Fiji, we’re talking about moving people further inland, with grand re-location schemes. The Fiji Times reported last week, “The obvious solution to severe flooding of low-lying settlements and towns is relocation.” In Vermont, the government’s main strategy includes dredging up flood-prone rivers (making them deeper, so the rivers can hold more water and spill less during flash floods). While it’s being challenged, Vermont’s popular response of dredging rivers has been described as “Dig it out, make it fast and straight and deep, and we’ll be fine.” In a word: both our home’s primary response is: retreat. Move backwards or dig deeper trenches–the goal is to create more space between us and future storms.

But here’s the deal: just retreating, without connecting the dots, isn’t really enough.

We now know the the recent record-breaking flooding in Fiji and Vermont (and in Pakistan, Thailand, Central America, Brazil, Australia, southern Africa, along the Mississippi River, and so on) aren’t just flukes. They’re not just disconnected, random events. They’re accelerated and exacerbated by the very real dot of global climate change. This is what it starts to look like when you keep the planet’s concentration above 350 parts per million for too long — and keep ratcheting it up another roughly part per million every six months. And that global climate change isn’t random either: it’s connected to the big dot of fossil fuel corporations who are dumping millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere everyday — billions of tons every year. All that extra carbon, as climate science and common sense suggest, has a knack for weirding up the planet. 

So, it seems to us that we should be connecting the dots with the same effort that we work on moving uphill and digging trenches. If offense is the best defense, then it seems like the best way to fight future flooding is to take on the dirty energy companies that are re-configuring our amosphere. 

Don’t get us wrong: we still need to buttress, or even move entirely out of the floodplains. But if we’re only talking about adaptive measures, and not also standing up to the fossil fuel industry, then we’re calling for a grand retreat before we even picked a real fight in the first place. It would be like the American eastern seaboard retreating into California during World War II, instead of sending troops into Germany.

So that’s why tomorrow, May 5th, Fiji and Vermont will both be leading the planet in connecting the dots.

In Fiji, we’ll be organizing in our communities, having talanoa (traditional story-telling) sessions with our elders, to highlight climate change while acknowledging the importance of traditional indigenous knowledge. Because this year I (Subhashni) am away from home, I will join other Buffalonians in upstate New York, standing outside a coal-fired power plant. My actions, along with countless others, will make sure the world knows that the fossil fuels burnt here have a direct impact on my home- even if my home is halfway across the world.

In Vermont, hundreds of Irene flood victims, as well as the communities that support them, will form a different kind of deluge- one of people. Together, we’ll flood a local field to make a giant black dot in the formerly flooded area of the Mad River Valley to show that we, too, recognize the connection between fossil fuels and the destructive weather.

It’s time our movement–and humanity at large–got a lot bolder. We can’t keep calling up the Red Cross to pick up the pieces after ever-worse natural disasters. We’ve got to let our faces get a little red with anger, and let ourselves get cross too, at the fossil fuel actors that are most responsible for causing this mess. 

So, tomorrow we’ll connect those dots all around the planet in beautiful and creative ways. And the next day, and the next week, and the next month, we’ll be standing up to the oil, coal, and gas corporations. It’s our best chance at survival, in a fight that we now know is all too real.

For more climate movement news, follow 350 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

FacebookTwitter