“We are not drowning – we are fighting”: youth climate activist speaks at AOSIS event

Samoan youth climate activist Okalani Mariner recently delivered an impassioned address at the Alliance of Small Island States’ (AOSIS) 30th anniversary virtual event, ‘A SIDS moment in December’.

18 year-old Okalani, a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors, congratulated AOSIS on the milestone of its 30th anniversary and used the event to deliver a rallying call for “legislation, litigation and education to create change” and address the climate crisis.

She noted that the Pacific Islands contribute less than 1 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions but are “the ones at the forefront of this climate crisis and we’re the ones facing its consequences in full.”

“As a Samoan youth my identity and culture is so deeply rooted in my land that the thought of it disappearing scares me. It is that same fear that drives me to fight for change”, Okalani commented.

“Climate scientists suggest that this generation of children are among the last to know their homelands in the Pacific. As Pacific Islanders our understanding of the world is founded on indigenous knowledge passed down to us. This knowledge is the foundation of fundamental principles that we use to fight back against climate crisis.

“These next 10 years will be the most crucial in ensuring our survival and it will be particularly significant for small island nations.”

Reflecting on the diverse nations, languages and people that make up the Pacific Islands, Okalani commented: “The one thing we all have in common as islands is that we’re running out of time. The same ocean that unites us is that same ocean that threatens to drown us if we do not treat climate change with a sense of urgency.”

On what is needed to drive urgent climate action, she said: “It will take political will at international and national levels in order to truly make a difference.”

She also signalled the importance of championing youth and indigenous voices in climate negotiations, commenting: “It is so essential that you give youth and indigenous people a seat at the table and why climate action should be focused on indigenous communities, because they have always been the protectors of the land.

“As Pacific Climate Warriors, despite all the odds being stacked against us, we will continue to fight in order to ensure the survival of the next generation and our islands because we want the world to know that we are not drowning – we are fighting.”

Okalani is Vice-President of a locally based non-profit organisation called Lanulau’ava, which aims to empower youth to take part in climate action so they can create a meaningful impact in their communities. Watch Okalani’s full address at the AOSIS 30th anniversary event here. You can watch the full event proceedings here.

Image: Palauli, Samoa. Courtesy mikigroup, Flickr.

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