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Editorial Review

Pacific Islanders hope everyone will come together


Climate change devastates not only the Pacific Islands but also the whole world.

As a Pacific Islander from the small islands of Tonga, climate change is one of the most threatening issues that the Pacific region is facing now.

The Pacific Islands and their inhabitants are at the front line and most of their people are the most vulnerable to its effects.

The Pacific Island region has already experienced the effects of climate change and the rise of the sea level. For example, some islands in the Solomon Islands are already starting to disappear.

The small island of Kiribati is already starting to be inundated with sea water. The loss of an island to Pacific Islanders is to lose our identity, culture and livelihood.

Pacific Islanders are beginning to look outside their islands for places to migrate to. Places, like the United States, New Zealand and Australia, but those places, too, are not immune from harsh changes in temperature and weather.

Climate change has led to the rising of the sea level and other natural disasters in the Pacific Islands. These include cyclone, hurricane, drought, warming of the sea temperature and floods.

In 1990, Cyclone Ofa hit Samoa and flooded many low-lying coastal regions. In 1997, Cyclone Gavin hit Fiji and breached the sea wall with a storm that hit the north coast of Vanua Levu and flooded the provincial capital of Lambasa.

In 2009, a major earthquake of 8.1 led to a tsunami striking Samoa, including American Samoa and Tonga and wiping out many houses, killing more than 189 people and injuring hundreds.

In 2014, Cyclone Heta hit the Island of Niue and devastated most of the infrastructure of this little island.

In 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam with winds that reached up to 174 miles per hour devastated the Island of Vanuatu leading to the death of 16 people.

In 2016, Fiji witnessed one of the strongest recorded tropical storms, Tropical Cyclone Winston, with winds reaching up to 178 miles an hour, that left a wake of devastation and destruction in the islands. Winston killed 44 people and left more than 40,000 people homeless.

The El Nino drought of 2016 brought famine and illness to hundreds of thousands of people in Papua New Guinea.

The low-lying atoll states of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands are already at the frontline of climate change.

The rising of the sea level and the sea temperature mean that more cyclones will happen, and they are likely to be more intense.

When the sea is warmer, fish will move into deeper waters, which means only the countries with resources are able to fish. As most of the Pacific Islands depend heavily on the ocean for both food and economy, now they will rely on bigger islands for that purpose.

The Pacific Islands are not only vulnerable to climate change but also vulnerable to the global economy. With limited economic resources, when any natural disaster hits, it takes longer to recover.

However, we have been experiencing the effects of climate change in the heat wave, drought and huge forest fires here in the Pacific Northwest and in California, flooding in the Northeast and cyclones. 

Those experiences mean that climate change, although greatly affecting the small islands of the Pacific Ocean, also affects people here in the United States.

Pacific Islanders know that they contribute less to climate change, but there is no time to point fingers.

There is only time to come together to protect the whole world. Therefore, it is all our call now for stewardship and care for this Earth that we are all part of.

Ikani Fakasiieiki

Guest Editorial
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2021