The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Not Drowning, But Fighting
By Eric Grignol on April 19, 2022
Joseph Sikulu, Managing Director and Youth Leader Activist of UUSC partner Pacific Climate Warriors (PCW) notes that despite daily challenges resulting from environmental damage, “Islanders do not want to live anywhere else. Above all, they want to preserve their land for future generations.”
This desire to remain in place on the land people have always known as home is captured in PCW’s call to change the narrative about Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific: “We are not drowning! We are fighting!”
The fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground is an essential part of building a sustainable future free from the threat of climate-forced displacement. Their work sends a clear message to extractive industries despoiling our world: Pacific people are not victims and are taking their future into their own hands. As Sikulu describes it, “Pacific people are the leaders of climate action, where ideas are being innovated and engineered. Our people have these incredible answers that are driven by traditional knowledge, and we center those with our actions.”
Concrete local actions lead to big change. For example, the Fiji Climate Warriors Solar Scholars helps to build climate resiliency by sharing how to build a solar power pack from simple components at a local hardware store, so that more people can have power in the aftermath of a disaster. The larger effect of crisis preparedness work and adaptation measures like this is that knowledge is shared among communities who are navigating similar climate challenges. It starts more expansive conversations on how to grow organizing power and multiply sustainable solutions across the Pacific. The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) notes that “the Solar Scholars program shows how we can strengthen support, empower women, and show solidarity among communities at the forefront of the climate crisis, even across oceans.”
Families living on islands in the Pacific face some of the worst impacts of climate change, including coastal flooding, landslides, and saltwater contamination of drinking water — among other adverse effects. Yet, PCW and our climate justice partners are ensuring that Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific continue to thrive on the islands they call home, or if they must move that they can relocate with dignity, preserving culture and ways of life.
UUSC has committed to funding Pacific Climate Warrior’s storytelling, organizing, and advocacy work on climate-forced displacement for the next three years. Thank you for your support of our shared work that is building community power and climate resiliency.
Photo: Pacific Climate Warriors