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[Ka Leo] Waves of Change: combating the climate crisis

Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 10:15 am, Wed Apr 17, 2013.

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David Smith, Contributing Writer 

Leaders around the Pacific gathered at the Waves of Change conference last week to express one truth: Climate change cannot be ignored because it is a reality.

The conference focused on the individual and community aspects of climate change and shared personal perspectives, aiming to empower communities that would otherwise have no control over their own fates.

International communities are having a slow, highly politicized reaction to the crisis as emissions still rise. This rise in emissions has been especially true in the most industrialized nations in climate change mitigation.

“The real impacts of climate change are being felt,” said Asterio Takesy, the Federal States of Micronesia Ambassador to the United States.

And it has become necessary for communities to do whatever they can to help improve their own situations.

Communities need to understand that by applying the spirit of conversation that was so essential to indigenous people to our modern day science techniques, it is possible for people to approach the climate crisis and improve their localized situations.

For many. it seems ironic that the Pacific knowledge systems once seen as primitive by colonizers now offer lessons that could save the neocolonial industrialized world from its relentless consumption. Two examples of such projects that benefit from indigenous Pacific cultures are the the Humatak Project and the Changing Climate Toolkit.

 

PROACTIVE SOLUTIONS

You can only approach global issues once you have begun to address local issues. Austin Shelton from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa talked about his Humatak Project, which focuses on “building local resilience against climate change in Guam.” The project aims to restore Guam’s “watersheds, coral reefs and fisheries” through a three step system of educational outreach, erosion control and modern research. For example, volunteers have been placing “sediment socks” in the watershed to filter out dangerous sediments.

These may seem like small steps, but they have a larger impact, as saving the coral reefs that surround Guam helps protect from storms and promotes biological diversity.

William Kostka of the Micronesian Conversation Trust presented on the Changing Climate Toolkit, which was designed to present “culturally appropriate information” to leaders within Micronesia to educate them about the realities of climate change.

“The most important impact is empowerment, turning a huge problem … into a more tangible issue,” Kostka said.

 

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Speakers at the conference expressed that we must treat climate change as a perspective lens through which we can approach the whole world.

As Stanton Enomoto from the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative explained, “We all have kuleana; we have a right to a better future but also a responsibility to make that happen.” Enomoto then raised the question, “Do your actions allow the oceans and land to provide for us?”

Many are guilty of being unable to answer this in a positive way. The ambitious goal of combating climate change can be attacked only by first making incremental progress, which can only be carried out by individuals and communities that take steps to change local consumption habits. Only then can we as a global community hope to make impacting changes to global consumption habits.

The difficulty that arises in this conflict is that communal management and responsibility is required, an approach that is juxtaposed to the capitalist way of thinking. Thankfully, invaluable lessons about conservation and ecosystem management can be learned from the cultures of the indigenous peoples.

“At the end of the day climate change is about consumption,” Takesy said, adding that the Pacific must move away from fossil fuel dependency.

Communities need to learn how to become more independent and sustainable in other regards. For example, Takesy recommended salt-water taro plants to add to the island’s food security.

Small steps like strengthening food security can only add to the type of “proper forward movement” called for by Joakim Peter of the University of Hawaiʻi – the type of forward movement that can only come from the ground up, not the other way around.

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