Photo: Becky Gibson

We are the frontliners and we have our own voices

Becky Giblin is a volunteer from Nananu-i-ra, a small island off Rakiraki. Becky shares her experiences of living on the frontlines of climate change and why she is a passionate defender of our planet. 

Growing up in the Pacific, a big part of my life revolved around the ocean. I was being taught to be as comfortable in our beautiful pristine waters as I am on land even before I could walk. The ocean is the main source of income for a number of us and it is a big part of why our tourism industry blossoms. Everyone wants to get away from life in the city and escape to our beautiful clean beaches, but the unfortunate reality is that they might not be here for much longer.

In the last century, the sea level has been rising globally and the rate at which it is rising has increased to almost double in the last two decades. According to the National Ocean Service, sea levels are continuing to rise at a rate of about one eighth of an inch per year. That may not sound like a lot, but to the people of the Pacific, especially those in low lying areas, that amount is already changing our lives. For the people of Kiribati, whose island homes are only two meters or less above sea level, every inch counts.

Photo: Nananu-i-Ra

Photo: Nananu-i-Ra

Pacific preservation and protection is a lot more than an article to read and then forget about. For the 11 million of us in the Pacific, this is about making sure our actions, and the actions of the world as a whole, don’t become the cause of our beautiful homes being destroyed. The two ways that we feel the effects of climate change the most are the cyclones that continue to get more severe and the rising sea level that is slowly taking over our shores. Our homes are being destroyed, with over 30,000 people left homeless in Fiji after Cyclone Winston. There is a lot more being lost than just a beautiful holiday destination. Climate change is destroying our homes and taking our lives. The Pacific is not just a picture online. It is our home and protecting is our responsibility.

The lives of the people in the Pacific are not a choice to be decided on in a board room thousands of miles away from our beautiful homes and people. We are the frontliners and we have our own voices. Eleven million people may not seem like a lot to other countries, but every single one of us has a story to tell.

We are watching our homes being blown away in massive storms and while we are people of the ocean who will do everything we can to protect it, we don’t want to see it taking over our land and our homes. We can’t just sit by waiting for the tide to come in; the time has come to speak up to the bigger countries around us who are ignoring our reality because they don’t want it to affect their income.

Each year, renewable energy becomes more and more affordable and with the new jobs it now offers, there is no reason why countries should not be on board with the switch to renewable energy. There is a reason the Paris Agreement was unanimous and we must uphold all it represents if we want to have a hope of keeping climate change to less than 2 Degrees Celsius. The Pacific has so much to offer and it needs to be protected – our lives, our home and our planet. It’s our responsibility.