Voices From the Front Lines

8 December 2018

In Vanuatu, we relish the good things in life. We in the Pacific Islands love the oceans and the forests of our natural environment, we are raised by our customs, and respect our traditional way of living. We see things and do things in our island fashion, the way that our ancestors, our grandparents, and our parents taught us. With respect for the land we live in, we take good care of our environment. With respect for our future generations, we preserve the resources our environment gives us.

The local woven basket symbolizes unity in Vanuatu. Made with pandanus leaves and centuries of time-honed skill, our baskets are more than tools for storing and carrying food €“ they reflect the beauty of our mothers and sisters and they keep our local knowledge to be later shared with our children and grandchildren. Our baskets tell the story of our traditional relationship with our environment. The natural world provides us with what we need, and we sustain and enrich our lives with those resources, weaving our culture and stories in harmony with our environment.

We do not have the term “climate change” in our local languages, but we are affected by it as people and as a nation. The severity of category 5 Cyclone Pam is now attributed by scientists to climate change. It completely wiped out the pandanus trees on 22 islands, affecting over 190,000 people. Climate-related disasters and droughts are causing irreparable loss to our pandanus and plastic bags are replacing our baskets. The consequences of climate change are impacting our lives and our future.

Recognizing our common humanity lets us stand strong and with one voice €” let’s demand zero net carbon emissions. We are the people of Vanuatu. We are citizens of this planet earth. We have the same right as others to live and enjoy our environment.