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“My country is in peril from rising seas so I am here to appeal for urgent climate action, otherwise we will lose our homes. Kiribati is going under water,” said Eri Aram.
Eri, a 28-year old father of three from Kiribati, is in Australia this week to tell the story of his country. He will then attend the UN climate summit in Germany to ensure his people are given a voice in determining future climate policy.
For Eri, forced relocation as a result of climate change is a very real and grim prospect.
This year’s State of the Environment for Oceania report focuses on people’s changing relationship with the seas that surround us, and how Oceania communities and governments are responding to today’s environmental challenges.
Beneath the surface of the waves, the temperature, volume and chemistry of our oceans is changing. A major report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature said the world is ‘completely unprepared’ for the impact of warming oceans on marine life, ecosystems, and people.
The latest Caritas State of the Environment Report for Oceania has found widespread hunger and thirst across the Pacific in 2015/2016. The report Hungry for justice, thirsty for change shows extreme weather events, combined with ongoing climatic changes, are contributing to a severe loss of food and water supplies in the region.
By Stephanie Lalor, Pacific Program Manager
On Saturday 12th of March I travelled with members of the Archdiocesan Disaster Relief Team to visit affected communities hit hard by Tropical Cyclone Winston – regarded to be the worst cyclone experienced in the Southern Hemisphere so far.
Scenes of Armageddon
As we travelled out of Suva, to the north of Viti Levu the main island of Fiji, we started to see some minor damage to houses and trees. However, the further north we got, the more devastating the picture on the ground became.
The Catholic Church, supported by Caritas Oceania agencies including Caritas Australia and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is responding in Fiji, following the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston. The category five storm is thought to be one of the strongest ever hit the Southern Hemisphere with winds gusting to 300 kilometres per hour.
Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us…This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. – LAUDATO SI’, PARAS 1-2.
Nukui community sits on the edge of the Rewa Delta, a vast sprawling area of waterways that empty out into the sea just north of Fiji’s capital, Suva. There are no roads leading to Nukui — only a small boat from Suva. Access through the intricate channels of coral is dependent on the tides. It is a beautiful, wild place where its people have lived for many generations, relying on the sea for spirituality, food and transport.
Families in Fiji’s marginalised squatter settlements have told stories ranging from heartbreak and fear through to powerful examples of resilience after flood waters again devastated communities across the Pacific nation.
Following a storm in early April, the Western Division of Fiji was most affected, particularly the cities of Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Tavua, Ba and Rakiraki – all of which were inundated by up to two metres of water.
Hundreds of tourists remain stranded and scores of locals displaced, but we should stop to consider the plight of Fiji’s most vulnerable, with flood waters devastating fragile squatter settlements across the region, Caritas Australia said.
The Western Division of Fiji was most affected by the storm which hit the cities of Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Tavua, Ba and Rakiraki – all of which were inundated by up to two metres of water. The international airport in Nadi was closed and flights cancelled after a bridge was destroyed cutting off entry to resorts.