The Marshall Islands is one of the nations that is mostly effected by climate change. Called the pearls of the pacific, their citizens are at COP21 not as victims, but as climate fighters, trying to protect a beutiful treasure and community in the Pacific. This is a story of surviving climate change, and a story of how it affects the people who have done the least first.
Listen to Brodrick Menke.
If you guys do this, we get to survive
My name Broderick Menke, I am a youth representative from the Marshall Islands. Official delegate from the mar and I am here to attend as many side events and NGO-related activities trying to coincide with what we are doing in the Marshall Islands and our plans for post-cop.
How do you feel when you hear the world climate change?
Climate change is like that friend that you don’t want. That one person that you don’t want that is always there in your life. On the Marshall Islands climate change is your everyday struggle. People daily would complain about either they don’t have enough crops to sell to other people to get money for their child support or education, People would complain about not having clean water, or not having access to water at all. People complain about seawalls and other coastal barriers being eroded and being broken down by huge storm surges and really flushing out their homes in to the oceans. I feel really defensive when I hear the word climate change.
Can you tell us some more about the effects of climate change?
Sea level rise. People are talking about that the sea level will rise in the near future. No, sea-level has risen. We are living in everyone’s predicament of the future. Everyone’s future is our present. People are saying that the sea-level will rise, and we say it’s already risen high enough to the point where we are experiencing major damages to our homes, that’s a big thing that a really want to highlight
Whenever we have big storm surges, waves will come in and either break your home or tear it apart, or they would have you migrate or temporarily relocate from that area to somewhere safer. Find ways of financial support to support yourself to build a new home. Droughts are becoming more of a regular term in the Marshall Islands. Right now we are expecting a severe El Nine that will last for six months, which will mean little or no rain. A lot of people don’t have access to fresh water. A lot of the people on the Marshall Islands relies on their nature resource, either in water, water meaning in the oceans used for growing crops.
In the long term it would mean destroying a lot of corals, and crops. We would have a hard time trying to fish or to hunt or gather food.¨
How do you feel about the negotiations?
Right now it’s a hectic. Some key people like major contributors to carbo emissions should just sit down together and talk to each other and be like “hey, we got to agree on something” because for them this is just a game. For us its survival. I feel like the negotiations should go the right way. A lot of us pacific islanders are running around like ants trying to find where we fit in and trying our best to network and trying to get our messages out there.
What is your mission here, and has it changed since you arrived?
My mission was basically to seek for help and try to see if people could help us in the conservation aspect of things, but I feel like it has changed towards really trying to push myself to outreach and work with the media, about what has been happening. Tell them that if the negotiations go wrong, or in a different way than we expect, which is 1.5 degrees C, then would probably lose our islands. Our Islands would be affected so much that it would be really hard to life there. Which would mean that we would lose who we are as people, losing our cultural identity, losing our beautiful language, which means who we are. We have so much to lose, others don’t have so much to lose, and they seem to think that they have everything. Others meaning big carbon contributing countries. We don’t contribute with much carbon. But we are at the frontline. We are affected so much by it. I feel that people should sit down and let that sink in. Really think about it. Don’t read about it. Think about it. People will lose their homes, will lose who their identity, and will lose who they are. Will be displaced, and just be sent off somewhere else.
Have you yourself started thinking about moving?
No, that is nowhere near my thoughts. I Consider myself an climate activist, ,and I think that I need to stay strong, and Stay positive, and just speak out and get everyone onboard with this. I have not had that thought or mentality of just moving out. That would mean changing everything that I am. Starting anew while I am 25 years old. People don’t really do that. That would mean something really new. Imagine someone being forced out of their home, going somewhere other than their own country, learn a new language, learn a new culture. Adapt to new laws, laws that are not even ours, laws that we don’t agree on, language that we don’t know. It’s not as easy as it sounds to just move somewhere.
What is your message to the people back in Sweden?
I want the Swedish people to sit down, and read about us, look up the Marshall Islands, look up the pearls of the pacific. We are beautiful islands scattered over the pacific sea, filled with people that are just lovely, and that are demonstrating love and care to each other within our community. We love one another, we share things with one another. And I want them to just realize that. To sit down and think to themselves, these people will lose their islands, because we are embarking on something new, and we need to start somewhere. I want the Swedish people to reduce their carbon footprint and bother their major corporations about their carbon footprint and that they should switch to renewables and eco-friendly materials, because all that I am asking for is survival. If you guys do this, we get to survive. And we get to live in our homes. We don’t bother anybody else, and we don’t get to burden anybody else.