Fiji: This is My Story

 

By: Chelsea Rae

Hundreds of people fled sweeping flood waters and raging rivers, for the second time in three months, as torrential downpours and cyclonic winds swept a devastating path across the Fiji islands. It has left thousands reeling in its wake. Families mourn their loved ones, snatched away by the torrents. Men have watched their wives and children wade through waist deep water with nothing but the clothes on their back. Wives and mothers regroup and get on with the task of rebuilding their homes.

Homes and livelihoods have been lost and, four weeks on, little has been recovered. Schools were closed for almost two weeks and in some cases longer, due to their use as evacuation centers. Power outages and severe water disruptions continue to have the medical authorities on high alert, with media health warnings being on high rotation. Graphic images have impacted the world and brought forth much appreciated aide. Although some sense of normalcy has been regained, the cleanup campaign continues.

Fiji is a nation built on the firm foundations of ‘brotherhood’ and loyalty; a passionate people who are empathetic and protective. Whether it is sports or tragedy, Fijians are united. It is the Fijian way and together we are working to rebuild

Mud left behind after flood-waters receeded.

Climate change was not something she was taught about in primary school. It is a subject though she has gained a lot of familiarity with over the years through such experiences that beckon her to question and to connect the dots. Perhaps this flood itself is not as a result of climate change but, it is hard to ignore the intensity and frequency with which natural disasters are becoming prevalent. These are in line with predictions from the climate change models.  

Betty is hopeful that despite the predictions and the cruel reality on the ground we will yet find a way to reduce emissions to avoid reversible climate change. She admits that Climate Change isn’t exactly a hot button subject amongst most of her peers. When asked about her frustrations regarding this climate change she said “It’s … hard to get some organizations and groups of people to understand that climate change affects everyone. It hurts to see that because they aren’t affected directly, they choose not to be involved … What is most frustrating is when people think that advocating and doing something for climate change  is a waste of time”

It really should not take the loss of homes, jobs and lives for people to realize that Climate Change is as real as an issue as poverty or disease, Betty reiterates. She is hopeful that a united Pacific stance on climate change will materialize that pushes for reduction of emissions and a low carbon energy future. Stewardship is an important lesson she feels.

Betty  not only has Climate Change advocacy at heart but her recent experiences have enabled her to share her knowledge with others, introduce  them to her work with 350.org and explain climate science to her community.

As a result of Betty’s advocacy, a community in Lautoka has taken a stand. Earth hour has become a ‘daily’ practice. For an hour or more each night, power is shut down, candles are lit up and ‘family time’ takes on a whole new meaning. Tales are told, guitars are strummed and songs are sung. Indoors the shadows dance on the walls and outside the stars seem brighter. The novelty of this practice is exciting and contagious. This is not a phenomenon, it is a conviction.

As this practice becomes more widespread and climate awareness intensifies, Betty’s hopes for her people and nation could become a reality…

I hope that our land will still be there and our people will always have home…for those near the coast… and for those in the highlands”

For Betty and others like her who aren’t afraid to make a stand for her home and her people, the task may seem daunting but it’s not impossible. Her memories will never fade and will serve to strengthen her commitment in this fight against Climate Change inaction and for intergenerational equity.

This is her story!