“In the Pacific we don’t go on strike, but we do other things,” says Patricia Mallam, a Fijian climate activist from 350.org.
Over the course of the day, children and students from Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea will participate in events to mark the global climate strikes, through events like poetry performances, silent protests, sporting events, BBQs and intergenerational discussions about the effects of climate change in the region.
These events, rather than traditional protests and street marches make more sense for the Pacific, says Mallam, because it is such a community-driven region “and we all know that the problem is not within the community.”
“For instance, you don’t have any coal mines in the Pacific, so we can’t have people striking outside coal mines; the problems are not being caused here. But in countries where there are coal mines or banks financing the fossil fuel industry, it makes sense for people to go on strike, so they’re voicing their distaste for what’s going on to keep their economies afloat,” she says over the phone from Fiji.
“We all know that the problem is not being caused here in the Pacific, but we’re facing the full brunt of the climate crisis,” she says.
The Pacific is estimated to contribute just 0.03% of global emissions despite making up 0.12% of the world’s population, but is at the frontline of the climate emergency, with countries facing rising sea levels, coastal erosion, the destruction of crucial reefs, inundations and warming seas that lead to more frequent and more severe cyclones all threaten the region.
“It is a day, especially for the polluters, they need to quickly understand what’s going on,” says Mallam of Friday’s strikes. “But at the same time, in the Pacific we feel that because we’re at the frontline of the impacts, it’s important for us to speak up and have other nations hear what’s happening.”