Countering climate change
April 2, 2021
Countering Climate Change begins with conversations that cultivate transformational confluence of mind and heart leading to just recoveries for all.
In Kiribati, conversations last deep into the night with nothing but the moon and Milky Way illuminating the dialogue. Human connections, the foundation of village life. The daily gossip between aunties with white sea-foam hair seated on top of carefully woven Pandanus mats, deep in throes of vicious bingo games. The back-and-forth melodic conversations of toddy cutters ten meters above the tallest rooftop. Playful explorations of conversation between children running to and fro on calcified coral flats at low tide, or in empty village maneabas when the tides come in. Conversations in canoes between men, old and young while paddling to secure the evening’s meal.
Here. Wait. Look over there.
The old men had the gift of reading the sea and all of its movement just below its surface. Raising thick shaggy brows, pointing with a squint of an eye and scrunch of a nose, young men equipped with the gift of strength followed their direction. They paddle, and chase prey with the intensity of a thousand suns.
Inevitably, fish would fight back, and several would muscle their way out of the canoe with violent flops and flips or fly away, escaping death by seconds. Biita would joke, that one, while shaking his head in despair, and chuckling in grief, that one must have been the most delicious one. Silently, I applauded each fugitive.
Community, the backbone of Kiribati society, seemed to develop organically. I learned to introduce myself not as an individual, but as a member of a group. This was the way of the island, the way of the village, the way of community. It created a social safety net that benefited all, protected all, and served all. There was no homelessness, or hunger, ailments of more developed societies. Co-dependency worked. In Kiribati, the community was everything, and everyone was part of the community.
Communal living allowed for a slower pace, and at a slower pace, people were your most important assets. Unable to pass through the village without being summoned to at least three houses for tea, talk, or rest; daily trips to the canteen always seemed to be interrupted by, where are you going? Come here, sit, eat! What’s the news? Let’s talk!
Voices from houses alongside the path enquired about my goings and comings, wondering if I had time to visit and talk over biscuits and scalding hot tea, before continuing. Because of this, I quickly grew a disdain for British hot tea and the colonial legacy, internally repeating Bloody Brits with every scalding equatorial sip.
Genuine interest in, and concern for others were not only part of village ethos, but also the glue that held society together. Interactions of indebtedness created and affirmed relations, consistently renewed over time through communal celebrations, shared foods, customary borrowing, and other activities that encouraged prolonged interdependence and reciprocity. Things I believe our world needs for generations to come.
The song, te man te ikare, was one of the first songs I learned in Kiribati. It has always been one of my favorite songs. Tragic, it tells the story of the Banabans who were forced from their homeland by colonizers who raped their lands for natural resources exported to larger, more powerful nations. In December of 2020, the Banabans commemorated their 75th anniversary of exile to Rabi island in Fiji. That same day, the fourth most intense tropical cyclone on record approached. Within hours, Rabi would be in the path of Yasa, the second Category 5 tropical cyclone in 2020.
For us, climate change is real. It is happening. Now. A just recovery is possible, but we need your help. Share our story, speak up, get politically active, vote... if you can. Our future is your future. There is a way forward with everyone. I believe in humanity, I believe you. I believe in us.
If the climate can change,
So can we.
So must we.