Climate fight to march on: Brianna Fruean

By Marc Membrere 06 November 2021, 9:24PM

Samoan Climate Activist Brianna Fruean says that the fight to stop catastrophic global warming will continue far beyond the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

She told the Samoa Observer and other reporters that the next step in the climate struggle will involve pressuring international Governments and financial institutions to dump climate investments. 

Asked about her next move, she highlighted the fight does not stop at COP26.

"I think it's so important that we acknowledge the fight continues after COP and so we will continue for us the Pacific climate warriors, we will continue putting pressure on Governments, we will continue putting pressure from the fossil fuel industry and financial institutions to divest from climate chaos,” Ms. Fruean said. 

“So a big part of our campaigning is getting big banks like the Bank of England, Lloyds of London to take their money out of the mines that the coal and oil and gas mines that they're investing in and so that work goes beyond [this conference].”

She pointed as an example to one of the biggest coal mines to be opened soon in Australia that will also be one of the biggest in the Southern hemisphere, Queensland’s Adani mine, at which they are fighting to stop production.

"We want to make sure that it doesn't get built because if it gets built the emissions from that mine will continue to destroy the Pacific cand so after COP we will continue that work on making sure that we can stop the production of the Adani coal mine," she said.

Ms. Fruean is proud of how Samoa has acquitted itself in global climate negotiations and noted the authority that came from the country committing to its own targets as it lobbies others too. She highlighted the work of the previous Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi for putting forward the 100 per cent renewable energy target by 2025 a few years ago.

"And we've been trying to meet it for a little while now. I feel like this is such great modelling of climate leadership because a lot of the times [...] people say '[...]well your small emitters what difference will that make?” she said. 

“I think for us it's walking the talk and so people always used to say things like '[...] if you tell your neighbour to clean up their backyard you can't really tell them to clean up your backyard if your backyards are not clean' and so I feel like the Pacific islands in their mitigation efforts or in their efforts to be greener by each year that's us cleaning up our backyards so that we can continue to tell the big emitting countries to clean up theirs.

Her advice to young climate activists is never let the world make you feel small, and quoted from author Epeli Hau'ofa saying: "We are the size of our ocean and not the size of our islands."

"And so I would give the advice to young Pacific islanders trying to get into the climate [debate] is that claim your space, that this is a place for us, don't feel [embarrassed] or like you don't know enough or that you need to have this or you need to have that in order to be able to speak about your truth, your island truth living in the island,” she said.

“If you live in an island and you've experienced a cyclone, you've seen what a flood looks like, you've seen how your families been able to rebuild your community after a natural disaster, you're a climate expert, you're an expert in your village, you're an expert in your family and expert in your life. 

“No one can tell your story like you can tell your story.”

During her speech earlier this week, an address that captured the attention of attendees and the world’s media, Ms. Fruean said: "We are not drowning, We are fighting".

Asked about the meaning of these words, she said they came from the very beginning of their group Pacific Climate Warriors  group and a few warriors who are older than her.

"One of them being from Samoa, he's Tokelauan but lives in Samoa, Mikaele Maiava whose been all like a founding warrior, and this is one of the warrior cries that he's used to say, We are not drowning, We are fighting, because he believed that in Tokelau people weren't just waiting around and drowning like he would hear in the news," she said.

"And so that message really comes from the islands that are sick of the world telling us that we're just drowning victims, because we're not."

She added that we are fighting the climate crisis and are adapting.

Ms. Fruean was then asked by other journalists about her feelings while delivering her speech earlier this week in which she said she felt calm.

"I felt like the Pacific voice needed to be heard and I was very grateful that I was asked to come speak. And I think how that process worked was that they were looking for youth speakers and someone put my name forward and then they offered me the spot,” she said. 

“And so being able to share like a proverb from the Pacific, a proverb from Samoa was a privilege and an honor and you know I could see in my eyeline people like David Attenborough and Joe Biden and Prince Charles and his wife and I was just very proud to be able to show the leaders what the Pacific voice looks likes.

"I was asked before my speech by other activists 'are you ready to call them out and you know really shame the leaders?' and I said '[...] I don't think my aunties and my uncles will be very happy with me if I go and yell at the leaders' it just didn't feel culturally appropriate to me, being raised an island girl who was taught not to yell at elders and so I was very proud to show what [...] intergenerational interaction that young Pacific people have with world leaders, and how you can be powerful and how you can show strength in a calm and collected way because I feel like that's what us youngsters were taught by our elders."

She had also explained what she called when she met Swedish teenagers who had  then repeated the Samoan proverb "E pala ma'a, ae le pala upu" which she said was an honor to be able to share the culture with people.

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Climate Change
By Marc Membrere 06 November 2021, 9:24PM
Samoa Observer

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