From Dateline Pacific
There are hopes an exchange programme which led to three Micronesian students exploring the arctic circle around Canada and Greenland, will lead to a stronger global voice against climate change in the future.
The first “Coral and Ice Exchange” climate tour took students from the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau to the arctic to see the impact of climate change and experience the indigenous culture there. [restrict]
The exchange was organised by Pohnpei’s Island Research and Education Initiative and it’s hoped inuit students can travel to Micronesia next year.
The group’s director, Danko Taborosi, told Koro Vaka’uta a personal trip to the area triggered the exchange.
DANOK TABOROSI: I was blown away by the unexpected similarities between these Arctic communities and the Pacific Island communities that I am used to. Specifically, basically the inter-play of the climate change; the indigenous people’s connection with the land; the history of colonialism and domination and social change driven by the outside factors; the relative remoteness of communities. All of these things. What really drove home the idea that these places are very similar to each other was when I spoke to people in the north and they said to me that they feel that the rest of the world doesn’t care about the fact that their whole way of life is changing due to climate change. People would say that even though large countries at mid latitudes are producing most of the greenhouse gases and are mostly responsible for the climate change, it is the people in the north who are suffering the most, and I felt like I was actually listening to people in the islands. I felt that, especially for young people, if we were to create opportunities for them to meet each other and expand their world view in a way that would allow them to see that there are other people far away that are dealing with the same issues, it might enable them to act together on a global scale some day in the future and amplify their voices.
KORO VAKA’UTA: What kind of activities did these students undertake while they were up in the Arctic?
DT: We all met up in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. We flew on a charter flight with a lot of other Canadian students to a place called Resolute Bay which is one of the northern-most permanently inhabited communities in Canada, way, way above the Arctic circle. It was 24 hours of daylight. It’s almost beyond the tundra because there was not even any type of vegetation, no soil, it was just pure rock everywhere. Over there we boarded a ship. We took two and a half weeks to travel through the Canadian Arctic into Greenland and then south along the west coast of Greenland so we could see a lot of these vegetation changes as we went. So we had a lot of workshops on the land. Every day we would board small zodiac boats and they would go and disembark somewhere. It was basically exploring. So when we were able to visit a community we would engage in activities such as interviewing traditional leaders, speaking with the elders, speaking with the students, learning different traditional crafts, learning different traditional fishing methods. All kinds of insight into indigenous lifestyle and just every day life, discussing problems the communities face today, especially with the focus on climate change. So these are the kinds of things that we were doing in the communities.
KV: Sounds an amazing experience. Did you notice the connection between the three students you took and some of the indigenous people that you met?
DT: Absolutely. Our students could not believe it and also our Inuit friends could not believe it either, how similar the people are in terms of, not just issues concerned with climate change, but overall culture. Overall tradition. Overall way of life. So basically the idea is that you are looking at two landscapes that are completely different. Superficially they could not be any different from each other. We basically tried to look beyond what the eyes could see. We tried to kind of explore the relationships. So in terms of the relationships between people; relationships between members of families; relationships between generations; relationships between traditional leaders and elders and younger people; relationships between clans; relationships between people and the land; between people and the animals; between people and the animals that they eat. It is uncanny how similar these patterns are. Unfortunately today, as a result of centuries of colonial domination, as a result globalisation, as a result of climate change, it is also uncanny how similar the problems that are developing.
KV: What next? You are obviously hoping to continue this exchange and have Inuit students come and be hosted in some of the islands of Micronesia?
DT: This is what we are working on right now. We are building this exchange from scratch so up until now we were really focussed on just making it possible for our three students from Micronesia to even make it up north and now that this has worked out and it was such a big success, we are shifting our focus to making it possible for our friends in the north to come and visit us in the Western Pacific. We are basically focussing on two things. One is to work with partners in Canada and Greenland to find funding to make this possible, but also at our end in Micronesia we are trying to build the programme. You know the idea is that three students is not a little in the context of small Pacific islands and it is also not a little in the context of the Arctic. It is interesting that even though the Arctic is such a vast region, there is about 50,000 people living in the Canadian Arctic. That’s basically very similar to the population of the Micronesian islands. The Federated States of Micronesia has 100,000 people, the Marshall Islands has 50,000 people, even in the population sizes there is a pretty close match. We believe that if we are able to build this and sustain it over, let’s say 10 years. 30 students in Micronesia, especially 30 very gifted students in Micronesia, is a real force. It is a group of students who are for going to become leaders of the region tomorrow. [/restrict]