By Madeline McGill

Climate change impacts people everywhere. Rising temperatures and sea levels are only some of the many ways that carbon emissions and other forms of pollution are affecting the planet.

Some countries are combating the ramifications of climate change better than others. After years of reliance, curbing a nation’s dependency on fossil fuels takes time. However, for many Pacific Islanders, time is a luxury they cannot afford.

Due to their small size, low elevation, and remote locations, many Pacific nations are combating rising sea levels, rising saltwater tables, increased storm activity and drier climate conditions as a direct result of climate change. It is because of this thatGermanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index of 2014 lists Pacific nations within the 10 most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change.

The New Agriculturalist states that a temperature rise of 2-4 degrees Celsius could inflict up to $1 billion in damages to New Guinea alone. The Asian Development Bank’s The Economics of Climate Change in the Pacific further argues that the region is estimated to require $447 million per year until 2050 to deal with losses to GDP.

However, Pacific Islanders are not drowning. They’re fighting.

Warriors of the Pacific are rising to peacefully defend the Pacific Islands from further damage. Joining with the global climate change movement 350.org, 350 Pacific is a movement of people from different backgrounds uniting together for a common purpose: to stop climate change in its tracks.

This October, climate warriors from 12 different Pacific nations launched a successful campaign in Australia to voice their concerns against the lack of response from Australia’s government in regard to coal exports.

According to The World Coal Association, Australia is within the top five coal producers in the world as of 2013. Additionally, the Minerals Council of Australia lists coal as the countries second largest export. This, combined with nine proposed “mega coal mines” in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, is a serious concern for Pacific Islanders and some of Australia’s residents.

Pacific climate warriors responded to this proposed expansion in a manner appropriate for the urgency climate change poses to Pacific Islands. On October 17th, in traditional canoes built over the last year in their homelands, they set out to block coal shipments for a day at Newcastle coal port.

“We traveled to Newcastle to highlight the impact of climate change, to share our stories with the rest of the world,” said climate warrior Arianne Kassman. “Hopefully I get Australia to reconsider their commitment to expanding the fossil fuel industry.”

The port at Newcastle is the largest in the world, in 2013 the port reached a record of 150.5 million tonnes in coal exports, a 12.5 percent increase from the previous year. It is this location that climate warriors deemed appropriate for a daylong flotilla, aimed at halting the ship’s export schedule and sending a peaceful, and powerful, message.

“We achieved a lot, we achieved the spirit of the people,” said climate warrior Mikaele Maiava. “To the information that we got, there’s about 8 to 10 coal ships that did not go through that port. It’s a beautiful feeling. It’s amazing.”

Five traditional canoes built on the warrior’s Islands led the flotilla, backed by hundreds of Australian’s in canoes in Kayaks. The day began with a welcome ceremony before warriors and activists launched from 10a-5p in attempt to stop the movement of coal ships for the entire day.

After this bold action was completed, climate warriors began a tour of the country to demonstrate the impacts of climate change to Australian residents on an individual level. October 17th- 23rd , 2014, warriors visited Brisbane River for an additional Flotilla, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

In the five years that 350 Pacific has been convened, the need for a permanent solution to the ever-mounting issues of climate change has become paramount. For example, in March the Marshall Islands declared a state of emergency after severe flooding. From this, over 1,000 people were forced to evacuate. Such events have become more frequent in the Islands, which average only 2 meters above sea level.

It is through stories such as these, which are unfortunately not unique, that the warriors aimed to use to raise awareness on their tour across Australia. Warriors hoped that by showing people that climate change is happening now, and not in the future, they could encourage more people to take a stand with the threatened Islands.

“Climate change is real, and we’re here to bring that message across that we live the realities of climate change,” said climate warrior George Nacewa. “We speak different languages and come from different cultures, but we are connected to the land and we are connected by the ocean.”

Source: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/pacific-warriors-canoe-climate-change 

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Thanks for giving to our campaign!

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On 15 October 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, as the Senior Official of the United Nations system responsible for coordinating follow up action for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

This designation is in response to the Outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (A/69/L.I) in which the Secretary-General is invited to accord an existing senior official of the United Nations system, the responsibility for coordinating a system-wide action plan, raising awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples and increasing the coherence of the activities of the system in this regard.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which is headed by USG Wu, is the technical and substantive Department on indigenous issues and houses the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Source: Website of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Sixty-ninth session, 19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
With the Millennium Development Goals failing aboriginal peoples of the world, their knowledge and traditional practices must help to guide the post-2015 development agenda towards mapping a more inclusive, sustainable future, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began its general discussion on their rights, a month after the historic first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

While Member States had put significant effort into Millennium Development Goals, indigenous peoples had remained “largely invisible” in the process, according to Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, in a statement delivered on his behalf by Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

At the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September, the first one ever organized by the United Nations, Mr. Gass said the outcome document had requested the Secretary-General to include relevant information on indigenous peoples in the final Millennium Development Goals report.  “Although we have become better at talking about indigenous peoples,” he concluded, “there remains a major gap between words and actions.”

Other high-level speakers and delegates came to similar conclusions during an interactive debate.  Invisible in national statistics, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they must be considered and involved in any decisions made that would affect them.

Development strategies must take into account their languages, traditions, livelihood strategies and autonomous institutions, she said.  In contrast to the Millennium Goals, the proposed sustainable development goals presented a unique opportunity to address the inequalities suffered by the world’s indigenous peoples.  Their inclusion in discussions was essential, she urged.

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples had supported the participation of 105 indigenous peoples’ representatives at the World Conference, Maarit Kohinen Sheriff, Deputy Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York, told delegates as she delivered a statement on behalf of Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Given United Nations cooperation with indigenous peoples’ representatives regarding the World Conference, Finland’s speaker, during the ensuing general debate, called for their participation at the seventieth session of the General Assembly.

Several Member States commended the World Conference as a historic achievement.  The representative of Nicaragua highlighted the open and inclusive dialogue that had resulted in the outcome document and said that the indigenous peoples had requested a development-based approach to human rights that respected their cultural identity.  According to Mexico’s representative, the World Conference and adoption of its outcome document reflected the maturity of Member States in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples.  She called on the international community to ensure a cross-cutting inclusion of indigenous issues in the post-2015 agenda.

Several delegates spoke about their country’s accomplishments in promoting indigenous people’s rights.  Colombia’s representative said that the legal and institutional framework in her country for those rights was recognized as one of the most advanced in the world.  Special political representation and collective land ownership were two examples of that.  Japan’s delegate noted that her Government had recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous community and was establishing a Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in Hokkaido to revitalize Ainu culture.

Looking ahead, the United States representative said her country was moving into a new era of partnership between the Government and indigenous peoples.  Overcoming the historic grievances about resources and territories was part of the process of reconciliation, she told the Committee.

Also speaking today were representatives of Belize, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community, Australia, Russian Federation, Cuba, Philippines, Panama, Suriname, China, South Africa, Guyana, Peru, Iran, Malaysia, Paraguay, New Zealand, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, El Salvador, Congo, Tanzania, Brazil, Chile, Cameroon, Ukraine, Guatemala and Costa Rica, as well as the European Union and the Holy See.

Officials representing the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Organization also delivered statements.

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 October, when it is expected to begin its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous people.  Before it were notes by the Secretary-General transmitting reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/69/278) and of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/69/267).  Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (document A/69/271).

Source: http://www.un.org/press/en/2014/gashc4106.doc.htm

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The resolution honours the contributions and culture of Native Americans and indigenous peoples

Seattle's city council has passed a resolution to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on the same day as the federally recognized holiday, Columbus Day.<br />

The Seattle City Council has voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as the federally recognized holiday, Columbus Day.

The resolution that passed unanimously Monday honours the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle. Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Tribal members and other supporters say the move recognizes the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for centuries.

“This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it’s there for future generations to learn,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

“Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” she said to a round of applause.

Several Italian-Americans and others objected to the change, saying Indigenous Peoples’ Day honours one group while disregarding the Italian heritage of others.

Columbus Day is a federal holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian, in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492. It’s not a legal state holiday in Washington.

We don’t argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day,” said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American who lives in Seattle, speaking outside the meeting.

“This is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected,” Fascitelli said. He added, “America wouldn’t be America without Christopher Columbus.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to sign the resolution Oct. 13, his spokesman Jason Kelly said.

Follows trend in other cities and states

Other cities and states The Bellingham City Council also is concerned that Columbus Day offends some Native Americans. It will consider an ordinance Oct. 13 to recognize the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day.

The Seattle School Board decided last week to have its schools observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day. Earlier this year, Minneapolis also decided to designate that day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. South Dakota, meanwhile, celebrates Native American Day.

Seattle council member Bruce Harrell said he understood the concerns from people in the Italian-American community, but he said, “I make no excuses for this legislation.” He said he co-sponsored the resolution because he believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.”

Council member Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he didn’t see the legislation as taking something away, but rather allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone’s strength is recognized.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/seattle-city-council-replaces-columbus-day-with-indigenous-peoples-day-1.2790093 

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner addresses the opening of the Climate Summit in New York.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner addresses the opening of the Climate Summit in New York. Photo: Reuters

The UN Climate Summit has been graced by the likes of actor Leonardi DiCaprio and US President Barack Obama, but the haunting words of a young mother from a tiny Pacific Island nation have made the most lasting impression.

Spoken-word poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, 26, from the Marshall Islands, was just one of four people chosen from 544 nominees to address the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York.

In front of an audience of 120 state dignitaries, Jetnil-Kijiner performed a poem she wrote for her seven-month-old daughter, in which she promises to protect the child from the threat of climate change, which she says world leaders are ignoring.

In her impassioned performance, Jetnil-Kijner used the metaphor of a “lagoon that will devour you” to depict the sea levels that are threatening to swallow her island home.

“We deserved to do more than just survive,” she told the audience, “We deserve to thrive.”

Aware that the capacity for action was concentrated in the hands of those in her audience, she admonished “those hidden behind platinum titles who like to pretend we don’t exist” and the “backwater bullying of business with broken morals”.

“No one is drowning, baby,” she assures her daughter, “no one’s moving, no one’s losing their homeland.

“We won’t let you down. You’ll see.”

The Marshall Islands is a tiny Pacific nation comprising low-lying coral atolls and is at the forefront of climate change.

In recent years, the nation has grappled with the dual humanitarian threat of severe droughts and rising seas, and is ranked as the nation most endangered due to flooding and from climate change.

On her blog, Jetnil-Kijiner says her poetry aims to raise awareness about the ”issues and threats faced by my people”.

She is also a co-founder of an environmental NGO called Jo-JiKuM, which educates the youth of the Marshall Islands about issues related to environmentalism and climate change.

The performance drew a standing ovation and, according to the United Nations official Twitter account, left few dry eyes among those in the audience.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether these tears will be converted to action.

Source: http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/news-features/26yearold-indigenous-woman-brings-world-leaders-to-tears-at-un-climate-summit-20140925-3gma5.html

 

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People's Climate March.

Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

As many as 400,000 people turned out in New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March, the largest environmental protest in history. With a turnout far exceeding expectations, the streets of midtown Manhattan were filled with environmentalists, politicians, musicians, students, farmers, celebrities, nurses and labor activists — all united in their demand for urgent action on climate change. Organizers arranged the People’s Climate March into different contingents reflecting the movement’s diversity, with indigenous groups in the lead.

See the full story on Democracy Now! http://www.democracynow.org/2014/9/22/voices_from_the_peoples_climate_march

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