Students Visit Tuvaluan Atoll

Filed under Environment & Pollution, News, UoN ~ by Press on  26 Dec 2019

New opportunity enables University students to take climate action in the Pacific.

UoN students visiting Tuvaluan atoll.

This month, as world leaders gathered in Madrid for climate negotiations, 19 Law/Environmental Science University of Newcastle students travelled to Tuvalu and Fiji as part of a new interdisciplinary course focusing on climate impacts and advocacy.

While visiting the Pacific Islands the students learned about climate adaptation works, and planted mangroves on a small Tuvaluan atoll to counter increasingly severe storm surges. Students heard from Fijian and Tuvaluan experts and community members facing increasing climate risks.

Funded by New Colombo Plan 2019 Student Mobility Grant Projects, the course is an iteration of the international field trip and clinical course work of Newcastle Law School and the School of Environmental and Life Sciences under a new theme of Climate Connections Across the Pacific. 

Earlier this year the University’s Newcastle Law School became the first Law School in Australia to issue a Climate Emergency Declaration on May 7.

Student reflections on their experience

“The effects of climate change are already being seen in the Pacific, with more severe and frequent cyclones, sea level rise and coral bleaching. My time in Fiji and Tuvalu has really opened my eyes to these impacts. Listening to those making a difference in these countries has sparked a fire within me to be part of the change. It is so important for us all to think about what we can do as individuals and collectively to help.” Megan Ferguson, 22, Environmental Science.

“Our trip to Fiji and Tuvalu made me realise that climate change is not a problem for someone else or some other time – but for each individual right now. The experience has given me fresh awareness of the devastation being brought to these invaluable Pacific cultures.” Hollie Roberts, 21, Law.

“After traveling to Fiji and Tuvalu I now feel an ingrained responsibility in myself to act against climate change. Tuvalu already has two islands submerged by rising sea levels – I want to stand together to help our Pacific neighbours and do what we can to not only lower CO2 levels but to live in harmony with nature and the environment, which we can do by standing in unity with them.” Kristy Wilson, 28, Environmental Science.

“The ocean is rising and the people of the Pacific are not going anywhere. Traveling to Tuvalu and Fiji has taught me that our friends in the Pacific need our help. It is our responsibility to fight, make noise and generate awareness. It’s collective accountability, it’s collective endeavour, and it’s not too late!” George Diplaros, 21, Law.

“In the Pacific we witnessed first hand the effects of climate change. It is not a future issue, it is occurring right now. Islands in the Pacific have already disappeared and this is leaving families displaced. This experience has allowed us to become more proactive in our response to climate change and find solutions for those most in need.” Isabella Curtis, 18, Marine Science.

“Tuvalu opened us with truly open hearts and reminded me of how integral our natural environment is to our existence. In Tuvalu climate change is not a topic of debate but a reality. Our planet it warming, and the sea is rising. We need to cut the conversation and act now. Together we can save Tuvalu, and so save the world.” Shantika Wright, 23, Law.

“Tuvalu has left an impression on my heart and mind. Fiji’s history has contributed to the powerful grass roots environmental protection that exists here. Both have empowered me to get more involved in climate change.” Brigette Lawrence, 25, Law.

“We’ve seen first hand on this study trip how important to combat climate change. Low lying islands are extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges and cyclones. The indigenous people of the Pacific have a strong spiritual and cultural connection to their beautiful land and deserve to have their communities protected.” Christy Mullen, 22, Law.

“While visiting Tuvalu, we were thanked at every turn, and conversation about climate change was present everywhere – in church, in art, in all the conversations I had. Seeing Tuvalu for myself and hearing firsthand from its people was the most incredibly valuable and challenging experience. Both as individuals, and as an international community, we need to recognise the impacts that the South Pacific is already facing due to climate change. Tuvalu is already doing so much to protect themselves – it is time for us to match their efforts, and support our friends in the South Pacific to protect the future of their lands.” Lily Cooper, 23, Law.

“Before I left for Climate Connections Across the Pacific, climate change seemed like such a broad and obscure term. My time in the Pacific has allowed for deeper understandings of the complexities of climate change and the various ecological, social, cultural and political implications it is having, and will continue to have. This trip has been an invaluable source of knowledge and collective empowerment.” Grace Mulligan, 27, Development Studies.

“This trip has been a one of a kind experience. From seeing impacts of climate change that I would never see at home, to making lifelong friendships, to integrating into a one-of-a-kind culture I have learnt so many life lessons in the last 18 days and I will value them forever and never forget.” Jessica Rea, 23, Law.

Planting mangroves on Tuvaluan atoll to ameliorate storm surge.

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