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I've arrived back in Aotearoa! As soon as I landed, I presented two talks at the Pacific Climate Change Conference. The first was about how to incorporate climate change into Endangered Species (focusing on black abalone) management. The second one was about the UCI Climate Action Training program, which is training tomorrow's leaders in meaningful and partner-based climate change action. But I certainly learned more than I lectured. I learned about community action, resistance, rebuilding, resilience and restoration in Oceania, and it was a spectacular experience.
There's been a lot of exchange recently about science communication and the different ways of doing this, and one of the most important lessons for scientists from this conference was to go beyond communication. I encouraging the scientific community to create (and continue doing this - plenty already are!) a two-way street, an exchange of information with other forms of knowledge, with other communities. Climate change is pervasive and threatens us all, and only when we engage in meaningful partnerships, enabling us to use every tool in the kit to fight climate change... that's when we will succeed - hence the title I've paraphrased from multiple speakers, "We're all in the same canoe."
Other people will write about the immense breadth of information shared in this conference but I'll hit on two important points that I think are most important for my community, as a scientist: Centralizing voices on the front lines, and engaging in meaningful partnerships.
Oceania is on the front lines here with climate change, has the most to lose, and is arguably doing the most to combat this problem, despite being the lowest contributors to carbon cloud. Those of us not in Oceania need to centralize these voices, boost them, LISTEN to them, engage with them, provide aide as it is needed, shift our science to meet needs, and do our part at home to curb carbon emissions. There was a lot of talk at PCCC2018 about embracing traditional knowledge around climate change and community resilience. One of the most salient points made, by Aroha Te Pareake Mead, was that any such use of traditional knowledge must be collaborative and not extractive. As a scientific community, we need to do so much better with this. We need to not be extractive, we need to engage with indigenous communities, local stakeholders, and build LASTING relationships with meaning. This means relationships don’t get to end when the grant funding ends, we need to nurture cultural resiliency before we can achieve climate resiliency.
We need to hold political leaders accountable for their (lack of) action on carbon emissions. We need politicians who will support more effective legislation NOW, not after election seasons are over. Climate change is getting worse every day, as I write this, as you read it. We must provide resources needed on the front lines, we need to support grassroots activism and conservation, we need a global supportive network that embraces action on the massive scale needed to stop irreversible and immense harm to our planet.
It's important to remain hopeful and to keep fighting, innovating, and collaborating. Only when we work together will we succeed in addressing this massive problem. I think we have a much better chance if we bring all forms of knowledge and resources together, and build solutions together, as many amazing groups are already doing. Let’s expand the #strongertogether community to incorporate community interests, science, artists, educators… and foster collaborative, creative solutions!
"Being the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, whether from sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, overfishing, or marine pollution... our voices and interests should be the basis for global action." - The Honorable Tuila‘epa Dr Sa‘ilele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa