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Young people speak up on climate change

Saturday September 28, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Jimah Ruland-Umata spoke of fighting for the right to stay home on the islands in the face of rising seas. 19092701 Jimah Ruland-Umata spoke of fighting for the right to stay home on the islands in the face of rising seas. 19092701

All eyes are on youth this week as millions of people across the globe carried out strikes to protest against climate change. 


The movement, called ‘Fridays for Future’, was inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who last year took a day off school and sat by herself on the steps of the Swedish parliament, protesting the lack of government action against climate change. 

This week she has again showed the world what leadership looks like with her heartfelt and determined ‘How Dare You’ speech, delivered to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. 

While school strikes have not yet been embraced by Cook Island school children, it does not mean our youth are disinterested or disengaged. 

We have some amazing young Cook Islanders who are role models for our youth and who are representing our country on climate change issues in both local and international forums.  This is hugely influential on our school children and will help frame the voice of our youth in the Pacific and beyond.

One such young Cook Islander leading the way is Te Ipukarea Society’s staff member, 18-year-old Charlee Mclean. 

Following her much admired presentation to the Global Landscape Forum in Germany earlier this year, Charlee has now been invited to be involved in the New York Forum this week. 

Charlee has submitted a personalised video focusing on her experiences and love for the ocean and the Cook Islands.  

The impacts of climate change on our oceans will be significant and Charlee’s video shows how determined she is to ensure our oceans are as resilient and healthy as possible. 

The video will be shown to the 700 audience members live at the forum as well as across social media platforms and will be emailed to the forum’s 70k member’s list.  Watch this space for more information on how to view the video!

Also making waves internationally is New Zealand-based 17-year-old Jimah Ruland-Umata, who has ancestral ties to the Cook Islands. 

A prefect at Rotorua Boys High School, Jimah came to our attention this month with a powerful address on the voice of Pacific youth in climate change, at the Oceania Ecosystems Services Forum in Christchurch. 

A strong and engaging public speaker, Jimah spoke of fighting for the right to stay at home in the face of climate change because so much of our culture is rooted in our land and how leaving our land means leaving our culture – something that is unacceptable for future generations. 

Then in Auckland, Hareta Tiraa-Passfield is a final year university student from the Cook Islands. She joined the strike for climate change action because, she says, she is incredibly proud of the Pacific’s stance on climate change. “Today I strike for my ancestors. Today I strike for the future."

It is young Cook Islanders such as these who will hopefully inspire others to take action. Our young people have much to contribute and their voices need to be heard. 

So don’t be afraid to stand up and speak your mind!  

And perhaps next year more Cook Island school students will mobilise and join the international movement to stand together with Greta Thunberg and the rest of the world to strike against climate change. Kate McKessar


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