Arti Chetty | Pacific Climate Warriors | July 2020
We are Pacific Climate Warriors (PCW), Kulin Nation based in Melbourne, Australia. PCW are active in 18 Pacific Island nations and also in diaspora communities in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. We work closely with 350.org Pacific to fight for climate justice for our Pacific communities, for our lands and waters: for our homes. Our oceans are rising as a direct consequence of global warming and, without radical change, many of our Pacific Islands will lose everything to sea level rise.
Sitting now in the mid-terrain of 2020, having travelled the rough contours of this year’s atlas, including the enormity of the bushfires and now the advent of COVID-19 (with all that ensues), and for some of our Pacific families, the devastation of Cyclone Harold, we have taken the enforced restructuring of daily interactions as an opportunity to share and reflect. We look again to our storytelling and artistic roots as scaffolding for collaborative organising.
In the context of this differently dynamic period, PCW Melbourne was privileged to be asked to collaborate with artist Tal Fitzpatrick as part of the Next Wave Festival – Signs of our Times project to create a banner to aid in our work.
Rarangaa taai aika ana roko is in the Kiribati language and literally means weave the days to come.
The banner calls for a #JustRecovery and an end to disaster capitalism.
The tatau (double lines circling the centre) comes from traditional tattoo designs of the Mungiki and Mungaba people (Solomon Islands). It is inspired by the shell of a beetle which symbolises a protective shield. The shield holds the stories of our ancestors who guide our work and protect us as we fight for a #JustRecovery. The scales are the scales of a fish and represent our connection to the ocean and to each other. The figures in the centre represent us, the Warriors, who weave the days to come together; to build a just future together: rarangaa taai aika ana roko. Tal lovingly wove the banner from upcycled fabrics using our design, echoing the work being done by the four figures seated in the banner.
The #JustRecovery Principles and PCW values rest on common themes of resilience, community, mana, solidarity, family and justice. Mana is the complex spiritual force that permeates the universe and flows between all beings and objects. Mana is not one thing, but many things, and speaks to the possession of honour, respect and power. Pacific communities are connected across oceans and we express this interconnectedness through this banner in an act of solidarity with our PCW families as they look toward the future and consider the very real possibility of the destruction of their worlds. The banner reflects the story of the many stories intertwined across the Pacific, woven together by shared experiences, a shared fight for justice, shared hardship: our diversity woven together by our common stories, our diversity woven together to strengthen our resilience.
While change is inevitable, especially in the face of climate change and now COVID-19, a just transition to equitable structures is not. The slowing of our day to day lives by COVID-19 has created the space and time to allow us to further bear witness to the decay of neoliberalism and to the existential threat presented by disaster capitalism. In these new spaces, we consider the utility of living more slowly as an act of resistance in and of itself. If we are to advocate for a #JustRecovery, for community centred and environment centred structures of governance, then we must also create them. We must protect and nurture the spaces required to build these structures. A #JustRecovery is not only to be demanded of government as they propose alarming new policies, but something we all need to participate in. We can build these structures in our families, our neighbourhoods and in the way we ourselves operate. We do this by telling stories, building communities, collaborating with others in acknowledgment of our own capacity to build new and sustainable projects.
This is a time to be decisive in saving lives, cultures and livelihoods. It is a time to be bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future through a #JustRecovery. Join us to create a just future together with your stories woven with ours – rarangaa taai aika ana roko.
- Sign the open letter petition for a #JustRecovery here
- If you want to know more or get involved locally in Melbourne, contact Pacific Climate Warriors Melbourne: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arti Chetty is a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors Kulin Nation. She was born in Suva, Fiji, and grew up in Narrm (Melbourne). Arti works as a refugee lawyer and spends time thinking about the clear and growing links between migration and climate change, and what this means for the already huge numbers of displaced peoples around the world. Her connection to the Pacific and the fast rising waters surrounding those islands drive her to work toward climate justice and to learn how to centre country and community in the way that she lives.
Arti has chosen to publish and license her piece under Creative Commons licence CC BY 4.0. So we encourage you to republish her work (in part or in full) for free, online or in print. Just remember to acknowledge the author in line with CC BY 4.0.