Today we joined the Fossil Free QUT team to say – QUT, get the buck out of fossil fuels!
Our university has an estimated $30 million invested in fossil fuel companies which is funding new coal, oil, and gas projects driving climate change. With over 1,000 students, staff, and alumni signing our divestment petition, it’s clear that the QUT Community does not support the university’s fossil fuel investments.
My name is Iree Chow. I am from the Solomon Islands and Federated States of Micronesia (F.S.M) – both very small islands among the many vulnerable islands in the Pacific experiencing the worst of climate change. Today I am not only representing my own family and culture, I am representing the QUT Pasifika Association and the 500+ students and staff within our QUT community that have identified as a Maori or Pasifika Islander to stand up for our Pacific and say – QUT, get the buck out of fossil fuels!
There are over 30,000 islands within the 25 countries in the Pacific. These islands are grouped into three divisions: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and although are only small developing islands and the smallest contributors to climate change – we, Pacific Islanders, are affected more than anywhere else in the world.
Around the Pacific, thousands of coastal villages are already suffering from extreme events in weather such as: hurricanes, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods, and their side effects like coastal erosion and especially on the atolls (like F.S.M) – water shortages. We are facing threats to sustainable development in sectors including human health, infrastructure, coastal resources, disaster management, fresh water availability, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, marine ecosystems and tourism. The Divestment Campaign has its place in the Pacific and we are calling for institutions to move their investments from the fossil fuel industry to more renewable and cleaner sources of energy! Why would you support companies that profit from wrecking the planet?! Our homes!
I am sure you have all heard about Cyclone Pam that struck Vanuatu earlier this year; leaving 24 people dead and up to 100,000 people homeless. The damage caused by Cyclone Pam through widespread flooding was in fact exacerbated by climate change and also affected the islands of Tuvalu (with half the population being displaced) and several islands in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati affected by the huge storm.
Barely two weeks later, communities in the Federated States of Micronesia were slammed by Typhoon Maysak. Photographs from my extended family are heartbreaking. 95% of homes have been destroyed leaving a significant number of people homeless, thousands of crops that communities relied on for food completely flattened and many trees have fallen blocking roads and access to the main town.
Surrounded by the ocean, the Pacific Islands are incredibly vulnerable to the power of the sea –rising sea levels, storm surges or flooding during severe weather.. There are still some who believe that climate change is a distant threat but for us it is a present threat. It’s happening NOW and our people are being affected NOW. If climate change is not taken seriously, in the near future, numerous islands in the Pacific will be swallowed up and completely submerged. These nations include: Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Vanuatu and many, many more.
Yes, the people of the Pacific have learned to adapt with the increasing number of extreme weather events. But what happens when it is no longer safe to live on our islands and we are forced to migrate to bigger countries like Australia? If you choose to not hear our cry in terms of climate change, will this be the same with our migration? The Pacific and many undeserved communities around the world face a bleak future. We cannot ignore the negative consequences of Climate Change. Stand up for the Pacific! Get the buck out of fossil fuels!!
– Iree Chow, Current QUT Student