Chui-Ling Tam's blog

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In the westernmost reaches of Nunavut, on the Northwest Passage, Inuit hunters have told me some pithy things about climate change.

The land is changing. It isn’t climate change. This is part of cycles. Our elders saw this coming.

Some of the most visible and profound effects of global warming are occurring in the Arctic. Some Inuit are worried climate change will permanently alter the world. Others say it will pass, as other times of want and plenty have passed through the Inuit’s long cycles of life in the Arctic.

In Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland in Canada, perceptions about climate change cannot be divided into two camps of “believers” and “deniers.” The situation is far more complex.

To understand climate change communication and adaptation in maritime communities, my research team has travelled to the Canadian Arctic, Indonesia and the Philippines to find out what local communities have to say about climate change.

The answer so far? It varies.

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[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP23 Fiji in Bonn.]

Reflecting on another marathon COP as I fly back to an Alberta recovering from wildfires, I am thinking of the silk frangipani flower in my suitcase. I had asked a Pacific delegate whether it was indeed a frangipani in her hair, a bloom that Indonesia’s Balinese women wear and place in Hindu offerings every morning. She confirmed it was, then explained that Pacific islanders weave them into garlands like a crown around their heads. Then she insisted I keep the flower.

At this “Pacific COP”, led by the Fiji Presidency but hosted far from the increasingly storm-battered islands of the Pacific Ocean, flowers were everywhere, worn by Pacific women delegates and the glowing young men and women who filmed their testaments for the Pacific Climate Warriors to share at these talks. These messages are full of love and practical defiance, a call to keep “1.5 to stay alive” but also an acknowledgment that there may well be a future where home will be a space of memory, destroyed by storms or drowned by rising seas.

There are often hints of tears.

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[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP23 Fiji in Bonn.]

I see suits. After 11 days and 25 side events, visions of a sea of men in dark suits and short back and sides are swimming before my eyes. Even as I sit at the Indonesia pavilion facing the palm trees and thatch huts of the Fiji pavilion, with men in batik shirts and women with frangipani-adorned hair strolling past me, the overwhelming impression is of men in suits.

It’s not just me. Mary Robinson remarked on it too. The past Irish president and past UN Commissioner for Human Rights, now busy with the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, declared during a Climate Action Studio interview that it was nice to see women outnumber the men for a change. Robinson was one of four speakers, two men and two women, but the gender re-balance occurred courtesy of the 15-year-old girl conducting the interview. A few days earlier, the equally eloquent Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati and tireless climate warrior, told a worshipful room that Kiribati would disappear, but its people had plenty of time if we work on pre-emptive responses and training to prepare them for eventual climate-induced migration. The Kiribati diaspora would shine in new worlds, he said, and then he singled out a female compatriot and declared there was nothing to stop a beautiful Kiribati woman from becoming the prime minister of Australia.

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