Some Maori and Pacific residents say they have been left out of climate change activism.
They warn that if their voices are not heeded, it risks perpetuating massive inequalities in this country.
Kera Sherwood-O’Regan of the disability climate justice network SustainedAbility says that for too long the Maori and Pasifika perspectives have been excluded.
“While this climate movement has been primarily Pākehā, our frontline communities have actually been doing the real work of system change for decades.
“And this has happened without the same public recognition or without the media campaigns, and without the recognition that deep systemic work is actually what is going to solve the climate crisis.”
Sherwood-O’Regan said she recognizes the mahi of young climate strikers who today will march across the country to demand government action.
But she said these new environmental movements were born out of a legacy of exclusion.
“I would really like to see our rangatahi Māori, our Pasifika, our disabled and other frontline communities focused in all campaigns, all media, all demonstrations or actions and all public policy related to climate change.
“Because we cannot get past the fact that solutions to climate change continue to sacrifice those who have already paid the price.”
Wellington’s young advisor and climate portfolio holder Tamatha Paul says in this country it is those who can least afford to make the drastic changes to adapt to climate change who will do the worst.
For example, she said that South Auckland – mostly Maori and Pasifika – is low and vulnerable to sea level rise. These people cannot afford to move and buy houses. elsewhere. They are also more likely to work in jobs that require long-distance travel where public transport is expensive or difficult to access.
Luhama Taualupe is an inverter – an indigenous conception of an activist.
She said the people of the Pacific had sounded the climate alarm for decades and the West only noticed when young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg called them.
“People only really want to listen when someone they feel comfortable listening to speaks to them and doesn’t seem like a threat.
“It’s a difficult thing because it’s unconscious racial prejudice.”
Taualupe said without Indigenous peoples leading the climate conversation, the same inequalities would remain entrenched.
“You can’t stand up for climate justice and not stand up for social justice and Indigenous justice – because if you are just one and not the other, you are perpetuating the same system that you are trying to change.
“Again, you are oppressing a group of people who are already highly marginalized.”
Pacific Climate Warriors climate activist Brianna Fruean said for those in the Pacific, the impact of climate change was not a futuristic disaster movie – it was already happening.
She said the world needs to learn from the knowledge of indigenous peoples to deal with the climate crisis.
“There is a reciprocal way of life, in harmony with nature.
“Sustainability is not necessarily something that we are trying to achieve, but something that we are trying to come back to.”
School climate strikes begin at lunchtime today.