Bernard Kato Ewekia Taomia is a 25-year-old youth climate activist from Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu. Kato made history as the first young Tuvaluan delegate to attend COP26.
I met Kato at the Saving Tuvalu Global Campaign where he is the national leader of this non-governmental organization where we are focused on amplifying the voices and demands of the collective society, and planning sustainable strategies to address Tuvalu’s environmental and humanitarian crisis. Kato is also active in the Fridays for Future MAPA (Most Affected Places and Areas).
I would like to tell you very briefly about Tuvalu as I have been working on Tuvalu a lot.
Located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii Island and Australia, with its neighboring countries Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji has a surface area of 26 square kilometers and a population of 11,000, Tuvalu is the smallest country in the world after the Vatican, Monaco and Nauru. It is one of the first island nations to sink due to the rising seas caused by the climate crisis because its highest point is 4.5 meters.
Atlas Sarrafoğlu: Can you please tell us about your daily life on your island Tuvalu?
Bernard Kato Ewekia Taomia: My daily life in Tuvalu. I would go to work every morning between 8am to 4 pm Whenever I have free time during work, I work with my climate activist colleagues in Saving Tuvalu. We are running campaigns and try to build awareness about the effects of the climate crisis on Tuvalu. After work I go training, Rugby and boxing, prepare dinner for the night and spend time with my family before bed.
How is the climate crisis affecting people’s everyday lives in general in Tuvalu?
I can see the big difference between when I was a very young boy and now, with the climate that’s been happening in Tuvalu. My island nation was a paradise then and I hardly saw sea water entering my land from underneath. Today, I’m seeing sea water taking a lot of land because of sand erosion and floods of sea water rising everyday which is affecting our plants. Tuvalu’s temperature has risen and this affects the weather as drought, dry land, and sometimes our health because it’s too hot. We have adapted to drought by having gutters on roofs to collect rainwater. Also farming has become impossible due to rising sea water, leaving our soil barren.
Two of our islands have been affected by Cyclone Pam back in 2015 and our ancestors’ graveyards were on one of the islands, Nui and their bodies have been taken away by the waves.
How do you and other fellow island habitants feel about migration when your island nation becomes uninhabitable?
I would be very sad. Taking us away from our country means it will take everything away from us about being a Tuvaluan. I believe that our generations want their kids to grow up here in Tuvalu, and also learn the culture in our forefathers land. It wouldn’t be the same if I learn fishing in Australia or some foreign country. Our culture, art and soul would be lost forever.
Then what is the perception of your government regarding the climate crisis?
The government has built some sea walls to reduce the amount of erosion, but we see it’s not enough to really stop the sand erosion since just very small sea walls were built by adding sand to extend land by sucking sand from the ocean to the land. Still the government is looking for a long term solution to survive and maintain Tuvalu as before. We realize there is not much to be done unless the world takes a stance to stop the use of fossil fuels and the heating of our planet.
Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kofe stands knee-deep in seawater for his #COP26 speech, drawing attention to the island nation’s struggle against rising sea levels https://t.co/6MHgkaWpwv pic.twitter.com/fMQBmns4vT
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 9, 2021
If you had a microphone to address the world leaders, what would you say to them about the climate crisis?
I wish I could bring all the leaders that caused climate change to my country, not just to see the climate crisis that has been going on here, but to feel this crisis for themselves, the suffering that my people have to go through every day. This is our home and I don’t want to lose it, and I do believe also that nobody would want to lose theirs as well. I don’t only seek solidarity but also seek for us to all work together because if we can save low lying countries like Tuvalu, we can save the world. Regardless of our race, skin color, economic status or age, the climate crisis doesn’t have any boundaries and it will affect every single one of us eventually if we don’t act now.
You have been to COP26 in Glasgow and voiced out the crisis you are facing as your island nation. How did Glasgow make you feel? (you can talk about how you felt meeting with the activists and also how you feel about the leaders decisions?)
COP26 started 26 years ago and it breaks my heart that the climate crisis is still getting worse and worse. So it kinda makes me think that why are there any meetings and plans and pledges like these if the problem that the leaders are trying to solve has not been solved or even improved. I’m hoping that the leaders can take this situation into deep thought and act on it while there’s still time.
What is your perception of the future in regards to the climate crisis? How do you envision yourself in 2030?
To be honest. I really don’t know. I hope that tomorrow can be improved. By the looks of it this matter can be only reduced if the leaders will act now.