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Keep it local

Josie PaganiJosie Pagani
Director
Council for International  Development

The good news is that according to a recent survey about 85% of Americans now believe that climate change is real and man made. Unfortunately the remaining 15% are now in the White House.

Maybe Donald Trump’s bite won’t be as bad as his bark. But the evidence isn’t great. During the election campaign he said that climate change was a hoax made up by the Chinese. He woke up one day, it snowed and he felt cold. If he ate lunch today, that would mean global hunger is a hoax too.

However the Trump presidency plays out, those of us who believe in global solutions to global problems must keep making the case for states and citizens in the developed world to do the right thing; take in refugees fleeing bombs and persecution; implement policies to limit global warming to well below 2%, preferably 1.5%.

The hardest part of responding to Donald Trump’s election is to understand what motivates the people who voted for him and win the argument for progressive values even when we thought we’d already won the arguments decades ago.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but part of winning the argument for progressive internationalism is being as local as possible.

I was in the Pacific last week for a conference of Pacific NGOs. It’s hard to escape climate change wherever you go. In the Pacific, climate change isn’t just something bad that will happen in the future – it’s happening right now, whether you’re a new mum in a maternity hospital in Kiribati flooded with water during a king tide, or a family forced to relocate permanently from flood-hit areas to mainland Fiji to escape encroaching seas.

Climate change in the Pacific is not just an economic challenge, it’s an humanitarian one. For the first time in decades, malnutrition is rising in a region usually  abundant with fresh fruit and fish. Salt water from the sea is infecting fresh sources and killing crops. Cyclone Winston was the strongest cyclone ever to hit the South Pacific. Since then CID member  Caritas has published a report highlighting increase malnutrition among children forced to eat tough cassava roots softened with paracetamol after the roots have been hardened with salt water.

Our job as international NGOs is to get behind local people in the Pacific and give them choices. Let them tell their stories and define the solutions, and make sure their voices are heard in New Zealand and across the world.

I met a woman from Samoa who is worried that families in her community can no longer eat fish for dinner most nights because there aren’t enough fish in the sea. She’s also a taro farmer who would like to scale up her business and join others like her in the Pacific to export her taro direct to international markets.

Samoan people like her want enough fish to eat for dinner, and the chance to run a successful business. Both of those require us to do more about climate change, and do it quickly, as well as providing her with the means to work out the response that works best for her. Equipping people at the local level with the means to be resilient is the most effective response to the changing global context.

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

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