Copenhagen. The KlimaForum

Posted in 1 on December 12, 2009 by clemmiesconch


The Benetton advert with a heart and soul!!

 The last few days have been quite unbelievably intense. Copenhagen is full on. The energy is high, the conversations 100000 a minute, the stories pouring from every wall, person, mouth, leaflet, and speaker, and the hope is high, for the politicians at the COP15 to come up with a legally binding, fair and robust treaty- yes- but not counting on it. High from the remarkable gathering of people from around the world whose integrity and resilience is so strong and where you real feel alliances are being made and cross cultural communication is really happening. I sometimes walk into meeting and even if I tried I would never have been able to draw the rainbow of costumes, faces, and languages that are here.

The KlimaForum is basically the middle ground- maybe a bit leftfield but a huge conference centre where there are 100’s of forums/talks and workshops going on all day and into the night. It is here that I have put up my little display. The UN  COP15 is at the Bella Centre on the other side of town and then dotted around the city but particularly in the famous squatted quarters of Christiania amongst the 300 types of hashish openly sold on the street you find many of the grassroots’ and activist gatherings and meetings.

There is so much to write about, however I will keep it brief. I have spoken to many many people about Tuvalu and about Climate Friend- the response has been great and the comments inspiring. A huge concern for me before going to Tuvalu was the lack of communication between campaigners and those suffering from climate change- well there are many ways here that are presenting models to rectify this situation. There have been lots and lots of film/tv makers and I have done a few interviews which have been a bit funny- but hopefully Tuvalu will come across well even if I sound like a loon.

The areas of discussion and debate that I have been focusing on have been; the inter-faith panels on Religion, how religions are going to have to play key roles in running forward with the baton of change. Radical economist’s explaining with tempting conviction that the only feasible way to rectify and move forward in this changing climate is to re-structure our entire economic system – that there are limits to growth and that we can prosper with out  increasing our GDP. (look up Tim Jackson and Mathis Wachemagel). Finally the vital question of Climate Change refugees or the new term the Climate Induced Migration- There have been many discussions on what the world going to do with the millions of people who will be displaced in the very near future.

(The answers to all this will be in the next update…. only kidding..!)

 We march on the streets tomorrow which I am happy about. Kumi Naidoo (key activist in South Africa apartied and now recently made head of Greenpeace International) today gave the most incredible call for decent men and women to rise and take action in the many forms this word conjures up… he left me with goose pimples

– infact I have been moved so many times over the last few days- I am quite in awe of the work so many people are doing around the world, especially people in facing adverse social and political positions….. Yesterday in the big activist kitchen I was sitting next to two tribal menfrom Bolivia dressed in thier multi-coloured finery, other than being my height, I wondered how similar our lives were….for me Copenhagen is not a big step from my own existence and culture, for these two men that I smiled to while gulping down my soup, Copenhagen is not only a strange world- it has got to be the beginning of their new world.

These talks have got to be the genesis of real change.


Climate Friend goes to Copenhagen

Posted in 1 on November 17, 2009 by clemmiesconch

Climate friend and I are going to the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Summit this December.

( With thanks to The Golden Bottle Trust and Lush Cosmetics.)

COP15 - Copenhagen

I am taking a mobile exhibition of photographs from Tuvalu and over 80 testimonies of young people expressing their opinions on Climate change in Tuvalu. Some are messages of hope, others demands, some are pleas and some humorous.

 It is so important to me that people get to read what these children and young adults have to say about a their country disappearing, about the displacement of their people and the threat of losing their history, culture and national identity.

Can you imagine knowing that in the next 20 years, your garden, your walk to work, your family home, your mothers grave and your favourite places to sit and talk about love and the world – will simply not exist… sounds like an awful sci-fi blockbuster.

It breaks my heart that it is no film…. it is happening.

It is my belief that as it will be the youths of today having to deal with this foreboding future it is their story that I wish to hear and present.  

I do not suggest this is, or that I have a solution to their problem, I do not.

 There is huge controversy over Copenhagen, how useful it will be, What ( if any) decisions will be created, will they be good enough, will smaller nations be represented…etc. There are awful laws that are being passed. Such as; the 40 day law-sending anyone the officials suspect of being a protester  in prison for 40 days – without a charge.(this means they do not have to give reason) They are contracting police form Germany, Belgium and Scandinavia to help ‘keep control’ and they are tightening border control – with my conviction it is possible that I will not make it through.

However I see Copenhagen as totally vital; imperative infact.. It is a gathering of those who care, in their many many ways and a platform for thousands to listen, learn and contemplate, in hope of the rest of the world taking heed.  There will be controversy and there will be mavericks. But these are all clogs in the wheel of change. They exist anyway, all the time. They are only highlighted when they all come together.

I have been invited to exhibit at the Klima-Forum: the Peoples Climate Summit.

 But I also hope to take the little exhibition to other social gathering spaces, and try to take it to places and to people who are not so convinced about climate change… like the hotel lounge of the American delegates!!

I will be working closely with my best friend Alex Parry, who will be complementing ClimateFriend ‘Messages form Tuvalu’  with her project The Knowledge Shop:

The Knowledge Shop is a project that aims to empower people into gaining new understandings of the place they are in. It not only searches to unravel a personal relationship to place, but also a collective one. As an anthropological enquiry it seeks new ways in which to conduct fieldwork and finds new methods of presenting its results.’

I am very excited.

From one Island to another…

Posted in 1 on July 30, 2009 by clemmiesconch

I have been in Britain now for a few months and the work I did in Tuvalu continues to be laced with in my life. My time there most certainly structured, changed and enhanced my understanding of the complexity of Climate Change.

Since being back from Tuvalu, amongst other things I have been found guilty at the Leeds crown court of ‘hijacking a coal train going into Drax power station’. An action that I and 28 other activists took last June. Our Judge Spencer threw out our defence of necessity and prevention of crime by saying that the action was unrelated to Climate Change. By doing this he prevented numerous amounts of high profile climate scientists, MP’s, Environmentalists, such as James Hansen Head of NASA and a variety of international witnesses testifying about the existing effects of Climate Change. One of those would have been my dear friend and colleague Rev. Tafue Lusama.

 The world sadly missed out on an extraordinary trial.

 Here are a few links:

I have set up my networking scheme called “Climate Friend”. It has been set up for people to exchange information, to create links of solidarity and encouragement and to establish global friendships. An aspect of this has been linking activists in the UK with young people in Tuvalu. Though the process has been slow, I believe that the communication between both islands will be far reaching.

This coming Saturday 1st August I will be doing a talk at the Tree House Galleries in Regents Park. An amazing eco-art space made by my friends in the heart of the park. 2pm up a tree.!

Moving and shacking- and Banner Making!!!!

Posted in MOving and Shaking on April 24, 2009 by clemmiesconch

Vadita's message to the world, the Tiasalas

Vadita's message to the world, the Tiasalas

This last week has been manic, meeting people for a Greenpeace project, giving talks, holding workshops and gathering statements form young people for the rest of the world, making banners, photographing people, and learning the skill of patience!.

USP. Students

USP. Students

The statements speak for them selves, and many are incredibly poignant. I have photographed some of the young who took part, and hopefully from the photos you will see a little more of the situation at hand.

The thinnest point in Funafuti: The Crossway

The thinnest point in Funafuti: The Crossway

The young (aged, 12-30) know what they want and it is now a matter for me and those of you who are willing to help me to get their voices heard. Tuvalu does not have a politicized activist culture, therefor this process has to be gentle and sustainable, but I have every bit of confidence, with help we can get thier messages heard by those that need to hear them.

USP. Students

USP. Students

Here is my proposal on how this will be achieved.

Primary School kids by the Lagoon

Primary School kids by the Lagoon

  • To get every youth who has participated in talk /workshop /made a statement a ‘climate change friend’ in Britain. The idea is to establish solidarity links. To exchange information and reports on the latest actions and campaigns in the UK, instigate motivation, to give support, and most importantly to EMPOWER!.

USP Students

USP Students

This will be a scheme of written exchange through internet or post. The idea is not to so much to teach people about Climate Change as aiding them get their voices heard through this grassrooty kind a way! It may be a matter of sending their letters to the UK government, getting their thoughts published, etc. In addition it is for YOU guys to learn about Tuvalu and what people here are experiencing and thinking and doing.

(…I promise you this is not like having a French pen-pal, Tuvaluans do not have over sized rucksacks and funny trainers.)

For those who want to take part email me with the heading ‘I DO’ at: . I have almost 80 emails of eager Tuvaluans so please be in touch.

  • In addition I would like to do something big, beautiful and LOUD with these statements…maybe putting them in plastic bottles and doing something along the lines of ‘messages in a bottle’ travelling across oceans to be read by those who need to read them and march on to parliament..!. Or making a huge paper bird of peace, or doing a giant washing line like Tibetan prayer flags, with the hope that the messages will travel in the wind and manifest….

My aim is to create an inter-active instillation to take to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in Dec 09.

Again email me, if you are interested and when I am home ill get some meetings organised and will apply for funding.

So everything is starting to take shape and seeds have been carefully planted, if but a few, I hope strong trees will come from them.

Sue, Mental Health Coordinator and me

Sue, Youth Mental Health Coordinator and me

It has been quite an experience telling the story of what climate change activists have been doing in the UK to youth groups here. And more often than not, people have come up to me with messages to take home to thank, all who take action on behalf of people from vulnerable countries like Tuvalu. They honestly have no idea that people care so much, and the very notion of protest and ‘direct action’ is often completely novel. I am by the way a hopeless speech maker, the subject I think moves me and rallies me too much. As I stand there telling them of their importance and that they have a chance to stand up for what they deserve and for their right as Human beings…. instead of being an eloquent environmentalist I look more like a blubbering scruffy actress giving an Oscar speech. I am pretty sure they probably get a tad confused as to why the girl at the front of the class has tears on her cheeks and is suddenly talking about ‘black people in south Africa’ and Ghandi!

(small mental note, stick to the topic and have some public speaking training.)

Another mental note, bring a some pictures of ‘COAL’, it has been very difficult if a little hilarious explaining what Coal is, to young people who have no concept of it, let alone explaining ‘Trains carrying Coal, as most have never seen a train!!!!

But none the less, I think with the help of Reverend Tafue, we have stirred up a few minds, and that is always the start!

It has not all been easy, on a quite a few occasions I have sat under a tree waiting to do a workshop with all the creative material ready, eagerly waiting equally eager Tuvaluans to come bounding up ready to ‘get active’. But three hours and many bottles of water later, I still sit there alone with only the killing midday sun for company…

time for a change.yup!!

time for a change.yup!!

I have more than a few times wondered if it is more of a hindrance outsiders coming to Tuvalu to help and whether our concern is welcomed. I mean this in thought rather than fact. Of course Tuvalu needs outsider help, but two words spring to mind, LOCAL and SUSTAINABLE. If it is not their initiative it is very difficult to drum up support.

In the area that I have been working; ‘young people’, and taking a very informal grassroots approach, it is clear to me there is not enough focus and attention. However in other spheres of Tuvaluan society, notably the government they seem a little wrought with the non stop attention. I have already mentioned the rise in flux of journalists, and almost every week different NGOs, or Climate Change Organisations come over on the weekly flight to hold workshops. ‘workshops’ note. NOT long term sustainable development. People need to touch, see, EXPERINCE change……….. for them to help them selves….hmmm I could write a lot about this, but ill stop before I sound annoying!!

(Btw. ‘Alofa Tuvalu‘, the french organisation here are doing amazing work and are establishing Bio-gas with pig waste, and Bio-Diesel with cocnut oil… )

Ive attended one of these workshops run by the United Nations Development Program. There were Government representatives from most of the outer islands. Two UNDP representatives drew pictures on the white board, discussed aid finance and adaption plans, and drafts for this drafts for that. The main proposal is to change the government structure to create a new department specifically for Climate Change and a financial bureau specifically for Climate Change aid. At present these do not exist. Personally I thought the whole proposal was a good idea. As Tuvalu gets more attention and the guilt of the Industrial Nations gets higher, financial aid is going to poor in.(one hopes) The country needs to have a department to deal with CC issues, to perform effectively and with emphasis on quality control.

However it may have been the heat or the tempting feast that awaited us post meeting, but the Tuvaluan congress seemed unresponsive, in so far as they saw their system as working okay, so why change it?. But I sensed there was also a hint of resentment of yet another ‘outside’ organisation coming to the island to propose another way of dealing with CC problems. I had a chat with some ministers and some of the Tuvaluan Ngo’s after and it comes down to this. People set things up and then leave. You can not install solar powered energy units if no-one on the island is trained in the maintenance and their up keep?

Sunema in the sand

Sunema in the sand

It has to come from with in, if it comes from outside, and of course sometimes it must, then it must be done in such a way that it looks like it comes from with in! This, I think is empowerment.

Sunema in on the Coral Beach

Sunema on the Coral Beach

What I am now convinced of is that people in Tuvalu and Kiribas are experiencing a very tragic form of silent oppression.

Sunema pondering what i keep writing in the sand!!

Sunema wondering what i keep writing in the sand!!

A Short Introduction to: Culture in Tuvalu

Posted in A short introduction to:Culture in Tuvalu on April 23, 2009 by clemmiesconch

The island of Tuvalu is a culture based on community,
of feasting, of singing, of swimming, of good family principles,
of giving, of catching fish, of eating fish,
of eating lots of food, of feasting, of dumping rubbish,
of feeding the pigs,
of doing the washing,
of gathering to sing and dance,
of going to church, of singing,of making seawalls out of old cars,
of going to school,
of motorbikes, of playing volley ball,
of being kind, of playing,
of catching another fish,of building more and more houses,
of eating some more and then maybe having a sing along and going for a swim!

reefs and revolutions

Posted in Notes form a v.small island on April 14, 2009 by clemmiesconch




Its Good Friday and I have just been snorkelling. The Coral reef is dead. All around the island it is dead.  It made me feel very strange. It is like walking round  Stalingrad after the war. Nothing. All the coral is white. There is no life. I saw one little group of electric blue fish, and it was as if they were on a school trip coming to see where their grandparents use to live.


But the Sky. The sky here is so incredible every minute there is a different master piece above us. Constable would have a field day!


 I now sit in Rev. Tafue’s house, its siesta time in the afternoon, everyone is resting. Once again from one window I see the ocean form the other I see the lagoon. His little house is at the far end of the island, and when it is high tide the trees become encircled by water.


Reverand Tafue is an extraordinary man. He has just come back from Norway where he was representing the South Pacific Churches in their fight against Climate Change. The Norwegian government have plans to open new Oil fields which would make them 14-16% higher than Koyoto Protocol by 2012, and he with others Reverends form around the world came together to persuade the government not to go ahead. He has since been invited to Canada, New York, Alaska to do the same thing.


 I eat with his family now most evenings.  On his first night home, cross legged on the floor, over freshly caught raw tuna and sweet tea we talked about the island and the future. He speaks with such wisdom, sensitivity and reverence, that I wondered if I was talking to the next Mandela of our world. It honestly would not surprise me.


 I spoke to him about the difficulty I was having with the young people I was interviewing. I had come, I explained with a feeling that young people would be really keen to have their thoughts and stories shared with someone from the other side of the world.


However, what I feel I am often listening to is a script. A script about the sea level rising, and the temperature from the sun. When I ask for evidence or how they are personally affected, they reply with nervous laughter.


Rev, Tafue chuckled and said to me that you can ask anyone, young or old on the island about climate change, and yes they will say it exists but ask them how it effects their daily lives and they will have trouble answering.

What people have not grasped onto he explains to me, is the ‘link’. The link between Climate Change and how it is the slow death of their culture.



 This is the example he gave me;


As the sun has got hotter it has warmed the sea especially in the shallow waters and this bleaches the coral reef that surrounds the islands. This means the coral reef dies. The coral reef, is like a garden under the water and is home to a huge eco-system of life, including fish. With no eco-system the fish either die or swim to deeper ocean.


Tuvaluan culture is  centred around the sea. Vast majority of people do not earn money, but survive by standing knee deep in sea, fishing for their family. This however is no longer possible. There are no more fish in the shallow waters, and so those who can, buy boats and sail to the deeper waters. Those who can not buy tinned and processed food, that is neither cheap, nor healthy.



 This whole cycle affects everything from, health, to culture, to tradition, to the position of ‘men’ in the family, and of course the fatality of this situation is only increasing. It is this link that does not seem apparent to the young people here.


 That the vast majority of our life style; here in Tuvalu and back at home in Britain, is and will be increasingly so directly related to Climate Change, only the slow death of a culture and a people is a little harder to see than gigantic bush fires and tsunamis.



I come back to this concept of a Human Right to a clean, sustainable ‘Environment’. The industrialised countries as they increase their emissions are making this virtually impossible. But it panics me that people do not see this as a form of oppression.  Young people in Tuvalu, those like me who will suffer the consequences of the last two generations standard of living, HAVE to understand that they have a RIGHT for their island NOT to disappear- surely? They need to know that they have a voice right now, and that it is a super important one…


But gee! This whole thing is not easy.


Tafue and I are planning on doing a ‘talk’ at the high school, the uni, the red cross youth group and the drama, and church youth groups. I have never spoken to a group of people before ever, especially about a subject I feel I am only just grasping, – but ill keep you posted. I plan to get as many people to fill out ‘my interview/questionnaire but to do it them selves rather than me scribbling down their answers, that way they will be more confident and it will be hand written. Then when I come back to England I have some very exciting plans on what we will do with these messages from the island of Tuvalu……..!




A little thought:


Being surrounded by so much Christianity and with this perplexing situation that is; the lack of concern about Climate Change among the young and the lack of belief in that they deserve better deal. My thoughts have drifted back to my degree. My degree was in Anthropology and Religion, but my subject of interest was looking at the role of religion in social justice movements. Specifically; ‘Liberation Theology’ in the South America and ‘Black Consciousness Theology’ in South Africa.


 Put simply these are theologies that interpret the role of Jesus as a liberator and a messenger of peace and justice, in a hope of elevating, empowering and encouraging people to see their self worth and seek what they deserve. Emancipation from oppressive physiological constraints. As were found in the Afrikaans in South Africa and the Catholic church in Latin America.  


Radical or common sense? Liberation theology has a lot of great things to answer for. I really believe it is this sort of mind shift, always remaining culturally significant, that needs to happen; here and in many other parts of the world.


 So it did not surprise me when I asked Rev. Tafue about his thoughts on the above. He laughs and tells me those are his thoughts, he is a ‘liberation theologist’.


What I am trying to say, is that somewhere, somehow my generation have got to know that things can be different. I don’t care what religion, what ideology, but we need to know that it can be.


(As my mum always says to me, You must always ask, whats the worst they can say, no?…… At which point you might want to try hijacking a coal train.! )

Palm Sunday, 5 April 2009

Posted in snippets and trailing thoughts on April 7, 2009 by clemmiesconch

tuvalu-1-100_editedIt is morning in an old school room, the wind flutters the shutters and the sun timidly makes an entrance, just enough for us to see shadows on the ground out side. Crossed legged we sit on large palm weaved mats. The black board is covered in hibiscus flowers and palm leaves. We listen to the preacher, in a language I do not understand but a story I know well. About a man named Jesus who lived a long time ago in a land far away. The sweetest of voices sing to the tune of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and small children dressed all in white, enter from the back and weave their way through the seated people. They carry with them branches and palm leaves 2 or 3 times larger than themselves and they settle at the front of the alter waving the fauna around looking slightly sheepish and mischievous. The song reaches crescendo and finally after days of cloud, the sun streams through every available window and lights up the warm faces of my joyous congregation.


The serenity of the scene moves me to tears.


Is it really the case that one day this peacefully holly country will no longer be? And that these children will never have the pleasure to watch with pride their own children carry branches and palm leaves across a classroom, on the beautiful island of Tuvalu.