‘Our existence is at stake’: Students on islands being swallowed by rising seas join global climate strike

As young people across planet march on cities to demand action, those in territories already suffering the dire impact of environmental catastrophe add their voices to calls for urgent action

Colin Drury
Friday 20 September 2019 19:10 BST

It is a South Pacific nation that is among those facing the most immediate existential threat from climate change.

In the Solomon Islands, entire communities are already being relocated from low-lying lands because of rising oceans. Five atolls – all non-inhabited – have been submerged completely.

So, when young climate change protesters there joined students across the world demonstrating against global warming on Friday, they did not take to the streets.

They took, symbolically, to the seas.

The teenagers and adult allies entered the water in a bid to convey the sheer scale of the threat to this 900-island, 560,000 micro-country.

The country’s most urgent problems include the fact that crops can no longer be grown in some areas due to increasingly sandy soil, while on one island, graves at a shoreline cemetery have been eroded by encroaching waves.

"Climate change has not only affected the weather, it has affected everything, the people, the sea, the land, even the food we eat has changed," one islander John Kaia previously told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. "People's lives have already changed so much."


The Solomon protesters were not alone in taking action across the South Pacific. Youngsters also demonstrated across other island nations including in Kiribati – where children chanted, "We are not sinking, we are fighting” – and the Marshall Islands.

The president of the latter Hilda Heine has consistently supported the protests, saying her nation will be underwater by 2030 without action.

“It is our livelihood,” she said earlier this year. “It is the very existence of the Marshall Islands that’s at stake.”

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Hundreds of thousands of students across the world have been striking from school to demand that that governments across the planet treat the climate emergency as an existential threat.

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