The faces of climate change: Ursula

Food & climate change article written on the 21 Oct 2010

From the moment I first heard her story it was hard not to be inspired by Ursula Rakova. Her community in the Carteret Islands 86km north-east of Bougainville is facing eviction from their island home. With estimates that the islands will be uninhabitable by 2015 due to sea level rise, Ursula is working to relocate the Carterets’ 3000 inhabitants. Watch Ursula’s story.

The Carterets are drowning. The community has built sea walls and planted mangroves, but they cannot stop the sea eroding the shoreline or destroying their gardens. “We have lost our staple food crop,…swamp taro. We can grow a bit of bananas, but that’s also going down,” Ursula explains.

In response, Ursula set up Tulele Peisa, or “Sailing the waves on our own”. This organisation coordinates the relocation of her people to Tinputz in Bougainville. While she has support from the local Tinputz community, her plans for housing and other facilities are progressing slowly with a lack of national and international financial support.

While this hasn’t stopped Ursula – who was recently in Australia fundraising – it’s clear more needs to be done. As the highest per person greenhouse gas polluter in the developed world, and a “big brother” in the Pacific region, Australia has particular responsibility to both reduce its own emissions but also support Pacific Island communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change they’re now facing.

In Ursula’s words “Climate change is not just about statistics. Climate change is about human rights.”

I am inspired by Ursula. It’s women like her that remind me why I campaign on climate change. We often think we can’t do much. But we can support Ursula. And eventually, if enough of us are inspired, and act, it will create change.

What you can do: