By SHIRLEY LABAN AND MALA SILAS
Vanuatu. An idyllic paradise in the South Pacific, where thousands of Australians go each year to bask under the sun in balmy breezes, snorkel through vibrant coral reefs and enjoy gourmet food.
But for us Vanuatu is home, and behind the covers of the glossy holiday brochures lies an island nation that is paying a heavy price for the failure of rich nations to confront the reality of climate change.
While Australia continues to take backwards steps, most recently repealing its functioning carbon price, communities in Vanuatu cannot afford to waste time in confronting the climate challenge.
Changing weather patterns, warmer temperatures, rising sea levels and damage to our coral reefs are just some of the impacts already making it harder for families in Vanuatu to grow, buy and catch enough food.
Soil erosion is destroying our coconut plantations, heavy rainfall leads to landslides that wash away our crops, and ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures are damaging Vanuatu’s precious coral reefs and reducing the number of fish.
The women of Vanuatu, who have the primary responsibility for growing and preparing food, are most affected by these changes. But while traditionally women in Vanuatu had little say in important decisions that impact their lives, encouraging progress has been made and today women are at the forefront of the country’s response to climate change.
Last year we headed to the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw as members of Vanuatu’s national delegation, ensuring the voices of Vanuatu’s women and youth were directly represented in this latest round of crucial international climate negotiations.
Despite the damage that has already been caused, there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We are a resilient people, spread across 83 islands on the Pacific Ring of Fire. We are no strangers to natural hazards including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, but we cannot confront the effects of climate change alone.