Stewardship of the Pacific Ocean – our responsibility to protect
Caritas organisations and partners over the last two decades have been noticing an increasing number of significant changes in the environment, all of which are impacting most on the poorest communities.
Four years ago, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand began tracking those changes more comprehensively through our State of the Environment Report for Oceania series, with the aim of better informing the governments and peoples of our region and encouraging them to exercise responsible stewardship of our vast ocean – Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, which covers one third of the world’s surface.
From the first report, we have documented how people in low-lying coastal parts of Oceania are building makeshift sea walls of stones, logs, coral and shells to protect their homes, or move inland or emigrate to other places. Each year we learn of more places affected in this manner, and this year the annual environment report will focus more fully on how long-term and unpredictable changes to our oceans are already disrupting and threatening people’s lives. It will also focus on the positive steps people are taking to adapt to these changes and mitigate the impacts.
The stories gathered from the coastal edges highlight a key recommendation from Caritas’ 2016 report: governments in Oceania need to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable communities. Working with these communities, governments must share relevant information and long-term plans must be identified for adaptation and protection of the poorest and most vulnerable.
It is also the responsibility of us all to become more informed about the impacts of climate change on marginalised groups throughout Oceania, and to call for suitable responses from local and central governments.