"We cannot just sit and wait, we must act now, collectively uniting the voices of the Pacific to let developed countries know how their incessant use of fossil fuels and environmentally damaging practises such as logging and mining are affecting our livelihoods and environment."
Pick up your paddle and get ready for adventure.
Last August, the 48-foot Climate Challenger canoe and its 10 crew members embarked from Pere Village in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. Their mission? Voyaging on the Pacific to restore traditional cultural connections and reveal the increasingly grave effects that climate change has had on island countries.
The Climate Challenger grew out of the vision of Manuai Matawai, a Nature Conservancy conservation officer from Pere. He thought: what if a crew of Manusians—descended from the seafaring Titan people—undertook a locally led voyage through Melanesia and Micronesia, journeying between islands to connect villages and people separated by rising seas? And what if they used that voyage as a platform for telling the world about the climate crisis facing people throughout the Pacific?
Building the traditional long-voyage canoe and assembling the crew of navigators, dancers and musicians took two years. Recently, Manuai and the Challenger finished a two-month, 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) expedition that took them from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands and back. The crew originally planned to travel to Micronesia and beyond, but cyclone season forced them to cut their journey short and save a second leg of the trip for later.
During their first journey, the Climate Challenger’s Titan crew connected with seafaring people throughout the region; drew hundreds of people to hear them speak about their experiences in conservation; and celebrated their historic journey during each visit with a series of isolated island communities. (They even managed to help with some climate change adaptation home improvement as well as do a little beach clean-up.) The voyage was part of a larger initiative, undertaken with support from AusAID, to help communities in Asia-Pacific respond to the impacts of climate change.
The Climate Challenger’s voyage is not yet complete, and its crew remains committed to completing its journey.
“Despite the trip being suspended, I am happy to have sailed back to Manus safely,” Matawai says. “Awareness on Climate Change has not reach most of the isolated areas within PNG and Solomon Islands. I am looking forward to take another challenging task again to complete the voyage.”