“You go left, I’ll go right. Weaving up, over and under each other, strengthening the sinew of resistance because one strand alone could not hold the weight of this vast ocean.”

Last week at the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Hawai’i, thousands of stories from across the region were woven together under the theme of “Ho’oulu Lāhui” or “Regenerating Oceania”. 

To actively engage in the preservation of culture, while standing on the soil of forcefully occupied islands, brings to the forefront the multiple threats facing our large ocean continent. It also reminds us that the rope that hoists the sail must be stronger than the rope that bound our hands when islands were signed away. And the mat that we lay our children on must be larger than the cloth used to cover our eyes as they try to sell off our whales as “carbon credits”.

What is most poignant in the face of these challenges is that we cannot do it alone. For the rope to be strongest and for the mat to fit everyone, it must be woven of multiple strands. It takes carvers and dancers, orators and voyagers. It takes the high mountains of Papua New Guinea, the deep trenches of the Mariana Islands, and the vast lagoons of Tahiti, to turn traditional knowledge into traditional practice and make sure that the Pacific lives and breathes beyond picturesque postcards.

The weaving of efforts is especially important as our islands face the threat of an ever-expanding fossil fuel industry. As we fight for every tenth of a degree, the way that the Pacific has rallied strength is by engaging multiple stakeholders to challenge climate inaction at every level. Last week in Hawaii, the Pacific Climate Warriors joined the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, and many other sons and daughters of Oceania, to reimagine what a world beyond fossil fuels could look like.

Pacific climate activists atop Haleakalā, Maui. Photo: Dylan Kava / PICAN

When Pacific governments came together last year to call for a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific, we knew it was going to take all of us to make this a reality. It would take continuous campaigning for high-emitting nations to phase out fossil fuels, and it would take rebuilding of our economies with safe, clean, and fair renewable energy. The weaving of our strengths as we prepare the Pacific for the Just Energy Transition is going to take care and community, because we cannot allow the old practices of the fossil fuel industry to become our compass. Any and all climate solutions in this region, whether infrastructure, energy or food security, must be rooted in justice, equity, and a respect for land, sea and Pacific peoples.

The risk of a renewable energy transition that isn’t grounded in the wellbeing of communities is apparent in the scramble for resources that plagues our islands. Nickel mines and deep sea nodules paint dollar signs in the eyes of neo colonial powers, and the “Just Transition” risks being co-opted as an excuse to extract. What value does a whole generation of artists hold in the eyes of TotalEnergies CEOs, when dreams of gas fields drive them into the hills of Papua New Guinea? It is up to us to weave a resistance so firm, and so united, that no one but us can determine what our future holds.

What we have seen at the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture is that, when we are brought together, we are reignited. When the Kanaky New Caledonia hale is empty, we sit in a circle and occupy it for our brothers and sisters who could not make it. When the communities of Lahaina work to regenerate forests after devastating fires, we show up to harvest seeds. And when the smallest of islands holds the Global North accountable for their hand in the climate crisis, we rally behind them.

Pacific Council Elders Brianna and Makerusa harvest A’ali’i seeds at the Pu’u Kukui Watershed on Maui. Photo: Dylan Kava / PICAN

So as we build the solutions needed for our people, let us lend the strands of our movement so that they may be woven into a future that celebrates Pacific ingenuity and resilience. The Pacific Climate Warriors will always fight for a safe and livable future for our islands, but we know that we will never have to do it alone. No one should have to. And if you are searching for a mat to lay on, or a cord to connect to, join us as we weave the world we deserve.