Working Together

Story by Jessie Rudd, 2014-15 CivicSpark Alum, Central Valley Region

G’Day CivicSpark Fellows,

I write to you from 10,972 meters above the Tasman Sea. Flying from New Zealand to Australia, I am peering into the vastness of the sea, and I am marvelled by the contents of it; marvelled by the islands and the people that call them home.

Island communities are among the first impacted, and unequivocally the most severely impacted by climate change; couple this threat with extreme poverty and the potential to realise sustainable development in the Pacific Island Region is greatly reduced.

Climate justice is a body of study that explores how climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poorest, and most vulnerable populations. Climate refugees are at the heart of this story, they are the human cost of climate change. Vast swaths of people will be forced to migrate, and in countries where governance and institutions are scarce, poverty pervasive, and infrastructure limited, people will suffer. People will die. Cultures, histories, and knowledges about the world will vanish.

Working in the humanitarian aid and development sector in Australia, climate change is increasingly centrepiece to our sector discussions. Adaptation and resilience to climate change is increasingly a contingency placed on government grant funding, and in remote parts of Indonesia where my NGO (SurfAid) works, we are exploring how the communities we work with will be impacted.

In Western Indonesia off the island of Sumatra there are two smaller island groups – the Mentawai Islands and Nias. Devastated by a series of tsunamis in 2004, we are working with communities and governments to rebuild in relocated areas. In Eastern Indonesia, between the popular tourist island of Bali and more distant Timor Leste, lies Sumba and Sumbawa. These 2 Indonesian Islands are markedly different from Western Indonesia – they are arid, with a Hunger Season, as our Country Director calls it, that can last up to 9 months. Climate change will exacerbate extreme weather incidences, including tsunamis, floods and drought.

Working together with Indonesian communities and the governments of Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, SurfAid is increasing access to clean water, healthcare and nutrition in the face of a changing climate. Like you’ve probably uncovered in your projects, success is found through partnerships.

SurfAid’s decision to work closely with local governments and village leaders in remote Indonesia to deliver our programs has made us highly effective, in much the same way CivicSpark Fellows have been effective in working with governments to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Your work as CivicSpark Fellows this service year does more than reduce home energy consumption, educate about water use, plan for electrical cars, or green private businesses, your work promises the survivability of unique cultures on distant shores. It is life transforming. It is life-saving.