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Vatican kava ceremony all part of climate activism

Vatican kava ceremony all part of climate activism – Climate Warrior

Praying for action on climate change and a kava ceremony in the heart of the Catholic church were all part of the journey leading up to last year's momentous Paris climate change talks, according to the leader of the Pacific Climate Warriors.

Koreti Tiumalu told the 'In the Eye of the Storm' climate change conference that she had seen many strange things in her life as an environmental activist.

A mother and former public servant, Tiumalu abandoned a life of financial stability to pursue a career as an activist when the Climate Warriors offered her a part-time position. Minimal hours and pay forced her to make sacrifices such as selling her house and car.

The group comprised activists from fifteen countries who had taken action regionally and across the world to combat climate change, Tiumalu said. They were perhaps best known for using canoes in an attempt to prevent Australian coal ships from leaving port.

Tiumalu said that those involved had wrongly believed that the police would protect their demonstration, when in fact police in speedboats and jet skis quickly broke through their makeshift blockade. However, the stunt garnered plenty of attention and support for the Climate Warriors.

In his speech, Tiumalu described spending time praying in the Vatican – before the Paris conference in November – on mats depicting stories from Pacific communities affected by climate change. She had wanted to “get right spiritually” before the conference. The Climate Warriors also hosted the “first ever kava ceremony in the Vatican” with supportive Pacific island priests.

In the coming weeks, Tiumalu said the group would determine “what the Pacific Climate Warriors are going to look like over the next three years”. She often worried about the future: “I’m nervous, it’s scary. You’ve seen the pictures of what they do to activists. But it’s not something we can afford not to do.”

She hoped that more young activists and public figures, like the Australian former rugby league star and American football running back Jarryd Hayne, would take interest in the Climate Warriors. “That’s the other thing we need to do – empower our young people to be leaders.” Tiumalu said her organisation appealed to the younder generation because of its noble cause and exciting work environment. “We’ve got to have as much fun as we can … But we work hard and we love hard.”

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