The Alamea

The Alamea

Words Mary Maselina Harm

For too long the Pacific has been viewed and treated as the helpless victim of climate change. From the depths of the Mariana Trench, through the river systems across Viti Levu, amongst the reef outside my village of Sataua Savaii, Samoa, to the mountain peaks of Papua New Guinea highlands and here in Meanjin on the banks of the river, Indigenous people continue to, by necessity, be the global leaders on climate action.

I come from the grassroots – a space grounded in story, song, dance, talanoa (open conversation). Out of necessity, I have been thrown into this space… because I know that the decisions that are made in this country have a direct impact on my community on the frontlines of climate change – and so I invite you to lean into what I believe and know to be as high-level community speak.

E fofo e le alamea le alamea

A Samoan proverb tells us about the alamea – the crown of thorns starfish. It is said amongst Samoan fishermen that if you are to step on the crown of thorns starfish its spikes will prick you and inject poison into your leg. But if you are to flip over the alamea, and press your foot onto its spongy-like feet… the alamea will heal its own doing.

This proverb teaches us two things: the challenges faced by a community are best solved by that community – we know what the solutions are to solve the climate crisis. And secondly – healing requires action.

In many ways Australia is the alamea – its addiction to extraction continues to poison our people. It’s time for Australia to heal its own doing – commit to the Port Villa Resolution and to a just transition to a fossil-free Pacific.

This means: shifting to clean energy, ending fossil fuel extraction, strengthening environmental laws, additional finance for loss and damage, and creating space for Pasifika voices in this conversation at all levels.

To host the UN climate talks with the Pacific, Australia must show true climate leadership. For Pacific Island countries, this is a fight for survival. Either fossil fuels have a future, or we do.

And we’re not going anywhere.

In the words of my fellow Pacific climate warrior Brianna Fruean, true climate leadership is like weaving a fala (mat) knowing that you may never sit on that mat, but being content in knowing that your children and your children’s children will.