Climate change is not just about the rising temperatures and tides affecting the health of our planet—increasingly, the news headlines and lived realities of the unfolding crisis has created climate anxiety. A major survey of 10,000 youth aged 16-25 years, from ten countries worldwide, took on the question of climate anxiety in children and young people, and their faith in the response of their governments. The results were telling. Climate anxiety and dissatisfaction with government responses are widespread in children and young people in countries across the world and impact their daily functioning. A perceived failure by governments to respond to the climate crisis is associated with increased distress, reports the Lancet, and while they note an urgent need for further research into the emotional impact of climate change on children and young people and for governments to validate their distress by taking urgent action on climate change. 

Enter Mia Kami, a rising voice amongst an already strong Pacific youth constituency of vocal, proud and activist climate warriors. “I am not a scientist—instead I am a storyteller, like my ancestors before me”, she warned audiences at the opening plenary of the Palau Our Ocean Conference on April 13th—and she went on to render a performance that brought on the only standing ovation of the two-day event. 

Her message to young people watching her pop up on their newsfeeds and feeling that climate anxiety, worried about where the world is going, not knowing what’s coming tomorrow, and seeking wisdom while wondering how they can make a difference in world that’s held 26 annual climate negotiations in almost three decades and still needs to get on with bringing us the 1.5 degree, net zero solution?

What would Mia say?

“I would say that our reality is that we don’t have the luxury of time. And it’s important that we can try to do our part to ensure that we have a future for those that come after us. And we are resilient people. Our ancestors were resilient and I know that we can do the same,” she says. 

Describing herself as an “artist slash activist” Kami appeared across key events at the Palau conference with her Dad Taholo in tow. 

“I was fortunate enough to be on the first plenary for the session today. And I’m here to tell our stories, as Pacific people– as young people, and to use music as a way of communicating how we feel about issues.”

How important is it for young people to not just be heard and seen but actually engaged, and listened to? 

“It’s important for young people to be a part of this, because it’s our future that we’re fighting for. We’re not fighting for anyone else’s future, we’re fighting for our own,” she said, “And it’s just as important to fight and it’s just as important to listen to our elders, so that we’re able to learn from their past and be better for our future.”

The ‘Rooted’ lyrics and song set to a poignant anthem about resilience in the face of sea level rise raises the question she is often asked—what inspired that hit video, now seen globally, and most recently, performed at the Our Ocean Conference in Palau?

“The inspiration for this film, and for my music is largely due to how I feel about things that are important and things that are relevant for our region. And it’s my way of contributing to the mission, to the vision –and to what we’re trying to fulfill for future generations.”

The Palau conference was a heady mix of philanthropy, activism, science, policy, and stories, lots of stories. 

“If we fail to protect the Ocean, we are failing to preserve our people, our culture, our identity—and we are watching everything unfold- the sea levels are rising, the ocean is getting warmer….and you are here as leaders, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you leave the healthiest ocean possible”.

Many words have been spoken across the Our Ocean Conference. Many more will still be sounded across other global events across the world. This will not be the last time she takes to the stage with her songs, her words and her ability to bring audiences to their feet. 

But here in Palau, as the last of the hundreds of delegates prepare to leave our shores, what three words come to mind when Mia Kami thinks of all the commitments, the panels, the hope and intention as she reflects on key takeaways? 

 “Resilience. Change. The future,” is her quick reply.

And the next song to write? “There’s a lot” she says, “I’ve got to do an Oceans one next!”—ENDS/Island Times.

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