Caritas Samoa celebrated ten years this week, and to commemorate released its 5th State of the Environment for Oceania report.
The report, written and researched by Martin de Jong with a team from Caritas Toga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia attempts to measure the impact of five environmental issues on Oceania in the last year.
The coastal region, extreme weather events, access to food and water, offshore mining and drilling were all assessed by the researchers and graded from low to extreme impact.
Another issue of climate finance was graded from ‘very good’ to ‘woefully inadequate’, and given that low end score.
Caritas Samoa’s researcher Karen Anaya said included in the data are personal stories of people affected by climate change.
“Data has a different impact when you back up the figures with a real life story,” she said.
“We want readers to know these are people, not numbers.”
From Samoa, three families were highlighted in the report, each with unique experiences of the changing world around them.
Malia Masoe shared her story of repeated flooding to her home on the Vaisigano River.
“When it rains for just one hour, water will come into the house… it is dirty water that brings diseases and smells to our house.”
The report says the vegetative losses around Apia contribute to flooding and quote Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment statistics which show vegetation decreased 27 per cent between 2015 and 2018.
Sand mining in Samoa was highlighted in the report as well, due to its impact on food and water security.
According to Sautupe Alailefue Isosua has fished in Solosolo for the last 30 years, like his father before him.
Today, the fish he catches barely feeds his family, let alone makes him a living, whereas before, he said, he was comfortable.
“Companies and people take out the sand for many other purposes and they do not care about how it is affecting the natural environment,” he said.
“When the fish were gone I knew nothing else to do.”
One woman from Solosolo shared their story on the condition of anonymity. She told Caritas how her family members signed a contract allowing sand mining on their land in Solosolo.
“Over the years, her family suffered from increased floods. She saw the beach disappear and her home destroyed. Her family relocated inland and overseas,” the report states.