Earth Day: The Marshall Islands & Climate Change

On April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day. In the United States and in many communities around the world we will  make efforts to  spend time in nature: walks in local  parks and picnics on the beach.  We will also take time to join with others to help with park and neighborhood clean ups and to participate in Earth Day fairs where we may learn more about saving water and electricity and also why and how we can grow and eat healthy foods. Many of our Climate Mamas and Papas will be speaking at events to share more information about climate change, it’s causes and our options to slow it down. And, we will be watching how our government representatives, from the President on down, celebrate and commemorate Earth Day. Can they take the politics out of climate and environmental issues even for one day – we will see.

As we well know, we have no time for partisanship when it comes to climate change. Climate change knows no political boundaries, no party affiliation, no color, race or religion. Yet, certain parts of our planet, in particular low lying states and coastal cities are already being hit hardest by climate change. In many developing countries and in our own country, people of color, women and low income communities are those that are hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change. How we talk about these facts, and how people come to understand the urgency of the climate

Photo Credit: Emily Arasim

crisis are critical keys to unlocking our potential to act quickly in the face of the existential threat we have put in motion.

We are therefore thrilled to share with you an incredible journalism project, The Last Generation, created and launched by The GroundTruth Project and PBS FRONTLINE. The Last Generation is an interactive documentary film about three children who are among the Marshall Islands’ “last generation.”

The Marshall Islands may be one of the world’s smallest greenhouse gas emitters, yet it faces the direst consequences from rising global temperatures and sea levels. The Last Generation gets to the heart of what it’s like to grow up in a place that’s going away while also unpacking scientists’ evolving understanding of climate change and sea level rise. This is the story of a country in peril — told by 9-year-old Izerman Yamaguchi-Kotton, 14-year-old Julia Rijino and 12-year-old Wilmer Joel.

In 2014 in New York City during the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, I had the honor of interviewing Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young mother from the Marshall Islands who delivered the opening address at the Summit. Kathy passionately and decisively spoke to our world leaders, sharing a promise she delivered to her then 7 month old daughter, Matafele Peinem, who was with her in the General Assembly Hall. Kathy was calm but incredibly forceful when she said that: “we all deserve to do more than just survive, we deserve to thrive.” Kathy made it all seem simple; at the end of the day, would we not all – world leaders included – do whatever it takes to ensure that our children will not only survive, but thrive? Sadly and as we know, it is more complicated than it should be. Many children including Kathy’s daughter, as well as Izerman, Julia and Willmer, will not have the opportunity to grow up and thrive in the homeland that their mothers and fathers knew and grew up in.

Please share Julia, Izerman and Wilmer’s stories with the kids in your life. Send this link to your children’s teachers so they too can share it with their students.


Climate communications research studies tell us that, “trusted messengers” are those who people listen to most closely and rely on for the truth. These messengers can be and are most often different people for different audiences. However children, as trusted messengers, are heard in a far deeper, clearer and more direct way then many of us will ever be heard.

Yours in hope and strength this Earth Week, Month, Day and Year…



Climate Mama

P.S. on this Earth Day eve, do share this link to grant funding for schools, after school programs and children’s clubs that Participant Media and the National Wildlife Federation have created. The grant application is really, really easy to fill out; do it today as the applications need to be submitted by Earth Day 2018!




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