In 2011 I travelled to the Line Islands in Kiribati and spent 17 days with environmental organisation Pangaea Explorations, as part of their pan Pacific research trip that year. This feature article about plastic pollution on Kiribati and the politics of responsibility for the growing issue of plastic waste in the Pacific Region, originally written for the Sunday Star Times, is one of the stories that I wrote for New Zealand media following the trip.
On my return to New Zealand, I also managed to wrangle my way into an interview with then Kiribati President Anote Tong when he was in Auckland to attend the Pacific Island Forum. It took a few calls with his media advisor, an after work trip and a hotel lobby recording but, I was proud of my determination to talk to him and considered it to be a big accomplishment for a junior reporter to interview one of the world’s most outspoken Presidents on climate change and small island states. But, unfortunately, SST wasn’t interested in the interview material and after several promises of running my article, they eventually stopped returning my calls. So, the article ended up solely on my blog from the time, and another similar story I wrote featured later in the year for a Suburban Newspaper’s summer feature.
I think it’s a relatively good article and definitely a solid early attempt at a feature. On reflection, I would change some phrasing in the article, which I now understand to be framing Pacific Islanders in a somewhat negative light and perpetuating the myth of Pacific Islanders having little agency over the impacts of westernisation and modernisation in their home lands. More recently, I’ve been reading Lana Lopesi’s short book False Divides, and on top of my MA research, which delved into Pacific Journalism, this has given me space to think through terminology like ‘Pacific Islanders’, which is in itself an ambiguous and loaded term that doesn’t account for regional diversity. Lopesi refers to the indigenous people of this region as Moana people and of the region its self as Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, which makes a whole lot more sense than the latin-derived Mare Pacificum, which I named by earlier blog about the trip. But, nonetheless, for a 22-year-old I think: not bad, the world needs more passionate, determined writers who care deeply and are willing to have a go at taking on such a topic, at travelling to understand the world around them and their neighbouring region.