In the bustling streets of Suva, Moleen Nand discovered her true calling amidst the serene rural landscapes of Western Viti Levu, where her family’s roots ran deep. Little did she realize that her profound connection to nature would set the stage for an extraordinary journey marked by education, research, and an unwavering commitment to addressing climate change.
Moleen commenced her educational journey at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 2008, embarking on her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. Her academic path rapidly propelled her into the realm of climate change, and in 2011, she was honored with the Future Climate Leaders Project (FCLP) Ausaid scholarship, which granted her entry into the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) to complete her Postgraduate Diploma in Climate Change. Her dedication culminated in her graduation with a Master’s degree in Climate Change in 2014.
Equipped with her newfound expertise, Moleen continued her journey by joining PaCE-SD as a teaching assistant, playing a pivotal role in delivering online courses focused on climate change impacts, vulnerability, adaptation, environmental impact assessment, strategic impact assessment, and disaster risk management. Her passion for climate change advocacy had its roots in her early life, perhaps influenced by the “Captain Planet” cartoon. However, it was during high school that she delved deeper into the subject, learning about greenhouse gases and their profound impact on climate and society.
In 2018, driven by her passion for research, Moleen embarked on a scholarship application journey, leading to her selection for two prestigious scholarships: provisional acceptance for the Commonwealth Chevening Scholarship at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and the Adelaide Scholarship International at the University of Adelaide for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). After a challenging decision-making process, she resolved to pursue her Ph.D., focusing on examining climate change loss and damage within Fiji’s sugar industry. Navigating the admissions process and submitting a compelling research proposal earned her the Ph.D. scholarship, and she commenced her Ph.D. journey in late 2018.
Moleen’s Ph.D. research was deeply inspired by her maternal grandmother, an 80-year-old sugarcane farmer. Witnessing her grandmother’s struggles after Tropical Cyclone Winston, Moleen felt compelled to document the experiences of farmers across Fiji affected by various climatic events. Her research went beyond academic pursuit, aiming to inform policies, bolster institutional readiness, and mobilize international resources to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Her groundbreaking work resulted in the development of a comprehensive loss and damage framework and a Policy Priority Framework for Fiji’s agricultural sector.
Moleen acknowledges and expresses gratitude, saying, “My Ph.D. journey would not have been possible without the support and guidance of my supervisors, Dr. Douglas Bardsley and Dr. Jungho Suh, and mentors, Dr. Viliamu Iese and Dr. Keith Morrison, as well as the unwavering love and encouragement of my husband.”
She added, “My ultimate source of inspiration remains my nani (maternal grandmother), who, for over seven decades, has weathered the changing climate, enduring more frequent and severe cyclones, droughts, and floods. Her resilience in the face of these challenges, as well as her strength and determination, continue to motivate me to advance my studies in climate change.”
To those who aspire to tackle climate change, Moleen offers sage advice: ,“Don’t rely solely on formal education. Embrace the lived experiences of climatic stressors within your community and the voices of those around you. Listen to their stories, learn from their experiences, and understand the impacts on their lives. This process of social learning provides a deeper understanding of climate change and the imperative for action to mitigate its effects.”
Moleen Nand’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of passion, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place. Her research continues to shape policies and actions aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, ensuring a more resilient and sustainable future for Fiji and beyond.
On May 4, 2023, after four years of relentless dedication, Moleen Nand proudly earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Adelaide. Her exceptional thesis earned her accolades, including the University of Adelaide’s Research Student Excellence Award (Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence) and the prestigious John Lewis Prize (medal) for Excellence in Doctoral Research in Geography.
Moleen attributes her success to the support of her supervisors, mentors, and her husband’s unwavering love. Her resilient grandmother continues to inspire her journey, as does her message to future climate change warriors: embrace lived experiences and the voices of your community.