Edward Rakaseta reminisces about his childhood days on the Snow estate (pictured) in Savulu, Rakiraki. Picture: SHERYL LAL
By SHERLY LAL
Edward Rakaseta has vivid memories of his childhood in Fiji. His homeland and island upbringing are what made him who he is today. However, a changing climate is washing away his favourite childhood places, leaving only his memories.
Fiji, a small island nation in the Pacific, is currently experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change and residents like Rakaseta are questioning if their place in paradise will remain the same.
Rakaseta is a 25-year-old science student at The University of the South Pacific. As a creative individual, he expresses himself through art and science: sketching, painting, singing, playing the guitar, archery and fire dancing.
His favourite place while growing up was his mother’s family home in Savulu, Rakiraki. Close to the beach, Rakaseta and his immediate family would visit during the holidays.
“It’s the type of house where as soon as you set foot through the main door, everyone knows you’re home,” Rakaseta said.
“You can smell a sweetness in the air because of the flowers that grow there.”
Among the lush forest stands the Snow estate, his family’s complex. The white flowers welcome them home, where generations of his family once lived and are even buried. A rock formation also stands tall in the marina, recognisable to the family.
“Over the course of time, we noticed that the rock formation started to shift. At one point, we saw that the rock formation had actually crumbled down and fallen into the sea,” he said.
“We started to realise that the water level, the water line started to shift up higher on the beach.”
Rakaseta remembers playing with baby sharks on that beach and gifting a shark tooth to his cousins for their birthday.
In the day, they would go fishing, exploring the grounds and by night, they would sit on the porch with their plates full of island food. His favourite Fijian dish was lolo buns (buns cooked in coconut milk).
As they got older, Rakaseta and his cousins would continue to cook and tell stories of where they lived in the city, far away from their beloved family estate.
And over time, Rakaseta realised that the beaches he loved were becoming lost to the impacts of climate change.
“There were movements in the area that changed and morphed a lot of the marina, as well as the bay, into something that was different from what we remember as being home,” Rakaseta said.
“The way that I look at it is that our choices in the past define who we are today. The memories and emotions that are tied to the land, that was a part of my childhood and it made me the way I am today.”
With coastal erosion, rising sea levels, increasing weather temperatures and the extinction of species and marine organisms, seeing these changes affected him mentally and emotionally, as his homeland is pacing towards an inevitable change.
“I am trying to figure out why climate change is going to be this heavy, especially over the next couple of years. I don’t want this to be the case for my kids. I want to be able to show them or give them the chance to know where they come from.”
He fears he might not be able to share what he had as a child to his children and generations to come. He wonders what would get lost if climate change isn’t addressed, but only time and people’s actions towards climate change will tell.
* This article was produced under the Next Generation Radio project partnership between The USP Journalism Programme and the East-West Center in Hawaii.