What would be lost if climate change weren’t addressed?

Illustration by Eejoon Choi

By Sheryl 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 favorite childhood places, leaving only his memories.

Listen to Edward Rakaseta’s story

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.

Edward Rakaseta poses in his simple traditional fire dancing costume at the University of the South Pacific. He is in a “sulu” and carrying a fire dancing stick. He loves to fire dance, which is an art that he finds very thrilling. Photo by Sheryl Lal
Edward Rakaseta plays his guitar during his leisure time and he usually carries it with him. No one could ever feel disturbed by the melodious and harmonious tune he plays and sings. Photo by Sheryl Lal

His favorite place while growing up was his mother’s family home in 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.

Edward Rakaseta’s cousin Matelita (wearing a green T-shirt) and his Aunty Jane (wearing a floral blouse) are spotted opening the gate to their family home in Rakiraki in early 2000s. Photo by Sheryl Lal

Amongst 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, recognizable to the family.

Rakaseta remembers playing with baby sharks on the 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. Rakaseta’s favorite Fijian dish was lolo buns, buns cooked in coconut milk.

“This place is home, this place is mine.”

Edward Rakaseta

Pictured at Edward Rakaseta’s mum’s family home are his cousins, from left to right, Domo, Gavin and Amy having breakfast. Their simple island breakfast is prepared with so much love and unity when all the cousins are spending time in Rakiraki. Photo by Sheryl Lal

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, Rasekata realized 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.

With coastal erosion, rising sea levels, increasing weather temperatures and the extinction of species and marine organisms, seeing these changes affect him mentally and emotionally, as his homeland is pacing towards an inevitable change.

“At one point, we saw that the rock formation had actually crumbled down and fallen into the sea,” Rakaseta said.

In 2018, Edward Rakaseta’s cousin Gavin left his family and friends and was buried in the “Snow family grave” in Rakiraki. This grave is dedicated to Edward’s mum’s family and everyone who is a descendant of Snow clan is buried here. Kasanita, another cousin of Edward, is seen wearing a traditional “sulu and jaba,” holding Gavin’s photo. Photo by Sheryl Lal

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 weren’t addressed, but only time and people’s action towards climate change will tell.

While practicing his fire dancing out in the grounds at the University of the South Pacific, Edward Rakaseta is captured in one of his signature poses. He carries his fire dancing stick with him whenever he feels he could have a chance to practice and feel free. Photo by Sheryl Lal
Categorized as Stories

By Sheryl Lal

Sheryl Lal is a senior at University of the South Pacific pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and management and public administration. She is a proud Indo-Fijian and was inspired to pursue journalism to help other people find their voice. She is also a model and an aspiring actor based in Fiji. Sheryl also loves to collect books and is a fan of old classics including movies and music. She is a strong believer in female empowerment and seeks to be an inspiration to women everywhere.

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