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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.