We’ve been following Fenton Lutunatabua’s work for a while, after discovering him on Instragram, the place where creatives connect and can build meaningful working relationships. To begin with, we were inspired by the photos he’d post, and even more so by the stories we’d read via his writings on his blog, The Other Foot. After a few weeks, we were over the moon to discover his interest in Talanoa and what we do for young Pacific entrepreneurs. We jumped at the opportunity to interview him, and we know you’ll be just as inspired as we are by his thoughts, views and work on changing our Pacific’s story on climate change.
Tell us a bit about yourself, the work that you do, and how you came to follow that career path?
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I remember this one day my grandfather, Byron Fisher, took me fishing outside our family home in Lali, Qamea. We were standing out by the ocean on some rocks, and my Pa had a spear in his hand and a smile in his eyes, waiting for dinner to swim by. To pass time, he told me a story about how we come from a long line of skilled fishermen and boat builders, and that the ocean would always provide for us.This was my family’s truth – our story, and it’s this story that has sustained my family for generations.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn that climate change threatens this story. This realisation has shaped my dedication to climate movement. I’m now 28 years old and have been involved with environmental work for a little over a decade. I started with Greenpeace as a volunteer, and with them was able to represent Fiji on board the Esperenza and the Rainbow Warrior III.
After my involvement with Greenpeace, I discovered 350.org, a growing global climate movement that works on online campaigning, grassroots organising, and mass public actions – coordinated by a global network that’s active in over 188 countries. I joined 350.org as a volunteer with 350 Fiji 4 years ago, and officially joined the team 2 years ago.
I now work as the Pacific Communications Coordinator for 350.org and feel that right now, my purpose is to elevate stories of people at the forefront of injustices brought about by climate change! We work to change the narrative of Pacific Islanders in the face of climate change, from one that paints us as mere victims of climate change, to one that speaks to our strengths and resilience as a people.
Our hope is that we can retell the world stories in order to shape another narrative that speaks to our whole truths as a people at the front lines of climate change. We hope to acknowledge the realities of climate impacts, whilst also giving credit to the efforts put in by so many people to adapt to these realities and mitigate its impacts. Inevitably, we do our work to ensure climate justice for all those at the frontlines of climate change!
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
I was brought up and told we grow through adversity, so the many challenges we are faced with, are actually blessings in disguise. My line of work has offered many such blessings. One of the most welcome challenges in my line of work has been with the existing narrative built about Pacific Islanders in the climate change discourse. The types of stories that have shaped our climate narrative has been one of despair, loss and victimhood. This is of course an incomplete narrative, and an incomplete narrative is a form of inequality and one that perpetuates injustices!
When incomplete narratives are taken as absolute truths, the most effective solutions to inequality and injustice, do not get implemented! It’s vital that we address the inequality in the existing narrative in order to bring about the change we require.
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
What grounds me is my sense of service and responsibility I have to my people. There is an old quote thats says “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. So what pushes me forward is the thought that when I’m 80, and my granddaughter sits on my lap and asks me, “Pa, all the signs were there about protecting our planet, why didn’t you do something?” I can honestly say, I did my best to ensure that when I returned the planet to my children, I left it in, not just livable condition, but a condition that can allow and enable them to thrive and live their best lives!
I only have one life to live, and while I am on this earth, I will do what I must to make my steps and my life count for something!
What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
My most solid piece of advice, to any young Pacific Islander, is to do what makes your heart sing!
Keep the Lord first, listen to your parents, do good, practice kindheartedness, and always strive to be your best self every single day!