In the not too distant future, climate change and rising sea levels pose could pose serious risks to life on earth, most of all to the young people who live on small islands. But Brianna, a 17-year-old student from Samoa, is proving that even small steps can make a big difference in countering the environmental degradation being caused by global warming.
At the age of 11 Brianna founded Small Voices, a voluntary organisation that mobilises children and young people to campaign for more effective action by governments and citizens to tackle climate change. Since Small Voices was born in 2010, school children from all over Samoa have joined its networks to take the lead in protecting the environment by initiating community-based projects such as planting trees and cleaning up waste.
Brianna drew inspiration from her mother, an environmental worker herself. “My mum used to take me to work with her when I was a child. I’d listen in on the climate change talks and hear about the problems and solutions on climate change. I decided I want to do this: to save my little island. My mum said, ‘ok, when you grow up’. But I said ‘no, I want to do it now’. I was a very impatient little girl.”
In 2015 Brianna became the youngest-ever winner of a Commonwealth Youth Award for excellence in development work. The threat that climate change poses is huge but Brianna firmly believes young people are ready to take it on. She dedicated her award “to the climate refugees, to the people living in the Pacific islands and other small islands that suffer from the effects of climate change every day and to my fellow Pacific warriors fighting for climate justice.”