No Home to Return To

“No Home to Return To,” is the title of an editorial written by American Samoa’s Gabriel Langkilde that’s been published in Harvard University’s student newspaper. Crimson.

The editorial talks about the impact of climate change on small Pacific Islands and how Harvard University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry are contributing to the destruction of the islands.

Gabrielle, the daughter of Gwen Tauiliili Langkilde and Victor Langkilde says she loves going back home and in fact it’s really the only thing that gets her through Harvard’s rough semesters and Boston’s brutally cold weather.

“Thoughts of returning home to the beautiful beaches and the shimmering Pacific ocean that surrounds my beautiful American Samoa. Memories of riding in the back of the truck with all my cousins as we pass by lush, green mountains. And daydreams about the fresh catch that Uncle brought to be cooked and wholeheartedly devoured at the family function. ”

But she writes, “Soon that’s all I’ll have of home, thoughts, dreams and memories. With the course that climate change is taking, the South Pacific islands are going to be the first to go.”

She educates the Harvard reader about how high sea levels are destroying homes and threatening to overtake the South Pacific Islands and atolls, particularity in places such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

“In fact, the Marshall Islands are expected to completely submerged by 2030. And their people are being forced to either elevate or relocate. Removing their 55,000 citizens from their homes and making them climate refugees,” writes Gabrielle.

She said rising temperatures is also depleting our main sources of food and export…fish, and destroying natural barriers like coral reefs and mangroves.

Gabrielle also takes Harvard University to task for being oblivious to the effects of climate change and for contributing to it.

“Harvard claims to be a safe space for all but how can I feel safe when its very investments in the fossil fuel industry are contributing to the destruction of my home?

“How can I feel loved or welcomed here when Harvard is actively threatening the survival of my people. Some students have written and talked about finding a home away from home here. But I could never call Harvard home, not when it is part of the reason my true home’s existence hangs in the balance.”

Gabrielle points out that there are many on campus that believe in climate change but refuse to endorse Harvard’s divestment from fossil fuels.

She poignantly points out, “As you sit in the comfort of your safe highland city utopias, you are just as complicit.”

She argues it’s not fair that the South Pacific islands which contribute far less than 1 percent to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are left to receive the harshest consequence of climate change.

Gabrielle declares,” Our homes and our people deserve better. Actually it’s more than that. We are entitled to better.”

Her editorial concluded: “So help us in our fight. Talk to your Pacific islander friends, (though I know there are very few on campus) and try to get a better picture of our reality. Maybe then we might have hope of having homes to return to in the future”