Having grown up in the low-lying Marshall Islands, Chaminade University student Broderick Menke knows firsthand about the devastating effects of global warming and sea level rise. Tidal flooding regularly threatens homes and freshwater supplies in his island nation and may make many areas unfit for human habitation in coming decades.
An Environmental Studies major, Menke conveyed the plight ofhis South Pacific home at the 13th Conference of Youth. Held during November 2017 in Bonn, Germany, this gathering of young people from 114 countries had a theme of “Talanoa Mada – Youth Accelerating Climate Action.”
Menke also represented the Marshall Islands at the ensuing United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which supported governments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and thereby accelerating the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development.
“Out of all my international trips, Germany was a unique time,” Menke said, because the Republic of Fiji presided over the conferences.
“The significance of that is that the Pacific Islands were able to amplify their voices and issues,” he pointed out. “As a Pacific Islander, I was proud to give a face to the climate realities that we are currently facing, as my home is one of the most vulnerable countries.”
Menke was selected to lead the Pacific Voices in Unison – a team of six youth from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands – who shared their stories of resilience in the face of climate change.
He was also active with the “Have Your Sei” campaign in Bonn, during which “Pacific Climate Warriors” called for ending the use of fossil fuels and providing financial assistance to countries facing irreversible damage from rising sea levels and other environmental threats.
Being invited to participate in the two conferences was the product of “other people’s hard work,” Menke emphasized.
“I commend everyone out there doing immense local work to improve their own environment in their unique way,” he said, because everyone has a duty “to partake in nurturing our planet.”
As for his college experience, Menke said he was attracted to Chaminade based on the small class sizes and recommendations from family members who attended the university.
“When I got to Chaminade, it was more than I expected,” he said. “It was better! The whole idea of a smaller campus gives you the opportunity to get to know many people, and I love hearing stories and their experiences.”
Menke credits one of his professors, Environmental Studies Director Gail Grabowsky, with being especially important in clarifying his academic and career goals.
“I came in with a scattered mind, thinking I will graduate and get into anything environmental in the future,” Menke said. “But she is helping me narrow down my field. She knows me more than I know myself, and I am extremely thankful for her guidance and moral support.”
After graduating from Chaminade, Menke plans to further his education at a university on the East Coast or possibly in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
His message to other climate warriors?
“Let’s all take the power back into our hands,” he said, “and work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.”