Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Poet using the power of spoken word to articulate the threats of climate change

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a Marshallese climate change activist and poet, uses the power of spoken word to to defend her home from two of the biggest threats to the Marshall Islands – climate change and corporate power.

The spoken word artist received international acclaim after performing at the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014. Her poem “Dear Matafele Peinem” was written to her then six-month-old daughter and articulated the threats climate change and corporate power pose to the Marshall Islands, as well as the resilience of the Marshallese.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s poetry mainly focuses on raising awareness surrounding the issues and threats faced by the Marshallese people. She explains: “Nuclear testing conducted in our islands, militarism, the rising sea level as a result of climate change, forced migration, adaptation and racism in America—these are just a few themes my poetry touches upon… I also use poetry as a means of understanding the people and the world around me.”

The daughter of the first woman president of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner co-founded the youth environmentalist NGO Jo-Jikum. Jo-Jikum is dedicated to empowering Marshallese youth to seek solutions to climate change and other environmental impacts threatening their home islands.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner emphasises that it’s important for everyone to contribute to being more green to help preserve the planet and future generations. “I’ve been reading a lot about how to preserve yourself in this era because it’s so exhausting, especially as an activist, she said. “You think, how do you do everything? You can’t do everything, right?

“For me, I have a foot in the door with this climate change issue so I’ve been sticking to that and fighting for that as much as possible, because I understand this issue and I have a connection. I don’t expect everyone to just jump on board and exhaust themselves, but it’s important to figure out small ways to contribute to being more green. I mean, there are trillions of dollars in oil, there’s got to be some money that can go towards creating other solutions.”

Jo Jikum

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea


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