Seychelles students fear the country may disappear

“To think that your home, everything you’ve ever known, could be gone – can you imagine?”

An international student at Aberystwyth University has spoken of the “terrifying” impact climate change is having on her country.

Nathalia Lawen, 21, is attending the COP27 summit in Egypt as part of a delegation from Seychelles.

The islands’ president warned they could “disappear” without quick action on rising seas and extreme weather.

Growing up with “the ocean in my backyard” meant Natalia was drawn to climate activism from a young age.

He organized and led beach cleanups and became a youth ambassador for Peace Boat, a charity that travels around the world raising awareness of environmental issues.

Small island nations like the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean off east Africa, are already being hit by the worst effects of climate change, he explained.

More unpredictable and extreme weather, ocean acidification and depleted fish stocks combine with the existential threat of rising sea levels.

“If we don’t do something now our children and grandchildren will never know what Seychelles is like and that scares me,” he said.

“It’s not just about the land, it’s also about culture and traditions.

How do you begin to quantify what will be lost?

“Some countries claim it’s not their problem, but climate refugees and migration will become a bigger issue affecting the whole world.”

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan told the COP27 summit that countries like his are suffering the most from climate change, despite their “minimal” contribution to causing it.

The islands’ mangrove forests absorbed more of the country’s total emissions, “making us a zero contributor to the destruction of the planet, but our islands are disappearing,” he said.

A key point of discussion at this year’s negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh is how much developed nations should financially compensate the least developed that are now feeling the effects.

Nathalia said she was pleased the issue known as “loss and damage” was on the agenda.

“I really appreciate that we’re having this conversation as I think countries really need to listen to us because the playing field is not level and we should recognize that,” he added.

He is attending COP27 at the invitation of the Government of Seychelles and will speak at a number of side events.

Nathalia said she wanted to push for action to protect the health of the world’s oceans but also to “gather as much knowledge as I can and apply it to my degree at Aberystwyth”.

She’s in her second year studying economics and climate change at university in Ceredigion – the seaside region a key attraction.

“Be brave – even if your voice shakes”

The effects of climate change were also becoming apparent in Wales, he suggested – the recent unusually warm autumn and increase in extreme weather events are a warning sign.

But he had also been impressed by local climate activism, including a march through the city ahead of COP27.

And he sent a message to young people gathered from schools across Wales for a Youth COP event in Cardiff on Thursday, where they will hold workshops with environmental organisations, politicians and the Welsh Government.

“Don’t think you’re too young or too young to do what’s important to you.

“Be brave – even if your voice shakes – shout it out loud and people will listen,” he said.

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