SOI @IMPAC4 Blog: Caroline Merner

A couple days ago, we stopped for dinner at a seaside restaurant near the IMPAC4 conference. Our delegation filled the small family-owned place, as we were greeted by the warmest and most resilient woman. I managed to translate from Spanish that Carolina’s home and restaurant was 2 meters underwater two years ago after a tsunami hit. She proudly shared how her family had rebuilt their home and had saved one page from their previous guestbook. After our delicious meal, served by her son and cooked by her daughter, they asked us to be the first to sign the new guestbook. Of course, we had to take a classic Students on Ice familia photo with our new Chilean family!


Back at the conference, I thought about how living on the coast like Carolina could expose people to potential natural disasters enhanced by climate change. With a warmer atmosphere and ocean, there will be more destructive storms. A session facilitator from the United States stressed the importance of ocean conservation for climate resilience.

We dived into the concept of “Blue Carbon”. If our waters – oceans, lakes and marshes – are protected, they can store carbon. If they are protected from oil and gas and industrial activities, our water, land and air will continue to nourish our dependent human bodies. We need Marine Reserves to serve as Climate Reserves! I sympathized with our American host, who has family and friends caught in Hurricane Harvey’s wake.

On the news this week, headlines show the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and the strongest earthquake in decades in Mexico. Suddenly it feels real when it happens nearby.


A couple weeks ago, on the Students On Ice journey to Greenland, we were told about the impacts of an Atlantic tsunami on the Western coast. The small village of Nuugaatsiaq was flooded and the town of Uummannaq that we visited was also affected. While this was caused by a landslide and not an earthquake, the Greenlanders Ivalu and Nuka on the ship said this could become more frequent with climate change.

At IMPAC4, we connected with the Canada C3 ship going coast to coast to coast, as it was travelling through Darnley Bay Marine Protected Area in the Northwest Territories. On livestream, we connected with the elder Noah Green. His simple wisdom was the need to protect “the land”, when referring to the ocean for future generations to enjoy. My new friends Melody and Dang-Dang on our delegation from Tuktoyaktuk are already the next generation of leaders in this community. They were incredible spokespeople for Inuvaluit waters and land.

I am reminded of how lucky I feel to be here to learn from local examples of protection and resilience like Carolina, from international sessions like our American neighbours and from new friends from across Canada.

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