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Centennial senior and other Pacific Islanders see the issues first hand and call for action

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Centennial High School senior Misha Ioanis, whose family hails from the island of Pingelap in the Federated States of Micronesia, has become a climate activist.

Misha Ioanis was born and raised in the Portland area, but has family on the tiny island of Pingelap in Micronesia. That tie has propelled her to become an activist in the student movement to do something about climate change.

"Our water levels are rising. We're trying to stop that from happening so our island won't get worse than it already is," the Centennial High School senior said.

Ioanis has never visited Pingelap, but some members of her immediate family still live on the small island in the Western Pacific Ocean.

"I have a 15 year old sister there, a grandpa was there, a whole bunch of family," she said.

Ioanis participated in the climate action marches led by Portland area students in March and September 2019.

Many Pacific Islander clubs at area high schools have become active in the climate change movement, Ioanis said.

The student's relatives and friends who still reside on these islands are seeing water levels rise, inundating homes and farms, while warmer oceans affect their food supply and bring stronger storms.

"We're planning on expanding activities with other schools," Ioanis said, adding that the students were going to work toward regulations reducing the use of fossil fuels and other fixes.

The 18 year old said Pacific Island clubs are planning another action for Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22.

What does Ioanis say to folks who don't believe in climate change?

"Just look at the Marshall Islands. Kids can't go to school — they're building sea walls. Climate change is real. It surely is," she said.

Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, told National Public Radio last year, "We need resources. We need support."

Ioanis said, "People who live back there should not be going through rough times even though the fossil fuels are being used here. What we're doing here affects everybody else," she said.

Ioanis wants to become a preschool teacher and has applied to multiple colleges. She hopes to visit her relatives on Pingelap one day soon.

Sidebar

Where is Pingelap?

Pingelap is part of the Pohnpei State, one of four states in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Micronesia is made up of 607 islands in the western Pacific Ocean and is one of the most remote places on earth. It's about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and is just above the Equator.

The 250 residents of Pingelap speak Pingelapese and English is the official language of Micronesia.

Pohnpei State has 133.4 square miles of land area, of which 130 is accounted for by Pohnpei Island, the largest in Micronesia, according to the country's official website.

"Pohnpei reputedly is one of the wettest places on Earth, with some locations on the interior of the island receiving up to 330 inches of rain per year," the website said. COURTESY PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, U.S. AIRFORCE SENIOR AIRMAN CARLIN LESLIE - The tiny island of Pingelap, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, has a small airstrip and a few hundred residents.


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