03 Nov Coconut Girl at COP23 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


As I write this, I am going to Bonn, Germany for COP23 – the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.  This year’s COP is being chaired by Fiji and as part of that, 10 journalists from the Pacific were awarded fellowships to attend, help take our country’s messages to the world and also report on the conference. This is my #blogJournal of the experience. All views expressed here are my own and not those of my government, funding provider, or village/church/3Friends/ longsuffering husband/or my 5 dogs and 1 cat.

Now I know we are all concerned about Very Important Things.  Like the planet getting hotter and the ice melting and the oceans rising and swallowing us all. (And whether or not Donald Trump and North Korea are going to blow us all to Kingdom come. Or maybe that’s just me?)

But putting aside those issues for a moment, I have a pressing matter to share. Like that most existential of COP23 questions:

What am I going to wear??

What does a coconut girl on a coconut island with 35 degree tropical humidity do about clothes when she goes to a climate conference in 5 degrees wintry Germany?

I know I’m not supposed to CARE about what I look like. But I do. I’m shallow like that. Can we blame my Vogue stylish mother? It must be her fault I have fashion aspirations far above my pay-grade and my actual knowledge of fashion.

Whenever I meet new people and they say, “Oh wow you’re the famous author!” I really want to correct them. Because if I truly were famous, then people would give me clothes to wear from their shops for free. And stylists would see my trainwreck self as an exciting challenge and offer to Make Me Over in amazing ways. Sadly, nobody gives me free clothes or style tips.

Thankfully I’ve been doing lots of research in my panic to be worthy of the title of ‘Environmental Journalist’ and somewhat deserving of this fellowship to go to COP.

Any good environmentally friendly activist will tell you about the 3 R’s which are the mantra for cleaner, greener living – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

When on a quest for decent clothes to wear to COP23, those Rs are otherwise known as – Beg, Borrow, Steal.

Because in my Environmental Journalist fantasies, I look like this:


Sadly, my budget and my (non-existent) fashion sense look like this:


Reduce, Reuse and Recycle have saved the day however!

We have some excellent second-hand stores in Apia and I have purchased some fairly presentable clothing items from them. Tops from Big Mama’s at Vaitele for only $4 each that got me feeling prettiful’er than a Kardashian. Stuff that I’m sure Vogue magazine would be really jealous of. #TrueStory. Plus I am recycling and that’s what matters!

I also went to my mother’s house with an appropriately humble demeanour and fa’amolemole’d her to borrow some ofu’s.

First she conned persuaded me to buy two nice elei scarves because according to her Vogue fashion expertise, you can wear the same black ofu many times over but WITH A DIFFERENT SCARF and then OHMIGOODNES IT’S A WHOLE NEW OFU!!!! Who knew??? Not me.

So now, instead of stuffing an elephant’s worth of rubbish clothes into my suitcase, I have a rather empty suitcase going with me to Germany because I am REUSING my ofu’s and the scarves will trick people into thinking I own LOTS of different outfits.

(If this strategy does not work, then we will for sure blame my mother as it is all her fault I only have 3 ofu’s and twenty million scarves in my bag.)

Hey, I am REUSING and REDUCING. And that’s got to count for something, right?

When I landed in Auckland, New Zealand – I went to my Big Sister’s house to fa’amolemole borrow some of HER ofus. She has an awe-inspiring walk-in closet that we have dubbed ‘Plantation Hutt’. She most graciously allowed her vagabond desperado sister to exit from Plantation Hutt with some beautiful winter pieces. Feeling very grateful for generous fashionable mothers and Big Sisters now.

So here I am. About to embark on a 17hr flight to Dubai, and then another 7hrs to Dusseldorf and then a train ride to Bonn, and finally a tram to my final destination. I may not know much about climate change but I have some great scarves and I have followed the 3Rs religiously in my preparations for COP23.

I have one humble request please – if you see me in Bonn and then you see me again another day…and I’m wearing the same ofu but with a different scarf – can you please not notice? Instead let’s both focus on why we are REALLY there – to do what we can to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, ensure that big-hitting countries live up to their carbon-emission-reduction promises, and most of all, make it impossible for ‘the world’ to ignore the Pacific and its people. Because its not about the ofu’s. Okay?!




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