Driven, passionate and one of the voices we should all be listening to, Auckland-based activist Brianna Fruean advocates for climate action in Samoa and the Pacific.
21-year-old Brianna is a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors, a climate action group that received an Ambassador of Conscience award from Amnesty International this year (alongside other youth-led initiatives Te Ara Whatu and School Strike 4 Climate NZ) for their work raising awareness for the impact that the climate emergency is having on the islands of the Pacific and campaigning for change.
Activism is nothing new for Brianna; she’s been involved in social action since she was only 11 years old, and at 16 she became the youngest ever winner of a Commonwealth Youth Award.
Inspired by her work and dedication, we spoke to Brianna about how she got to where she is now, the importance of climate action, and the role Pacific communities play in the conversation.
Can you tell our readers who you are and what you do?
Talofa Lava my name is Brianna Fruean, I’m a 21-year-old climate activist and Pacific Climate Warrior.
Who are the Pacific Climate Warriors and what is your role?
The Pacific Climate Warriors are a collective of young activists, artists, educators, community organizers and overall passionate Pacific people who are working towards a common goal of protecting our islands from environmental harm and fighting for climate justice. I sit on the ‘council of elders’ for the Pacific Climate Warriors, as the youth representative.
When did you first become involved with social action?
I was 11 years old when I became the country coordinator for 350 Samoa in 2009. So I have basically grown up in the climate justice movement.
How did you get where you are today?
I am where I am today because of my family and my community who supports me. I feel like many little girls had dreams of changing the world, but I was fortunate to have parents who truly believed I could and supported me in my little efforts to do so.
How did you learn how to navigate government bureaucracy, hold protests, organise groups and communicate effectively?
Everything I learnt about moving in this space came from lessons I gained from amazing mentors. Many activists, advocates, and community organisers walked this path before me, and I owe so much of my growth to them. I feel like I truly grew the most as a person when I stopped investing time in chasing fake friends and started searching for real mentors.
Why is it so important for Pacific voices to be heard in the discussions around the climate emergency?
The Pacific community are not only the people who are most affected by climate change, but we are the people who are the most familiar with how to be resilient in the face of its impact, and therefore we are the voices that the world should be listening to. If we can save the Pacific we can save the world.
What was your experience of the recent climate strike?
The recent climate strikes were an unreal experience. I felt so many emotions being amongst thousands of people who were eager to make a positive change. There was so much leadership, spirit, alofa and hope shown on that day.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
One of the challenges I am constantly facing is juggling everything going on in my life. I feel like this is a challenge most young people today are going through. On top of my activism, I am also I full-time student. It gets really challenging when you’re trying to do many very important things at the same time.
There is so much of myself and my energy that I want to share to be able to contribute to a greater cause, but sometimes the energy in my tank just runs out. There’s always quite a lot of pressure on me to do everything and to do it well, and I will admit I put a lot of that pressure on myself.
What advice do you have for young people wanting to get more involved?
The climate space is a place for you! Don’t feel like you have to be a scientist, politician or activist to be in this movement. The weight of the world is heavy, and we need a lot more hands to carry it.
Any life-changing books, podcasts, Instagram accounts or websites you recommend?
I highly recommend following @pacificclimatewarriors on Instagram, having a read of Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, and listening to the Bad Brown Aunties podcast.
Who do you admire?
Someone I really admire is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She inspires me to work hard, to never be afraid of taking up space and to be courageous as a young brown woman.
What are your plans for the future, or what’s next for you?
I plan to continue fighting for climate justice and doing whatever it takes to amplify the voices of those who often go unheard.