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Youths Offer No-Nonsense Perspective

By Scott Radway

Palau – There was an electric vibe in the room yesterday as Obichang Ongklungel in crisp, measured breaths, rebuked Palauan officials for not properly protecting the island nation’s natural resources from coming developments. 

‘It seems greed is so much more important to us than our lives, our heritage and our dreams,’ Ongklungel said. ‘What good is that money if the wallets of men continue to grow, but the land that we stand on continues to sink? What good is that money and what good are those wallets?’ 

And the crowd at the Pacific Islands Environmetal Conference seemed mesmerized.  Not so much by his message – many had conveyed it over the weeklong conference – but by his articulation.  After all, Ongklungel is only 15 years old. 

As the conference closed yesterday, organizers called forth youth leaders to voice concerns about the region’s environmental challenges. 

The main push in environmentalism is to leave the earth safe for the next generation.  So the organizers asked the next generation to weigh in on their work and ask questions about the proposed solutions. 

After a week of technical talk, the youths helped many conference attendants by putting the environmental challenges facing the Pacific islands in simple, no-nonsense terms. 

Joy Vai, an 18-year-old from American Samoa, said she worried that if she had children, they would one day turn to her for explanation of why she could only see fish in pictures and not in the sea. 

Anne-Marie Gawel of Guam asked participants if so many people cared about the environment – and as the conference laid out there are many solutions – why Pacific islands had so many problems. 

‘Why is it a downward spiral if so many people care?’ Gawel said.  ‘The key word here seems simple enough to me, but a lot of people don’t seem to know the meaning of it.’ 

Then she said five letters ‘A-C-T-I-O-N’.  The crowd then called the word out in unison. 

‘Action, oh my God, you know it’ replied Gawel.

SOURCE: Pacific Daily News, 29 June 2002


To get involved, contact :


National Co-ordinator
Mr Joe Chilton
Palau Community College
PO Box 9
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: + 680 488 2470
F: + 680 488 6563

Ms. Tiare Holm
Palau Conservation Society
P.O. Box 1811,
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: ++ 680 488 3993
F: ++ 680 488 3990

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