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Interview: Uili Lousi, Artist and President, OHAI Tonga

Uili Loisi, President of OHAI Tonga
Uili Lousi, Environmental Artist and President of OHAI Tonga, a climate change NGO.

1. Tell us about the vision for establishing OHAI Tonga and the organization’s mission.

Our vision when establishing OHAI was to spotlight and uplift the voices of the ocean by advancing knowledge around the impact of climate change in Tonga and the Pacific, 

Our projects are focused around the themes of food security, working with youth-led groups addressing climate change-related issues, responding to natural disasters, and celebrating Tonga's treasured culture and art. (Direct source: http://www.ohaitonga.org/)

2. Tell us about the climate change challenges facing Tonga, which is the second most climate-vulnerable country in the world, and other South Pacific Ocean islands like Fiji and Tuvalu

Tonga Scene
Photo: Uili Lousi.

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of more than 170 islands over 700,000 km² of South Pacific Ocean (approximately the size of Texas) and faces on average 1-3 cyclones per year. Tonga sits in the Pacific Ring of Fire, or what the USGS calls ”the most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world.” These events can cause severe flooding and thus pose large risks for families living in Tonga and cause widespread damage to homes, livelihoods, and food security. 

"According to The 2021 World Risk Report1 by Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, an alliance of nine German development and relief organizations, Tonga ranks third among the countries with the highest risk of an extreme natural event turning into a disaster. Rising sea levels triggered by global climate change and a rise in the number of hurricanes, floods, and rains are among the country's most important environmental problems. According to the World Bank's Climate Portal, extreme weather events will continue to intensify in the coming decades."
- Source: https://www.dw.com/en/tonga-an-archipelago-on-climate-crisis-frontline/a-60453850

3. Tell us about how the climate change challenges of Tonga influenced your Art

Video credit: OHAI Tonga, David N Sattler.

The citadel of my art practice is derived from interconnectivity and a visual representation of how energy flows when working at our highest level within. The climate change crisis has crystalised my art practice, as a co-created solution in mitigating the effects of climate change universally - especially here in Tonga.

4. How long have you attended the COP as an artist environment advocate?

Uili Lousi Art
Art: Uili Lousi.

In 2015 I attended COP21 for the first time as an artist and environmental advocate, and returned consecutively from COP23 up until COP28 in 2023.

5. Tell us about how you got involved with Climate Heritage Network?

During COP26 in Glasgow, I was introduced to a board member of the Climate Heritage Network, which led to an invitation to join a conversation with Princess Dana Firas of Jordan at COP27 in Egypt.

6. Tell us about Tonga's COP28  project

Our COP28 project, Corridor of the Whales, was birthed in continuity from our previous COP26 project in Glasgow, Tonga Above (an architecture project exploring rising sea levels and reimagining island nations with floating cities due to sea levels rising).

Corridor of the Whales envisions an international migration pathway from the Arctic, past Antarctica, and ending in Tonga to protect our whale relatives and ocean inhabitants.

7. Tell us about the climate change and food security projects undertaken by Ohai Tonga and how people can support these projects

OHAI relies on donations from individuals like you, organizations, and foundations to continue our vital climate action work in Tonga and the Pacific. We thank you for joining us to make a difference in Tonga and around the globe, our only home.

We humbly accept donations in any amount to support our projects.

Food Security

(Video credit: OHAI Tonga, Tagata Pasifika)

OHAI is actively engaged in facilitating bee pollination in Tonga, which is vital for agriculture and food security. Funded by the New Zealand High Commission, we partnered with Volunteer Service Abroad to engage a volunteer beekeeper who assists OHAI in helping the community establish beehives for pollinating food crops and producing honey (as a boutique industry). Our project encourages women and youth to learn about beekeeping and agriculture.

In March 2023, we launched our Inaugural OHAI Tonga International Day of Forests tree planting event in Tongatapu and was officially in partnership with The Government of Tonga 🇹🇴 under The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Division.

Climate Change Workshops

We research, write, curate, and facilitate workshops to educate youth groups on climate change-related topics to educate them, amplify their experiences, and uncover pathways toward building local solutions.

  • My Climate Change Story Master Class taught youth in Tonga, Fiji, and Tuvalu about video production and how to create compelling videos to document the impact of climate change in the Pacific region, 2022-2023. Funding by the U.S. Embassy, Fiji.
  • The Young Pacific Leaders Regional Workshop on Media Literacy and Journalism (11-13 September 2024) will bring together 30 young leaders to expand knowledge regarding media literacy, journalism, and pressing issues facing the Pacific region, including climate change and resilience. International and U.S. journalists, media, and climate change experts will work with participants to build capacity in media literacy and journalistic practices and advance Pacific regionalism. 

Climate Change Consultancy & Participation

We participated in the community, cultural, media, and intergovernmental spaces to provide consultancy around Pacific-led work on the ground addressing climate change challenges, adaptations, and solutions.

  • The Climate Reality Project, headed by Al Gore, where Uili Lousi, Debra Allan, and Dr. David Sattler serve as leaders.
  • OHAI Tonga provided support to projects that were among the first, if not the first, to examine climate change risk perception and behavioral adaptation in Tonga, conducted by Dr. David Sattler (Professor, Western Washington University) and colleagues. The projects were conducted in the wake of Cyclone Gita, which created extensive damage across Tonga and whose strength was magnified by climate climate. The resulting peer-reviewed academic articles are published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2023, and a book chapter in 2020 (see below).
  • Young Pacific Leaders Regional Workshop on Media Literacy and Journalism for Youth in the Pacific region (in collaboration with Western Washington University, USA), 2023-2025.
  • Invited Speaker, Cornell Law School Climate Week, September 2023.

(Direct source: http://www.ohaitonga.org/)

8. Tell us about your Climate Change Story Master Class to teach youth in Tonga, Fiji, and Tuvalu about video production and how to create compelling videos to document the impact of climate change in the Pacific region, 2022-2023 with funding by the U.S. Embassy, Fiji.

In 2022-2023, we produced and conducted an international "My Climate Change Story Master Class" for Tonga, Fiji, and Tuvalu youth. Funded by the U.S. Embassy, this innovative and engaging multi-session workshop taught youth ways of creating informative and captivating narratives to educate people worldwide about the impact of climate change in their Pacific Island communities.

You can still attend the My Climate Story Masterclass, on Vimeo to explore putting together a compelling climate story. Chapters include:

  • Types of Shots (such as stabilizing shot, detail, wide, action shots)
  • Tips on Gathering Good Audio (Get close, listen, capture, double take)
  • Masterclass Conversation (Rhys Loga, David N Sattler, Uili Lousi, Deborah Allen)

(Direct source: http://www.ohaitonga.org/)

9. Tonga’s energy source is almost exclusively imported diesel, which accounts for 90 percent of its electricity generation. The Government of Tonga has formulated targets to transform its energy sector by achieving a 50 percent share of renewables in the country’s energy generation mix and 70 percent by 2030.  Does your organization raise money for this energy transition project?

The government of Tonga is working towards a 50% share of renewables by 2050, and it is an ambitious target. We believe that environmental NGOs, community and faith groups, as well as sustainable decision-making in the home all cultivate positive steps together. We recently partnered with a community group working towards affordable and circular housing, in their application with the Honnold Foundation 2024 Spring grant cycle. The HF partners with communities with pathways towards equitable solar energy access.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

Upcoming Event - 11-13 September 2024:

The Young Pacific Leaders Regional Workshop on Media Literacy and Journalism

To Donate: http://www.ohaitonga.org/donate/ 
Uili Lousi (Contemporary Artist): @uililousi

12. How can people reach you?

Instagram: @ohai_tonga


WorldRiskReport 2021 (pdf), Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft Ruhr University Bochum – Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (IFHV).

By Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA.

Selva Ozelli Esq, CPA is a legal and finance executive with diversified experience dealing with highly complex issues in the field of international taxation and related matters within the banking, securities, Fintech, alternative and traditional investment funds. Her first of its kind legal analyses involving tax laws, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), blockchain technology, solar technology and the environment and have been published in journals, books and by the OECD. Her writings have been translated into 15 languages.

M W (CC BY 2.0)
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