Synopsis of a Documentary on Climate Change

Directed by MARY LAMBERT

MISS SOUTH PACIFIC, featuring original music by Master Lai and the Conservatorium of Music, is a film about the strength, beauty, and intelligence of the South Pacific Island women who competed in the 2009-2010 Miss South Pacific Pageant in Suva, Fiji.  It is also a film about climate change and how increasingly destructive weather patterns and rising sea levels are impacting the daily lives of all South Pacific islanders. Set against the backdrop of Suva, Fiji’s capital and the largest city in the South Pacific, the Pageant takes us on a week long journey that showcases the most beautiful women in the South Pacific, from island countries as famous as French Polynesia, Fiji and Samoa, to the lesser known atolls of Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Niue.  We watch as the contestants, or “Cultural Ambassadors” as they are called, proudly display their traditional attire, and perform dances and songs from their native countries.  We also listen as they give us heart-rending accounts of the effects of climate change on their island homes.

The theme of the Pageant, "Preserving Our Environment The Pacific Way," was chosen by the contest organizers because global warming is now having an adverse effect on most Pacific Island countries, particularly in atolls and low lying coastal areas. Indeed, rising sea levels are contaminating water sources, destroying food crops, and forcing villagers to relocate. Increasing cyclonic activity has caused coastal flooding, and disrupted transportation, tourism, and commerce.  To save their culture and way of life, South Pacific Islanders must find a way to preserve their environmental and cultural traditions in the face of extreme climate change.

In an emotional Pageant speech on global warming, Miss Fiji, Merewalesi Nailatikau, describes a nearby burial ground, now submerged by rising seas.  “If we allow it (global warming) to run its course, the beauty I see around me will be a distant memory that my grandchildren will only be able to see in my eyes.”  She continues, “This land is our heritage, our source of pride, and our identity, passed down to us by our ancestors. And as custodians, we owe it to those who will come after us to steward our God given lands and leave a legacy that they too can be proud of. The call to protect it is now upon me more than ever and I choose to rise to it.”

Other contestants point out in their speeches the irony that developed countries contribute the majority of carbon emissions that are causing rising sea levels in the South Pacific, yet South Pacific countries emit few, if any, carbon emissions.

While the crowning of the new PBS Miss South Pacific is the pinnacle of the pageant, behind the scenes camaraderie and shared emotions among the contestants reveal their  affection for one another. Genuine friendships evolve, along with a shared mission to preserve and protect The Pacific Way, and bring awareness to the world about the plight of their island countries in the face of global climate change.

The film is told through interlacing clips of the pageant festivities and interviews with contestants and village leaders.  The Miss South Pacific Pageant is non-stop rollicking good fun and, make no mistake, the viewer will be entertained.  But in the end, the real story is about the impacts of global warming on these remarkable people of the South Pacific, truly a special place on our planet, and a place we must all share responsibility in protecting.

Running Time:  39 minutes