C2GTalk: An interview with Ronald (Ronny) Jumeau, Independent Consultant, Seychelles

What can small islands bring to tackling the climate crisis?

17 July 2023

What adaptation challenges has the Seychelles faced?

What challenges does climate change pose for small islands and ocean states?

Are ocean issues getting enough attention in climate policy?

How important is the UN and the COP process for Small Island Developing States?

How important are oceanic nature-based approaches to tackling climate change?

What role should islands play in governing climate-altering approaches?

This interview was recorded on 7 June 2023 and is also available with interpretation into 中文, Español and Français.

Small islands face devastating impacts from climate change, not just from rising seas, but from threats to their economic underpinnings such as fishing and tourism. In this C2GTalk Ronny Jumeau explores the challenges of adaptation, and outlines the expertise climate nations can bring tackling the climate crisis, especially through nature-based solutions in the ocean. He says islands must be at the table when considering new climate-altering approaches, but is wary of efforts that might divert resources and end up as a distraction.

Ambassador Ronald (Ronny) Jumeau is a former Cabinet Minister and Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles. 

He was Cabinet Secretary in the President’s Office, a Cabinet Minister from 1998 to 2007, including for Environment and Natural Resources, and from 2007 to 2020, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador to the United States, Canada, Brazil, Cuba and Jamaica and Roving Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues. 

Amb Jumeau represented Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board, the world’s largest fund helping developing countries address climate change. He was also Chair of the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) and a member of Seychelles’ delegations to the United Nations climate change conferences from 2007 to 2021. 

Below are edited highlights from the full C2GTalk interview shown in the video above. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Let’s start with the challenge.  What are the current and future expected impacts of climate change facing the Seychelles as well as small island States in general, and how much do you see this increasing over the coming decades? 

Climate change is for Seychelles, as much as for small island developing States and ocean States around the world, very much a present danger.  Seychelles, for example, like many small island developing States (SIDS), currently depends heavily on tourism and secondly on fisheries, and both of these depend on nature and the effects of climate change on nature. 

One of the big problems we are already facing in Seychelles is coastal erosion and also sea level rise, both of which affect tourism — we have mainly marine-based tourism — and fisheries.  We also have the problem of rising sea temperatures, which is affecting not only killing coral reefs but affecting the migration habits of fish.  If our fish migrate, then we would be in trouble. 

We have water security problems with changes in rainfall and droughts.  Our droughts are getting longer.  Our rainy periods are getting shorter and more intense, which leads to storms and flooding.  Practically everything you can think of is already happening on our islands.  

I would like to correct a misconception people here have about especially small islands.  When you look at emojis of small islands it is a mound of sand with a coconut tree in the middle.  The thing is, 

many islands, even islands which are not low-lying — obviously, if you are low-lying like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean like Tuvalu, like the Marshall Islands, like Kiribati in the Pacific, one of the biggest long-term problems is slipping below the waves.  Seychelles is more like the Fijian Islands and volcanic islands in that we have mountains.   

However, our entire economy depends on the ocean.  Secondly, 80 percent of our population, 80 percent of our economic activity, is on the coast, which is very low-lying.  Many SIDS face the possibility of becoming economically unviable before they are covered by the ocean, so it is not a question of, “How long will it take before the oceans rise above your beaches, and we have that amount of time to save you?” 

No, you do not.  We are an industrial tuna-fishing country, and if the tuna moves, and it will with rising sea temperatures, and if the beaches go with the coral reefs dying that allows stronger waves to hit the beaches and take away the famous sand, which people come for, then we have nothing to survive on; so we will have islands to live on, but economically we could become a failed State. 

What sort of timeframes are we looking at? 

Generally people are saying before the end of the century, but the interesting thing about timeframes is that climate change is always ahead of the science.  The science is always struggling to catch up.  Whenever they say, “Okay, it is going to take the Greenland ice shelf so long to melt, the glaciers around the world to melt, the West Antarctica ice shelf to melt,” then they always discover things are melting faster than they thought.  We are always struggling to keep up. 

For example, we have built artificial islands.   

One of the things we have done — not so much for climate change but because the narrow coastal strait that we build on is more or less full and behind it are steep mountains, which are very forested, which are our water towers — so as an adaptation measure we built artificial islands.  When we built the artificial islands, because Seychelles at the time was a middle-income country — we are now a high-income country — we had to borrow.  We built the islands above projected sea level rise only to find out down the road, when we are still paying the loan, that the scientists have raised the projected sea level rise.  So, that actually if you go to those islands now and you see the high water, mark it does not leave much before the water overtops the island.  These are the complexities that we in islands face in that the scale of the problems as they get worse are getting so expensive that even Seychelles as a high-income country cannot afford to pay for what needs to be done. 

You mentioned one form of adaptation.  What other forms of adaptation might be possible, and at what point does essentially global temperature rise become so high that it is prohibitively expensive to do so? 

Seychelles is one of the leading countries, for example, in coral rehabilitation.  Not only do our several islands now have coral farms or coral nurseries, both ex situ and in situ, but what is interesting in Seychelles, because the beaches are so important to the hotels and the offshore reefs protect the beach, what is happening now that we have been quite good at is getting five-star hotels to team up with NGOs to grow corals. 

The problem is you can only grow corals depending on how high the temperature of the water goes.  There will be corals that are resilient.  We have identified them and are growing them.  What people do not understand is that different coral reefs have different ecosystems, different types of fish and species.  It is like replacing a natural forest with a planted forest.  Everything changes. 

On the beaches unfortunately we are granited, on the main islands where the tourists are, to use slanted granite rocks instead of sea walls, which mimic the motion of water going up a beach.  It is bit of an eyesore, but it is one way of protecting the beach.  Because the sand then gets trapped in the rocks it is better than sea walls. 

We receive about three times more tourists than our population.  That is how much water we have to use and how much more water we have to bring in.  Because of water security, when we do not have enough storage capacity for rainfall we have had to switch, for example, to a very expensive form of adaptation, desalination.  In trying to solve a water problem, the desalination plants so far are fueled by fossil fuels, so you increase your use of fossil fuels and you increase your emissions, which is one climate change problem, to try to solve another, which is growing water insecurity. 

One important thing which maybe I can talk about later is that we are also now trying to be a world leader in nature-based solutions, which are both a mitigation and adaptation measure, especially seagrasses and mangroves. 

We will definitely touch on that in a bit. 

I wanted to take a little step back.  You have obviously spoken about the ocean experience as it affects the Seychelles, but more broadly how are you seeing issues surrounding climate and the ocean being addressed in terms of climate policy and diplomacy?  Is sufficient attention, are sufficient mechanisms being given to it? 

In recent years the ocean has risen to the top of the agenda but not necessarily for the right reasons.  We have the looming specter of deep-sea mining, which has to be solved.  I am aware in my talking to different countries in Africa and in the Indian Ocean that some countries have taken an interest in the ocean because of the wealth it may contain, not just fisheries but mineral wealth, the minerals you will need, for example, for the transition to renewable energy, although there is work now to replace these with other resources, and increasing petroleum, oil and gas, despite the need to phase out fossil fuels.  There is in the developing world more of a push to take fossil fuels out of the ground rather than keep them there because of the development challenges that they have. 

For example, within the small island developing States we have fossil fuel producers.  If you have an island which depends on tourism and fisheries, you have a tourism carrying capacity — Seychelles has one, and we are probably reaching it — where you cannot take any more tourists, and your fisheries are collapsing, no one is helping you out, and you find fossil fuels. What do you do? These are the dilemmas and decisions small islands have to make. 

Oceans have come to the fore.  Ocean climate action, which Seychelles specializes in, is becoming better understood, but unfortunately we have to clear up whether we are going to go ahead with deep-sea mining or not. I am obviously against it; the government of Seychelles is sitting on the fence for the time being because it has to weigh all its options. I do not have to help run the country anymore. 

It is amazing how the ocean has risen to the top of the agenda.  We have had quite a number of successes.  We have had the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions (BBNJ) agreement to protect biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions in the high seas and we have had decisions doing away with fishery subsidies.  There are so many gains so far, but governance is not sufficiently in place yet to handle this. 

I wondered if I could switch tack a little bit into the bigger field of climate diplomacy and the Conference of the Parties (COP) process.  There is a lot of focus this year for various reasons on the United Arab Emirates COP global stocktake.  Every year everyone says this is the most important COP ever, but there is a feeling that this is a pretty important COP.  Let’s put it that way. You have been attending these conferences for many years now.  How have you seen them evolve over the time that you have been doing this, and to what extent have they become more or less fit for purpose? 

The sad thing is that COPs have gotten — as you said, every year they say it is an important COP, and the reason is because we fail to take action.  We should have taken action a long time ago.  I am proud to say that small island developing States were amongst the first to sound the alarm back in the 1980s.  No one listened. At that time it was easier to make a distinction as to who was more vulnerable.  Now everyone is vulnerable.  This is why loss and damage took so long to get recognized until last year in COP 27 until everybody now is suffering loss and damage. So we wait to get to the brink before we take action.  This is one of the reasons everyone says each COP is more important.  It is because each COP fails to deliver as much as it should. Sometimes we celebrate gains that are really pathetic, but it is better than nothing.  That is the attitude we are taking.  We are taking therefore about the bottom line. 

On the other hand, where would we go if we do not go to the COP?  We are very worried, especially the smaller countries.  We cannot allow G7, G20 — or even now we are seeing the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) discussing enlarging the BRICS group, and we know is that BRICS is a developing-world group — where will we stand vis-à-vis G77 and China, which includes all the small islands? 

For us, what is G20, what is G7, what is BRICS?  Small islands like Seychelles are still left out in the cold.  We are still elbowed off the table.  The only place we can speak and no one can shut us up or say, “You can’t come here,” is the United Nations.  The United Nations is the only thing we have.  It is the only place where every independent sovereign country in the world has a voice, and you cannot stop their attempts to speak. I have been in meeting COPs where the gavel went down very quickly to stop someone from saying something the rest of us did not like, but it is the only place where we can go to speak, and not just speak up, it is the only place where we can gather as a group. The SIDS gather as the Alliance of Small Island States, and the biggest gathering of negotiators from small island States are the COPs.  

At COPS obviously often the speeches or interventions from small island States represent some of the most passionate and important emotionally in the sense of grounding what it is we are talking about.  At the same time, to what extent do you feel you are able to influence the actual outcomes of the COPs as a small island State group? 

If you go over the history of the COPs and look at the Kyoto Protocol and some of the biggest achievements, including loss and damage, they actually were put on the table by the SIDS. We have a history, an experience of first being ignored, then laughed at, and then as what we say becomes true everybody scurries over to carry favor with us. Let us look at one of the biggest gains of COP 27, the loss and damage fund.  The SIDS raised loss and damage more than 30 years ago.  We were the first.  It took 30 years to accept it.  Can you imagine what climate change has done in the past 30 years?  

Even when it was accepted at COP 27 it was because of some maneuverings.  The Europeans abandoned the group or were resisting loss and damage and left the Americans out on their own in the cold, and the Americans, all embarrassed, joined the group, but they made sure we had a fund that is still a shell. 

Now of course the question is, will money go into that fund?  What are you expecting from COP 28 briefly?  What do you think the big question should be? 

One is operationalizing the loss and damage fund obviously.  However, people who do not know the COP process very much would say, “I don’t think you are going to have the fund operationalized when you have not even delivered the rich countries on the $100 billion they promised us in Copenhagen by 2020.”  Even if they did finally reach $100 billion, put some money in the loss and damage fund — and we are asking for doubling of the funds to the adaptation fund — according to the research that has been done the needs are in the trillions.  We need to move from billions to trillions, and we keep being told, “Oh, there isn’t enough public money for that.” 

We understand.  We are having problems raising money from the private sector.  Some of us, like Seychelles, have raised money from philanthropy. 

One of the blessings of Covid-19 and the Ukrainian war has been to show the world that money can be mobilized pretty quickly when they want to.  It is a question of priorities. In Covid-19 not only did they mobilize the money, but the rich countries went and bought more vaccines than they needed for their own populations, and up to today most of Africa still is not vaccinated, so they can source the money.  The money is there. 

So raise the money, and what about fossil fuel phase-out? 


Will that happen this year? 

What we would like is coal at least by 2030 at the latest and fossil fuel subsidies as quickly as you can.  If you could do it tomorrow, we would like that.  The next discussion is other fossil fuels.  After all, the presidency of this year’s COP is a major oil and gas country. 

Let’s talk about 1.5°C, this figure.  Previous COPs have talked about this, “Keep 1.5°C Alive,” “1.5°C to Stay Alive,” these catchphrases, and yet there was quite a lot of attention when the World Meteorological Organization recently this year said there was a two-thirds chance that this would be breached in the next five years, at least temporarily.  It has always been set to go over and come down again, but will it?  I don’t know.  To what extent is 1.5°C still a useful objective that should be central to policy? 

If you look on either side of 1.5°C, we cannot say we now need 1.0°C; 2.0°C is too dangerous.  At 2.0°C all the coral reefs die.  At 1.5°C about 70 percent, at 2.0°C some 90 percent of coral reefs.  If we say, “Well, we will go for 2.0°C,” you might as well wipe the SIDS off the map.  You might as well wipe coastal countries and river delta countries off the map; 2.0°C is just not acceptable.  So we are stuck with 1.5°C and trying to find different, innovative ways of addressing the problem. 

As far as the science is concerned, the reports have come out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that you cannot think of 1.0°C.  Several years ago people said maybe 1.0°C degree should be the new 1.5°C, but forget it.  We are hanging by our fingernails to 1.5°C, and people say we have the money, resources, and the science we need to reach 1.5°C.  It is the political will that is missing.  It is not the technology and the resources. 

Incidentally, one thing I tell people when we talk about sea level rises as a small island problem, I say no because if we reach a stage of sea level rise where the islands disappear, so will Miami, so will New York, and so will all the great cities that are built at sea level.  The only difference between us and them is that they have money, and they will throw concrete at it, increasing their carbon emissions from the cement industry.  That is the difference because they are all more or less on the same level as us. 

I use an example in Africa.  Someone said, “Oh, you know, our African islands, you are fixing this problem.” 

I said: “What will happen in the Nile Delta will make you forget that we even exist.  Just that one.” 

Europe does not want it to happen in the Nile delta because what was happening about people crossing the Mediterranean, the migrants, will look like a picnic compared to what happens if just the Nile Delta goes under, and it is sinking because of aquifers, et cetera. 

Back to 1.5°C and what keeps us there, obviously stopping emissions is going to be a big part of it, but there are also other supplementary additional approaches.  If you are going to bring the temperature back down, carbon dioxide removal has been stated as one of the key things we need to do both for reaching net zero to compensate for how to abate emissions but also effectively to clean up CO2 pollution from the atmosphere. 

There has been a lot of focus recently on carbon dioxide removal and more and more money.  At the same time, there is a lot of concern that putting too much emphasis on this, given all the challenges around it — scale up, costs, and so forth — could undermine the work of stopping fossil fuel emissions, the “moral hazard” problem or various words for that.  What are your thoughts generally on this debate?  Also, you mentioned earlier nature-based solutions.  What are your general instincts about the two broad approaches, although you cannot separate them that cleanly, biological and technological, to carbon dioxide removal? 

One thing we are going to see at COP 28 is a lot on CCS, or carbon capture and storage.  The oil producers are big on that. As an islander and not just as a small island but even more importantly on this subject as a large ocean State, I would point to the fact that the biggest carbon sink in the world is nature.  I am not saying that we are not going to need all of the other different technologies that are needed either to take carbon out of the atmosphere or to reflect solar radiation back into space.  I am not saying that.  Before we do that, with all of its complexities, why don’t we repair the damage that we have done to nature?  This is where nature-based solutions come in. 

In Seychelles we have 115 islands, about 455 km2 of land.  Forty-seven percent of that is protected, but that is nothing, 47 percent of 455 km2.  We have 1.35 million km2 of ocean, and right now we are using the help of at Oxford University, Nekton Mission, Pew Trust, and a lot of friends and partnerships who are very important to this.  We are now saving our mangroves and our seagrass beds.  We will probably find out that our mangroves and seagrass beds sequester more carbon than we emit.  We will probably find that out because just the mangroves on Aldabra Atoll, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, our largest expanse of mangroves, now stores the equivalent of 7 percent of the whole emissions of Seychelles. 

If we could do that with the oceans coming forward, there are so many co-benefits in doing that. This is what is interesting.  For you to sequester carbon in the sea floor or in the forest you need to protect them.  You must not think of nature as just a carbon sink.  It is about the other crisis we have, the biodiversity crisis.  If you make that argument, then the people involved in the biodiversity process, the biodiversity sector, have a reason to push for climate action, and the people in climate action have a reason to push for protection of biodiversity, so we all become environmental and biodiversity conservationists and everybody becomes a climate activist.  Plus, sustainable development goals (SDG) are livelihood, are food security and hunger. Saving nature is running through many of the SDGs, so at the same time instead of putting it in the prism of the climate COPs, this is one of the failings of the COPs.  Had we taken that approach a long time ago maybe we would be much further down the road, especially in using Mother Earth herself as the biggest sink.  

Is this a commercial opportunity for Seychelles to essentially sell carbon credits from mangrove restoration and so forth? 

This is the idea, but we have to work on carbon credits.   

There has been a lot of concern as to certain of the carbon markets not really being viable or credible.  We would have to work on that, but the idea would be that there would be a blue carbon market as well.  It is one way of raising funds because by raising funds on the carbon market to protect nature we are actually strengthening our tourism sector because that’s why people come to Seychelles.  We are protecting our fishery sector because also what they are going to do, we hope, is protect fish stocks. 

While clearly all these co-benefits are essential — it feeds human wellbeing and sustainability in many ways — there is a danger of relying too much on nature and thinking that nature can do too much of the job.  We have seen a lot of back and forth recently, particularly over afforestation.  Someone says afforestation is the answer, then there is a lot of pushback, and we are seeing a lot of debate over standards and so forth now.  Are we seeing that in blue carbon as well? 

Blue carbon is not that well developed.  I think one of the advantages of that is that we learn from what has happened so far as we form a blue carbon market.  It is true because according to the scientists nature can take care of only about 37-38 percent of emissions up to 2030, so there is a limit.  As you said, while taking care of nature can help with food security, it can also affect production of food, as we have seen, for example, with renewable energy, bioenergy, and that sort of thing, and replacing forests with plantation forests, et cetera. 

There are a lot of complexities, but what I am saying is if we go into scientific and technological engineering to engineer climate change, you shut us out.  When I say “you,” I mean the climate process.  One of the best ways of tackling climate change is not to divide us into different groups who can do what?  It is to say, “What is it that we can all do?” 

One thing islands can do is nature.  Bring us in because we will be coming in not just to save ourselves because nature will help save us, but in doing that we feel we are part of the solution. When you start reflecting things back into space, we are out of the talk.  We hope to have a say in the governance, but we are not going to have a say in the technology. 

Let’s go into that.  You are talking about this whole idea of solar radiation modification (SRM), where you would reflect a small portion of incoming sunlight to lower temperatures.  The one that gets the most attention in some ways is the idea of stratospheric aerosol injection, which would in some ways mimic the effect of volcanoes, that is the idea, by putting aerosols in the stratosphere, but there are other approaches as well.  Australia, for example, has been exploring whether it can help protect its corals through marine cloud brightening, I guess both as a local adaptation mechanism, but it also has this idea of SRM. 

We are seeing increasingly people from island States involved in the research of these technologies, and that could be seen as part of governance, but they are actually getting into the science. 

Let’s take research first.  Do you support the idea of researching these technologies, and where should that research take place? 

What I am worried about is a certain amount of tokenism — “Let’s put an island in the submarine” — when maybe our efforts would be better used going into other areas where people will be saying, “Instead of taking people out of the relatively few negotiators we have in terms of what other countries have, why don’t we strengthen these areas?” 

Right now, for example, we did a debt swap to protect 30 percent of our ocean, and one of the best things out of the trust fund that came out of the debt swap is that never before in the history of Seychelles has there been so much marine research by Seychellois.  The last time I checked, out of nine researchers who got grants from the debt swap, seven were women, so it is a gender story, a youth story, and it is fascinating, but the fact remains that we will not be able to do it without deep-pocketed partners. 

The more we go into solutions that demand more complicated technology, when we cannot handle what we have already — you cannot stop a young person coming out of their A levels wanting to go to university and if they have the funding or they can raise the funding themselves, and as to what they are going to study, you cannot stop that. 

What role should islands play in governing climate-altering approaches? 

What worries me as an islander is where are our resources best placed?  If you are going to go up into the atmosphere and start spreading things around, it is highly unlikely that there is going to be an islander up there.  We get very nervous.  We get even more nervous when you start talking about putting things into the ocean because then we are talking about ocean currents, which are changing because of climate change and warming oceans.  We get even more nervous about that when we know that we do not have enough knowhow, we do not have enough capacity, to deal with the challenges we have now.  

This is a question with regard to governance, and I hear exactly what you are saying, but at the same time we have already seen a startup in the United States, whether it was real or a stunt or who knows how to describe it, essentially starting what they claimed to be some form of deployment in Mexico.  This created a big backlash, and now there are efforts to govern it.  The question is: You may not choose to want to do governance as a priority, but it may be necessary anyway, and given the need for that governance how do you actually get effective, meaningful governance from experts in small island States, the Seychelles, or wherever? 

We obviously have to be at the table.  To go back to something I said earlier, the history of COPs has shown that islanders are innovative if nothing else.  Many of these things that come up come from us. 

We have to be at the table, but we have to be careful that it does not become a distraction.  We have to be careful that when you are asking for money for loss and damage, adaptation, and mitigation that people suddenly are not diverting money into these startups that take up huge amounts of money for little results that we can see so far.  This is where the worry is. 

Let’s take the United States, for example, in addressing their climate goals.  One of the things is that a lot of government money is going into renewables.  I am not saying it is a bad thing if is going to help, but what it is doing?  It is reducing the amount of money they could be giving to people like us because it is government money, unless of course you get private sector and philanthropic money, impact investing, but it is a limited amount of money.  That is the worry we have. 

It is like when your billionaires are going into space, that discussion.  It is their money.  Someone needs to go into space, but is it money well spent?  Could we be doing something that benefits more people than making them look good? 

There is the whole thing about when we get these startups and I see these pictures of machines sucking carbon dioxide out of the air when I would like to see in my country more trees sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and more seagrass being planted.  For us those are very, very expensive solutions, let alone having those machines. 

There are people out there looking into these possible solutions, and there are people like C2G, who are looking at the issue of governance and how do we govern that. Maybe what happened with BBNJ gives hope, the conservation of biodiversity in the high seas, although I would like to see how we are going to do so.  The devil is in the details.  We are going to try to protect the high seas.  That is going to be a problem. 

Not too long ago people would not have believed and said, “No, we are not going to,” because of the history of the Law of the Sea, which was a very difficult agreement to reach, because there were a lot of commercial interests there who did not want regulation of the high seas for obvious reasons. But we got an agreement. 

I wonder if I could start to wrap this up.  I wanted to ask you this because I have noticed you are a fairly keen social media user in the past.  Of course there has been a bit of interest recently in the degree to which various platforms are actually becoming more hostile to climate discussions and so forth.  To what extent do you still see social media as a useful tool in talking about climate justice and climate action?  How are you seeing it evolve? 

I think it is the best way to reach the young.  Back in the days when I was an environment minister, for example, and we protected sea turtles — we have culturally and traditionally eaten sea turtles — I used to say, “My generation has strict laws, but people have to hold the fort until the younger generation, who refuse to eat sea turtles because they have not grown up eating it, come to the fore.”  They understand new issues like these startups.  They understand it much better than we do. 

Social media is important for them.  Social media is important for communities and indigenous peoples who are shut out of official discussions in their country.  You can say, “You are not coming to the town hall meeting, I don’t want you here, and we will cops and riot police,” but unless the government shuts down the internet you cannot stop them from speaking out.  Anyone anywhere can speak out and choose his or her or their preferred media that they want to go to.  I think that is the value of social media.  Of course in some countries they clamp down on social media.  You cannot have a perfect world. 

For example, I will never forget, this is a very interesting anecdote.  While I was in New York — I was an ambassador for 13 years there — when I was in Seychelles I was attending a function by the president, and as I was walking around one of the presidential bodyguards came up to me and said, “Hi, Ambassador Jumeau.”  He was a young guy. 

I said, “Hi, how are you?” 

He said, “I just wanted to tell you I follow you.” 

This is the bodyguard of a president.  If he had not been on social media, he would not be interested at all.  He is not going to whisper in the ear of the president to say protect this and let’s do that.  It hit me that you do not know who is listening out there.  Maybe you have written them off, and the best way for them to communicate is with the phone. 

So for you the benefits still outweigh the growing challenges. 

Oh, yes.  Of course now we have to deal with the challenges of artificial intelligence coming in and that sort of thing, but in developing countries especially sometimes the only way in the heart of Africa or Asia for people to be able to connect to authorities, doctors, nurses, lifesavers, or rescuers is through social media. 

Maybe I can finish on one point.  I ask everyone who has been working in this field a long time, how do you stay motivated for so long?  You have seen so many things tried and not happening as fast you want them to.  Where do you keep motivation coming from, that scarce, rare, and important resource? 

I will say something that I say around the world: “There are a lot of definitions of resilience.  Resilience is the smile on the face of an islander.”  We go through so much.  When Fiji was hit by a cyclone once, obviously it was all over the media, and they showed children in the ruins.  The first day they were all gloomy, they were trying to stay dry.  By the third day you started seeing smiles come out. 

We cannot afford to be depressed.  We cannot afford to give up.  Each time I go to a beach and I see something, I get upset or I get angry.  I do not become complacent.  I never say, “What am I going to do?”  I say, “No way am I going to allow this.”  I am not going to migrate and become a climate refugee.  I do not like the term “climate migrant” or whatever.  I am not.  I cannot afford it.  I am a grandfather.  I have two new grandchildren.  One day my granddaughters will ask me: “I hear you have these titles, but look at the mess we are in.  What did you do?”  I have to be able to answer that question. 

I do not do speeches like every world leader, “We have to do this for our children and our grandchildren,” and then they go home and do things as if they do not have children and grandchildren.  By making it personal, a pact between me and my granddaughters, if I say, “I have saved the world for my granddaughters,” I save it for everybody else. 

On that note, Ronald Jumeau, thank you so much.  You have been such a great guest on C2GTalk. 

 Thank you for having me.  It has been a pleasure.  Thank you. 

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