A Young Mother’s Poem at the U.N. Climate Summit Was Completely Heartbreaking

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a civil society representative from the Marshall Islands, recieves a standing ovation with her husband and child after speaking at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York City.
Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A young Marshallese woman’s poem to her 7-month-old daughter was far and away the highlight of this week’s opening ceremony at the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit. In “Dear Matafele Peinem,” 26-year-old Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner discusses the dangers of climate change to her homeland, and promises her child that the world will stop it before their island nation drowns.

The poem starts at about the 2:40 mark:

Jetnil-Kijiner hails from the Marshall Islands, a tiny, low-lying nation of about 70,000 in Micronesia. It’s perhaps best known for the nuclear tests conducted in the mid-20th century in its Bikini Atoll. But now, like many of its island neighbors, the nation is in danger of drowning if the effects of climate change aren’t stopped.

The poem may have brought some diplomats to tears and to their feet with applause, but we’ll see whether it makes a difference.

Mother Reads Heartbreaking Climate Poem at U.N.