WHEN Akanisi Lomaloma's cousin, an environmental conservationist, came home and talked about the importance of protecting the environment, she thought he was crazy.
As a Christian girl, Akanisi grew up believing that the world will one day end and she thought it was an exercise in futility to try and save it.
"I always told Sani (cousin) whenever he talked about his work that he was wasting his time because no amount of campaigning for the environment will save the planet," she said.
"I remember saying 'Why do you want to save our earth because God gave all the resources for us to use?'
"But Sani continued to come home and we continued to argue back or we just didn't take any real interest."
It didn't help Sani or Planet Earth in these arguments, that all the Lomaloma children dabbled in accounting and economics, Akanisi herself an accounting graduate — none worked or had studied the 'green' fields.
However, it was accounting exactly that proved Akanisi's entry into the world of conservation and by extension an environment attitude makeover.
Akanisi or 'Bunsee' as she is fondly called is a member of WWF South Pacific's Volunteer Programme.
She joined WWF South Pacific in 2009 as a socio-economic data entry volunteer for the Coastal Marine Inshore Fisheries Program (now called Sustainable Coastal Resource Use Management) working closely with her cousin Sani.
She is also the data analyst for the Marine Species Programme and a consultant for the Green Neighborhood Initiative for the Rambo Street Project piloted in partnership with the Nasinu Town Council, in Nasinu.
Akanisi is now a strong advocate for environmental protection and conservation — a complete turnabout from the young lass who thought the world was going to end anyway so why care.
"When I first joined, I'd be sitting in the office listening to my colleagues talk about their work, the climate change officer, the person who looked after turtles, marine protected areas, the Great Sea Reef and watching their faces gleam with passion," she said.
"So I started asking the questions and began believing in the cause.
"I also started realising all the offerings of nature I have been blind to, although I'd been enjoying it for many years."
Twenty-six year-old Akanisi hails from Vatu village, in Tawake district, Cakaudrove.
The daughter of a schoolteacher and farmer, Akanisi spent her childhood in the interior of Serua and later her teens in Labasa.
"I grew up in rural areas, absolutely loved the laidback lifestyle and the fresh food, vegetables, root crops and fish. Everything was always fresh.
"The skies (are) always blue, the sea crystal clear, the rivers gushingly cold, the air clean — everything crispy fresh and not until I joined WWF did I realise these could all change if mankind continued to wreak havoc on the natural environment.
"I mean, I always had it, day in and out, it was always there so I just never envisaged a day that it could all change and how that will affect me, let alone all of us.
"I failed to make the connection between my life and the environment.
"No trees, no clean air, no fish in the sea, no clean rivers and for me that spells disaster.
"I realised and changed the way I looked at my natural world — to use but not abuse — to be sustainable in my approach.
"Yes, as a Christian we believe God offers natural resources for our use but that doesn't mean irresponsible consumption but rather a responsibility to be a good custodian of our natural resources for this generation and the next.
"And I've come to discover that things have changed a lot — fish stocks have depleted, erosion, extreme weather conditions, polluted rivers, loss of fish species that we once enjoyed so much. It's harder now to eke a living because of all these changes.
"It's ringing home the truth that life is fragile and good attitudes towards environmental conservation must be adopted.
"I realised that it's not just the conservationist's job to protect the environment; it's everyone's!
"The accountant, lawyer, finance officer, teacher, bus driver, and taxi driver as well — all our skills can help the work of conservation.
"So even if I leave WWF to go back and work in my dream career within the accounting field, I know I will always carry my green principles with me — for I don't have to be purely a conservationist to help protect our shared home — it's everyone's business!"
* Theresa Fox is the communications
officer for the World Wide Fund for
Nature South Pacific Programme.