A Chat With Toni

You may have seen Toni Tapusoa peppered over our website and our instagram helping us model our latest collection, but he's not just a pretty face! We caught up with him and chatted about how global warming is affecting where he grew up and why economics is naff. 

So you joined us on our shoot, we went to Formby and it was very exotic…

Yea amongst the plastic bottles. I remember it being distinctly cold, but I remember it being very fun.

While we were there we were chatting about how you studied economics?

Yea I did, for 3 years. But I didn’t finish because I was mainly interested in one part, the macro stuff and in particular sustainability. The environment wasn’t a talking point at all, not brought up in any modules, so I lost interest.

The capitalization of limited resources is what they were teaching basically, or that was the focus. Maximising GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is what it’s all about. Import, Export etc.

So no relevance towards the environment?

Yea, that was a key thing that stuck out. It’s not how you can make use of these resources to benefit humans, it’s just how to take advantage of them.

When we were shooting you were talking about how you’re originally from Samoa and that it’s getting affected by climate change?

Yea, I grew up in Samoa and left when I was 12. Because it’s a small pacific island nation, it’s not too far above sea level. Obviously because of climate change, beaches I used to go to when I was younger, you can slowly see the water line creeping up. I haven’t been back since 2012, but I imagine it’s worse now.

And you were saying it’s affected by natural disasters?

So yea, in Samoa we mainly have two seasons. One of which is the rainy season which runs for about 6 months from August. And then between November and January, there are a lot of cyclones.

The cyclones are becoming more frequent, again because of global warming. Going from a couple a decade, to more now, but I’m not sure of the exact statistics. Definitely becoming more prevalent, which isn’t good for anybody.

How are the government responding?

Although they’re quite dependent on foreign aid, the government is also trying to focus on a worldwide approach. They know the solution doesn’t lie in the actions of one country and taking part in agreements such as the Paris Agreement and conventions like the UNFCCC is crucial. However, in the short term -  to deal with immediate consequences of natural disasters they have to be more reliant on more developed nations like China for relief aid, but also from countries like New Zealand and Australia, as there are really strong ties there.

And are there any strings attached to the aid?

Yea, it seems like there’s an almost an incentive attached to helping a country back on its feet. The general feeling that the public has is that we receive a lot of foreign aid from China, so we see a lot of Chinese businesses opening up all over the place. Apparently Samoa received funding from China for a public hospital recently and in return for the money there’s an exchange of influence. Which is hard as it’s like they’re capitalising on a country which is constantly being hit by cyclones. Which is made worse as it’s like you can never get back on your feet because another cyclone comes.

Last time I was back in Samoa, there was a cyclone outside the front door. We were outside taking pictures, then a massive tree fell on top of this car in front of us. And we were there just before, so it was like, shit we could have died. But locals have sort of adapted, as there’s no other way to be, you just sort of have to make the most of it.  

 So lots of people have left Samoa?

People aren’t leaving specifically because of climate change but you know if there was a prospect of a better life, you’d take it. Not just for you, but for your family. You want them to make the most of it, have more opportunity. So you get a lot of Samoans in New Zealand and Australia. Although if the climate continues to cause negative effects it can only discourage people to stay.