It’s the land! How place, identity and the environment define climate change adaptation in low-lying Pacific Islands
Narratives of sinking islands in the Pacific have come to epitomize the global climate change crisis. Mainstream media and Western discourses promote apocalyptic scenarios where low-lying islands are doomed to disappear and their populations scatter. These accounts of catastrophic sea level rise are overtly reliant on a negative oceanocentric view. The focus is on water as an agent of destruction and displacement, and adaptation efforts centre around containing or avoiding the sea. Yet surprisingly little is said about the land beyond biophysical considerations. Based on field research in Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, this talk looks at the connections between island peoples and their terrestrial environments. Using examples from atolls, the talk explores how land is conceived symbolically, socio-culturally and legally, and considers its role in sustaining livelihoods and anchoring identities, therefore providing the scope for adaptation and the continuous viability of islanders at home.
Sergio Jarillo (PhD in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge) is currently researching community-based climate change adaptation practices as part of the ARC-funded Laureate Project Future Islands: Catalysing Solutions to Climate Change in Low-Lying Islands under Chief Investigator Prof Jon Barnett at the School of Geography, the University of Melbourne. Sergio uses mixed research methods and participatory approaches to explore the intersections between social and climate change, material and immaterial culture, and the behavioural ecology of human emotions. He is also interested in collaborative ethnography, interdisciplinary research and museum practice. He has held Fellowships and teaching positions at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University in New York. Sergio has carried out intensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Mozambique and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as well as in the Tiwi Islands.