Pacific Anthropology and Engagements at the Frontline of Climate Change 
Edvard Hviding (University of Bergen)
Paul Sillitoe (Durham University)
British Museum - BP Lecture Theatre
Start time:
29 May, 2016 at 17:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

The small island states of the tropical Pacific are often mentioned as the part of the word that contributes the least to global warming, but that is set to suffer the most from its effects. Throughout the islands of Oceania, rising sea levels caused mainly by anthropogenic climate change threaten not only coastlines, villages and towns, but even the sovereign land of entire nations. Moana Nui, the Great Ocean that has for thousands of years supported human existence and mobility throughout the island world of the Pacific, is now turning its might against the island peoples, becoming a destructive force that in due course will make it impossible to live on coral atolls where the highest terrain is less than a couple of metres above sea level. In the larger and higher islands of the Pacific, coastal zones and agricultural land are engulfed and eroded by rising seas, while coral reefs are threatened by the warming and acidification of the ocean. The future is bleak, and a multitude of human crises seem bound to develop when the foundations for food production, human settlement, social life and even national sovereignty gradually disappear, leaving migration and relocation as possibly the only long-term outcomes. For those Pacific Islanders hardest hit by the already present effects of climate change, the future is today. The Pacific Islands region is of course also a classic and enduring locality for ethnographic fieldwork and for the long-term growth of anthropology, and the discipline holds a wealth of detailed information about past and present human life across Oceania. Through a series of contributions from the EU-funded project ECOPAS (European Consortium for Pacific Studies), in which European and Pacific institutions of research and higher learning collaborate, this plenary session exemplifies and discusses how long-term research in Pacific anthropology and in the multidisciplinary field of Pacific studies is involved in the politics of climate change on local, regional and global scales. The session also connects anthropology, Pacific studies and art by following up the screening earlier in the day of Moana Rua: the Rising of the Sea, the film version of an ECOPAS-produced live stage drama written, produced and performed by Pacific Islanders, in which the islanders take ownership of the climate change debate, and assume the role of ‘climate change warriors’ whose artistic expressions mediate their own perspectives on what is happening. Some proposals for deepened European-Pacific collaboration in scholarship and art are presented for the challenges posed by our era of accelerating climate change, and some comparison is made with the anthropology of other regions.