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TOKU TIA: Tuvalu and the impacts of climate change

Climate change is the greatest and most profound threat the world is facing today. Its impacts on the environment, species of all kinds, and humanity is intensifying at an unprecedented rate. Low-lying atoll states, such as Tuvalu, because of their geomorphologies, are exposed directly to climate change impacts. Scientific predictions of the rising sea levels and media representations of low-lying atolls becoming uninhabitable and sinking are increasingly causing grave concerns to people living in atoll states. This thesis endeavours to examine the perceptions of the people of Tuvalu about climate change and sea level rise. Situated within the human geography theoretical framework, this study specifically explores the cultural and emotional geographies of Tuvaluans in relation to these phenomena. Cultural and national identities are the two pillars that embrace the study. In examining Tuvaluans’ perceptions, the study noticed that most people display a profound uncertainty about the future of their cultural heritage and the country’s national sovereignty. The emotions and affects of the people about their future are overwhelmingly touching and heartbreaking. As people who highly value coconut in their traditional ways of life, Tuvaluans’ perceptions are analogous to what I metaphorically call “coconut roots and coconut fruits”. Tuvaluans’ conception of sense of place is one that has very strong connections and attachment to their fenua or island or land like the coconut roots to the soil. However, Tuvaluans, like other Pacific islanders, are also voyagers and great explorers who have traversed the Pacific oceans for centuries like the “coconut fruits” that can drift in the ocean for long periods and become established once washed ashore. Yet, the encroaching effect of climate change and sea level rise is greatly reshaping the rootedness and/or fluidity of Tuvaluans. Tuvaluans’ perceptions are greatly influenced by their religious beliefs. As citizens of a Christian atoll state, the majority of Tuvaluans firmly believe that the rainbow in Noah’s narrative is unequivocal. However, there is a new interpretation growing within the Tuvalu Christian Church leadership that casts doubt on this view and finds the rainbow starting to fade in their perception of climate change and sea level rise. Tuvaluans understand that they need to construct an ark – solution – to save the islands. Unless the world renders genuine support to the implementation of Tuvalu’s Climate Change Policy known as Te Kaniva, Tuvaluans will not be able to construct the ark and may well be displaced causing their identities to vanish in the passage of time.
Type of thesis
Falefou, T. (2017). TOKU TIA: Tuvalu and the impacts of climate change (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11651
The University of Waikato
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