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Planning for climate change in the Pacific: valuing and integrating indigenous knowledge

McNamara, K.E. and Prasad, Shirleen S. and Hemstock, Sarah L. (2014) Planning for climate change in the Pacific: valuing and integrating indigenous knowledge. In: Pacific Voices. USP Press, Suva, Fiji. ISBN Not yet known (Unpublished)

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Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, and changes in rainfall patterns and extreme weather events position communities in the Pacific Islands region at the epicentre of vulnerability (Keener et al 2012). As highlighted by Hay and Mimura (2013, p. 1), a diverse array of vulnerability assessments have been undertaken in communities across the region over the last two decades and all point to the regions high level of ‘risk to the adverse consequences of climate change’. Despite a flurry of community-based climate change adaptation activities being rolled out across the region, Pacific communities continue to face an ever-present level of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change (Hay and Mimura 2013). Planning for climate change therefore needs to continue across all levels of government in order to develop effective and sustainable climate change policies, and adaptation and mitigation activities. The threats posed by climate change in the Pacific present complex governance challenges, which are only compounded by other competing issues such as economic development, poverty reduction and improvements to education and health services. However, it is crucial that governments continue to develop national climate change policies, support and fund on-ground adaptation efforts and advocate for global mitigation targets in international forums (Nakalevu 2006). As we argue throughout this chapter, well-formulated climate change policies and adaptation efforts could be more effective if they integrate Indigenous knowledge into their overall strategy for action. Government policy stems from outside of the community, as does scientific knowledge (Mercer et al 2009). Much therefore can be learnt from Indigenous knowledge systems. We posit that climate change adaptation could be more effective if Indigenous knowledge and experiences were well understood and incorporated into climate change planning. In recent years, it has been acknowledged that Indigenous knowledge can enhance our understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation measures (Salick and Ross 2009; Nyong et al 2007; Riedlinger and Berkes 2001). This is reinforced by scholars, such as Finucane (2009, p. 1), who defend that ‘scientific knowledge is only one element of an effective risk-management process’ for addressing climate change. Indigenous knowledge is another core element for developing ways to address climate change. This chapter outlines how and why Indigenous knowledge can be a vital component for climate change planning in the Pacific region. As explored in this chapter, it is hoped that a strong recognition of the role and value of Indigenous knowledge will be enshrined at the national policy level in Pacific island countries. At the local level, it is propositioned that Indigenous knowledge be safeguarded and integrated into climate change adaptation planning activities. Such initiatives, at both national and local levels, could empower communities most at risk to the impacts of climate change by acknowledging the valuable role they can play in being part of the solution. Indigenous knowledge is vitally important in reducing vulnerabilities to climate change for a whole host of reasons, as discussed in more detail below. Of paramount importance is that such ways of knowing are internal to the communities (as opposed to external scientific sets of knowledge), which has allowed communities to develop an intimate understanding of localised conditions, patterns and changes to their surrounding environment. Examples to showcase the role and value of Indigenous knowledge for climate change planning in the Pacific are also explored in this chapter.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: This book chapter is not published yet.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DU Oceania (South Seas)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Divisions: Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD)
Depositing User: Sarah Hemstock
Date Deposited: 22 May 2014 22:29
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2016 03:33

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