Increasing vulnerability of Island Communities as a result of Climate Change

by Margaret Loncki

With the current trajectory of global Climate change, Island communities will be the first to be noticeably affected. Heather Lazrus describes the vulnerabilities of island communities as well as their ability to adapt to environmental changes brought about by climate change. Along with altered precipitation and storm patterns, and rising global temperatures, island communities face land loss due to the rise of sea levels and may soon face forced migration as a result. Lazrus also explains that many societies have portrayed small island communities as helpless victims of large developed nations’ irresponsibility and the climate changes that this irresponsibility has brought about. Lazrus makes the point that small island communities are not beyond saving and if climate change is correctly handled, migration will become unnecessary.

Island communities are typically thought of as “small, isolated, and dependent communities” adding to the perception of island communities being helpless against changing weather conditions. Lazrus points out that the interconnectedness between many island communities allows them to be far more resilient than many believe. Through the Alliance of small Island States (ASIS), Small island communities have been able to be heard at the United Nation’s Conferences. Lazrus also commonly refers to traditional environmental knowledge and its importance in island communities’ ability to adapt to changing climate. Because it is believed that every person has a right to “retain their homelands”, every carbon producer around the worst is in some way obligated to prevent further climate change in order to maintain the homelands of the world’s island communities. If nothing can be done to mitigate global climate change before island communities are forced from their homelands, they well have no choice other than to migrate. For island communities, migration has historically been a way of adaptation to climate change, but in modern times, would be considered failure to adapt. Migration of island communities poses many problems such as citizenship and sovereignty.

Lazrus, Heather., 2012, Sea Chance: Island Communities and Climate Change. The Annual Review of Anthropology 41. 285-301.


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