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'Not Drowning but Fighting': Faith, Activism, and Climate Change Narratives in the Pacific Islands

Fair, Hannah; (2018) 'Not Drowning but Fighting': Faith, Activism, and Climate Change Narratives in the Pacific Islands. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Climate change is a critical issue for the Pacific Islands, in terms of its current and future impacts. However, many journalistic and academic accounts reiterate an ‘inevitable inundation discourse’: a narrative that represents Pacific Islanders as hopeless and helpless victims of climate change and their homelands as already lost to rising seas. To further critique this inaccurate and disempowering discourse, this research explores counter-narratives that can be offered in its place. Emphasising the status of those affected by climate change as political actors, and recognising the shortage of research into civil society responses, I concentrate on the understandings and practices of Pacific Islander climate activists. Ethnographic research and interviews were conducted with a Pan-Pacific network of Islander climate activists – Pacific Climate Warriors – who had converged in Australia to campaign against coal. Analysed using Hau’ofa’s ‘Sea of Islands’ vision, these Warriors embodied forms of Oceanic regionalism through the forging of kin-like connection and expressions of composite Pan-Pacific identities and enacted forms of world enlargement, countering the belittlement of the Pacific perpetuated by the inevitable inundation discourse. Their manifestation of regionalism was predicated upon difference rather than homogeneity, in terms of their ‘relative altitudinal privilege’, complicating representations of them as equally on the front lines of climate change. Further research was conducted in Vanuatu, with a particular focus on priests. Reductive analyses that present religion as a barrier to climate change adaptation are challenged. Instead, the complexity and heterogeneity of religious responses to climate change are demonstrated through the identification of multiple articulations of the Noah story and their corresponding ethical and political imaginaries. All these retellings in their own ways foreground Islander agency, providing locally meaningful and morally compelling counter-narratives of climate change in the Pacific Island region.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: 'Not Drowning but Fighting': Faith, Activism, and Climate Change Narratives in the Pacific Islands
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10052483
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