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Climate Change and Community-Based Relocation


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Type of project
Project theme
Society, economy and culture
Project topic
Education & Outreach
Culture & history

Project details

Science / project summary

This award will fund a participatory and consultative workshop that brings together two indigenous groups, the Yup'ik of Newtok, Alaska and the people of the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, to explore the social and cultural ramifications of being on the front line of global climate change. The inhabitants of Newtok and the Carteret Islands are part of a growing network of Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) whose communities are the first to be affected by climate induced environmental change. Newtok is a western Alaska, Bering Sea community being forced to relocate due to the deterioration of the substrate that underlies their village; Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, are being forced to relocate due to rising sea levels - the Islands on average are only 1.2 meters above sea level and have lost over 50% of their land mass since 1994. As the PI states, "reducing vulnerability and implementing adaptation to climate change are critical to ensure the resilience of indigenous communities in both regions" and this workshop is the first step in understanding that process. As part of a community participatory process that is designed to start any research or assessment project with community discussions, this project will facilitate a research agenda that is informed by the local knowledge and goals of the affected communities themselves. This project is the first step in implementing an assessment or scientific research plan for understanding and facilitating the long term sustainability and resilience of Arctic and SIDS communities where climate-induced ecological change are affecting the health and well-being of the people who inhabit these regions. Through a 10 day community participatory process that will start in Buka, Papua New Guinea, Yup'ik people will collaborate with Carteret Island people in order to better define and understand the decision making process that underlies their ultimate relocation. The workshop will be a community to community interaction of sharing experiences, visiting community sites, talking with local government officials, and creating an outline of guiding principles and capacity building for other communities facing similar challenges. This project will contribute to a broader understanding of the social and cultural challenges that surround population migration through a community participatory process, which has the potential to create new paradigms for researchers studying these processes. Although bringing together two communities, one Arctic, one South Pacific, is a small step it is a critical step toward creating new knowledge concerning how communities are affected by and adapting to these environmental changes. From scientific research supported by the Arctic Social Sciences Program we know that community resettlement can have disastrous effects on health and well-being, as well as cultural and linguistic survival (Marino and Kingston, Twice "Removed: King Islanders Experience of Community through Two Relocations," Human Organization, Vol. 69. N.2/Winter 2010, Pg. 119-128). This project has the potential to infuse decision making processes with community based perspectives and actions, which we know from other research (Arctic Human Development Report), are key to self determination and ultimately the long-term sustainability of indigenous communities across the Arctic and the Globe.