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10.10b.7 Climate Change-Induced Migration in the Pacific Region

Locke, Justin T.
Text Excerpt

Justin T. Locke, "Climate Change-Induced Migration in the Pacific Region: Sudden Crisis and Long-Term Developments," Geographical Journal 175, no. 3 (2009): 171 – 80

Justin Locke, a geographer, wrote this article for an audience of college-educated scientists and social scientists who are interested in migration patterns caused by sea level rise. Notice how he includes citations (done in MLA style) for the evidence he provides to support his argument. Sea level rise is already threatening Tuvalu during storms and high tides. Storms are more violent and frequent. Big waves often wash over entire islands. Salt water rises out of the ground and causes floods. Even when the water retreats, some farmland has become too salty to support crops. Think about this source in comparison to Source 6. How does the information in this article inform your understanding of the problems these women face? What has caused Tuvaluan people to move from the outer islands to Funafati? What problems do poor Tuvaluan migrants have in Funafati? How do they survive? Why is the death rate higher in Funafati than in Nukufetau?


rendered: changed into

inundation: flooding

islet: a small island

percolated: filtered through (in this case, rose up)

porous: filled with holes

Kiribati: a nearby island nation that faces similar problems

squatters: people who settle on land they do not own

taken sanctuary: found a safe place from which they won't be kicked out

make shift: to survive by whatever means they can or make houses out of whatever cheap or free material they can find; in this case, it is an adjective meaning that the squatters made their shelters out of whatever they could find

borrow pits, a legacy of World War II: During World War II, US, Australian, and other Allied soldiers used Funafati as an air base to fight against the Japanese. Allied soldiers (and the local people they hired) dug up sand and gravel from these pits to use in construction fill in other areas.

potable water: drinkable water

capacity: ability

hindered: held back, made more difficult

human development indicators: Social scientists use certain statistics to judge how "developed" a country is. A "highly developed" country is wealthy, has lots of technology and industry, and provides its people with support and healthcare; a "developing" country is poor, does not have much technology or industry, supports itself by agriculture, and cannot provide enough support or healthcare for its people. Some commonly used health statistics are life expectancy, the rate of deaths compared to births, and infant mortality rates.

rooted in a dependency on imported goods: caused by the fact that people in Funafati eat food imported from other countries, not local food

adverse: negative, bad

Although the vocabulary in this source will be difficult for students, it offers useful evidence and a good model of academic writing in the social sciences. There is a literacy strategy for this source at the end of this set. Focus on having students compare the information offered here with the stories in Source 6. The 75-year-old woman's family probably migrated to the capital because they did not own land in Niutao, or it may have been flooded. The nation is overpopulated, by the widow's 13 children as well as others. The cramped and substandard houses the women describe are built in the squatter neighborhood. They cannot farm because they do not own land in the capital. Buying food in the shops is not only expensive but also worse for their health. The death rate may be higher in Funafati because people there cannot eat the more nutritious food grown on farms or gathered because they do not own land. It is also important to frame this source by telling students that this source does not discuss solutions, only problems, but these are problems that people can solve. Later sources will have evidence about solutions.

People of Polynesian descent, who first inhabited the islands some 2000 years ago ... have become accustomed to living in Tuvalu's fragile and ever-changing environment, but recent climate changes may overwhelm their ability to adapt. It is believed that in the next few decades the small island state will be rendered uninhabitable due to rising sea levels, and evidence of future inundation is increasing (Parks and Timmons 2006, 14). In 2007, one of Tuvalu's small islets, where plant and animal life once thrived, disappeared beneath the sea. In 2000, Tuvalu experienced an unusually long flood season that normally lasts for only a few months. However, during this period, the floods lasted for over 5 consecutive months. The flooding percolated up through the porous limestone soil, soaking many of Tuvalu's islands from the inside out. Climate change forecasts indicate that this occurrence may become the norm in the near future.

Over the past few decades, the capital island of Funafuti has seen an influx of migrants from the outer islands. With a land area of 2.79 km2, Funafuti supports a population of approximately 5000 people, and as in the case of Kiribati, most migrants are isolated in a central area (Government of Tuvalu 2006). In Funafuti, squatters have taken sanctuary in Fongafale, a make shift village in the centre of Funafuti — of which 35% of the village is built on water and garbage-filled borrow pits, a legacy of World War II (Hunt 1996, 225). Due to overpopulation, deforestation, lack of potable water and an eroding shoreline, the Tuvaluan government's capacity to cope with a growing urban population has been severely hindered. ...

Sharp increases in population density on Funafuti over the last 30 years have had other effects on human development indicators. Funafuti has a relatively high annual death rate in comparison with the next most populated island of Tuvalu, Nukufetau. Although Nukufetau's population is only half that of Funafuti, Nukufetau's annual death rate is over 100 times less per year than that of Funafuti (Government of Tuvalu 2006). Health workers attribute the higher death rate on Funafuti to a poor diet, rooted in a dependency on imported goods, which are high in fat and low in fibre, while Tuvaluans on the outer islands maintain a more traditional diet of taro root, fish, breadfruit, papaya and coconut.

Bearing the brunt of changes in climate and, in effect, the customary lifestyles of Tuvaluans, are young women. Recent reports from the Women's Environment Development Organization and the World Conservation Union show that the adverse effects of climate change are affecting women most, in places like Tuvalu (Kallmeyer 2008, 1). According to studies, young women in Tuvalu are spending an increased amount of time securing water and fuel, due to the scarcity of potable water and resources (Kallmeyer 2008, 1). Increased time spent working to ensure the basic needs of the family can be linked to decreased girls' attendance in school and lower literacy rates, particularly among young girls. ...

As climate change intensifies, and food and water supplies become more unreliable, populations will undoubtedly respond by migrating to places that offer better livelihoods. ... Needless to say, the populations that will bear the brunt will be those with the fewest resources. ...