Archive for June, 2011

Workshop: Climate, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Posted in Fieldwork (Melanesia), General Anthro, Melanesia, Oceania, Torres Islands, Vanuatu on June 9, 2011 by salul

Next month Fred Damon (my mentor and colleague from UVa) and I will be presenting a paper at an international workshop titled Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge.

I’m particularly glad about having had our paper accepted for this event, because it will allow us to come into contact with some of the great work that the UN, the Christensen Fund, and other important agencies are carrying out in Melanesia in relation to traditional knowledge and climate change.

Herewith the details:

Frederick H. DAMON


[1]Department of Social Anthropology, University of Virginia, USA

[2] Centro de Estudios de Asia y África, El Colegio de México, MEXICO

Seasonal environmental practices and climate fluctuations in Melanesia. An assessment of small island societies in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Keywords Seasonal production systems, climate fluctuations, indigenous adaptability, small island societies, Melanesia

The aim of this paper is to offer an overview of environmental knowledge practices and short- and long-term climate fluctuations in relation to two small Pacific Islands’ societies in the region of the Western Pacific commonly known as Melanesia. The societies in question are located 1) in the island of Muyuw (Woodlark Island), on the northern side of the Kula ring, in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, and 2) in the Torres Islands, in the north of the Vanuatu archipelago. The principal object of our paper is to offer a critical assessment of the contemporary state of human-environmental relations in these communities, with special attention to the inherent adaptability of the food production systems of each society, as well as the multifarious forms of guardianship and exploitation of forest and marine resources. We will include descriptions of the manner in which local productive and ritual activity relates to climate fluctuations, and attempt to draw conclusions regarding the potential adaptability of these traditional practices in relation to the consequences of anthropogenic climate change in the near future. For the past decade the authors of this paper have carried out collaborative research regarding the seasonal environmental activities of both island groups. Since 2008, with support from the National Science Foundation, we have carried out an ambitious, comparative research initiative undertaken with more than 15 colleagues who specialize in different areas of the Pacific Islands, Asia and the Americas; our primary focus has been the flexibility of traditional environmental knowledge in different parts of the Pacific Rim and Islands. This work has been facilitated by closely collaborating with specific local actors. In the case of Vanuatu, this has involved the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and National Museum through its unique Extension Fieldworkers’ Program, which is aimed at enabling the participation of local people in the processes and output of scientific research. In the case of Muyuw, Damon has worked closely and on a long term basis with various key informants in relation to the analysis of forest growth and the use and conceptualization of trees in the construction and use of Kula-related canoes.