climate change in the pacific – new!

Now available,  American Anthropologist 122 (4): 827-839, December 2020.

Why Pacific Islanders stopped worrying about the apocalypse and started fighting climate change.

This article questions the hierarchical assumptions of theories of “traveling models” by examining how politicians and environmental activists from the three major regions of the Pacific have contributed to global climate change policy regimes. The Marshall Islands successfully lobbied the international climate change community to ensure that the signatories to the Paris Agreement are committed to keeping the global temperature rise during the current century to “well below” 2°C, while “pursuing efforts” to limit the average temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. In its role as the host of the twenty-third annual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Fiji drew on the self-scaling Pacific speech genre of talanoa to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the signatories to the Paris Agreement. The successful institution of Talanoa Dialogues at UN climate change meetings was not just a branding exercise, but an ideological project of encompassment. Although the Solomon Islands has a lower international profile, its responses to climate change suggest new ways of thinking about the relationship between local environmental knowledge and scientific models, and provides valuable feedback on new forms of aid focused on adaptation. [climate change, talanoa, traveling theory, Pacific Islands, United Nations]

under review:

Talanoa Dialogues at UN climate change meetings: The extraordinary encompassment of a scale-climbing Pacific speech genre. 

Introduced to the UN by the Prime Minister of Fiji, the Pacific speech genre of talanoa has become a key frame for international discussion of climate change policy. Traditionally associated with kava-drinking rituals, talanoa also includes practices that temporarily mitigate differences in hierarchy and rank. This has facilitated its application to a wide variety of social interactions and speech events, scaling up from local contexts and national debates to international arenas. This includes its contribution to the implementation of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by promoting dialogue and cooperation. The Talanoa Dialogues thus differ from other speech genres at the UN, including the practice of “filling in brackets” to generate resolutions and declarations. Given the disproportionate risk of rising sea levels in the Pacific Islands in relation to their limited contribution to global greenhouse gases, the institution of the Talanoa Dialogues at the UN can best be understood as an ideological project of encompassment rather than cultural appropriation by a multilateral organization or a branding exercise by Fiji. [climate change, dialogue, Pacific Islands, Paris Agreement, talanoa, United Nations]


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