Climate Change, Identity, Research, Upcoming Issue

Check Out the Work of Mariko Yoshida, An Author in the Upcoming Issue of Practicing Anthropology!

Picture11.Te lalolagi e faigata, tatou ke toka ki Siona fou i luga. Au fia fano. Au e fia fano kite fakai gali fou. Ne fakatoka ne toku aliki mo tatou katoa. (This world is complicated, we have to get ready to go to Zion up there. I want to go, I want to go to the New World given by God for all of us.)

2.Te fakai ko tu fakaalofa, e manakogina. Ke fakafonu ne taua, Au fia fano. Au e fia fano kite fakai gali fou. Ne fakatoka ne toku aliki mo tatou katoa.
(What we need is a place full of love. Let’s go. I want to go, I want to go to the New World given by God for all of us.)

3.Tamana mo matua pele, ke fakasino mai. Te laumanafa o toku Aliki, au fia fano. Au e fia fano kite fakai gali fou. Ne fakatoka ne toku aliki mo tatou katoa.
(Father and mother, please show us the way. I want to go to the land of God. I want to go, I want to go to the New World given by the God for all of us.)

— A hymn made for Tuvaluan immigrants from Vaitupu Atoll who moved to Kioa Island in Fiji between 1947 and 1983 due to overcrowding on their own island

Scientists and policy-makers often refer to probabilities to discuss the effects of climate change because of the uncertainty inherent to their models. Risk prediction develops in a complex interplay of institutionalized beliefs, values, and perceptions of possible environmental crises as it determines a proper course of action such as adaptation or mitigation. On the other hand, individuals and communities in the places I worked refer to their everyday experiences and priorities as evidence with which to confront environmental threats. For instance, the intergenerational patterns of mobility and transnationalism in the Pacific Islands are one variable that shapes informal processes and improvisation in the face of unpredictability. As a result, there is a gap in modes of understanding between those who produce knowledge about future environmental threats (scientists, policy-makers) and those who receive it (local people); the future appears to the locals in the guise of a contingent set of possibilities about what decisions need to be made. How have local Tuvaluans dealt with the forewarning of losses and damages? In my upcoming article in Practicing Anthropology, I examine how Tuvaluan islanders residing in Funafuti Atoll, Nukufetau Atoll, and in New Zealand have interpreted their changing landscape and shifting social circumstances in light of climate change. Drawing on a process in which local responses and knowledge production of sea-level rise have been shaped in multifarious epistemic communities, I discuss forms of public engagement with the risks of sea-level rise.

I conducted my research over a span of one and a half years between 2006 and 2010 mostly in Fongafale Island (the largest islet in Funafuti Atoll, where Tuvalu’s administrative capital is located), Savave Village in Nukufetau Atoll, and Auckland and Tauranga in New Zealand. The first five-months were a series of trials and errors in immersing myself in their customary practices and gaining an in-depth understanding of the local vegetation and subtle clues about climatic change. The first part of my fieldwork also served to establish rapport and a partial identity as an unmarried Tuvaluan woman. We spent numerous days and nights together ‘customing’—baking hundreds of breads for rapturous festive events, weaving local mats to donate to the church, chit-chatting about their collective memories while I jotted down family trees, giving speeches and prayers during feasts, and so forth. Often I found myself losing a position that represents myself as a detached observer. Participatory observation seemed somewhat of an innocuous method because ‘participating’ and ‘observing’ presuppose different ways of situating the self. Consequently, I realized that the things I wanted to know would not be revealed through a well-systematized approach, but rather from the accumulation of moments such as the ones described above that afforded me insight into mundane life.

My short ethnographic film, “In Between Fluctuations” (2011), contemplates my aforementioned questions by observing daily life and climate precarity. In the film, I contrast Biblical claims about Noah’s ark prophecy with scientific scenarios, and the differing social processes involved in assessing inherent risk and the containment of sea-level rise. I examine the effects of sea-level rise on the local population of Tuvalu, the role of religion, and the different assessments of risk by technocrats and local inhabitants. By doing so, the film considers how local Tuvaluans have perceived, experienced, interpreted, and responded to the information about sea-level rise provided by climate scientists.

Please note that the film is in low resolution because of the limits of file formatting.

In Between Fluctuations (2010)
Directed, shot and edited by Mariko Yoshida

Video Link:

Running Time of the Clip:
10 minutes 6 seconds

Circumstances of Production:
Equipment and Software: Canon iVIS HV 20, Canon Final Cut Pro 7.0.2 and iDVD
Field of Production: Funafuti atoll and Nukufetau atoll in Tuvalu / Auckland and Tauranga in New Zealand

Still Photographs (as supplementary material):

Picture2▲Mr. Mesako Usufono in his pulaka pits in Funafuti. Captured from my short documentary film “In Between Fluctuations” (2010).

Picture3▲Mrs. Melina Tavo in her house in Kavatoetoe Village, Funafuti. Captured from my short documentary film “In Between Fluctuations” (2010).

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