Samoa: Exploring the Linkages Between Climate Change and Population Movements

Climate change Climate change mitigation Immigration Forced migration Environmental refugees Samoa Pacific Area
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This Samoan study explores people’s experiences and understandings of climate change, including whether and how climate-related factors have influenced internal and international mobility patterns in the last 30 years. This interdisciplinary village and family-based study combined a Samoan worldview which acknowledges the place of traditional knowledge, values, beliefs and practices in people’s responses to climate change, and Western-based perspectives to set the knowledge base.

Findings were: (a) that family resilience in dealing with the effects of climate change was grounded in fa’a Samoa norms including access to customary land and reciprocity, (b) that mobility has become an integral adaptation strategy as seen in relocation from coastal areas to inland customary lands, temporary and permanent migration to the capital, and overseas migration, and (c) that climate change effects have exacerbated differences among groups. Those with limited access to resources and support systems have fewer adaptation options and are less able to use mobility as an adaptive mechanism.

The main implication for policy design is that the voices of people affected by climate change must be incorporated in both research and policy. While this may serve a political purpose, axiomatic also is that the voices carry considerable knowledge.

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