Climate Changing Small Islands

Considering Social Science and the Production of Island Vulnerability and Opportunity

Authors: Amelia Moore
Volume 1, Number 1 (2010)

“An aerial view of Marovo Lagoon in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Flying over the lagoon and the province’s main town of Gizo, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was able to observe the effects of deforestation, climate change and natural disasters on the area.” Photograph by United Nations via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


This article argues that climate change has influenced the way in which small island nations are viewed and understood by the international climate community. Climate change has become an internationally recognized and specific language of vulnerability that is deployed in requests for international aid to fund adaptation and mitigation measures in some small islands, for population relocation plans and human rights advocacy in other islands, and for overhauling the ‘tourism product’ and creating new markets for travel in others. Vulnerability is a powerful idiom, especially in the contemporary climate context that has come to imply crisis, change, uncertainty, and immediacy. Importantly, vulnerability also gestures unambiguously toward seemingly limitless scientific and even commercial opportunity. These developments come with new forms of expertise in the natural and social sciences and the travel industry, as well as with new or reinstated forms of inequity. As the areas of small island expertise increasingly overlap, they come to reproduce the very context and form of small islands themselves.

Amelia Moore 
obtained her doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. Her doctoral dissertation is on environmental politics in the Bahamas and the intersection of Caribbean anthropology, science and technology studies, and environmental anthropology. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island, and she was previously a visiting assistant professor at the University of Miami. Recent research includes an investigation of sustainable design principles and equitable decision making within community development projects in The Bahamas and southern Florida.

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