This is a joint research symposium between the Polar Environments Research Theme and the Otago Climate Change Network, which will bring together researchers from multiple disciplines to share and discuss current research. We will have two sessions, one on polar research, and another on research related to climate change, open to all divisions and disciplines. There will also be a poster session. (Source: https://events.humanitix.co.nz)
There will be a session on ‘Climate Change in the Pacific’.
The three-day New Zealand Minerals Forum kicked off in Dunedin today. Conference delegates faced dozens of protesters assembled outside the Town Hall in Dunedin. Some of them built human blockades, aiming to prevent delegates to access the conference venue. Here some of the concerns raised by protesters:
Vanuatu was reported to become the first country in the world to legally ban plastic straws. Since 1 July 2018, it is officially an offence in Vanuatu to sell single use plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws and polystyrene boxes. Manufacturing or giving away of these products are also illegal.
The Government’s decision to ban these items was supported by data from litter clean-ups conducted by the Vanuatu Environmental Science Society (VESS) and the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation. Since 2015, a considerable amount of plastic bags and polystyrene take away containers have been collected around Efate Island. The high record of plastics greatly impacts the marine life and destroys the environment.
Malapoa College Students at the Seafront Litter Clean Up and Survey in Port Vila (VESS, June 2017)
The Prime Minister announced on Independence Day 2017 that the Government intended to ban single use plastics. In January 2018, the regulation was announced with the ban coming into effect in July 2018.
The information about the ban immediately spread through news reports in the local media. Further, awareness was raised through social media and radio and television interviews conducted in Port Vila. The Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation distributed posters, information booklets, pamphlets and stickers about the ban to communities in urban areas and across the outer islands of Vanuatu. Primary and Secondary Schools in Vanuatu also participated in a singing competition on plastic ban just before the ban became effective.
VESS in collaboration with ‘No Plastik Bag, Plis’ organised a plastic exhibition held in Port Vila. The exhibition aimed to raise awareness on the impacts of plastics on the environment, particularly the impact on the marine life. Information about the ban was put up at the exhibition. This made people became aware of the plastic ban. Also, visitors who came to the exhibition made their pledge to stop using plastic bags.
With assistance provided by non-governmental organisations, environmental leaders on the outer islands of Vanuatu who had many experiences in promoting awareness on resource management issues as well as ensuring sustainability of natural resources spoke to their community leaders, community members and to shop keepers about the ban. Around Vanuatu, information about the ban also spread from one individual to another.
The decision about the ban already has a positive impact on people’s livelihood. It provides a greater opportunity for locals to revive traditionally woven baskets and to utilize local materials to contain food and beverages. The uniqueness of the local baskets not only signifies identity, culture and pride but most importantly shows people around the world that locals care for their land and marine environment.
The Port Vila handicraft market is the best place where anyone can find amazing and creative local handicrafts. Weavers at the handicraft market, known around the country as “Mamas”, use Pandanus fronds and leaves of a local palm-like tree to create different styles of traditional island baskets. The selling of these local items not only provides income to Vanuatu, but promotes Vanuatu as a clean, safe and happy destination to tourists as well as locals.
VESS and other non-governmental organisations supported the public by providing calico eco-bags. These bags are imported but are designed and printed in Vanuatu.
It was a bit hard to change the mentality of the people to use traditional baskets instead of plastic bags. However, people have adjusted to the new law. They are now using all sorts of local baskets to transport their goods or when they do their shopping. In the main urban areas, many locals carry local bags with them.
According to the pollution section in the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation, 80 to 90 percent of companies or businesses complied with the new regulation. Yet about 10 to 20 percent are still using plastics in the country illegally. Some local people and some small local business owners do complain for not using plastics anymore, but as months have gone by they managed to use alternatives. VESS has analysed litter data collected in September 2018. They identified that there was a drop in the number of these banned plastic items.
Continuing Non-Plastic Trend
Vanuatu is known for its beautiful beaches, spectacular reefs and clear waters. The plastic ban means visitors can appreciate the attractiveness of the islands without seeing lots of plastic pollution. During some environmental workshops conducted around the islands of Vanuatu, people say the ban has brought a positive change in their communities. It is cleaner than in the past and it gives the chance for the marine life to survive.
The Government is now looking at the second proposed ban on a set of single-use plastic items. This includes all plastic packaging of fruits and vegetables for retail sale; forks, knives spoons, plates and cups designed for single use; stirrers/swizzle sticks; disposable nappies for babies; and artificial flowers.
The Pacific Islands Forum currently (3-6 September 2018) takes place on Nauru. Each year, the Forum brings together leaders from 18 member states (16 Pacific Island states, New Zealand and Australia) to discuss regional issues.
Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, will represent the PIF’s largest state, while newly appointed Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, travelled to Indonesia for his first overseas visit. The absence of Australia’s Prime Minister caused some concern about the importance the Australian Government gives to the Pacific Island region.
While climate change is on top of the PIF’s agenda, Fiji’s Prime Minister and COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama, is reported not to attend the meeting (Radio New Zealand, Sept. 3 2018; Fiji Sun, Sept. 4 2018, p. 10). Instead, Senior Minister Faiyaz Koya will represent Fiji in Nauru. Fiji’s Prime Minister stated in 2015 that he will not personally attend the annual PIF meetings “until the issue of the undue influence of Australia and New Zealand […] is addressed” (ABC, 6 May 2015). Voreqe Bainimarama is currently attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bangkok.
The Pacific Islands Forum convened on Nauru comes with reinvigorated calls for enhancing the conditions in Australia’s refugee detention centre on Nauru. While inhumane conditions and abuse of human rights have been reported since long, concerns about the mental health of children, including refusal to eat and suicide attempts, made headlines over the past weeks (see for example The Guardian or ABC Radio Australia).
Australia’s offshore detention centres are not on the PIF’s agenda, yet several humanitarian organisations are calling for action. So far, the Australian government and the Government of Nauru seem to make great efforts to silence discussions. The Nauru Government has banned ACB from attending the Forum. Marise Payne, being asked whether she will visit or meet any refugees while on Nauru, declined and stated that “the programme is fairly full in terms of the schedule that the forum itself provides” (ABC Radio Australia).
Nauru is one of the world’s smallest states. With a land area of 21 square kilometres, it takes less than 30 minutes to drive around the island. Nauru has a population of about 11,000 people. During the past century, Nauru exported phosphate (from bird droppings) predominantly to Australia, where it was used as fertiliser. This business made Nauru one of the world’s richest nations in terms of GDP per capita. However, phosphate mining was unsustainable, for Nauru’s natural environment as well as its finance. Today, the Australian detention centre is one of the state’s main source of income.
Approach: A Case Study of Post-Disaster Management after Cyclone Pam (March 2015) is conducted in Vanuatu.
Goal: This research project looks into natural hazards in the Pacific Island region, concentrating on Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam has been one of the worst natural hazards that ever hit the Pacific Island region. More than a quarter of the country’s population had to seek protection in emergency shelters and standing crops in the fields were destroyed to more than 95 percent. More than 166,000 people – which is more than 60 percent of the country’s population – were in need of food distribution.
Fieldwork: This is a collaborative research project by the University of the South Pacific. In June 2018, I conducted research in several villages on Tanna Island. My part of the research focusses on two main researach questions:
1) What are Tannese peoples’ most urgent needs three years after cyclone Pam?
2) What role does traditional housing play in disaster risk reduction?
In January 2018, Dr Frank Thomas and Dr Manoranjan Mohanty went for research to Vanuatu to investigate generally into knowledge and practice regarding to disaster risk reduction (Dr Thomas) and the policy environment (Dr Mohanty). In 2017, Dr Eberhard Weber conducted fieldwork on traditional cyclone shelters.
The recent Tropical Cyclone Keni reminds us that many people in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere are exposed to natural hazards and environmental change that have the potential to severely impact their lives, livelihoods and well-being.
In an era when climate change has become a major threat to the survival of people not only here in the Pacific Island region but globally, reflection and discussion of what to do to prevent these threats from worsening are urgent. The task becomes even bigger when one realizes that even without the threats environmental and climate change many people already face great challenges to live a life with dignity.
The Conference will seek to engage multi-disciplinary and ecumenical dialogues on key social, economic and ecological concerns from a variety of perspectives. Among others, the goal of the Conference is to build a permanent partnership and long life learning process to promote economic, social and ecological justice.
We are interested in multi-disciplinary exchanges and insights with a focus on religious-based and scientific approaches to sustainability problems and injustice. We expect that the Conference will be a blend of learning and discussion.
Date: 26 – 29 June 2018
Location: Marine Campus, The University of the South Pacific
Contact Person: Dr. Eberhard Weber
CALL FOR ABSTRACTS
For this Conference, we accept abstracts from junior and senior researchers from the Pacific Island region, who wish to reflect on their research from an ethical perspective. Participants are invited to submit proposals for consideration on the following fields (and beyond):
Ecological Crisis, Climate Change, and Eco-justice
Economical Ethics and Eco-Theology
Sustainability, Religion and Ethics
Responsible Production, Distribution and Consumption Patterns