UBC Community and Partners Publications

Book Review: CLIMATE CHANGE AND SMALL ISLAND STATES: Power, Knowledge and the South Pacific. By Jon Barnett.. 2012

You don't seem to have a PDF reader installed, try download the pdf

Item Metadata


S45.pdf [ 135.74kB ]
JSON: 1.0045017.json
JSON-LD: 1.0045017+ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 1.0045017.xml
RDF/JSON: 1.0045017+rdf.json
Turtle: 1.0045017+rdf-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 1.0045017+rdf-ntriples.txt

Full Text

Book Reviews 241 pay for it all. The only notable drawbacks would be that while the book has twenty tables, the workings at times could have supported more and there are occasions of duplication where tighter editing could have made for a smoother read, yet these issues are minor when viewed by researchers seeking facts. It is obvious that Glen Williford is passionate about the subject matter and has walked the battlefields he writes about in this book; Racing the Sunrise is a tremendous effort and should serve as a valuable resource for those interested in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. United States National Park Service, Hågatña, Guam JAMES OELKE FARLEY CLIMATE CHANGE AND SMALL ISLAND STATES: Power, Knowledge and the South Pacific. By Jon Barnett and John Campbell. London; Washington, DC: Earthscan, 2010. xiii, 218 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$79.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84407-494-5. Authors Jon Barnett and John Campbell deftly navigate the ocean of research, policy and practice addressing climate change in the Pacific Islands. Their critical work is timely and important as the impacts of climate change begin to directly influence the landscape of opportunities available for people living on small islands. The authors successfully bring social and physical processes into the same frame of analysis to demonstrate how they are mutually constitutive and to problematize facile designations of vulnerability. Drawing on their own wealth of experience in the Pacific Islands, the authors convey a well-organized, historically situated and readily accessible yet nuanced understanding of the science, tropes and power relations that are shaping responses to climate change. The book highlights barriers to adaptation in Pacific Island communities and is equally relevant to other peoples and places also experiencing the influences of a changing climate as well as the mitigation and adaptation policies designed to address climate change. The authors have structured the book around their principal argument that “the presentation of climate change in small islands states is a discursive formation that limits understanding and action to address the interests of people living in islands” (1).  The book opens in chapter 1 with a discussion of the discursive framing of climate change as a product of unequal power relations in three senses: 1) knowledge is created and institutionalized by NGOs and other power asymmetric structures; 2) the discursive framing is a recent version of an older stereotype of islands as backward; and 3) the power and knowledge involved in the discursive framing of climate change is multidirectional, flowing dynamically between different sites and actors and carrying Pacific Affairs: Volume 85, No. 1 - March 2012 242 the potential to transform how climate change is conceptualized and addressed in the Pacific Islands. Chapters 2 to 5 elaborate on the architecture of climate change science, policy and practice in the Pacific Islands, focusing in particular on issues of the environment, development, climate science and climate policy. Chapter 6 focuses specifically on climate adaptation in the Pacific. It provides as comprehensive a review as possible of those projects that are documented. The chapter highlights the greater rates of success of those projects that are to some degree locally managed and reflect local priorities as opposed to more exclusively “top-down” structured projects run by non-locals and representing non-local interests. In chapter 7 the authors delve more deeply into two highly controversial climate-change related projects. The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring project and the Environmental Vulnerability Index both demonstrate how “often science is not explicitly political but reflects the power relations and dominant discourse that exist within the political economy of the various societies” (145). The authors critique the monitoring project as an effort on the part of the Australian government to increase rather than reduce uncertainty, thus paralyzing adaptation efforts. The index is critiqued as a poor implementation of a methodology that produces questionable data which could be more harmful than beneficial if used as the basis for funding decisions. Chapter 8 exposes the problematic representation of islands as vulnerable, a designation which, on one hand, has been helpful in leveraging international attention, but on the other, has not yielded substantive action in terms of either mitigation of climate change or adaptation to its impacts. Island communities that are portrayed as isolated, small and vulnerable can as accurately be described as connected, resilient and tenacious. Importantly, the authors draw a distinction between unhelpful characterizations of the islands as vulnerable used to sell magazines and the empowered appeals of community leaders who may also conjure an imagery of fragile islands. However, the distinction is not fully unpacked and deserves more attention to uncover the power relations evident in discourses of vulnerability. The book concludes with the authors’ challenge to the region to take proactive adaptation steps and to the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that adaptation in the Pacific Islands can be effective. The authors do not fully resolve the tension evident throughout the book between their attempt to convey scientific knowledge of climate change while simultaneously critiquing the creation and application of that knowledge. Another criticism of the book, also noted by other reviewers (see Farbotko and Kelman, both in Island Studies Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, 2010, 261-265), is that while local agency is championed, there is very little attention given to what this looks like and what is Book Reviews 243 being accomplished through local initiatives. Additionally, the authors do not satisfactorily address the lack of documentation of local agency, empowerment and activity, thereby to some degree replicating the very structures of knowledge and power in the region that they seek to critique. Ultimately, the success of the book is that it demonstrates, through detailed examination, the ways in which climate change is primarily a problem of knowledge, power and justice. It critiques the many well- intentioned but dangerously ineffectual efforts to date, and offers guidance on ways forward for a sustainable future for Pacific Islanders. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, USA HEATHER LAZRUS TWELVE DAYS AT NUKU HIVA: Russian Encounters and Mutiny in the South Pacific. By Elena Govor. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xi, 301 pp. (Illus.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3368-8. This bracing addition to the literature of European Pacific navigation demonstrates the possibility of fresh perspectives on supposedly familiar narratives. The singular voyage in question, Krusenstern and Lisianski’s 1803 cruise aboard the Nadezhda and Neva under the questionable authority of the Russian courtier and statesman Rezanov, is minutely detailed in its dramatic record of shipboard conflict and legacy of conflicting publications and counter-publications. Govor reveals a textual record as robust and tangled as if there were numerous voyages at issue instead of an encounter measured in days. Here is a largess of experience, many Marquesas. At its best, Govor’s work points to the fragility of shipboard society and the men who constituted it, and asks the reader to consider how the voyagers’ observations and subsequent writings were affected by conflicts with roots across a wide sea, in European courts, academic cabinets, salons and naval academies. Anglophone readers are cautioned to beware the insidious common sense of the Pacific as primarily a site of French and British cultural intrusion. Russians, Germans, Estonians and Japanese, among others, serving in roles as diverse as priest and naturalist, ambassador and merchant factotum, also crossed oceans and beaches and did not always conceive of the fruits of their contacts in precisely the same way as their western European counterparts. The resulting sensitivity to cultural variation and particularly to emergent European nationalism offers an antidote to the tendency to read complex historical encounters as culturally binary, a chiasmus of Polynesian and Western experience. Here, the sense of the Western as culturally monolithic is beautifully challenged by a self-consciously “Russian” Pacific navigation with all of the anxious hand-wringing about


Citation Scheme:


Usage Statistics

Country Views Downloads
Japan 6 0
China 1 0
City Views Downloads
Tokyo 6 0
Beijing 1 0

{[{ mDataHeader[type] }]} {[{ month[type] }]} {[{ tData[type] }]}


Share to:


Related Items