Islands at Risk?

Islands at Risk?

Environments, Economies and Contemporary Change

John Connell

This book provides a wide-ranging comparative analysis of contemporary economic, social, political and environmental change in small islands, island states and territories, through every ocean. It focuses on those island realms conventionally perceived as developing, rather than developed, in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Chapter 1: Introduction

John Connell

Subjects: development studies, development studies, environment, climate change, disasters, environmental geography, geography, environmental geography, human geography

Extract

This book examines relationships between socio-economic and environ- mental change in small island states, dependent territories and other small islands. It considers change and stability, in island environments and socio-economic systems: the evolving geographies of island regions. Islands, and especially coral atolls, have often been regarded as the ‘canaries in the coalmines’ of climate change – a particularly inapt metaphor for places without canaries, coal or mines – where environ- mental change will be experienced first and most catastrophically, because of low elevations and extensive and economically significant coastlines. Indeed tropical islands are near the frontline and many have economies that make coping difficult. This book seeks to examine the extent to which islands are particularly vulnerable, whether that vulnerability is environmental or economic (or social and political), and why and how islands and island states vary considerably. While vulnerability has been defined in many ways, like risk, it is simply used here in a common-sense manner to refer to the extent of exposure to changes that affect livelihoods. Resilience becomes the ability to both withstand and cope with vulnerability. A major problem for comparing and contrasting socio-economic and environmental changes in so many diverse places is the absence of adequate data. This has necessitated an unusually qualitative approach, where such over-used adjectives as ‘some’ and ‘most’ and adverbs such as ‘usually’ and ‘increasingly’ pass for quantitative analysis. In some countries little reliable data of any kind exist. By contrast, in particular places excellent detailed studies have been undertaken,