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 7: Environmental change

John Connell

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


Most SISI are tropical and lie in tectonically unstable areas prone to significant hazards such as cyclones (hurricanes/typhoons), volcanoes and earthquakes. Such natural disasters engender considerable economic losses. Since the 1970s not only has there has been an increase in the number of natural hazards but developing countries have borne the brunt of them, extending the gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ within and between countries. Between 1970 and 2002 more than three-quarters of all natural disasters took place in the developing world, sometimes repeatedly striking the same countries. Dominica, for example, has experienced nine different hurricanes since 1984 (Strobl 2012). The catastrophic human and economic impacts of such hazards have been locally much more significant than ‘evolutionary’ changes exemplified in climate change, accelerated erosion or increasing salinity. This chapter examines environ- mental change and what this means for sustainable livelihoods. It covers both dramatic events such as cyclones (and less frequent volcanic eruptions) that disrupt, change and even end people’s lives, and less tangible changes, such as climate change (usually conceived as global warming), and considers whether evolutionary changes will become more significant and devastating. Vulnerability of SISI to long-term environ- mental change, such as soil degradation, is barely discussed here, since data are scarce. Many of the environmental issues experienced in SISI are similar to those in low-lying tropical coastal environments, such as the Ganges and Mekong deltas, despite the vast differences in scale and numbers affected. Low islands are particularly at risk from such climate-related disasters as cyclones and droughts.

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