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 8: Islands at risk?

John Connell

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


It is trite but true that global economies and environments are constantly and quickly changing, epitomized by the frequency with which ‘neo-’ and ‘post-’ have become prefixes, alongside the uncertainty implicit in that usage. It might seem that information superhighways, Eurozone crises and nuclear meltdowns bypass SISI and that islands are a resort from and the antithesis of change. Islands, distanced from centres of population and industrialization, certainly offer the allure of seemingly complete worlds, introspective ecosystems, secured by natural boundaries. Previous chapters have shown that this is far from the truth. Islands are no bastions of stability. Change can be rapid – from environmental disaster to the unquiet electronic revolution of mobile phones and social media now altering access to services and money and transforming social relationships in what is nothing less than an IT revolution (Cave 2012). Nonetheless implicit in islands are isolation and separation, small scale and some notion of security (and independence). These are basic, yet elusive, real and metaphorical qualities of islandness from where it is only a small step to the once much trumpeted phrase ‘small is beautiful’ (Schumacher 1974). But ‘small is beautiful’ ignored the fact that some ‘big’ was welcome and necessary, as small islands secured links with a larger world. Well-known structural factors impose constraints and limitations, and development options are few. Small islands were never paradise. Pitcairn was depopulated several times in its history, Palmyra and Malden (Kiribati) and Barbados similarly. Abandonment of islands may have occurred in the distant past when local fish resources were exhausted

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