A voyage into the unknown: Adapting to a changing world

Long ago, Pasifika ancestors set out from their homes to find new lands scattered throughout the ocean. These people innovated with boats and navigation methods, refining them as they went, with strength and optimism helping them take their journey into the unknown.

But the seafaring didn’t end with settlement. These extraordinary feats of exploration were not one-way; they began a long history of journeying, establishing ocean networks between islands which were used for migration, trade and finding new homes. Challenges were encountered with each new island or ocean passage, with the people adapting their techniques to meet the changing conditions.

Live & Learn is using this imagery to explain the various stages of the adaptative journey of the Climate Resilient Islands (CRI) Programme. This is a journey marked by cycles of progress, assessment, adjustment and then further progress.

The CRI Programme is adapting a process developed by the CSIRO to build resilience through changing environments and conditions. The Resilience Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA) has three connected parts: people and their values, visions and strengths; systems analysis of how communities work; and options for pathways to resilience.

Like ocean navigators adjusting their bearings by observing the stars or improving their boats to better handle the open seas when moving from island to island, this process is not linear. Resilience is not a simple solution, but is considered, and adapted by the community through active and involved learning.

A diagram showing the CRI process of journeying from island to island

The diagram showing the journey CRI communities are taking

The community begins by identifying their vision for resilience and mapping the interconnections between systems in their community – both nature-based systems and human systems. This is followed by the creation of a resilience plan. These are the first two ‘islands’ along the CRI journey. Next in the voyage come the three islands in which the community participates in training to build capacity, implements climate resilience actions and monitors progress.

Community ownership of this process is essential for tailoring actions and solutions to their specific context and needs. The RAPTA process’s emphasis on systems thinking, iterative learning and adaptation allows communities to test innovative ideas and refine them, whatever the results. This builds on the local strengths and knowledge of different communities, who are themselves best placed to decide what their strengths are and how they can be used.

This is what resilience is. It’s summarised well by the Pontitir community in Vanuatu, who chose a canoe as their resilience picture.

“Resilience is like a canoe,” the community said. “When we set out to build a canoe, we collect materials (wood and vine) from different resources in our environment and assemble them together to make a canoe that will be used by locals to travel to new lands.”

The people of Pontitir also coloured the hull of the canoe red, the paint symbolising their ability to learn from mistakes and improve the quality of their canoe, making it more appropriate for the exploration ahead.

It’s a well-chosen symbol. Pontitir, along with all the other Climate Resilient Islands communities across Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Tuvalu, are moving into uncharted waters, but as their ancestors did, they are using their considerable skills and knowledge about the world they inhabit to adapt to new circumstances brought on by climate change. Their resilience will only increase throughout their voyage.

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