Navigating rising seas in small-island states

Dr Celia Mcmichael1, Dr Carol Farbotko2

1The University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

2CSIRO, Brisbane, Australia


This paper will investigate the effects of sea-level rise, and associated policies, on the everyday lives of people in Fiji and Tuvalu. The everyday concerns the routine ways in which people and communities organise themselves on a daily basis, make sense of their lives and imagine their futures. Yet the everyday has not been adequately considered in relation to climate change. This is in part because the routines of everyday life appear uneventful and incommensurate with the magnitude of change required to ameliorate and respond to climate impacts. Based on visual and qualitative data collected in Fiji (where planned relocation and retreat are underway in response to coastal erosion and flooding) and Tuvalu (where there is voluntary immobility and circular mobilities) this paper considers how people respond to local environmental changes and negotiate ‘protect, accommodate and retreat’ policies in their everyday lives. Understanding how everyday experiences of sea-level rise and policy responses shape people’s vulnerability and resilience can provide valuable insights into improved forms of adaptation.


Dr Celia McMichael is a senior lecturer in the School of Geography, The University of Melbourne. Her academic research focuses on international health, refugee resettlement in Australia, and environmental change and human mobility in small island states. She is an invited member of the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Migration, Climate and Health and a contributing author for IPCC Assessment Report 6.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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