Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Assessment of Pacific Island Environmental Vulnerability: A critical study of the development of an Environmental Vulnerability Index

The interaction between science and policy in the management of the environment in the Pacific region has seen it subject to different interpretations, practices and policies. Importantly, this has exposed the lack of capacity to mitigate environmental degradation in the region, and the need for accurate assessment and monitoring of environmental change.

This thesis examines the conceptions of, and responses to, environmentally framed vulnerability of Pacific Island communities through an examination of one attempt to measure environmental vulnerability in the Pacific Islands by the South Pacific Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). The historical contexts of the science and politics involved in management of the Pacific environment are described, as the development of SOPAC’s Environmental Vulnerability Index. Their project has selected and manipulated 47 indicators that do not accurately reflect the role that the environment has in the lives of Pacific Islanders.

It finds that Pacific Island communities remain subject to policies and methodologies implemented by a number of organisations that predominantly involve 'top down' processes that are subsequently imposed on local communities. This gives rise to problems of governance in environmental management that are not necessarily resolved by increases in empirical scientific data, or more sophisticated environmental modelling.

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Simon Lambert

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