Ontong Java, one of the world’s largest atolls, is located in the northern part of the Solomon Islands. Due to the affects of climate change and rising sea levels, it appears increasingly certain that the 2000 residents of Ontong Java face the very real prospect of leaving their beloved island home and moving to safer land on the larger island of Malaita which is over a 100km to the south.
DS will send a photographer to Ontong Java in June and July 2015 to document a portion of the last months or years that the people from the atoll will be able to call it their home. The mission’s aim is to meet with the residents, photograph aspects of their local culture and gauge the community’s opinions about possibly relocating to other parts of the Solomon Islands. Understanding the local culture is a vital prerequisite to formulating any planned relocation process. This is particularly true in this case of climate displacement, given the fact that the Polynesian residents of Ontong Java are most likely to move to relocation sites already identified on the Melanesian island of Malaita. DS will also aim to visit planned relocation sites on Malaita and examine their viability for hosting communities from Ontong Java.
In October 2015, DS plans to carry out a more comprehensinve research mission to the Solomon Islands looking at past cases of climate displacement in areas such as Lau Lagoon, visit areas likely to be relocated in coming years, and will work with communities and government to apply the Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement Within States to the large-scale climate displacement relocation processes that are already underway in the country.
NASA picture of Ontong Java atoll, Solomon Islands [image via Wikimedia Commons]
Map of Ontong Java [image via Wikimedia Commons]