Samoa climate change resilience challenges Western perceptions

Research from an alternate reality~ctm

University of Otago

Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu interviewing a Samoan farmer. Credit: Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu

Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu interviewing a Samoan farmer. Credit: Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu

Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu interviewing a Samoan farmer. Credit: Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu

The resilience of Samoan communities in the face of climate change is providing a blueprint for other nations to follow, according to Samoa and Otago researchers.

It is one of the first studies to examine Samoa’s grassroots ability to adapt to climate change, and its authors warn officials risk ignoring village expertise at their peril.

The newly-released paper is co-authored by Dr Anita Latai-Niusulu from the National University of Samoa, and University of Otago Professors Tony Binns and Etienne Nel, both from the School of Geography.

The study, based on Dr Latai-Niusulu’s PhD thesis, interviewed 165 residents in villages across Samoa’s main islands Upolu and Savaii, including in coastal, inland, urban and rural areas.

More than 70 per cent of Samoa’s population lives in 330 rural villages across Upolu and Savaii, and most of the country’s infrastructure, population and development is near the coastline.

The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.

However rather than despairing at the prospect, villagers have developed a pragmatic and positive approach to impending climate changes.

Past natural disasters such as Cyclones Ofa and Val in the 1990s had a devastating effect on many communities, but the recovery period also brought opportunities for developing tighter social connections, new food supplies and infrastructural development and, in some cases, village relocation.

Professor Binns says the Samoan approach challenges general Western perceptions about Pacific nations’ ability to respond to climate change.

He says exposure to serious environmental challenges has not made villagers ‘fatalistic’ or ‘helpless’, but instead has given them a more optimistic outlook on life.

The close-knit Samoan village structure, with a village council (fono) made up of chiefly title holders (matai) from extended family units throughout the village, means that each villager has a voice at the local decision table.

Communities also regularly meet together at evening prayers to share information and strengthen social networks.

This, along with the fact that more than 80 per cent of Samoa’s land and resources are still collectively owned, means Samoans can engage in collaborative action against climate change.

Common strategies in all villages include diversifying food and water sources, being geographically mobile, having more than one place to live, and developing mental and spiritual strength.

“Such diverse livelihood portfolios and close community collaboration have generated an impressive level of resilience which communities elsewhere in the Pacific and beyond could well emulate,” Professor Binns says.

However, the study found climate change decisions in Samoa are primarily occurring at a national level, and are dominated by the views of government workers, consultancy firms and civil society workers.

Officials need to listen to community expertise and develop a more nuanced understanding of each village’s key concerns – which vary according each village’s unique geographical challenges, Professor Binns says.

“Governments need to carefully reconsider their expenditure in relation to climate change adaptation, with perhaps less spending directed towards building seawalls and coastal roads.

“More support should be given to other climate change adaptation initiatives such as village, church and family activities that strengthen social networks and build social memory.”

###

The study has been published in the Singapore Journal of Topical Geography.

For more information, contact:

Professor Tony Binns
Ron Lister Chair of Geography
School of Geography/Te Ihowhenua
University of Otago

From EurekAlert!

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75 thoughts on “Samoa climate change resilience challenges Western perceptions

  1. Not much of a sample size for such a ‘ground breaking’ PhD thesis.

    And if the researcher presented questions framed around climate change being about “hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise” then of course they will provide the answers required.

    I’ll bet none of them could say with any degree of certainty how much sea levels have risen, over what period of time, nor understand if land subsidence contributed.

    • Some times to much scientific information is a detriment to becoming one with Gaia. Why, just the other day I was watching a documentary (Hobbs & Shaw) about how Samoans (perhaps the very ones shown in the picture above) were able to overcome helicopters and automatic weapons using only an old pickup and Samoan war clubs.

      The Samoans will succeed because they are ‘one with the Gaia.

    • Surveys based on memory are so notoriously unreliable that they can’t be called “science” without quotes.

      People have a strong bias toward judging the current threat as worse than the previous threats. (After all, you KNOW that you survived the previous threats, and you haven’t survived the current one, so on that basis, yeah, it’s worse.)

      People also have a strong bias toward repeating what they know to be “acceptable” and what they have heard many times.

    • Writing a paper about villages/people/tribes relocating after natural changes or droughts or floods or earthquakes that alter water flows or … that have devastated their current locations is not much of a groundbreaking study. If it comes as surprising news to these “doctoral candidates”, they should be rejected and remanded to elementary school history lessons which they so obviously slept through.
      It’s been going on since there have been people living on this planet.

  2. So the are bettering themselves as the weather changes? Weather has always changed as have humans. Climate change is a vile thing to say and shows the delusion in the greens…

    May I ask, how much has the sea risen around the islands?

  3. Samoa, GDP per person annual of U$D 6,000 or so, with a population living mostly in coastal areas, recovering from both tsunami and typhoon hits, almost certainly has no idea they are adapting to climate change. Rather, they are continuing along with their daily activities and trying to maintain their low-stress culture and lifestyle. Here’s an idea, why don’t we see if they can be induced to panic about doomsday, say sent Greta to shout at them? That would make for some great video reporting.

  4. [1] “The resilience of Samoan communities in the face of climate change is providing a blueprint for other nations to follow, according to Samoa and Otago researchers.”
    Really? Then how the hell did everyone else manage to adapt to living all over the planet in all climates?

    [2] “He says exposure to serious environmental challenges has not made villagers ‘fatalistic’ or ‘helpless’, but instead has given them a more optimistic outlook on life.”
    Good. It was only a generation ago that western nations were also non fatalistic.

    [3] “The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.”
    Thats weather. Farmers have always had to respond as best they can to wet years, dry years, changeable years, rain at the wrong time years and pests. Fishermen have to deal with weather and not climates. The Shipping Forecast is a weather forecast not a climate forecast because it makes no sense to have one and they don’t exist.

    • What, precisely, did the Samoans do to counteract the effects of climate change? Curious minds want to know.

      My guess is that they kept doing what they did all along.

      • Quite. For these researchers I wonder how much ‘education’ has to be removed before natural observation and thinking kicks in?

          • Not all of it. It does need to be reformed though.

            The world works best when people can both see the glaringly obvious and, at the same time, think rationally. Our current education system rewards highly rational thinking only.

            You write essays which focus on tiny details but which usually lose context. It’s like building castles in the sky. That kind of thinking leads to over confidence and failure.

            The process is best described by Iain McGilchrist.

            Here’s a link to a delightful 11 minute animation.

            Here’s a link to a good review of McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary.

      • What, precisely, did the Samoans do to …….

        That was kinda what I was wondering when I was looking at the posted picture of the interviewer and the Samoan farmer, …… just what is that Samoan farmer “farming”?

        That locale looks like it might be “jungle” growth, ……. so, is he farming a jungle?

  5. “The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.”

    Really? Long-term stats, please.

  6. The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.

    Does anyone have a link to long term weather records in American Samoa?

    • What’s American Samoa got to do with it? They’re talking about Samoa.
      Americans should learn that the whole universe does not revolve about them!

    • Pago Pago Capital of American Samoa is 78 miles or 125 km from Apia, the capital of Samoa. According to NASA monthly records for Pago Pago, Warmest January 2003, February 2009, March 2009, April 2009, May 2010, (oddly no records between April 2009 and April 2010 ), June 1995, July 2007, August 2007, September 2017, October 2016, November 2012, December 2004. Warmest Dec, Jan, Feb 2008 – 2009 , March April May 2010, June, July, August 2007, September, October, November 2014. Warmest year 2106 0.15 degrees warmer than 2002. (2010 shown as 0.03 warmer than 2002 but two months data missing.) Variable weather with change undetectable by most humans.

  7. “..However, the study found climate change decisions in Samoa are primarily occurring at a national level, and are dominated by the views of government workers, consultancy firms and civil society workers.”

    And they all understand how much about climate science and the Earth’s climate (along with the villagers)? If this is how science is supposed to work, then I guess I have a serious misunderstanding of it.

    • “..However, the study found climate change decisions in Samoa are primarily occurring at a national level, and are dominated by the views of government workers entrenched bureaucrats, consultancy firms crony Green companies and civil society workers Leftist agitators.”

      Such poor spelling…

  8. Having visited Samoa we keep an eye on the temperatures that are forecast every night on our nightly weather show.
    Samoa is close to the equator and the temperatures range from 29 C to 32 C consistently during our winter and summer here in New Zealand .
    The warmth lifts moisture from the surrounding ocean and in the afternoons thunderstorms release rain and cool the atmosphere ..
    This has been going on in the Pacific tropical islands forever .
    Just another rubbish study for the dump.

    • I spent 3 years on Guam in the early 80’s while in the US military. Average temps 75 to 85 Fahrenheit year round. Had the same afternoon thunderstorms also. So Samoa appears to be a little warmer but with similar weather.

      • Back around 1971 or 72 I was job-hunting and found a job opening at the University of Guam in my field (music history). I did a little checking on the climate and weather there and found that in the coldest month (January) the daily average high temperature was 84, the low 76; checking again just now, the all-time record low is shown as 68 (but one day in February apparently dove down to 66). The summer record high was 91 or 92. I decided that such a climate, with associated weather, was not for me. Since Guam was then a US colony or protectorate (and had been for some time, I gather), reasonably accurate weather records were kept. So far it appears that the “evidence” for “climate change” is quite nugatory, with no deleterious effects whatever.

        • Since there’s a whacking great airbase on there (Anderson Field) & has been since 1944, with an American military presence in the island, since 1899, I say there should be some quite good weather records.

  9. From the article: “The resilience of Samoan communities in the face of climate change”

    The Doctor assumes too much. There is no evidence for human-caused climate change. Assuming there is evidence, as she does, demonstrates the Doctor’s ignorance of the subject.

    All these alarmists have the cart before the horse: First, one has to establish that human-caused climate change is real, before deciding what kind of harm it has caused. Until it is established as real, human-caused climate change has done nothing to Somoa or any place else on Earth.

  10. “Professor Binns says the Samoan approach challenges general Western perceptions about Pacific nations’ ability to respond to climate change.
    He says exposure to serious environmental challenges has not made villagers ‘fatalistic’ or ‘helpless’, but instead has given them a more optimistic outlook on life.
    The close-knit Samoan village structure, with a village council (fono) made up of chiefly title holders (matai) from extended family units throughout the village, means that each villager has a voice at the local decision table.
    Communities also regularly meet together at evening prayers to share information and strengthen social networks.”

    Bottom up organization of social-political structures will always be vastly more resilient to change than top down directed organizations.

    So the reason Samoan resilience to change may surprise the Leftist environmentalists/Malthusians is they see the world through a prism of top-down directed actions. It’s an elitist’s attitude set of “we know what’s best for you,” that is part and parcel of the Left’s world-view. It is also the basis of the Left hating the close-knot family structure. This is described here as “extended family units” able to make their own decisions, as the foundational social structure for successful societies. Destroy the family structures, as is happening across much of the Western world, and the top-down control urges of power hungry Elites have an easier time asserting control and power in dysfunctional societies. One need only look no further for evidence of this thesis than the drug-addiction, mental health homeless tent city crises overflowing in the “Blue-run” cities up-and-down the US Left Coast.
    The Left does not know how to deal with problems like the tent city crises in their cities, because their whole world view is wrong. And to expect that to change in a Progressive-Leftist is the definition of insanity.

    • https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1983/05/03/supreme-court-strikes-down-vagrancy-law/a3fc2b52-f0f2-4f42-82a0-0b64836fe685/

      There was a time when “The Homeless” were rightly and legally considered “Vagrants”. They were watched and controlled through police actions because a vagrant was a person with no place of residence and no visible means of support, i.e. no home and no job. Those people were rightly controlled because, in general, they were thieves, as is the case with most of “The Homeless” today. The current definitions of vagrant mention begging but not theft as a means of obtaining money as would be standard based on liberal thinking but largely wrong.

      The ACLU started the “Homeless” crises in 1983 with the above noted court ruling. Later the ACLU created precedents that created “The Homeless Mental Patient” by suing multiple mental hospitals for housing people that some judge later determined were improperly detained, and the cost of judgments led to the closure of MOST mental hospitals nationwide, putting those who would otherwise be housed and helped onto the street.

      Watch Cool Hand Luke and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as examples of movies that helped to create the leftist ideological mentality that led to the inability of communities to deal with the Vagrancy Problem. Chain Gangs were designed to make the vagrant or other undesirable “Citizen” move on from the county controlled by a strong sheriff to a county where the enforcement of laws in general and vagrancy laws in particular were less firmly enforced. The “Boss” and head jailer were used to show how brutal the whole chain gang thing was, but was a caricature of what was actually happening in MOST counties across the nation. The author of Cool Hand Luke was a criminal who was incarcerated in a chain gang county so new the workings of the chain gang from the “Wrong” side. He had an ax to grind. It is a great movie IMO, but the effect was to essentially help end chain gangs, and “Hard Labor” sentences, again, through judges rulings and lawsuits that cost counties too much to sustain the system. See Sheriff Joe Arpaio for an example of a “Tough” sheriff and legal costs associated with being one. The whole Nurse Ratched thing was an exaggeration meant to cause the exact actions by federal judges that shut down the safe housing of mental patients. Look up Ken Kesey and his leftist political leanings.

      Your assumption that leftist cities are the cause of the “Homeless Crisis” is not the complete truth IMO. Their excessive spending to house and feed them, and the massive expenditures that go to NON PROFIT and other “Homeless” advocate organizations, and the direct creation of government jobs to “Help The Homeless” make those cities and counties a more pleasant place for them to live. This brings “The Homeless” into those communities, but without the actions of leftist judges we would not be in the position we are as a nation with regards to the VAGRANCY crisis.

      “The Homeless” are not a special class that should be held in high regard and helped as whatever cost. They are counterproductive citizens who cost the remainder of society to spend massive amounts of money to repair the damage of their vandalize, clean the streets of their waste and replace the items they steal. Not opinion, just fact.

      Now an opinion: It was and would be again cheaper to maintain mental hospitals and chain gang jails to keep them OFF THE STREETS so that the civilized and sane citizens could live in a safer society.

      5 more years of appointment of judges who will actually rule according to the US Constitution as written may allow the VAGRANCY crises to be handled as the criminal justice problem that is is. I really want all the well-to-do non-profit and governmental enablers to lose their jobs so that they can obtain actual productive employment that is of a general benefit to society.

      A rising tide lifts all boats means that when more members of a society are productive, the entire society is better off. Let us get rid of the overhead spread throughout our government and NGOs. Massive waste! As great is this country is, imagine what the “average” GDP per person would be in the US when the non-productive were either productive OR less expensive to maintain/house.

      • This KOMO-Seattle TV news exposé clearly identifies the homeless explosion in Seattle, Portland, SanFran, LA as a break down of law enforcement and the criminal justice system at the hands of Progressives handcuffing police and prosecutors.
        https://youtu.be/CS4bofDMbkw

        The West Coast Progressives purposefully put a torch to their criminal justice systems that could effectively deal with these the crime, drug addiction, mental illness through a system of forced drug rehabilitation and mental health holding programs.
        But to expect the Progressives to change is the tale of frog expecting the scorpion to change its nature. Not gonna happen. When people let good intentions substitute for good judgment when they vote, the Progressives take over.

        • But in reality it was the ‘”progressive” judges that took the authority of the cities, counties and police to keep people from living on the sidewalk or other “public” property.

          Funny that the court case that created this was from the Pacific NW.

  11. Storms have always been a problem for tropical islands but Samoa is worrying about measles at the moment.

    22 dead so far according to reports.

    Very low vaccination rates.
    An infected person from the polynesian community in Auckland took the disease there a few months ago.

    This is a real problem. Unlike Climate Change.

  12. “Officials need to listen to community expertise and develop a more nuanced understanding of each village’s key concerns – which vary according each village’s unique geographical challenges, Professor Binns says.”

    But Government officials must prove their reason for existence by developing programs to combat problems whether the problems exist or not and whether their solutions work or not.

    Sowell put it well.

    * People who are very aware that they have more knowledge than the average person are often very unaware that they do not have one-tenth of the knowledge of all of the average persons put together. In this situation, for the intelligentsia to impose their notions on ordinary people is essentially to impose ignorance on knowledge. 
Thomas Sowell 


  13. Says more about the personal pride and resilience of the different cultures around the Pacific. Some play the victim and see a gravy train to be leaped on, others get on with their lives.

  14. A lot of people don’t know it, but Samoa is where that delicious campfire treat made with toasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers comes from.
    What, you never heard of Samoars?

  15. So according to this study, the best way to gain resilience with respect to all this “lots of climate disruption / crisis fuss” sums up to virtually … nothing, except business as usual.

  16. More proof of just how low education has sunk. A PHD for this garbage? Really unbelieveable! This is what results from the uneducated teaching the uneducated.

  17. “The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.”

    Really!?
    The villagers volunteered all of that information and specified what they can sense?
    1) The researchers made significant effort to ‘lead’ villagers to certain answers.
    2) The researchers made gross assumptions about what the villagers said and what those statements actually meant.

  18. People in Samoa have a real problem on their hands with a measles epidemic which has killed 22 so far, mostly children. This was caused by low vaccination rates. They know this is a real problem because of the evidence, unlike ‘Climate Change’ which is a political invention, based on no evidence.
    Temperatures in Samoa are stable, with little variation between the hottest period from December to April, when highs are about 30 °C, and the coolest period from June to September, when they are around 29 °C. Temperatures at night are above 20 °C. The SW trade winds blow steadily throughout the year, ameliorating the heat.
    Rainfall occurs in intense short-lived downpours, but from December to March they can sometimes last for several hours. Rainfall can exceed 5 meters per year in the mountains.
    People in Samoa know what the real problem is and it came from New Zealnd.

    • So someone gets a PhD for discovering the benefits of adaptation? I would like to earn my PhD by arguing that humans benefit from drinking water, and I would like to study this hypothesis on Themyscira, the island of Amazons from which Wonder Woman hails. Where do I apply for grants.

  19. Maybe the “blueprint” that we need to follow is the bit where they talk to real people, not bureaucrats, academics and professional panic-merchants.

  20. Does anyone have the actual temperature records for Samoa? I can see the v4 version at GISS, but since that has been serially adjusted I was hoping for a less “managed” data set.

    • Get it from NOAA. That’s the home of the GHCN v4 data, not GISS. NOAA has daily and monthly series, but the daily, being a denser data set, also comes packaged by station ID.

  21. Human rights are an issue in Samoa…I thought standing against climate change was supposed to bring about social justice?

  22. “…Common strategies in all villages include…having more than one place to live…”

    Bernie Sanders can get behind that one.

  23. I remember how these folk made a total fool out of Margaret Mead and all Western Intelligensia! Well Done, and now another chance….. Brett Keane

  24. Samoa is not the only place which is proving resilient to “climate change”.

    My home in south eastern Australia is doing much the same – since I arrived here 40 years ago the sea-level has not changed in any noticeable way; the temperatures are exactly on the long-term average, and the current drought is typical and unrelated to CC.

    Actually, I would like to bet there are many places around the world resilient to “climate change”.

    An entire planet of ’em!

  25. “The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.”

    I’ll be darned. Those villagers in Samoa aren’t as backwards as some might have assumed. It appears as if they are using busted climate model, computer simulations of the atmosphere instead of observations of the real world climate optimum ………..just like the 97% of elite climate scientists who know that model data always trumps observations (-:

    This is silly.

  26. The islands in the Central Pacific has the most stable and unchanging climate anywhere on Earth. Temperatures are virtually constant over the year and between day and night. Rainfall does vary a bit over the year as the ITCZ moves north and south. And (except near the Equator) each island may be hit by a hurricane once or twice a century. And sea level moves up and down several centimeters each Nino/Nina.

    Otherwise, nothing. The warm ocean buffers everything almost completely.

    And, yes, (relative) sea-level has risen sharply on Samoa recently, due to tectonics (= earthquake):

    https://www.sonel.org/?page=gps&idStation=831

  27. Sorry. I don’t believe there has been any climate change in Samoa. Anecdata be damned.

    American Samoa is classified tropical rain forest, Af (Köppen-Geiger). This has not changed.

  28. The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.

    Assuming that’s not an outright lie (big assumption), that’s just evidence eco-loon propaganda has reached even these isolated people. And they’re savvy enough to know they could get in on the climate-change gravy-train if they play their cards right & act like “victims” (ala the Maldives).

  29. Typically, Samoans want to get to New Zealand to save themselves form climate change, agreed, however, it’s more so they can get on the “dole” and get a KFC meal on Friday.

    Kewl eh bro?!

  30. –“The researchers found villagers had a heightened awareness of climate change and noticed hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise.”–

    The first thing a real researcher would do is consider the confirmation bias implicit in such a “heightened awareness”.
    Neat trick;
    Incessantly propagandize people that climate change will mean “hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise” for two or three decades.
    Then pretend their heightened awareness of climate change and their noticing hotter days and longer dry spells, shorter periods of rainfall, stronger damaging winds, and sea level rise is something they independently and spontaneously observed, not something drilled into their heads by decades of propaganda.

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