Anthropology and Environment Society
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
The Lau in north Malaita, Solomon Islands, have been known as maritime people who have built and inhabited the so-called “artificial islands”. These are massive structures built of coral rocks in a shallow lagoon, and today there are more than ninety of such islands in north Malaita. While most of them are currently inhabited and there are new islands being constructed, an increasing number of the islands are being abandoned for various reasons, including the fear of rising sea level. During my fieldwork in Malaita, I encountered the Lau narratives on “sinking islands” which show striking equivocation (Viveiros de Castro’s term) in relation to global climate change. Most Lau admit that their islands are sinking, but they maintain that this is not necessarily related to the sea-level rise. According to them, coral rocks are progressively “weathered” and “shrunk” once dug up as building material, and this is why their islands sink as they grow old. The perceived “lowering” and “sinking” of the islands are also remarked as symptomatic of their own moral decline by the Lau, who, in their own understanding, are no longer able to maintain their islands properly. It is the aim of this paper to discuss such equivocal and shifting meanings of the Lau islands under the contemporary climate change.