"Because your environment is looking after you": The role of local knowledge in climate change adaptation in the Cook Islands
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Pacific Island countries, like the Cook Islands, are often considered to be extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Changes in the frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards is expected to be one of many anticipated impacts of climate change in the Pacific Island region, having substantial implications for both climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts. Considerable literature highlights that local and traditional knowledge can play an important role in CCA and DRR, particularly in small island countries where vulnerability is unique and a long history of adapting to environmental change exists. However, there is little understanding on how to practically integrate and apply local knowledge in CCA, particularly in the Cook Islands. Through a comparative study between a core and periphery island, the purpose of this research was to investigate the role of local knowledge in adaptation to climate-related hazards in the Cook Islands. By employing qualitative research methods, including semi-structured interviews (n=34) with key informants and local participants, this research aimed to investigate the local adaptation strategies of Cook Islands communities to climate-related hazards on Rarotonga and Mitiaro, explore the variability in knowledge between a core (Rarotonga) and periphery (Mitiaro) island, understand the extent to which locals and government officials feel local knowledge is being appropriately integrated into adaptation policies, and determine some of the challenges to incorporating local knowledge into adaptation policy. Findings reveal that while local participants had considerable knowledge on environmental changes and coping and adaptation strategies for climate-related hazards, this knowledge was often in the context of multiple stressors. Additionally, interviewees perceived a large variability in knowledge on local coping and adaptation strategies and the impacts of climate change between Rarotonga and the outer islands. While key informants often recognized the important role of local knowledge in CCA, there has been an emphasis on recording local knowledge and less focus on integrating it into policy. Lastly, many challenges to integrating local knowledge into CCA policy were identified including development pressure, out-migration, a lack of understanding of local knowledge, religious influence, and uncertainty over the future use of local knowledge. This study offers insight on the role of local knowledge in CCA for other small island countries facing similar challenges.
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Diamir de Scally (2019). "Because your environment is looking after you": The role of local knowledge in climate change adaptation in the Cook Islands. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14399