Institute for Social Justice

Doctoral Students

Vicki Flack

Vicki Flack

Climate change and inhabitability: sustaining a meaningful identity following the loss of a place

It is often claimed that climate change will result in places becoming uninhabitable due to extreme environmental degradation. This claim is highly disturbing as particular places can have important roles in sustaining a meaningful identity. For one, people can consider places deeply culturally and spiritually significant. I am investigating what might be required in order for a meaningful identity to survive this loss of a place. There are three main questions that structure my research: what is a meaningful identity, what capacity does this identity have to adapt, and what broad conditions are required in order for that adaption to occur. My research is a combination of theoretical and empirical inquiry. My theoretical inquiry involves engaging extensively with literature on home, identity, place, belonging, and climate change. My empirical inquiry involves comparing Tokelauan weaving in Wellington and in Nukunonu to investigate what is enabling Tokelauans to feel like Tokelauans in New Zealand. Tokelau is expected to become uninhabitable in the near future due to climate change and yet compared with places such as Tuvalu it has received very little attention in regards to this issue. In addition, there is already a substantial Tokelauan population living in New Zealand who are exerting a strong identity.