GRID Polar Division News

During the climate meetings, the Government of Fiji draws attention to the plight of small islands through Portraits of Resilience

The images and stories are compelling. Students from the Suva Christian Community High School have joined their counterparts in the Arctic and other island states in photographing and writing about the changes they are seeing in their regions due to rapid climate change.

The students visited several locations in Fiji and met people, who were being affected by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and other problems attributed to climate change. They took photos and wrote stories about what they learned as part of the Portraits of Resilience photo project.

Portraits involves students from communities in the Small Island Developing States and the Arctic and is part the Many Strong Voices (MSV) programme. MSV links people in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States, who are feeling the immediate effects of climate change.

The Arctic and SIDS have been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

At first glance, these two regions may appear to have little in common. Yet Arctic and SIDS societies share characteristics of vulnerability and resilience and their environments are sensitive to climate change impacts.

Although natural and human environments in the two regions differ markedly, the effects of climate change threaten the ecology, economies and the social and cultural fabric of both regions posing serious challenges for their sustainable development. While communities in both regions have adapted to changing conditions in the past, climate change presents a new and formidable challenge.

Many Strong Voices was launched in 2005 and since that time has brought together a unique network of people and organisations to work together on common issues. Portraits was first exhibited at the Danish National Museum during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Copenhagen in 2009.

Since that time, it has been seen in museums in Norway, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, and is now running at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Portraits will also be shown at this year’s climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, scheduled to start next week.

Portrait is led by Canadian photographer Christine Germano, who recently spent several weeks working with students and staff at the Suva Community Christian High School.

Ms Germano, who has received a number of awards for her work in Canada, was also in Tuvalu working with students there. The project is designed to integrate into the local high school curriculum. The students write short stories about the effects of climate change on their community. After that, they are taught how to take photos and they go out and illustrate their writings.

Besides Fiji and Tuvalu, Portraits has worked in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, Alaska, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic, Greenland and at the northern tip of Norway.

Portraits of Resilience and the Many Strong Voices programme are coordinated by GRID-Arendal and CICERO. Portraits has been funded by the Government of Norway and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

For more information, contact:

John Crump, Polar Issues Coordinator, GRID-Arendal - :+1 613 255 3840

About the press release

The Fiji Government Ministry of Information released this media release on Monday 29th November. The Ministry is the Government’s major information agency providing the link between the Government, the media and the public.

A complete selection of photos and stories from students in Fiji can be viewed in the online Portraits of Resilience gallery here.

Wednesday 01 Dec 2010