Polynesia’s Abrupt Climate Disruption – 600 Years Ago

What climate change means to today’s Pacific Islands is well known–sea level rise, typhoons, coral bleaching, drought, food insecurity, migration, and very likely, urgent relocation. It is a sustainability issue; sovereignty issue; survival issue; and at its roots, a deep social justice issue.

This week, Slate published an outstanding anthropological breakdown of severe abrupt climate change that gripped Fiji approximately 600 years ago. In Fjii, and across Pacific Islands civilization, when sea levels abruptly dropped during the little ice age, within two generations coastal crops failed, fish lagoons dried up, widespread conflict erupted, and populations migrated to the safety of higher elevations–taking shelter in hillside forts, hence the era is named the “Hillfort Period.” This state of food insecurity and conflict would remain for nearly 600 years. It was not until the 1800’s that the coastal areas made a recovery, but by then, the cascading impacts of European colonization, disease, and the missionary work erased the memory the Hillfort Period’s abrupt climate disruption from Fiji’s collective consciousness:

Fijians were taught to forget their “heathen” past, especially the time most recent in their minds, which was the period of conflict manifested by the hillfort period. And that is why hardly anyone remembers anything about it today.

The Pacific Hillfort period shows:

  • Abrupt Climate Disruption has occurred in recent human history, and this is being just recently discovered
  • Within two generations, food insecurity, conflict, and migration can rapidly transform and severely impact an interconnected and complex society
  • When geopolitical cascading events are introduced the ultimate impact can completely unravel the previous society. [Colonization during Hillfort; Brexit hint of current cascading effect?]


Terrific new content:

Wolfgang Werminghausen’s brilliant Part II interview with Paul Beckwith is published this week. I personally particularly enjoyed the discussion on post-blue ocean event Northern Hemisphere jet streams…they could go from a fracture to a fizzle. Extraordinary impacts for the Disaster Management community. Listen here:

Paul and Wolfgang discuss the psychology of a tipping point in the collective consciousness, which segways into another brilliant interview as Carolyn Baker interviewed Lisa White on the current state of our collective being. Very relevant, engaging, and just a great listen:



Programming Note – Episode 7, with Leanne Simon of Zomppa speaking on the social injustice of food, and Jatin Singh giving an abrupt climate perspective on India is due for publication next week. This slight delay has allowed me to work on simultaneous roll-out of this WordPress site in tandem with that podcast. Special hat tip to David Korn for the inspiration, insight and guidance throughout this important transition for ReliefAnalysis. Looking forward to sharing.

This entry was posted in Climate Disruption, Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, Food Security, Oceania and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s