Climate change impacts small island traditions

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Master navigator Larry Raigetal (Photo from UOG)

“Navigation is a whole system it entails a whole other string of knowledge, including canoe carving, weather prediction and all of that. But all of these knowledge, we use the elements, we use the stars to dictate to us when we can voyage.” – Larry Raigetal, master navigator.

Pacific islands nations have shown increasing vulnerability to climate change. Studies report the rising sea levels and unpredictable weather patterns that have been occurring due to climate change but for the millions who are living in these island nations, the effects are hitting close to home.

During the press conference on Monday for the University of Guam’s Regional Conference on Island Sustainability, Larry Raigetal, a master navigator from Lamotrek, Yap and conference keynote speaker, shared how their indigenous seafaring practices and the island way of life have been affected by climate change.

Raigetal founded Waa’gey, a community-based organization that promote traditional skills to the next generation. They use these skills to raise awareness on the socio-economic, cultural, and environmental challenges facing Yap and its neighboring islands.

“Navigation is a whole system it entails a whole other string of knowledge, including canoe carving, weather prediction and all of that. But all of these knowledge, we use the elements, we use the stars to dictate to us when we can voyage. For example, I can tell you that has changed. I don’t know what is causing the change.”

Raigetal (second from left), with UOG Center for Island Sustainability executive director Austin J. Shelton III, Island Sustainability community advisory board chairwoman Jackie Marati and UOG president Thomas W. Krise, (Photo from UOG Center for Island Sustainability Facebook)

He added: “There is something quite interesting happening around the environment that maybe causing these to change. I am not a scientist but seasons are no longer jiving with the way we’re taught. It is not just about voyaging. It is about harvesting the food, fish and the coral reefs.”

On Monday, Raigetal, along with UOG president Thomas W. Krise, UOG Center for Island Sustainability executive director Austin J. Shelton III, UOG senior vice president Anita Borja Enriquez, and Island Sustainability community advisory board chairwoman Jackie Marati briefed the media about the conference.

Now on its 10th year, the Regional Conference on Island Sustainability continues to to encourage action to achieve sustainability, inspire change, and provide a venue for sharing, networking, and collaboration of sustainability issues related to economic, social/cultural, educational, environmental or energy solutions.