Tuvalu and climate change: Constructions of environmental displacement in the Sydney Morning Herald

Tuvalu, a place whose image in the ‘West’ is as a small island state, insignificant and remote on the world stage, is becoming remarkably prominent in connection with the contemporary issue of climate change-related sea-level rise. My aim in this paper is to advance understanding of the linkages between climate change and island places, by exploring the discursive negotiation of the identity of geographically distant islands and island peoples in the Australian news media. Specifically, I use discourse analytic methods to critically explore how, and to what effects, various representations of the Tuvaluan islands and people in an Australian broadsheet, the Sydney Morning Herald, emphasize difference between Australia and Tuvalu. My hypothesis is that implicating climate change in the identity of people and place can constitute Tuvaluans as .tragic victims. of environmental displacement, marginalizing discourses of adaptation for Tuvaluans and other inhabitants of low-lying islands, and silencing alternative constructions of Tuvaluan identity that could emphasize resilience and resourcefulness. By drawing attention to the problematic ways that island identities are constituted in climate change discourse in the news media, I advocate a more critical approach to the production and consumption of representations of climate change.

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