Opening doors – Climate impact social research on Ailuk and Maloelap

Kira Vinke has been leading the East Africa Peru India Climate Capacities project at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Reasearch and is currently Head of Centre for Climate and Foreign Policy of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Her connection to the Pacific is a deep personal as well as a professional one: Having spent years of her youth in Hawaii, she returned to the Pacific for her doctoral research on climate induced migration. Remote outer islands like Ailuk and Maloelap in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are facing demographic changes through migration to Majuro and further to the United States enabled by a contract of reassociation, while at the same time the living conditions on the islands are worsening. „There are several reasons for migration, from education to climate change. But the push-factors are definately stronger than the pull-factors: People are migrating because they see no other solution. “, Dr. Kira Vinke makes clear.

Unfortunaltely, the perspectives of these remotely situated islands are rarely considered. So far away from regular, reliable transportation infrastructure, they are some of the most inaccessible places on earth, which makes them even more vulnerable to impacts of climate change and prone to climate induced migration.

„Without Okeanos Vakas, my research would have been impossible.“ sais Dr. Vinke. Not only for the transportation part, but also when it came to establishing trustful relationships with the research partners on the islands. The Okeanos Crew introduced the researcher and her project in a culturally adequate manner, functioned as translators and explained to village mayors and traditional leaders what Dr. Vinke’s research was aiming at:  Why do people migrate, how do they feel after they migrated and how do family, friends an community members feel about staying back home? The introduction by the Okeanos crew to the island community literally opened doors. „For social research, using a Vaka makes so much more sense. The acceptance of the island community was immediately there!“.

Image sources

  • F_VAKA_OKEANOS_122b: © Okeanos Foundation