Only a pawn in their games? environmental (?) migration in Kiribati – past, present and future


  • Eberhard Weber



Kiribati, colonial resettlement, environmental and climate change


The Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT) are exposed to the impacts of climate change. In extreme cases entire states may disappear. Kiribati is one of these countries. Within its own territory there are no ­places to where people could be safely resettled when their home islands become unsuitable for human habitation. Large-scale resettlement is nothing new to the people of Kiribati. In colonial times people from various islands were resettled. The Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme (PISS) is one of these efforts to allegedly bring people to safety. Making use of primary sources that have become available only recently the paper raises the question if there is anything to learn from PISS for present times, or if PISS has historical value only, as the ­United Kingdom’s last colonial expansion scheme. The paper asks about conflicting intentions of colonial authorities and assesses if and possibly why strategic political considerations resulted in a situation where humanitarian motivations retreated into the background leading to a sub-optimal preparation of the scheme, which then finally led to its failure. The paper comes to the conclusion that behind reportedly noble purposes there is a layer of colonial interests which lets settlers appear as objects in a larger colonial game.




How to Cite

Weber, E. (2016). Only a pawn in their games? environmental (?) migration in Kiribati – past, present and future. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 147(2), 153–164.