Born on Fiji's Garden Island, Merewalesi Yee travelled to the island ten years ago to bury her mother. In 2019, she visited the island again but this time couldn't sleep at night.
‘I could hear the waves pounding on the shoreline as if it were just outside our door,’ she recalls. ‘I grew quite sad as I imagined those waters encroaching our village ground and engulfing the burial site where my mother (nana), aunty (nei), and grandmother (bubu) were buried.’
The Government of Fiji identified approximately 40 villages in need of immediate relocation due to climate change consequences in 2018.
‘In my country, this is the reality of climate change,’ says Yee, who will be appearing at the session ‘Should I stay or should I go? Planned relocations’ at this year’s Kaldor Centre Virtual Conference.
‘Relocation is a multi-year process that requires careful planning,’ says Yee, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. ‘Trying to figure out where and how to relocate takes a long time.
‘What resources and methods are required? People are at the centre of relocation, which is a complex social process,’ she explains.
‘Regardless of whether a couple of households are now encountering the effects of environmental change, we should be cautious and continue to learn more, as these mobility patterns are evolving under a rapidly altered climate. The time to be thinking, and planning is now.’
In addition to her PhD studies, Yee now working on a few projects this year with communities all throughout Fiji on climate change impacts, adapting in place, voluntary immobility, place-belongingness, waste disposal, livelihoods, women, and resilience.
‘I am hopeful that the outputs of these projects will contribute to the development of a more resilient Fiji and be transferable to other developing nations around the globe.’
Merewalesi Yee will be speaking and taking questions at the Kaldor Centre Virtual Conference 2021 in the session, 'Should I stay or should I go? Planned relocations', on 21 October, and registration is open for any or all sessions, with inclusive pricing.