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Traditional warning signs of cyclones on remote islands in Fiji and Tonga


Johnston, I, Traditional warning signs of cyclones on remote islands in Fiji and Tonga, Environmental Hazards, 14, (3) pp. 210-223. ISSN 1747-7891 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2015 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/17477891.2015.1046156


Traditional knowledge of disasters has been found to save lives. On remote islands where telecommunications to the mainland are unreliable, unless there are always working batteries in the radio, signs from the environment may be the only warning of an oncoming cyclone. But this knowledge is in danger of being lost, as it is an oral history not well documented, and younger people increasingly rely on technology. This article presents the results of fieldwork on remote islands in Fiji and Tonga in the South Pacific, documenting natural warning signs on islands in two different countries. The results show that there are numerous known signs, with remarkable similarities and consistencies between the two islands. This provides evidence that not only is traditional knowledge of warning signs for cyclones alive and well, the consistency in the signs suggests support for this knowledge as being just as important as western scientific knowledge. The integration of traditional knowledge and western scientific knowledge into a comprehensive warning system may help to overcome some of the limitations of the existing system and the reasons why warnings are sometimes ignored.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:cyclone; disaster warning; natural signs; traditional knowledge; Pacific; remote
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Johnston, I (Dr Ingrid Johnston)
ID Code:105487
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:15
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-01-06
Last Modified:2016-11-15

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