Enduring Connections

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: College of Liberal Arts

Abstract

'We value our heritage most when it seems at risk; threats of loss spur owners to stewardship.'
(David Lowenthal, 1996)

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and combating its impacts is one of the key UN Sustainable Development Goals. One symptom of our rapidly warming world is accelerated sea level rise. With 150 million people across the world living within 3 feet of today's water levels, the consequences will affect each of us directly or indirectly. Former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, describes the relationship between sustainable development and climate change as 'inseparable'. For Small Island Developing States, addressing development challenges while planning for climate change is a constant struggle. Kiribati is a low-lying island nation in the Pacific Ocean, and is often defined by the grim prognosis for its future. Yet there are pressing development challenges which affect people's lives in Kiribati today, such as access to clean water, and dealing with increasing amounts of waste. As Claire Anterea from the environmental organisation Kirican has said 'we will drown in rubbish before we drown in water'. This project team will work with Kirican, in Kiribati, to co-design a community-level programme towards sustainable development. This grassroots approach will inform the broader development field about the specific challenges facing Kiribati, and Small Islands Developing States more generally.

If heritage in its most fundamental sense is about what we value collectively, and want to preserve for the future, then it is entirely logical that academics and practitioners in the heritage field should care about the environment and sustainable development. According to a recent UNESCO report, climate change poses the greatest risk to world heritage, yet heritage concerns are not as prominent as they should be in this field. One of Kiribati's adaptation strategies is to plan for 'migration with dignity' for its population of over 110,000. We will consult with heritage organisations in Kiribati to find out how and whether they are planning for climate change and even potential displacement. This responds to more general concerns amongst global preservation professionals, such as archivists, about their own role within climate adaptation. Should the relocation of cultural resources and archives of climate-vulnerable nations be planned? How could such an enterprise could be managed practically and ethically, and by whom? The research team will also collaborate with the artist and cultural expert Natan Itonga to make a film evoking the rich cultures of Kiribati. This is part of a creative process that aims to understand the local meaning of heritage in Kiribati, and promote awareness of what is at stake. Overall, this project explores both the scope and limitations of attempts to 'preserve' heritage in face of rapid environmental change or when the natural environment itself is heritage at risk. What can be 'saved' at all when the impacts of climate change are so catastrophic for nations like Kiribati, and is it still meaningful to talk about sustainable development?

This project works through ideas of loss but focuses on connections; specifically, finding enduring connections to potentially lost objects to carry us into the future, caring for our current connections to land, water and non-human life, and accepting moral connections between the most polluting- and vulnerable- countries. As Anote Tong said to participants at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in 2013: 'Are we here to secure the future of each other's children or just our own?' Within this project, heritage is positioned as a pivotally important field of expertise for understanding that global challenges of magnitude will nonetheless be felt locally, everywhere.

Planned Impact

This project will benefit Kirican, a local grassroots environmental organisation in Kiribati, resourced by this project to consult with a local community in South Tarawa, then to implement and evaluate a sustainable development project based on the community's needs and priorities. This will help Kirican to fulfill their general mission to promote social justice through awareness of climate change and sustainable development. Kirican also plan to offer a training placement to a young person to help them deliver the project, which will offer that person a valuable educational opportunity. The process of delivering this project may enhance Kirican's networks and influence, offer new insights or understanding and build their organisational capacity. By working specifically through two women at Kirican, there is scope for improving gender equality in Kiribati, which is in itself a sustainable development goal.

The community engaged by Kirican will also benefit from this process, as they will have the opportunity to express their own needs, and potentially to have those needs addressed. It is likely that such development priorities will relate to a cleaner environment, better waste management, access to safe water or sanitation. Priorities could be addressed in a number of ways, including through environmental education that enables the community to work together to solve some of its own problems. Alternatively, this process may reveal a need for a specific policy or policy change, which could inform local or national government, for longer-term benefit, or the community may identify an immediate tangible need for an item such as a rain-harvesting system.

The broader development field could learn from this exploratory research in a number of ways. The UN Sustainable Development Goals were created through intergovernmental discussions, and were not intended to be country-specific. Applying them to a particular local context is a good way to see whether there are weak links in the way that these goals have been conceived, and also to evaluate how climate change acts as a factor to hinder the successful implementation of sustainable development goals in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). A more nuanced understanding of the particular challenges faced by SIDS could inform policy makers in the region, and beyond. Similarly, the use of a grassroots, gender-aware approach may yield new insights. We would promote these findings to this field through Kirican's extensive networks, the project's independent adviser on development, Alyson Brody, and through our project partners the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the National Trust's international networks. We will also offer edited online videos as a freely-available resource to targeted organisations of relevance

This project's efforts to acknowledge and promote the importance of heritage may benefit organisations charged with its promotion and protection in Kiribati. Often portrayed as a generic 'drowning paradise' in media representations, the global community is largely unaware of the richness and diversity of the heritage of Kiribati, at risk because of climate change. A collaborative film produced with local artist Natan Itonga, promoted to an international audience, may nurture greater cross-cultural understanding and a reminder of the urgent need for a reduction in carbon emissions. The arts have a role to play in creating powerful stories to compel such action. More complex representations could also benefit communities in Kiribati, by informing culturally appropriate strategies for addressing global challenges such as sustainable development, climate change, and even future potential displacement, at a national and international level. The focus on the management and potential relocation of cultural resources, artifacts and archives in the event of displacement may also inform the practice and capacity of heritage organisations in Kiribati.
 
Title 'Ribono' 
Description This is a 10-minute film, Ribono, produced by Sara Penrhyn Jones, Natan Itonga and Richard Gott. It was screened at the Rachel Carson's Lunchtime colloquium in Munich, Germany, in January 2019. It was part of a 45 minute presentation by Jones about the collaborative research. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact It is too early to be aware of impact, but the attendance for this event and screening was around 120 people. It led to an invitation to do a further screening and talk at the Museum Five Continents in Munich, Germany. 
URL https://www.carsoncenter.uni-muenchen.de/events_conf_seminars/event_history/2019-events-history/lunc...
 
Description Through our research (originating in 'Troubled Waters', and developed in 'Enduring Connections'), we realised the importance of building reciprocal relations in collaborative research. Reciprocity is very important in Kiribati culture, and with this in mind were highly self-critical, in considering how the local community could benefit from our research in the ways that mattered most to them. Communities in Kiribati are experiencing research fatigue. Having their voices and perspectives heard and understood globally may not translate into direct or immediate benefits on a community level. We developed an approach in this research that was more experimental and participatory, and overall we felt that this was successful and certainly worth replicating in future.

Sucessful partnership was crucial in this research. We partnered with the grassroots organisation, KiriCAN, so that over the next 18-months they could be flexibly resourced to address locally identified priorities. This participatory approach complemented our more abstract exploration of the connection between heritage, climate change and sustainable development in Kiribati. The framework for this process included a formal contract with KiriCAN, outlining expectations and budget. Three main phases were timetabled: (i) community consultation to identify environmental priorities; (ii) implementation with the community; (iii) evaluation. Resourcing KiriCAN adequately was important for non-exploitative research practice. For the UK researchers, KiriCAN provided a feasible and sustainable way to deliver community-driven work within the project timescales.

After consultation with several communities in South Tarawa, KiriCAN decided to focus on waste. Locals were frustrated by inadequate rubbish collection by the under-resourced council, with serious consequences in South Tarawa due to urbanisation and extremely high population density. Endemic communicable diseases are connected to poor waste management, and Kiribati's under-five mortality rate is the second highest among the Pacific Island countries. KiriCAN's vision is to "clean up the whole of Tarawa". Together with the communities, they decided to buy two trucks that could collect rubbish, and train volunteers to use them. There was concern that this may not be sustainable, e.g. if the trucks needed repair. However, KiriCAN plan to raise revenue through hiring out the trucks, providing a stream of income to feed back into the scheme. In order to upskill ourselves as an academic team based in the UK, we also sought advice and training from a freelance expert on development, climate change, and gender, so that we could oversee this work in the best possible way.

Through the production of a collaborative film in the Kiribati language, with the local cultural heritage expert Natan Itonga, we were able to facilitate a more in-depth and locally-authored perspective on Kiribati culture. In this way, we managed to to explore and reflect the fact that, for example, although the ocean is a threat in Kiribati, it is also an important part of Kiribati's territory, identity, and economy, and is a resource that needs protection. Such insights are rarely reflected in existing global media, which tends to portray the ocean as unequivocally 'bad'. We were able to convey the importance of journeying over sea and land, and depict the various beliefs and rituals associated with such travelling in Kiribati. Research through film was also an opportunity to find out more about the kinds of knowledge and skills that are associated with the historic survival of the i-Kiribati, and to celebrate and promote this rich indigenous knowledge. Working in this way showed us what is possible in terms of local creative collaboration, and that working in this was is much more rewarding, illuminating, and ethical for all involved. However, we also struggled when Natan Itonga became ill (for up to 10 days) of the time allocated to the work. We also realised that more time was needed to manage post-production work together (especially when working through a language not spoken by the UK-based team, who needed more time and support for subtitling).

We wanted to find out whether - and how- the cultural sector may be planning for climate change in Kiribati. Anna Woodham and Matthew Gordon-Clark conducted eight interviews with Cultural Sector workers, Government Ministers, Government Officers and others in Kiribati in 2017. We found that the government-supported cultural sector in Kiribati is currently underdeveloped and under-resourced with low public awareness of the museum in particular. The Culture Center and Museum and the National Archive suffer from a lack of unified strategy and professional skills development. There did not seem to be any, or very minimal, thought given to disaster planning, conservation and the potential impacts of climate change on the paper records of Kiribati and the Museum's collections and archives. There has been in-depth fieldwork conducted to record the diverse forms of cultural heritage (including the pre-Christian indigenous heritage) across some of Kiribati's 33 islands, but there didn't seem to be a firm plan for the completion of this work across the whole country, which is costly and time-consuming. There are ambitious plans to develop the state-led cultural sector in Kiribati including the construction of several new museums, but there is a risk that cultural heritage is being used rather narrowly as just a tool for economic development through tourism, rather than also as an important focus for community/sustainable development. Likewise, initial findings suggest that the government and the citizens view the archives as an information resource for current business needs only. Their cultural value as a repository of the history of the government and citizens of Kiribati does not appear to be appreciated. Some museums outside Kiribati are beginning to recognise and negotiate their role in regards to climate change and its impacts. However, there is potential to take this action further by offering more direct support to museums in climate threatened areas, by offering advice, guidance and professional support.

We are publicising our methodological approach to a wider community of academic researchers, especially in the international development context. For example, our local partners in Kiribati, KiriCAN, co-authored a case-study report on 'Mobilising Indigenous Knowledge' (AHRC/ESRC), to be used as a focus of discussion in a related event in Rio de Janeiro, March 2019. Pelenise Alofa, from KiriCAN, also participated, with the project Principal Investigator, in an AHRC event in the House of Commons: 'Mobilising Global Voices' (February 2019).
Exploitation Route Developing the film resource:
Natan Itonga is enthusiastic about continued creative collaboration. Once the editing process has been completed, the current film could be shared with the communities that participated in its production, screened in the National Museum and local schools, offered as a digital heritage resource locally and worldwide. Feedback could be sought from this process to inform future approaches. Natan has indicated that he would to travel further during a longer time-frame to gather more footage, and to engage with more geographically marginalised communities. Implementing these ideas would need significant resources. KiriCAN believe that Natan's continued involvement could be important for their work too: helping to make indigenous knowledge more contemporary for young people through art and film, and this fits in with the emphasis on valuing indigenous knowledge and heritage in the Kiribati 2020 vision. "Traditional knowledge is one thing that will build our resilience." (KiriCAN focus group 2018).

Development of the Kiribati Cultural Sector
Future work with cultural organisations in Kiribati could include an offer to the government of Kiribati for a lengthier visit by experienced archivist/museum practitioners to scope work around emergency planning in greater depth and to develop specific basic collections care and documentation training programmes at the University of the South Pacific. Ideally these programmes would be taught by people from Kiribati, but at first there may be a need for external expertise. The current governmental discourse in Kiribati emphasises opportunity and tourism rather than relocation and climate change. However, culture and heritage was indicated as something that any extension to the Kiribati National Climate Change Adaptation Programme could potentially engage with. The Kiribati Government relies extensively on support and aid from other countries and they may be open to future projects if genuinely collaborative and in line with the Kiribati 2020 vision.

In general:
It is perhaps the sucessful implementation of the methdological approach that would be most revealing and useful to others. KiriCAN can use this project as an example of the more participatory enagagement that they favour, when dealing with future outside agencies and reserchers. The research and action with local wards in Kiribati can be used by KiriCAN as a starting point and showcase for community engagement that could be expanded upon and upscaled, with support.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://enduringconnections.com
 
Description 1) Resourcing grassroots environmental organisation, KiriCAN, in Kiribati KiriCAN identified and addressed the issue of waste in the community, by engaging with three wards on the heavily populated South Tarawa. Their response was to purchase a rubbish truck in order to regularly collect waste in areas that the government doesn't reach, to improve the local environment and health. They are training local volunteers to implement this scheme. We have evaluated this work, by conducting a focus group with KirCAN themselves, and by visiting the affected wards with them. Furthermore, the same truck was useful after a major flooding event in February 2019, as it was used in a clean-up operation. The impact of this work is an enhanced belief in their own efficacy for the affected communities, which helps to mobilise infividuals and communities for environmental action on a number of issues. It has also helped to raise KiriCAN's profile, and works as a showcase for the work that they can achieve, especially when offered more control and self-determination, as well as adequate resources. 2) Production of collaborative film with cultural heritage expert Natan Itonga. This film (in post-production stage) offers a counterpoint to the usual ways in which Kiribati is represented on film. This includes exploring and reflecting findings like: i) that the two main trees, coconut and pandanus, are integral to daily survival, heritage and cultural identity in Kiribati; ii) Accessing oral histories is not straightforward or unproblematic, and Kiribati's cultural heritage is not homogenous; iii) it is important to celebrate rich indigenous knowledge, and resist potentially offensive or crude representation of Kiribati as 'poor'. We will be pursuing a dissemination strategy (through existing partners and collaborators, for example) in 2019. 3) Senior Archivist Mathew Gordon-Clark (from the State Records of South Australia) visited the Kiribati National Archives with project Co-I Dr Anna Woodham. Dr Bryony Onciul also conducted interviews in Kiribati, engaging with the issue of climate change and heritage. Their findings will be disseminated to a community of international archivists and the heritage sector, and the project team will discuss ways in which this could benefit contacts in Kiribati. For example, Gordon-Clark presented a paper on 'The Archivist's role in a climate-changed or post-displacement future' to the Australian Society of Archivists in 2017. Together, the project team has designed a strategy for future development, which would aim to support the cultural sector in Kiribati whilst sensitively negotiating the recent local shift in the political climate and policymaking. This shift represents a move away from discussion of climate change, towards a greater focus on sustainable tourism, resilience, and indigenous knowledge.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description 'Mobilising Indigenous Knowledge' top-up funding for 'Enduring Connections' to create a case-study for AHRC/ESRC
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 11/2018
 
Description Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, Sweden 
Organisation Museum of World Culture
PI Contribution Project PI Sara Penrhyn Jones visited the museum in Gothenburg in order to view the museum and it's exhibitions, and to discuss future collaboration. She screened the film 'Troubled Waters' and talked about research in both 'Troubled Waters' and the follow-on research project 'Enduring Connections'. This was a public event.
Collaborator Contribution The Museum of World Culture hosted Sara Penrhyn Jones at the museum for two days, publicised and organised the pubic screening and Q & A. They also engaged in discussions about future collaboration.
Impact Outcomes include a public screening and Q & A session about the research (Troubled Waters and Enduring Connections). There is also a high likelihood of the creative research being incorporated into a future permanent exhibition at the museum.
Start Year 2017
 
Description National Trust- climate change, gender and development 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We offered an opportunity for a National Trust representative to attend a two-day symposium on Climate change, development and gender with an expert consultant. This was an opportunity to learn more about best practice when undertaking participatory, gender-aware work and research at a community level.
Collaborator Contribution The NT's coastal and marine specialist, Phil Dyke, offered his time in order to participate in a project symposium. The project wanted to bridge the idea of community facing coastal challenges in the UK and in Kiribati. This was based on earlier findings (Troubled Waters) that there were some surprising similarities in the challenges that coastal communities faced in both countries, such as dealing with waste and sewage, and loss of coastal heritage due to inundation and flooding.
Impact The main output was the symposium itself: an opportunity for knowledge transfer, sharing, and enhanced gender-awareness for all participants.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Conference paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Around 12 people attended a talk by CI Bryony Onciul about the projects at the European Society of Oceanist's conference in Munich, Germany 29th June - 2 July. This created new contacts (Academic, source community and professional) which led to the development of a small network in which we exchange ideas/information etc. It also resulted in a request for our work to be included in international policy reports.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://esfo-org.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ESfO_booklet.pdf
 
Description Conference paper given at the AHRC and Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk given by CI Bryony Onciul about the projects to a room full of academics, post grads and professional heritage practitioners, as part of the Heritage Studies: Critical Approaches and New Directions conference. This led to requests for further information and ideas for potential future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://ahrcheritage.wixsite.com/ahrcheritage/conference-heritage-studies-critica
 
Description Public Screening: Troubled Waters film at Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The film Troubled Waters was screened to the general public at the Museum of World Culture, follow by a talk and Q & A. Current research in Kiribati (Enduring Connections) was also shared with the audience, which also included heritage professionals from the museum. As part of the same trip there was a meeting between Sara Penrhyn Jones and a curator at the Museum, Klas Grinell. Plans were made to incorporate the creative research into a permanent exhibition on climate change and migration at the museum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://enduringconnections.com/filmscreening-at-the-museum-of-world-culture-gothenburg-dec-06-2017/
 
Description Webinar: How can the Heritage/Museum sector engage the mainstream public with climate change? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participants on an earlier workshop for heritage and museum professionals held at Manchester Museum were asked for their views on how we can all work together to address climate change and the communication challenge. They expressed their need for more multi-media resources and further, national and international dialogue. With this in mind the project team worked with Climate Outreach to create an international dialogue through an online webinar that any one could register for. Over 200 people registered for this live, interactive event, which now also exists online as a resource. Climate Outreach has promoted this resource to their own extensive, international networks. They reported a request for more information and a desire for future collaboration from new contacts due to this work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://climateoutreach.org/resources/webinar-and-guides-climate-change-can-heritage-sector-engage-m...
 
Description Workshop in Manchester Museum: We need to talk about climate change 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The 'We need to talk about climate change' workshop was held at the Manchester Museum, UK on 7th April 2017. The aim of the event was to bring together a diverse group of UK heritage practitioners to explore existing heritage sector practices and share collective wisdom relating to new approaches to engagement and communication around climate change. A community engagement and participatory research consultant, Joanne Orchard-Webb, facilitated dialogue between project researchers, Head of Collections at Manchester Museum, Henry McGhie and George Marshall from Climate Outreach.

The premise of the day emerged from the findings of the "Troubled Waters, Stormy Futures: heritage in times of accelerated climate change" research conducted in the UK and Kiribati during 2015-16: [http://www.corddirdyfroedd.org/]. The research surfaced a number of key questions relating to the often challenging role of heritage organisations in climate change debates and these questions were used to guide the workshop structure:

15 individuals from a range of large and small heritage organisations attended the workshop There was representation from those working in or with local authority, national and university museums, world heritage sites, heritage advisory bodies, international heritage organisations and heritage conservation charities. These included Historic Scotland, Historic England and the International National Trust. Further action and outputs were co- decided (a workshop facilitation pack and webinar, detailed elsewhere), with very positive feedback from participants, for example that the workshop left them 'genuinely much more excited about the possibility for talking about climate change and heritage'. The dialogue was extended online, and internationally, through the #heritage4climate, with examples of interaction collated here: https://storify.com/annawoodham1/we-need-to-talk-about-climate-change
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://enduringconnections.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/HERITAGE-AND-CLIMATE-CHANGE-WORKSHOP-SUMM...