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Iconic media environmental images of Oceania: Challenging corporate news for solutions

Rongelap islanders leaving their atoll for Mejato, May 1985. Photo: David Robie. Source: The 1986 documentary Nuclear Exodus: The Evacuation of Rongelap.

Pacific Media Centre

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Robie, D. (2010/11). Iconic media environmental images of Oceania: Challenging corporate news for solutions. Dreadlocks 6/7, pp. 25-49. [Special journal edition: incorporating the Proceedings of Oceans, Islands and Skies - Oceanic Conference on Creativity and Climate Change]. Published by Pacific Writing Forum and the University of the South Pacific (Suva, Fiji) and the AUT Pacific Media Centre (Auckland, NZ). ISSN: 2225-5206; ISBN 978-1-927184-02-8
Link to Dreadlocks article


The fate of 2700 islanders from the Carteret Islands off the north-eastern coast of Bougainville has become an icon for the future of many communities on low-lying small states globally and especially in the Pacific—the so-called ‘climate change refugees’ or ‘environmental migrants’. They are a controversial casualty of the failure of developed nations to deal decisively with the global warming crisis.Iconic images of islanders leaving their ancestral homeland and relocating also resonates with earlier environmental parallels in the Pacific such as the evacuation of Rongelapese and other Marshall Islanders in the wake of US nuclear testing in the 1950s and the forced shift of Banaban Islanders to Rabi in the Fiji Islands from 1945 because of phosphate mining. Despite an inspired and colourful campaign by Pacific Island delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, global geopolitics stifled the outcome to the disadvantage of Oceania. This article examines how the emergence of internet-based and innovative news services have challenged corporate media in the public right to know and explores strategies to communicate over climate change in both mainstream and alternative public spheres. It also challenges the news media to lift its environmental reporting efforts.

Keywords: climate change refugees, digital media, environmental journalism, environmental migrants, global warming, iconic imagery, nuclear testing

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The Pacific Media Centre - TE AMOKURA - at AUT University has a strategic focus on Māori, Pasifika and ethnic diversity media and community development.