Climatic Change

, Volume 136, Issue 3–4, pp 477–493

Spirituality and attitudes towards Nature in the Pacific Islands: insights for enabling climate-change adaptation

  • Patrick D. Nunn
  • Kate Mulgrew
  • Bridie Scott-Parker
  • Donald W. Hine
  • Anthony D. G. Marks
  • Doug Mahar
  • Jack Maebuta

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1646-9

Cite this article as:
Nunn, P.D., Mulgrew, K., Scott-Parker, B. et al. Climatic Change (2016) 136: 477. doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1646-9


A sample of 1226 students at the University of the South Pacific, the premier tertiary institution in the Pacific Islands, answered a range of questions intended to understand future island decision-makers’ attitudes towards Nature and concern about climate change. Questions asking about church attendance show that the vast majority of participants have spiritual values that explain their feelings of connectedness to Nature which in turn may account for high levels of pessimism about the current state of the global/Pacific environment. Concern about climate change as a future livelihood stressor in the Pacific region is ubiquitous at both societal and personal levels. While participants exhibited a degree of understanding matching objective rankings about the vulnerability of their home islands/countries, a spatial optimism bias was evident in which ‘other places’ were invariably regarded as ‘worse’. Through their views on climate change concern, respondents also favoured a psychological distancing of environmental risk in which ‘other places’ were perceived as more exposed than familiar ones. Influence from spirituality is implicated in both findings. Most interventions intended to reduce exposure to environmental risk and to enable effective and sustainable adaptation to climate change in the Pacific Islands region have failed to acknowledge influences on decisionmaking of spirituality and connectedness to Nature. Messages that stress environmental conservation and stewardship, particularly if communicated within familiar and respected religious contexts, are likely to be more successful than secular ones.

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
University of New England (AU)
  • HoS01/2013
University of the Sunshine Coast
  • FAB PCG14/12

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydoreAustralia
  2. 2.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.University of the South PacificHoniaraSolomon Islands

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