Department of Anthropology San Diego State University

 

 

I'm currently completing a manuscript about the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami. The book focuses on the small island of Simbo in the western Solomon Islands, where a powerful tsunami measuring over three stories high lashed the island, wreaking havoc on the marine ecosystem and coastal villages. For the 2000 people of Simbo, all of whom speak an autochthonous Austronesian language and live mainly from gardening and fishing, the towering waves presented a phenomenon unprecedented in their lifetimes. The wave completely obliterated several villages, yet miraculously there were few deaths and just nine people perished. In an astonishing human accomplishment, nearly all villagers spontaneously fled to high ground before the waves slammed the island. Moreover, the island’s coral reefs, some of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, recovered to a healthy state within a few years.

Drawing on over 10 years of ethnographic and environmental science research, this is one of the first in-depth examinations of how a society tapped indigenous ecological knowledge and successfully anticipated an impending environmental catastrophe.

 

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