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Thomas Malm, Photo.

Thomas Malm


Thomas Malm, Photo.

No Island is an “Island”: Some Perspectives on Development and Environmental Justice in Oceania


  • Thomas Malm

Summary, in English

Since the 1990s, it has often been argued that the earth is like an island in space and that its brittleness is most clearly reflected on small islands in the oceans. Easter Island, for instance, with its largely depleted resources and an indigenous population which almost became extinct in the 19th century, has been seen as a microcosmic warning about what may happen to our entire planet. However, the analogy of the earth and islands with finite natural resources is not self-evident from perspectives on human migration, trade, or carrying capacity. Using the islands of Oceania as examples, it is argued in this paper that unlike our “earth island” in space, these islands are not any isolated, finite “planets”, but parts of a much larger, a global, system of migration and resource flow. Slave trade, introduced diseases, the depletion of certain exported natural resources, nuclear tests, pollution and the exchange of geo-strategic opportunities against aid money, to mention just a few factors, exemplify that the worst tragedy, as far as the human island populations are concerned, have occurred exactly because the islands no longer have remained isolated from a larger economic system. This paper also shows that the economies of the Pacific microstates increasingly are becoming dependant on global trans-national networks of kin and economic transactions that have very little to do with local natural resources, but rather with something which actually might be their most important economic resource of all: independence.


  • Human Ecology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Pacific Islands
  • Oceania
  • Human Ecology
  • Environmental Justice
  • Polynesia

Conference name

World System History and Global Environmental Change

Conference date


Conference place