August 30, 2018
The effects of climate change are showing up all over the world, but small island nations such as Fiji are feeling them more strongly than most places. Over the past few years in Fiji, communities have been relocating to higher ground and away from shorelines due to rising tides, heavier rains and more destructive storms. It’s no small feat.
“We are now at an almost constant level of threat from these extreme weather events," said Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, in April after Cyclone Josie ripped through Fiji’s main island.
Recently, Arizona State University faculty, staff and students working to expand the reach of Solar-Powered Educational Learning Libraries, known as SolarSPELLs, visited Fiji and found that residents wanted to learn more about climate change. Access to the internet and outside information can be hard to come by for villagers living on remote islands, so SolarSPELLs are important resources. These portable, digital libraries come with their own offline Wi-Fi hotspots and are packed with thousands of educational documents and videos that are locally relevant.
“Fiji was the first country to specifically request actionable climate change content” on their SolarSPELLs, said the initiative’s founder and leader Laura Hosman, who teaches in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and in The Polytechnic School. Once developed, the content will “mirror an identified need for education on how to address and mitigate the impact of climate change that Fijians are experiencing daily.”
Though more than 220 libraries have already been deployed across the Pacific Islands and East Africa, work in Fiji has just begun. In July during a pilot program, SolarSPELL team members trained four Peace Corps volunteers and 26 Fijian teachers to use SolarSPELLs in four schools — reaching nearly 600 students. The team will return to Fiji in January with more devices and training sessions for 30 more Peace Corps volunteers and their counterpart teachers, who can integrate these new materials into lesson plans.
Fiji won’t be the only country to receive information about climate change on its SolarSPELLs.
“We know that everyone around the world will eventually be affected by climate change — some sooner than others,” Hosman said. “We’re working to develop a library targeted for Puerto Rico, an effort launched after Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island last September.”