THE WORLD WHERE YOU LIVE - ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACIES, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN AMERICAN S&#256;MOA
Author(s)Christian Ronning, Evelyn Gail
KeywordsCultural anthropology; Education; Pacific Rim studies;
American Samoa; Climate Change; Environmental Education; Identity; Youth
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This dissertation examines the production of knowledge around global climate change and the character of environmental literacy among youth in Tafuna, on Tutuila, American Samoa. I analyze this production of environmental knowledge across multiple social fields (i.e. status hierarchies, governance structures, etc.) and subjectivities (school-specific, village-based, and Samoan cultural identities) during a period of social, political, economic, and environmental transformation. I interrogate the emerging forms of control that have come to structure the formal educational system in American Samoa, such as standardized or "containerized" curriculum, assessment and accountability measures, and the assignation of risk/creation of dependency on funding, deployed by American governmental agencies such as the Department of Education, and utilized by state actors such as the American Samoa Department of Education. Of particular concern is the how these structures create contradictions that affect the possibilities of teaching, learning, and the integration of youth into meaningful social roles. Informal learning about the environment includes village-based forms of service, church initiatives concerning the environment, governmental agency programming, such as that provided by the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, and youth-serving non-profit programs concerned with engaging youth as leaders. In both these formal and informal contexts for environmental education, American Samoan youth dynamically co-create knowledge within and outside the parameters of the socialization processes in which they are embedded. This research encompassed four trips to American Samoa over the course of three years, and utilized ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, archival research, and demographic data analysis, as the primary forms of data gathering. What this data reveals is the disengagement American Samoan youth feel for school-based environmental education because their science classes, as structured, do not integrate the co-relatedness of the social, the political, and the environmental fields that youth encounter. I discovered that youth are largely ambivalent about their future aspirations because they lack some of the cultural, linguistic, and educational tools necessary for local participation as well as for opportunities to study and work on Hawaii or the mainland United States. Lastly, I found that American educational ideals continue to be contradictory in the American Samoan context; whereas schools value and promote individually-oriented goals and responsibility, youth are also embedded in the values of communal identification and practice known as fa'a Samoa. I conclude that young people lack social integration and plan for a future away from American Samoa.