Culture and connection to land


As an aspiring journalist in a foreign country, one of your first instincts is to try to let all your presumptions melt away.

You want to view and interact with those around you curiously and with no judgement.

Though this is often harder than it seems.

We are often subconsciously wired in the west to look down upon more traditional, or less advanced cultures (by our rules).

Even small things like categorising countries as developing or developed can instantly change how we view or interpret the country.

I got caught in this trap too often.

For example, we were visiting a remote village and I was talking to one of the instructors about how happy everyone seemed considering how “undeveloped” the town was.

At that moment I didn’t think twice about my choice of words but he instantly pulled me up on this and said, “be careful when using the word undeveloped… for all you know they’re miles ahead of us”. And he was right.

Throughout my three weeks in Vanuatu, one of the quickest lessons I learned is how developed this culture is, but in different ways to the west.

Their connection to their country and to their land is fierce and strong.

Their deep knowledge of the environment carried even down to children was extraordinary.

I met some that were only 4 years old and going into the jungle to pick out certain nuts and fruits for lunch on their own.

You could feel that everyone had a certain sensitivity and ‘expertise’ of the environment.

When trying to find what story I wanted to tell about climate change in Vanuatu it quickly sunk in that it was this connection to land.

This photo essay explores this connection to the land, trying to emphasise its importance when discussing climate change at an international level.


This article was supported by DFAT New Colombo Plan Funding where the student attended the Climate Change Communication in the Pacific: Vanuatu Mobility Tour in 2022. This Mobility Tour offers Communication and Journalism students an opportunity to explore the Pacific region and develop skills and expertise to write and report on climate changes.