Pasifika Futurism and Peacebuilding

Pasifika Futurism emerges as a transformative framework, offering a sustainable and forward-thinking approach to addressing the challenges ahead. Through exploring various applications of Pasifika Futurism, this article sheds light on its potential to foster peacebuilding efforts within the Pacific region. By embracing this visionary mindset, Pacific Islanders can proactively navigate the complexities of climate change while paving the way for a peaceful and prosperous future.

By Gregory Loui

This article delves into Futurism, specifically focusing on the significance of Pasifika Futurism. Recognizing the profound impact of climate change on Pacific Islander communities, it highlights Pacific Islanders’ agency in shaping their future. Pasifika Futurism, a subset of Indigenous Futurism rooted in the Pacific Islands, offers a distinctive lens through which we can envision more peaceful and sustainable futures for Pacific Islanders and the Pacific region.

Spanning an expansive surface area larger than the world’s landmass combined, the Pacific Ocean holds a vast biodiversity repository vital to global food and environmental security. Notably, it absorbs over 90% of excess heat and approximately 30% of excess carbon emissions, playing a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change (Tanzer, 2020). As the Pacific Islands are at the forefront of climate change’s adverse effects, it is evident that the health of the Pacific Ocean is intricately linked with the future of our planet. The urgency of addressing climate change in this region is further magnified by the fact that Pacific Islanders are among the first to bear the brunt of climate change, risking the loss of their entire way of life. Within this pivotal intersection, the future of the Pacific and its people assumes unparalleled significance, calling for concerted efforts to ensure their preservation and adaptability in the face of impending challenges and amplify peacebuilding efforts for a better future.

Pasifika Futurism is a proactive framework designed to address and prevent potential issues before they escalate. It centers on reclaiming the past to shape a better future. This approach embraces traditional knowledge and practices while integrating innovation and new technologies. Ultimately, Pasifika Futurism seeks to envision and build a brighter future for Pacific Islanders and all humanity. It promotes peace, sustainability, and adaptability while upholding the past’s rich cultural heritage and traditions. For those facing the severe challenges of climate change, Pasifika Futurism serves as a beacon of hope and strength, offering visions of adaptability in the face of potential devastation. Most notably, it is a practical and strategic tool for enhancing climate adaptability and sustainability efforts, delivering tangible benefits to Pacific and Indigenous communities.

Key Principles of Pasifika Futurism

Pacific Islanders have long embraced a futurist mindset, demonstrated by the pioneering voyagers who navigated the uncharted Pacific before the Age of Sail and by leaders like King Kamehameha of Hawai‘i, who adeptly utilized Western technology and economics to unify the islands. Their visionary actions exemplify a tradition of Pasifika futurism, blending ancestral wisdom with innovative approaches to shape the future.

One of the core principles underpinning Pasifika Futurism is the dual importance of grassroots, nongovernmental engagement, and government and policy work. This concept transcends the confines of national politics alone; instead, it encompasses the significance of local, state, and national political spheres, all crucial to thriving communities. Pasifika Futurism elevates communities’ pivotal role in decision-making and action by fostering a spirit of inclusion in policymaking alongside a bottom-up approach. By embracing a more comprehensive and holistic approach to civil action, Pasifika Futurism ensures the inclusion and consideration of the needs and perspectives of all individuals, including Indigenous communities and those historically marginalized and oppressed. This synergistic fusion of grassroots involvement and government engagement emerges as a potent catalyst for progress, embodying the collective power of diverse stakeholders united towards creating more just futures for all.

Another core principle integral to Pasifika Futurism is the profound significance of traditional knowledge and practices. Although the term “Futurism” inherently implies a forward focus, Pasifika Futurism encapsulates the idea that the past can profoundly inform the future. It emphasizes the power of continuing ancestral wisdom and knowledge from Indigenous cultures and communities. Embracing time-honored and traditional practices, such as those in agriculture and ecosystem management, will play a crucial role in promoting sustainable land use and bolstering adaptability amid the challenges posed by a changing climate.

Pasifika Futurism and Climate Work

As a tool for climate work, Pasifika Futurism primarily finds expression through the concept of “island adaptability” and the vital inclusion of small island communities, especially susceptible to climate change, in the global climate change conversation. Meaningfully incorporating island expertise and Indigenous science and technology into global climate solutions and policy development, the adaptability of these island communities becomes a catalyst for more robust, adaptive, and sustainable societies.

Pasifika Futurism Framework

Drawing inspiration from the more mainstream design and future planning processes, Pasifika Futurism involves a series of carefully orchestrated steps to address Pacific Islander communities’ specific challenges and aspirations.

  1. GROUND in place by scanning the environment, including social, economic, technological, political, and environmental factors
  2. GATHER data to gain a comprehensive understanding of the present situation and potential future trajectories. Identify emerging trends, signals, and drivers of change that could shape the future
  3. BUILD scenarios that depict different possible futures based on the trends, signals, and drivers of change
  4. ANALYZE the potential impacts of each scenario on human life and the natural environment
  5. IMAGINE the potential implications of each scenario on human life and the natural environment
  6. CRAFT strategies and plans for human life and the natural environment to adapt and thrive in each scenario
  7. ORGANIZE the strategies into actionable steps and prioritize them based on feasibility, urgency, and potential impact
  8. COLLABORATE and invite perspectives to enrich the understanding and development of potential futures
  9. MONITOR the environment for shifts in trends, signals, and drivers of change to ensure strategies remain relevant and effective

While there isn’t a singular defining step that sets Pasifika Futurism apart from mainstream Futurism, its focus on community collaboration, oceans, and island traditions infuses the entire process with distinctive Pasifika themes.

Loko Iʻa

The restoration and revitalization of Loko I’a, traditional Hawaiian fishponds, illustrates a practical application of Pasifika Futurism. Loko I’a exemplify a community-oriented system that promotes collaboration, shared benefits, cultural preservation, and community adaptability. They offer immense potential for food production and hold promise as a valuable revenue source, particularly with limu (seaweed) emerging as a promising commodity in the years to come. Modern aquaculture systems have a higher average yield (4,000–5,000 pounds of fish per acre annually) than Loko I’a (2,000 pounds of fish per acre annually). However, modern aquaculture relies heavily on external feed, averaging 35 pounds of daily feed per acre, while Loko I’a do not require any external feed (Banrie 2013). While modern aquaculture boasts higher yields due to its dependence on external resources, it falls short in self-sufficiency and sustainability compared to the traditional and autonomous Loko I’a.

Loko I’a also contribute to the local economy, mirroring the economic value of modern shellfish and seaweed farms. According to a recent study by NOAA scientists and collaborators, shellfish and seaweed farms remove approximately 575 pounds of nitrogen per acre, providing valuable ecosystem services. Shellfish aquaculture is estimated to yield between $1,321 to $7,739 per acre annually, while seaweed aquaculture falls within the range of $753 to $10,110 per acre annually (NOAA Coastal Science, 2022). Like modern aquaculture farms, Loko I’a also offer crucial ecosystem services. Acting as vital nursery habitats for shellfish and seaweed, they remove nitrogen from marine waters, regulate nutrient levels, and provide a safe environment for the growth of young fish.

How Fishponds work within the framework of Pasifika Futurism

  1. BACKGROUND — Hawaiians face the imperative of finding new food sources due to a history of exploitation that has diminished the islands’ ability to produce local food. This has resulted in exorbitant food prices in Hawai‘i , and with the looming specter of climate change, future food security could be jeopardized.
  2. GATHERING INFORMATION — Extensive research indicates that global food security will face unprecedented threats due to climate change, environmental degradation, and resource overconsumption. This will lead to the extinction of certain foods.
  3. BUILDING A SCENARIO — A plausible future scenario suggests that the warming and acidification of the Pacific Ocean will decrease its productivity. Concurrently, as global food security declines, Hawai‘i’s ability to import sufficient food will diminish, rendering food security on the islands unstable. Consequently, food prices may surge, and staple foods that many rely on for nutrition might become scarce.
  4. ANALYSIS — Such a future outlook paints a challenging landscape for Hawai‘i. In the worst-case scenario, widespread hunger could prevail, and Hawai‘i may no longer be economically sustainable for many inhabitants. Conversely, the best-case scenario entails Hawai‘i investing in local food sources to adapt and cultivate greater agricultural independence.
  5. IMAGINATION — This potential future could dramatically reshape Hawai‘i’s community, with numerous individuals compelled to leave for the continental US merely to secure sustenance. As food security and nutritional conditions decline, the overall health of Hawai‘i’s remaining population could deteriorate, leading to a cascade of effects, including increased illnesses and decreased productivity.
  6. STRATEGY — Loko I’a fishponds present a viable solution for enhancing Hawai‘i’s food security by providing local fish, algae, and other food options while benefiting the local environment by serving as nurseries for young marine species. Moreover, they serve as platforms for additional infrastructure, such as solar panels and community events like school field trips.
  7. ORGANIZATION — Throughout Hawai‘i, many sites with historical Loko I’a fishponds are being revitalized through the collaborative efforts of local volunteers, transforming them into aquaculture farms to supply fish and algae to local markets.
  8. COLLABORATION — The local community plays an integral role in establishing and maintaining Loko I’a fishponds and providing input on the types of fish to be grown. In the future, a local farming collective will likely oversee the management of these fishponds.
  9. MONITORING — Those responsible for the Loko I’a fishponds work closely with researchers and community members to optimize their capacity and adapt to changing circumstances resulting from climate change, such as rising sea levels, intensified storms, and water acidification.

Futurists can focus on and develop any stage to meet their unique goals, and multi-year processes or implementations are not unusual.

Hawaiian Fishing Practices and ecological regeneration

Hawaiian traditional fishing practices are another example of Pasifika Futurism’s principles-in-action, embracing a comprehensive policy approach that places the utmost importance on the long-term sustainability of fish stocks rather than short-term catch. One significant facet of these practices involves the enforcement of seasonal fishing bans, providing marine ecosystems the opportunity to rejuvenate and fish populations to flourish once more. Communities willingly make immediate sacrifices, such as refraining from fishing during critical spawning seasons to secure a more supply. This showcases a profound awareness of the intricate relationship between human activities and the environment. By drawing upon ancestral knowledge from the past to ensure the well-being of their marine ecosystems in the future, these historical practices serve as a remarkable example of Pasifika Futurism in action.

Historically, these practices were wildly successful beyond modern fishing practices in both production and sustainability. Studies have revealed that ancient Hawaiians consistently caught three times the amount of fish annually compared to what is typically deemed sustainable in modern times by scientists, and they continued this level of harvest for over 400 years (McClenachan, L & JN Kittinger 2012). This strategic approach, rooted in Indigenous knowledge and sustainability, fostered a harmonious balance between human needs and the preservation of fragile ecosystems, ultimately contributing to Pacific communities’ overall adaptability and well-being of Pacific communities before colonization.

“If we want to continue to catch fish, we have to create places where there is no fishing,” said Fiorenza Micheli, The David and Lucile Packard Professor of Marine Science and a scientist involved in the study.

Studies have found evidence to support this ancient wisdom. A recent study led by Stanford researchers tracked vessels during a short-lived trawling moratorium in the Adriatic Sea and found that fishers maintained their catch levels by fishing elsewhere, suggesting that such bans can protect overfished regions without hurting people’s livelihoods and could influence efforts to protect other sensitive regions (Elahi 2018). Bluntly put, “If we want to continue to catch fish, we have to create places where there is no fishing,” said Fiorenza Micheli, The David and Lucile Packard Professor of Marine Science at Stanford University and a scientist involved in the previously mentioned study (Kravec 2018). This research illustrates the significance of Pasifika Futurism, showing how much historical practices align with scientific knowledge. By incorporating values and knowledge from Pacific Islander communities into conservation plans, we can make them more targeted and successful than blanket approaches across the ocean, drastically helping efforts to protect our oceans’ health.


Within the expansive realm of Pasifika Futurism, a significant aspect emerges known as Eco-Literature, which centers on ecological conflicts like pollution, deforestation, and climate change. This literature weaves together narratives that envision potential futures and profoundly delve into the intricate web of ecological relationships and responsibilities intrinsic to Pacific Island cultures.

In their Eco-Literature, Pacific authors exalt the exquisite allure and cultural significance of the ocean, islands, trees, and flowers. Yet, they display admirable fortitude by daringly confronting the disquieting realities of escalating sea levels, the relentless march of animal extinctions, the specter of nuclear radiation, the enduring scars of military contamination, and the ravages inflicted by pandemics. Eco-Literatures are a poignant reminder that we are never alone; we exist in a perpetual state of interconnectedness, forever entwined with our ecological surroundings. The intricate tapestry of life is deeply intertwined, encompassing not only humanity, diverse species and nature itself. Land and water, these foundational elements, are central in shaping individual identities and tracing ancestral lineage.

Eco-Literatures serve as poignant reminders that we are never alone; we exist in a perpetual state of interconnectedness, forever entwined with our ecological surroundings.

A noteworthy addition to the realm of media that sheds light on the Pacific Islander experience is the book Indigenous Pacific Islander Eco-Literatures. The anthology comprises original poetry and prose that raises awareness about the environmental devastation in the Pacific and explores the profound connection between the climate crisis and ecological colonialism — one of the forefront challenges faced by the region. (ASLE 2023) Described as “urgent and illuminating,” the anthology brings Indigenous voices and stories together, a powerful reminder of nature’s sanctity. By delving into its pages, readers gain insights into the themes of vulnerability, adaptability, identity, and hope intricately woven within and around the Pacific Islander experience. This collection serves as an educational resource, imparting knowledge and fostering a deeper understanding of the pressing issues and unique perspectives emerging from the Pacific region. By expanding the narratives and messages of Pacific Islanders, we can communicate and build a network of peace using our stories as the strands that bind us together.

Tying it all together

The unwavering commitment of Pacific Islanders to safeguard their ecosystems, preserve their identities, and prepare for climate change impacts sets a remarkable example for the world. It lays the foundation for harmonious coexistence, equitable resource management, and peacebuilding In a region profoundly impacted by climate change, Pacific Islanders continue to illustrate the importance of incorporating peacebuilding into climate mitigation efforts, and the inextricable connection between caring for the land, and caring for each other. Embracing Pasifika Futurism as a visionary framework for climate preparedness becomes imperative for building peace in the Pacific, illuminating pathways toward more peaceful and climate-adaptive futures for all, and especially those on the frontlines of climate peril.

. . .

Gregory Louia graduate of UC San Diego, is a speculative designer with a passion for storytelling and creating diverse and grounded stories. Growing up in Hawai’i, he was exposed to the various cultures that make up the grand tapestry of Hawai’i’s people, which sparked his interest in different worlds and which eventually led to his passion for speculative design, environmentalism and indigenous futurism. He is a dedicated creator with a diverse skill set and a passion for using design to solve real-world problems. He is currently applying for law school with an intent to pursue a career in environmental law.


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Elahi, R., & et al. (2018). Leveraging vessel traffic data and a temporary fishing closure to inform marine management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16(8), 440–446.

Kravec, N. (2018, August 2). Fishing Bans Protect Fish, Don’t Harm Fishing Communities. Stanford News. Retrieved from