New Publication! “Residents of Hawai‘i’s Climate Decisions to Remain or Migrate’’ Journal Article

What are the psychological and social factors that contribute to decisions of residents of Hawai‘i to remain or retreat from their homes as a result of pending climate-related disasters?

By Isabella Pucker

People are bonded to place. While climate change is a global issue, each place experiences its impacts differently and is worthy of inquiry. Place-based research on the Hawaiian Islands revealed residents’ connection to their communities and their resistance to migration in the face of increasing climate impacts.

A recently published peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Ecopsychology explores the psychology of decision making in the context of climate change. Situated on the Hawaiian Islands, the study presented in this paper examines the psychological and social factors that underlie the decisions of coastal residents to consider climate migration.

This is the first study of its kind to be conducted on the Hawaiian Islands. The main themes that emerged from this research are highlighted in this graphic and further explored in the journal article. A central finding of this research is that residents of Hawaiʻi are deeply connected to their place and are therefore also highly attuned to the risks posed to their environment and community. Residents supported adaptive measures to mitigate climate risks, yet were not inclined to move away from their homes in response to these impacts–a sentiment that is summed up in the following quotation from an interviewee of this study:

I tell everybody, they’ll have to carry me out of here in a box. You know, it’s just one: a beautiful place, two: it’s very peaceful, it’s quiet, and the people, it’s a perfect small community.” — Study Participant

This publication is the product of over a year of research, community outreach, writing, analysis, and editing. The project reflects a collaborative effort between a team of four women researchers–Isabella Pucker, Dr. Michelle McCauley, Dr. Kealoha Fox, and Dr. Allison Jacobel–with expertise in a wide range of topics, including psychology, peace studies, climate change, earth studies, oceanography, and community-based research. Isabella (Bella) Pucker, the primary researcher and author, initiated this project as part of her Senior Thesis at Middlebury College, yet she (and the other co-authors) have continued to work on this project beyond Bella’s college tenure.

This research will be presented in a scientific poster presentation at the American Public Health Administration Annual Meeting during the Environmental Health Impacts of Climate and Disasters Poster Session this November 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Check out the publication here:

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Bella Pucker is a recent graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Psychology, known as a Conservation Psychology major. Bella has just completed her thesis titled “A Consideration of Residents of Hawai’i’s Decisions to Remain or Retreat.” Bella is passionate about climate migration, environmental justice, and the behavioral science aspects of environmental communication and decision-making. Bella is originally from Massachusetts and is living in Washington, D.C. as a Knowledge Management Intern, Center for Communities and Conservation Conservation International. She is on special assignment at ICP for publishing her senior thesis this Fall.


Pucker, I, McCauley, M., Fox, K., and Jacobel, A. (2022). Residents of Hawaiʻi’s Climate Decisions to Remain or Migrate. Journal of Ecopsychology. Ahead of print.

Researchers can also access this article through Web of Science: Emerging Sources Citation Index™ (ESCI), Scopus. PsycINFO. GreenFILE, and BenchSci.