Take Back PNG

As we immerse ourselves in local politics, let us not forget that we a part of a bigger world political system. We may want to believe we hold the reins to our political system, but we are in a school of small fish caught between the “clash of the titans” – the EU, USA, China, Japan. Is that reason enough for us to sit back and resign to our fate and go where the tsunami of world politics take us??

Absolutely not. Our smallness in the big pool also means we can go under the radar. Our lack of dependence in the big global machinery means,we are immune to some of the effects of global politics.

We may be small in the eyes of the world, but 8 million is big enough to sustain a local market. We should concentrate on our local markets.

As PM JM said in his address to the nation – let us build on our strengths. Let the islands specialize in island things, let the highlands specialize in highlands commodities and let the coastals do what they are good at.

If Kina fails us one of these days, we can always revert to the 50,000 year system that had always worked for us – the barter system. Specialization allowed barter to take place and that kept our traditional economies buoyant. Family, kinship, tribal alliances – those are our strength. We survived 50,000 years, we can go another 50,000 if only we believe in our selves and our systems to take care of us.

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We need to grow our population

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Bona or  food sharing by the Zia Tribe, Morobe. Papua New Guinea.

Survival is a numbers game. More people means more heads, more ideas, and a diverse and resilient gene pool. More numbers mean more work force, bigger markets, bigger army, bigger fire power. Louder protests. We increase our human potential when we increase our numbers.

Population growth is good for us. If you disagree then you have been brainwashed. Wake up. Think for yourself. Or else when you die, you will do so  without realizing your potential.

All the life-force you will ever need to live a meaningful life – you are born with all that intact.  You inherit your unique potential from two very resilient people – your mother and your father.  Combining this genetic mishmash with the unconscious piling of knowledge from the past that we call instinct. On top of that, the memory bank  inherited from past lives that is passed down through blood. All these are your latent potential.

But wait!  And because you are alive, everyday you can choose to add new tools to your expanding repertoire of arsenal by availing yourself to new experiences.

It has been proven: Your potential can take you from your backwoods, splitting firewood   to splitting genes in a cryonics laboratory. All you need is a razor sharp will.  Your will is your mental power to control and direct your thoughts and actions despite circumstances. If you will it, it will. If you will it not, it will not.

How is all this related to growing a population?

In statistics – the bigger the sample size, the more refined the result. Your potential can only be buoyed and lifted to the next level by sheer force of number. How? Because many people share your value system and history. The same reason why Miss PNG keeps winning the Miss Internet in the Pacific beauty pageant.

Many people means a bigger thinking and reasoning population.  In the face of competition, the life-forces  keep reinventing self to become  more and more  potent. 

In a bigger gene pool, the genetic variation is large. In a bigger genetic pool, we have increased buffer against erosion. In a bigger genetic pool, there is a bigger potential for everything . Why reduce our gene pool? For whose benefit?

The most quoted reason why we should not grow our population is that we do not have enough resources.

What resources? Land is not the problem, we have enough for 8.5 million people… compared to Bali and Sumatra and Lombok – all squashed on a pinhead.
Food? Everybody eats from a garden…. it is in our genes to work the land. Only lazy people do not work the land. Money? There will never be enough money ever, but we can learn to live within our means.

The problem is when we become dependent , our will power is dampened and our power for self-governance is eroded.  The ‘true  north’ of our Melanesian compass is despised as primitive and discarded  for the Eurocentric one. So we become like children, wanting to be like ‘them’, but not knowing how to do, must be led by the hand.

The irony: living a fulfilled life by trusting your instinct based on a value system and time-tested principals is not a new phenomena. In the days of old, our forefathers had principals in war as in peacetime. So which one is authentic for you – you decide.

The human potential aka the life-force shimmering under the surface ready is ready to be ignited into action. We need to take our potential back. A bigger population can withstand the erosion of our cultural pride.

What should we do?

First, we need a more smarter and radical leadership.  A leadership that is selfish about PNG. A leadership that is dependent yet independent. A leadership that has pride for country. A leadership that can see the potential that is locked in us. A leadership that understands that, all of us – all people of the world – red, yellow, white or black – we are sojourners:  here today and gone tomorrow.  We need a radical leadership that understands that all cultures and value systems are equal wherever God placed us.  We are built for our environment – like fish, we need water and we do not have to judge ourselves harshly for not becoming a tree climbing fish.

We need a leadership that uses their head and heart to make good long-term decisions for the country and not for their pockets for short-term gain.  Afterall, where in the world will you you say at the end of the day: I have come home; I am home – but here – where your umbilical cord is buried.

In a bigger population, competition will cull mediocrity and the cream of leadership will rise to the top.

Then we need education. Education that gives us pride  in the basics, the laws and principals that opens our eyes to our innate life-force. When we have acknowledged our innate power, then we will start living to our full potential. We will believe in ourselves and not be swayed by latest trends that go against our values.

A good education system provides a negative feedback loop to population growth. A good education  gives people options to do many things including the information to control their fertility.  In 2019, the guesstimate is that we have close to 10 million people – a badly educated 10 million people will become 20 million in the next 20 years. A radical education initiative can half  that predicted number.

In a smaller population, this idea will be scoffed and left to die. In a bigger population, with a bigger thinking capacity, this idea will be buoyed by debates and  criticism until it makes sense, to be embraced and acted upon. And when this idea become common knowledge, generations will just acquire it at birth. People will live it. There will be no need to justify it.

We need to take our country back. It is up to us to decide to grow our population or not and shouldn’t be determined by outsiders.

 

Trust yourself

When you are given an hammer, all you will see is nails, similarly, the more we talk negative, the more challenges we will see. We need a change of mindset, look for opportunities in the challenges and we will see more opportunities…and importantly, celebrate achievements, no matter how small, as great achievements in history are collection of all the little victories.

We are as good as anyone in the world – have faith in your ability to lead. If we don’t trust ourselves who else will? We have to stop playing victim and start taking control of our life. 

Everyone in the world is out to satisfy a need or a greed, even charity these days comes with a price tag. Therefore there is no guarantee for change if you put your hope on others – only we can help ourselves.

That is why one man with a clear vision to lead us is enough, but it will be an accelerated change if more man capture the vision. And the sign of a great leader is his/her ability to create visionaries.

 

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Book Review:  ‘My Walk to Equality

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Walk to Equality

The theme for  the 2017 International Women’s Day was “Be Bold for Change”. The launching of the anthology on that day was a bold step toward putting the spotlight on woman issues  in Papua New Guinea.

The anthology is a 280 paged book containing 84 entries from 40 women writers – both established and emerging writers. The stories, poems, and essays contain accounts by women who are striving to create a better and stronger PNG for women with their words immortalized in this anthology.

The women, with brutal honesty tell their story, they give their solutions and ask the pertinent questions to probe further thinking that will require honesty and humility in addressing.

Rashmii Amoah Bell, the editor of the anthology says in her essay, ‘Embracing the dark future to see PNG emerge into the light’,  that change can happen through literature. She advocates the use of writing as a tool, to explore new grounds – including taboo subjects – as a means for starting conversations and looking for solutions.

This is one way PNG women can create a better and stronger PNG, by just telling our stories. Our stories may be accepted or they may be rejected but the stories will exist as a beacon in our walk to equality. Through our stories we walk into the dark future to emerge into light.

A. Be bold because courage is contagious

Being bold in the face of challenges is one way women can create a better and stronger PNG because courage is contagious.

Caroline Evari relocates with her family from Port Moresby to Oro and after a while, she moves back to Port Moresby by herself.

She goes through a lot of struggles but despite that she comes out a victor.  She says, “your mind is your greatest enemy, not the people around you.  Reach for the stars and keep running until you have achieved your goal.”

On the walk to equality, we have to be bold and courageous, because there are eyes watching.

As women, we ask for permission to do a lot of things, but the first thing we need to do is to give ourselves the permission to be great.

In Madlyn Baida’s story, a village lass, she wanted to learn to read and write and get an education. She allowed herself to dream. Once she knew her dream, she saw opportunities when they came up. Her husband was her support and enabled to achieve her freedom.

Be good at what you do because that is the currency that will take women’s voice onto the table for negotiations

To create a better and stronger PNG, we need to get more women into decision making positions so that they may show favorable consideration to the women’s walk to equality.

There is an adage that says, ‘if you are good at what you do, you will serve before Kings’. Do something with your life.

Be good at something. It does not matter what you do or whether you are as young as Iriani Wanma, the author of the grasshopper story or middle aged or somewhere in between. If you are good you will be favored. And when you are recognized, make use of your position to address the plight of the sisterhood.

We already have many role models who have done just that. Women can always match the stride of the society.  Some of these prominent PNG women include Winifred Kamit, Finckewe Zurenuo, Jane Mogina, Betty Lovai and the late Judge Davani, whose tribute can be seen in the anthology.

I am as proud of the sisterhood at the Division of Education in Simbu as told by Roslyn Tony. Despite a lot of push-back from a paternalistic society, these women acted with integrity and transparency and were eventually accepted as leaders in their communities.

B.      We have to be responsible for the sisterhood

Even if women make up 50% of the population, we are still treated as a minority due to our positions in the community. We have a duty of care to stand up for our sisters.

“If only I could save you, you’d still have a heartbeat.”  This eerie phrase from Vanessa Gordon’s Drum beat is haunting. It is full of regret. We have to take action to help a sister and the children and the helpless.

To help our sisters we have to know our rights.  Dominica Are tells the story of how Pauline saved her life by walking away from a bad situation all because she know her rights. Not many women have that knowledge.

It is our duty to teach as well as mentor other woman to be the best.  Alurigo does that with the XOX: We are Champions group. It does not have to be on the national stage but at our own little spheres of influence.

We have to support any form of education. The most inspiring story I read was by Alphonse Huvi from West New Britain.  Her father was against her education and did not make resources available, but, through support from her auntie Oripa, she became a teacher and was eventually accepted by her father. We have a duty to support our girls to get an education.

C.        Too big a work for women alone – Patriarchy can help

Patriarchy can play a big role to helping women build a better and stronger PNG.

In the anthology, there are six stories that pay tribute to patriarchy for being the source of strength for these six women. This shows the important role of the male gender in helping women in our walk to equality.

Helen Anderson in her essay Mixed race meri Markham pays tribute to her male relatives for helping her fit into her society. While Emma Wapki pays tribute to her male relatives for being fair, loving and supportive

The fine story by Alurigo on Sir Dawanicura is an example of leaders leading by example. He has brought a family friendly atmosphere to the PNG Olympics Committee. Family is the basic building block of society if we do not lead with wisdom and flexibility in this changing times, we can contribute to the breakdown in family, which will lead to breakdown in society, and eventually breakdown in the nation.

D.      The society will not change until the family changes

Families are the cornerstone of societies.  We learn how to be function as members of society by learning from within our family circles. We build from strength to strength when we have a stable roots.  A stable family can be the base for creating a better and stronger PNG.

Florence Jonduo   talks about parenting children says that the children are innocent, they are brought up without their permission and that is why, adults we have moral and legal obligation to look after them.  And whatever we teach them when they are young, sets them up for life.

But sometimes children turn out wrong. Whose fault is that when we observe generations of young people who have no plans for life,  “the lost men” as Marlene Dee Gray Potoura  describes the situation. Marlene asks a pertinent questions,  “Are the lost men the fault of women?”

Rosyln Tony also asks some very hard questions about why things are falling apart in our society. If we honestly answer the questions, we may find that it will lead us to families and that is where we may come up with long-lasting and meaning full solutions for the problems we see in our society.

Conclusion

No woman or group of women can fully address those pertinent questions single-handed. We need the help of society through policies and laws.

As we look at shaping policies for the future, I hope we all take those important decisions from the perspective of young mothers.

Lapieh Landu in her poem Fear Unbearable writes about her fears for her baby as she contemplates the future.  If all people responsible for creating laws can make those laws from the position of new mothers, looking at her helpless infant, then we may take all the necessary steps to secure a better future for the generation yet to come.  For we are fighting a cause that is not for us but for the future generation.

The Nothofagus

Some 100 million years ago, the ancestors of Nothofagus first appeared on Gondwana. Today the  Nothofagus is common in South America, New Zealand, Antarctica, Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. The present distribution of the plant is evidence that these landmasses might once have been joined.

Nothofagus is commonly referred to as the southern beech and is a genus of 35 species of trees.  According to the recent data, the Nothofagacea has four subgenera; the Brassopora, the Nothofagus, Fuscospora and the Lophorzonia. Living specimen from those four subgenus are found in New Zealand; South America; New Guinea; New Caledonia.

Fourteen species of Nothofagus are currently recognised in the taxonomically distinct subsection Bipartitae, occurring in New Guinea from 700 – 3,150 m above sea level (asl), mostly above 1400 m asl., in areas of high rainfall and cool climates, except for the New Guinea low altitude occurrences which are normally cloud-bound (Read and Hope 1989).

All members of sub genera Brassospora are gregarious species, commonly dominating the canopy (Keast 1981; Read and Hope 1989). The large canopy tree can grow to 20-50 m high but rarely grows to 60 m and are flat topped. They have a cylindrical bole (up to 150 cm diameter which is straight for up to 25 m long). The tallest tend to occur at valley bottoms or stable slopes; mid altitude slopes canopy ~ 30-40 and comprise one or two species; however, at very high altitude or in environment that is under suboptimal conditions the tree tends to be stunted and shrubby.

Nothofagus is a monoecious trees, accommodating both the male and the female flowers on the same tree.  The male flowers appear earlier than the female and wind dispersed seed results in very poor and regeneration within a short distance of the tree. In addition due to the seeds being wind pollinated, there is a lot of hybridization and introgression, giving rise to seed capsules that are sterile; furthermore, a large proportion of the seed is destroyed by insect predation or fungal attack (Ash 1982).

Tropical Nothofagus are affected by low temperatures because, the tropical Nothofagus are not exposed to extreme temperatures like the Southern species, as a result are not able to photosynthesize in extreme temperatures. Therefore, the New Guinea showed a lower frost resistance than southern species (Read and Hope 1989; Read et al. 2005) which is related to the geographic and climatic range of these species.  This has implications for the climate change. This tree family will be affected as the world heats up further.

Furthermore, Ash (1988) observed dieback in Nothofagus stands on Mount Wilhelm. The dieback was not related to any drought period (Arentz 1988). A possible explanation reached by Ash (1988) and Arentz (1988) is that even aged must die from stress as a result of, nutrient deficiency or infection by a pathogen. Periods of heavy frost which are often associated with drought may provide an additional trigger for stand-level dieback of Nothofagus. However studies of die backs in Tasmania show that the die back is the result of a pathogen attack.   The tree has also been observed to regenerate from diebacks by lignotubers and epicormic stems that coppice after the die back (Arentz 1988).

Nothofagus is widespread in PNG within their attitudinal range. Due to the widespread nature of the tree there is currently no conservation effort. However, because of its slender and straight bole as well as the characteristic of this tree to grow in even-aged stands it is a good building tree. However, in PNG the tree is not exported in significant numbers because grows in inaccessible slopes in the interior.

The Nothofagus species is a remnant of vegetation which was once on the super continent Gondwana, therefore, it is a legacy from that period in the geological history of the earth.

References

  1. ARENTZ, F. (1988) Stand-level dieback etiology and its consequences in the forests of Papua New Guinea. GeoJournal, 17, 209-215.
  2. ASH, J. (1988) Nothofagus (Fagaceae) forest on Mt Giluwe, New Guinea. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 26, 245 – 256.
  3. READ, J. & HOPE, G. S. (1989) Foliar frost resistance of some evergreen tropical extra tropical Australian Nothofagus species. Australian Journal of Botany, 37, 361-373.
  4. READ, J., HOPE, G. S. & HILL, R. (2005) Phytogeography and climate analysis of Nothofagus subgenus Brassospora in New Guinea and New Caledonia. Australian Journal of Botany, 53, 297-312.
  5. READ, J., JAFFRE, T., MCCOY, S. & HOPE, G. S. (2006) Does soil determine the boundaries of monodorminant rainforest with adjacent mixed rain forest and maquis on ultramafic soils in New Caledonia? Journal of Biogeography, 33, 1055-1065.
  6. VAN VALKENBURG, J. L. C. H. & KETNER, P. (1994) Vegetation changes following human disturbance of mid-montane forest in the Wau area, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 10, 41-54.
  7. HYNDMAN, D. C. & MENZIES, J. I. (1990) Rain Forests of the Ok Tedi Headwaters, New Guinea: An ecological analysis. Journal of Biogeography, 17, 241-273.
  8. KEAST, A. (1981) Ecological biogeography of Australia, Junk bv Publishers, The Hague, Boston,.

Midnight musing on purpose of life.

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Little dancer from Milne Bay Province

Have you ever felt lost in a place full of information, ever felt invisible in a place full of humans or being chained by invisible threads to a conscience?

Do you feel the danger of falling off the track of time when you stop to catch a breath. You stop and blink and time has moved on. Does it make you scared that time will pass you  so you struggle to keep up even if that  means crawling on all four.

Have you ever pondered the injustice of cortisol accumulating from all those harassment until the ulcer or cancer gobbles your life from the inside out.

Do you wonder to whose mad drumming we are marching to? Is it to Mother Nature? For to her, we are just animals – programmed to live long enough to perpetuate our genes. Survival of the fittest they say, it is my genes or no genes.

Or are we marching to a celestial beat that already has our lives programmed – like a pawn played in a chess match which you and I have not even agreed to play in the first place. Or is life and the standard thereof a result of energy fields swirling  around humans as they walk – the tendrils attracting or repelling.

How will we know if we have achieved our purpose for being the lucky sperm that won the lottery to life out of the other 30 million?

What is contentment? Is it in having enough to not live in need? Is it in the making and enjoying of family? Is it in collecting trophies that will rust in time and accolades that are so whimsical, they can be retracted tomorrow ? Or is contentment about remaining relevant in space and time?

There must be more to life than just putting a 8 hr day at the office, go home eat, sleep, wake-up and repeat the whole rat-race again for the rest of my days.  And when I try to assert my will to live consciously by my own plan, I get a push back. If life is like a flowing river, then my effort is like a roe trying to swim upstream.  Will I make it in time?

From this point of view, growing old is a curse. Experience opens up opportunities, but the body will grow old  – it will become feeble and unsteady and stiff. When the body approaches its use-by date,  it is better for the mind to follow suit. If not, then the mind will becomes a prisoner in the decaying carcass – a prisoner to the human ability to project memories of days gone, the ability to reminisce and have  regrets. With endless time and and a big canvas, the elderly sit vacant in their decaying shell as their memories torture their  daytime and keep them awake in the nighttime.

Young blood, strong bones, clear eyes and flexible joints  – source of envy – strut their stuff on their catwalk. In the era of technology and space travel and unlimited knowledge- will the young people of the future have a better life than ours??

I don’t think so. I believe the generations that are coming will go through the same motion as we are – just like how our mother and our grandmother did before us.

If humanity does not run itself to extinction,  then in thousands of years from now – regardless of whether the future generation migrate to the moon or Mars or stay in a much polluted earth – the remnants of our genes will go through the same motions – birth, work, work, work, regret, more regrets then death.

What is the purpose of life then? when I try to slow down to figure it out, the world keeps turning, I cannot think, I feel suffocated and I feel more lost than I first started this essay.

 

Embrace Failure

For too long I have believed that failure is elimination.  Permanent. Forever. Banishment from opportunities.

But it was flawed mindset.  it was a lie all along. A big fat lie.

Failure is a purification process. It is a refining process. The more times you fail, the more polised and refined you become.

But the catch: you must be willing to change. To grow. To be better than your yesterday.

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My Culture, my Pride.

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No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian, the unspoken nuances we intuitively know – it is flowing in our blood, the blood of a proud people, warriors, headhunters , refined over thousands of years.

Our culture grounds us in our environment, for it was built for us and and suits us and it served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain, among melanesians, we can maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can proudly take our stand with all other cultures in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

But the fact of the matter is that the western culture has taken over the world. Their domination of the world is very thorough that all other cultures must be westernised to even register as a nation.

The western way of life has merits and demerits. The thrust of the western culture is to homogenise all cultures – from clothes to language to unit of transaction. Cultures are judged harshly for not fitting in. For instance, the nations of the world are ranked by the height of their stash of cash. If your stash is small, then you are a failed nation. But what is money to cultures who have no need for it? The western culture seeks to perpetuate their criteria –  a criteria shaped by their  value system.

The demise of our culture is perpetuated further when we  shun our culture as ‘kanaka’, because we have been brainwashed that ours is primitive and the glamour of the West is the standard.  In our  haste to fit in, we are found wanting because we will never become ‘westernised’ enough.

But the fact remains, our culture is our identification marker, suitable for us and it defines who we are. Our culture can only be as strong as we make it to be.

Our challenge now is to give prominence to our very own culture regardless of pressures from outside.

When people come to our land, let us show them that we are proud of our culture because it is our identity and it is worth the prominence of place we give it.

What legacy are we leaving for the grand kids?

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Mother and child fishing on the Lake Kutubu in the Foe and Fasu Tribal Land. Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

In our haste to pimp our short lives on earth, we have altered the value system and the balance that has preserved nature for millions of years. What kind of future do we envisage for the grand kids, when we race to build jungles of concrete, steel and glass? How are we helping the future when we create artificial food, color it and store them in cans? What indeed is the life we want for our descendants when our actions show that nature conservation is dirty and primitive and concrete jungles are modern and fashionable?

The human at home in his natural environment depended on nature and was sustained by  the resources in nature. From hardware needs, to medicine and food and spirituality – all from nature.

The economy of nature was based on sharing  surplus. The demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the specialization of clans and tribes nurtured the barter system. Man bartered for things he did not have with things he had in surplus. The specialisation and barter system sustained the subsistance economy.

The ability of human beings to control decay rates at whim testifies of advanced brain development. This power to stave off wrinkles, disease and death and create life in test tube has infused men with a sense of arrogance and reckless power. The ability to cement, brick, glass and plastic inventions into eternity makes him forget that life is fragile and breakable and that the human body starts dying as soon as we are born.

The base instinct of man is dictated by the selfish gene.  The selfish gene is an atheist, it has no empathy nor morals.  The selfish gene, drunk in his own powers is concerned with perpetuating itself at all cost. Self, family, clan and tribe – that is his circle of trust. The controls put in place by society and culture to ensure co’operation, exists only within his circle of trust. Anything outside is enemy.

In his greed, man has also hastened decay rate of nature.  Man is razing thousands of years of old forest in a blink of an eye and slaughtering octogenarian elephants and rhino to make earrings and bangles. Digging and drilling to pimp his short life – to dress it up – to make life as useful as a chimpanzee all decked out: alas;  only 1% genetic material separates humans from chimpanzees. We are but glorified chimps, so who are we trying to impress?

Environment conservation and environment annihilation are on the extreme ends of the continuum of human survival. In the course of living, we tread the fine line between overuse and sustainable use. Greed has blurred the line in favor of hoarding for one over preserving for all.

Humans need to put life and living into perspective,  to acknowledge that death is inevitable, that we are sojourners.  We came from dust, to dust we will return to become worm food that becomes soil that becomes tree food that feeds humans. What then is our legacy to our future? What kind of philosophy are we passing on.

It is indeed a paradox: the selfish gene is short-sighted – hoarding now by destroying the incubator that will grow more for tomorrow. While we hoard, there is zero guarantee that the generation of future will embrace the values and the treasures we hold dear today.

Instead of money or bottles or cans or plastic,  the best gift for the future may be  a value syatem. A value system that respects life. A value system that acknowledges human and nature interdependency.

We cannot control the future,  the best we can do is give the future a planet that is living. Give them elephants and zebra and birds of paradise. Give them forests and lakes and coral reefs.  But, plant a seed of respect for nature in their minds then give us a benefit of  a doubt that the seed will grow and one day  become a tree and bear fruit.

Conservation conversations are philosophical in nature. It is about the careful examination of the interdependence of man and nature. It requires that man identify and own his role in space and time. Indeed, conservation efforts require a sincere commitment to life and living where the only ego is the one that is happy to see life flourish.

 

A new paper on the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

*** on the Tumbi Landslide in 2012

A new paper, Robbins et al (2013) has examined the triggering processes responsible for the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

Source: A new paper on the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

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