Bolivian indigenous knowledge

“In Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, a Quechua Indian told me that everything one does in life involves looking forward while going backward simultaneously. This I didn’t understand. I said, ‘What do you mean, going backward?’  And he said,’Well, it’s very simple. For us, for the Quechua, the past is in front of us. It’s in front of us because we know the past and we can look at it. And the future is behind because we don’t know what it brings so we move into the future, but we move backwards.’ The expression is ñawpaman puni. This idea of moving into the future while looking clearly into the past is something that is lacking in all these considerations about development and alternatives to development, and about what is going to happen and from where we can create an alternative to development.

This lack of historical depth is what is going to prevent us from thinking of real alternatives to development.”

(David Tuchsneider 1992:63-64)


Congratulations to the Latin America Indigenous Forum for taking a stand after long and consultative consideration. For sure, climate change is a global issue that requires local initiatives to mitigate. Any local initiative cannot single-handedly save the world from the impacts of climate change. All peoples can only do their part in their local settings and hope that the sum of local actions will culminate into an outcome desirable for the Planet earth. In striving toward this goal, indigenous communities must not be coerced and bullied into taking measures that will disadvantage them in the long term. Communities must be given the space to decide their approach within their respective socio-economic and cultural jurisdictions.

It is disheartening to realise that PNG has not done a proper analysis on the impacts of implementing REDD on our existing socio-economic status; the long-term impacts on our people and our culture. I wonder why the knee-jerk reaction to REDD by the PNG government without thinking about the implications of locking away forests for REDD – the very forests which sustained our fore-fathers livelihood in the stone-age and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future for 75-80% of the populace – even as we enter this so-called space-age. Doing REDD in PNG is not going to save the planet earth from impacts of climate change. What makes PNG think that we can become the saviour of the world from impacts of climate change? It may be good record for history books, but what about the price that we will pay on our way into the history books. Is the price worth paying?

Unlike the Latin America Indigenous Forum , the PNG government does not even have a position on this issue even though we have gone ahead to make a pledge to Planet Earth. How realistic and achievable is our pledge to Planet Earth that PNG will become a carbon-neutral society come 2050? Where will PNGs economic development be  in 2050 – I can only wonder. Only a few developed nations can hope to reduce their carbon footprint to less than half of their baseline by 2050. Could PNG reach this state come 2050? Come 2050, if the medical service is good, I will be a 74 year old grandmother maybe great-grandmother. I can only wonder if my children’s lives and my grandchildren’s lives will be any better than what I have now. Maybe I am just a pessimist and that we have already figured out how to get there in the governments 2050 vision.

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