Were traditional Papua New Guineans conservationists?

LSC1 (220)This essay is based on three papers. These papers document practices  of seasonal hunting and harvesting and protection of certain species of importance to three communities in Papua New Guinea.

Kwapena (1994) documents the hunting practices of the Moapa people of the Mashall Lagoon,  Central Province. Foale (2002) records the “tambu” reef system of the New Ireland while Silitoe (2001) provides insight into the hunting practices of the Wola of the Southern Highlands.

In two of  the three case studies, the authors documented that a hunting ban was imposed periodically on their  respective communities.

The Maopa people in Mashall Laggon Area, Central Province had a hunting ban that would last over three to four years.

On the coast, the “tambu”reef involves the closure of fishing on a particular stretch of coastline for a specific period of time, usually from a few months to a year or in some cases a few years. The closure was quite often associated with a death within the clan that controls rights to that stretch of coastline and is a ritual component of a cycle of feasting associated with that death.

The hunting ban would then be followed by an intense period of hunting, where even the grassland is burnt to force animals out into the open (Kwapena 1984).  In the “tambu” reef, the accumulated stocks of many species, particularly benthic invertebrates are then removed, often with alarming efficiency (Foale 2002).

The local knowledge of these people was directed to identifying patterns that maximise capture success. They did not show concern for aspects of  biology (recruitment etc) that conservationists are interested in.

In the case of the Wola,  Silitoe (2001) observed that the Wola people, who were not “enthusiastic” hunters, would at times expand high energy to capture high value animals like cassowary and wild pigs for customary activities. From his study, Silitoe (2001) observed that in their hunting sprees, the Wola treated the forest as having …” an infinite buffering capacity”  to their destructive hunting activities.

Melanesian’s exist through relationships, and these relationships needs to be maintained all the time.  Value has been placed on nature to facilitate these social relationships. Resources are stockpiled only to be harvested to facilitate social transactions and to maintain relationships and alliances (Silitoe 2001). The hunting spree with the Maopa of Marshall Lagoon was to strengthen and reiterate family relationships (Kwapena 1984). Tambu reef was also a means of stockpiling resources, often for a specific purpose, such as a feast; and had nothing to do with maximising and sustaining yields for conservation (Foale 2002).

So, how did people coexist with nature for thousands of years?

Silitoe (2001) proposes that unintentional conservation  may have been achieved indirectly because these traditional knowledge and practices were created in conditions of small population, large forest covering and richer biodiversity and hunting tools which were less deadly.

Fear of spirits also ensured sacred areas became refuge and replenishing grounds for wildlife.  For instance,   most of these cultures attribute their hunting capacity to spirits and not human hunting skill. In this instance, hunters let game go if they miss after a few attempts, taking this to indicate the spirits are discontent.  Beliefs that spirits governed everything contributed to unintentional management of resources

This system however, will not protect nature which is now threatened with with pressure from, high human population densities, new and efficient hunting technologies and a readily available market for wildlife.

That is why the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea must learn the concept of conservation to ensure that food security and the currency for maintaining relationships  is available both now and into the future.

References

Foale, S. (2002) Commensurability of scientific and indigenous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contemporary marine resource management strategies. Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Working Paper No. 38

Kwapena, N. (1994). “Traditional Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife in Papua New Guinea.” The Environmentalist 4(7): 22-29.

Sillitoe, P. (2001). “Hunting for Conservation in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.” Ethnos 66(3): 365-393.

Advertisements

And it is called Spiritual Ecology

From Ladakh to Bhutan, Buddhist nuns and monks from 60 centers in the Himalayan region work on environmental protection. From cleaning up rivers, to installing solar panels, the nuns and monks approach the environment with a sense of compassion, recognizing the interdependence and inter-connectivity of all things.

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/compassion-is-action/

Gender equality: Women must not be victims of a zero sum game

LIFE is a series of cycles.  The mitosis, the circadian cycle, the menstruation cycle, gestation, and the big one that encompasses them all is the life cycle – birth, senescence and death.

This is as nature intended; that we successfully pass on our genes.

Humans have developed habits to give our genes the best chance of survival. These habits become culture; culture, both good and bad becomes a way of life and children are immersed in it from birth.

The women used to be a revered gender because she was the garden that grew the tribe. Sex was just a holy dance for procreation.

She struggled for monogamy as a way of ensuring her investment for a better future is secured. He hunted while she nurtured the future generation. The man and the woman complemented each other.

But the circumstances that has shaped our genes and culture has changed. We are not living tribal lives anymore.

Gone are the days of wild animals and caves and the unknown. The woman does not need a protector anymore.

In the context of evolution, indeed, the world as a whole, has evolved to be a woman’s world.

In the safety and security of this era, the woman is given opportunities to reinvent herself. This is because she has time – time she did not have in the past being involved with child rearing.

Today, she is encouraged to get an education and a job and become independent before considering marriage and children. She is encouraged to take on more male roles.

The life code of humans, however, has not changed at the same rate as the passing circumstances. The DNA from our forefathers is still swirling in our life blood: that man is built for hunting and protecting and leadership while woman is crafted for nurturing and supporting her man and family.

Even if she can now pay for what she wants with money, her dilemma is that she is still bound to her culture and her DNA.

Though liberated through education, yet not expunged from her duties; though liberated from gender restrictive ideologies, yet not free from the gender specific instructions in here genes.

It is in the woman to want to submit, to serve and to follow the lead of a man, but the catch: the man has to lead.

While giving more opportunities for woman to grow, the world seems to have assumed that man needs no adjustment and are doing just fine.  How wrong can we get?

In the absence of leadership by man, including leadership on women’s issues, she is getting restless and frustrated. It seems the harder she pushes for equality, the force of domination coming back is equally hard.

There has been increased injustice against woman perpetrated by man. Some of these include using woman as scapegoats in sorcery and witchcraft cases, polygamy, sexual assaults and using girls as a tribal bargaining chip.

Even the government seems powerless to stop violence and injustice against women.

The increased domination of women seems to be a signal that the opposite gender needs attention.  As a race, the male species have been neglected more than the female.

While she has programs for empowerment, he is expected to lead by instinct.  But boys also need to be interned into the ways of life.

With the loss of the ‘hausman’ (traditional men’s house – source of cultural heritage and instruction) and extended kin, the man has lost the training and initiation rites that signify that a boy has now become a man with a man’s responsibilities.

This loss of purpose has not been replaced adequately in a way that lacks equivalence to that which is happening with the women.

To empower and accept the changing identity of woman, therefore, is a societal issue. It is an issue that cannot be tackled by any one gender.

Because the disruption of the power balance signifies one winner and one loser, but life intended a complementary balance.

And action must be taken soon.

bagarapim-meri

Tourism and conservation makes sense

DORT Sat_2008 (31).JPGEarly in 2017, The National Geography  Travel listed Papua New Guinea as one of  the top 5 cultural destinations to visit. Papua New Guinea was described as the Garden of Eden, where time has forgotten, where people live like they have lived for centuries.

The PNG culture was depicted as one that still maintains an authentic link to nature, to earth, to life, to the “mama graun”,  with a spirituality that is pure, unswayed by the panoply of civilization. This culture evokes images of awe and wonder and respect.

And to the Papua New Guineans on Facebook, there was a general feeling of pride all around at the announcement. But do we need permission from the National Geography to feel  pride for culture?

Colonialism had a name for our culture – Cane hacker aka kanaka, primitive, less-advanced –  name tags with negative connotations has been carried forward into independence and even at 41 years on.

Even religion that came from America and Germany called it paganism, heathenism, a source of evil and made people sever the link to earth to their “mama graun”. Religion has forgotten that inspiration for religion also has its beginnings in nature.

For the last 100 years, culture has been a source of shame and fear. The brain washing is so deep that even the 21st century parliament of Papua New Guinea vandalized its cultural heritage at the Parliament House and called it an act of cleansing.

But all along, our culture has been our our identify. It is who we are. It is what makes us unique. It is our pride and the heritage we should be passing down to our children.

When we begin to understand more of the world around us, we begin to realize that we are like square  pegs trying to fit into round holes. In our anxiety to fit into the box  given to us by special interests groups, we have been suppressing and denying our identity.

With or without permission from National Geography, we should know that what we have is what the world is looking for.

The world may have achieved mind-defying technological feats, but in the process they have lost the original design of man.  Men was part of nature with a spirit connection. Men lived off nature. Men got inspired by nature. Men revered nature, respected nature and worshiped nature as the source of life. Man had responsibility to protect nature.

The more complex a society becomes, the more averse they are to dirt, to ground, to  earth, to soil. Just look at the jungles of concrete, steel and glass in places where giant trees, grasslands and forests once stood.

But man is spirit and the spirit of our “mama graun communicates via bare skin connected to dirt, to earth.  This makes existing indigenous cultures – the earthy cultures such as ours, an existing conduit for re-connection to nature. A pathway for revitalizing the spirit aspect of a human life.

Earthy cultures offers an opportunity for people to reconnect to the original design of men. These are places one can get away from the hectic hustle and bustle of the 21st century; it is a a place for rest and connection to earth. Walk bare feet on dirt and  feel the heartbeat of “mama graun”. People are looking for the peace, opportunities to reconnect and they re paying to do it.

Tourism and cultural conservation therefore, is the way to go for Papua New Guinea.  Cultural conservation also requires nature conservation.

But firstly, we must be enlightened enough to know where to draw the line. The line between putting on a show for money and being authentic to sharing the embrace of mother earth.

%d bloggers like this: