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"Blue Mountains constantly walking': the re-signification of nature and the reconfiguration of the commons in rural Papua New Guinea.

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: "Blue Mountains constantly walking': the re-signification of nature and the reconfiguration of the commons in rural Papua New Guinea.
Author(s): Wagner, John
Keywords: Papua New Guinea
Blue Mountain
resource use
resource management
global alliance
sustainable development
common property
land tenure
Integrated Conservation and Development Project
non government organizatons
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 24
Conclusion: In conclusion it should be noted that the land and marine areas comprising Lababia’s Wildlife Management Area are a rich, largely undisturbed ecosystem. Despite the fact that commercial fishing has reached a point of unsustainability, the marine environment as a whole still harbours a rich diversity of fish species and other aquatic life. Lababia as a community also deserves recognition for having resisted the offers of mining and logging companies at various times in the past. The community is fortunate perhaps in that the quantity of commercially valuable timber in its forests is limited. Also, the exploratory work carried out by mining companies in the 1970s and 80s have not led to huge offers of money. Sustainable common property systems are not generally found in areas where huge amounts of money can be made from resource extraction. It is also worth noting that the community has begun to create a kind of new mythology for itself – a kind of origin myth has emerged that recounts the story of how Lababia in recent times has opposed logging and mining operations in order to embark on a more sustainable path. This story incorporates features of western conservationism together with more traditional forms of ecological knowledge and is now regularly acted out by a newly formed village theatre group that performs for tourists and villagers alike. The theatre group thus acts to crystallize and consolidate a set of beliefs and values that support and inform the community’s current aspirations within the ICAD process. Referring once again to the set of characteristics of a successful common property system developed by Ostrom and others, it might now be useful to consider some of the ways in which these characteristics could be expanded or modified to better fit the Lababia situation. In regard to decision-making processes, as one instance, something needs to be said about the manner in which a decision-making body achieves legitimacy and authority in a given community. Something also needs to be said about the processes by which decision-making bodies can re-configure themselves for the purposes of resource management within a cash economy. The issue of ecological knowledge needs fuller consideration since it would appear that local, traditional ecological knowledge would, in many cases, need to be supplemented by the type of knowledge held by marine and agricultural scientists, whose knowledge base extends to global systems. The question of how a community is to deal with outside markets and processes of economic globalization must be addressed, and so also the issue of population growth. The question of what belief system informs the relationship of a given community to its natural resources is also highly significant. Finally, the process by which a community such as Lababia receives funding from outside donor organizations intent on crafting a “global alliance” with local communities must also be addressed. In a country such as PNG, where NGOs now provide many of the services that government agencies provide in other parts of the world, self-promotion by NGOs and their client communities becomes an inevitable outcome of the inherently competitive process of obtaining funding support.


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