Self-Sufficiency And Sustainability
Maradel K. Gale, J.D.
and South Pacific Program
Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management
University of Oregon
Life on small, isolated
islands in a large expanse of ocean can be precarious. T
hat people and
cultures evolved over generations on these islands is testament to the
ability of early settlers to make decisions which ensured their survival.
These decisions, based on an appraisal of what was available to use, and
how it could be maintained through time, constitute an early form of sustainable
living (Clarke 1990). In prehistoric times, there were few or no opportunities
to supplement the local resource base with outside supplies
, and self-sufficiency
was the rule.
Early European explorers
found indigenous people who apparently were healthy and lived "good" lives
in the eyes of these earliest visitors. Starvation and deprivation of
basic life needs were not noted in early accounts of the islands. While
Pacific storms probably destroyed food resources then
, as they do now,
systems of interchange with other islands eventually were developed to
meet even those naturally-caused shortages.
The introduction of new
ideas, materials, and desires accompanied the early whalers, traders,
missionaries, and colonialists who, in successive waves, washed over the
traditional methods of survival were displaced
by imported ideas and products, and people moved away from their self-sufficient
ways into models of living more dependent on outside sources for survival.
This dependency was reached in various parts of the Pacific at various
times and to varying degrees. On some islands, there are still practiced
remnants of the traditional life-style. From these remaining traditional
cultures, we can learn about th
e patterns of life that were tied more
closely to utilization and stewardship of what was naturally available,
and discern methods which may again become vitally useful to the island
Margaret Mead, in a speech
in 1976, has eloquently argued that the study of islands can provide ecological
and social models for large soci
eties, and for the planet as a whole:
in small islands, the greatest diversity of ecological, cultural, and
economic style that we have anywhere in the world. Furthermore, because
these are island cultures, we actually have in them the closest thing
to a model of the whole world -- an island where the people do n
there are any other people. Easter Island was a good model of planet earth.
Easter Island people got there and they knew they could never get away.
They were there for keeps as far as they knew, and there was no one else
who was ever going to come, so they had to make what they could of the
situation. Now we know that we are all alone in the solar system and no
other people are going to come to our rescue; we, too, must make do because
nobody is going to help us. We can study and analyze the behavior of people
on islands and their relationship to a known environment; we can understand
an island because we can sail around it, fly over it, climb over it, and
catalogue every tree and plant and insect.(Mead, 1976)
Pacific islands are,
indeed, living laboratories where
in we can see the results of social,
economic, and environmental experiments in ways that are not visible on
larger land masses (Clarke 1990). A segment of road bulldozed on Kosrae
in the morning silts in a portion of the lagoon with the afternoon rainstorm.
The introduction of imported foodstuffs and resultant changes in people's
diet create widespread health problems within a decade. The imposition
of non-local institutions creates social problem
s as traditional practices
become superfluous to the modern lifestyle. On a 40-square mile island,
cause and effect are more clearly linked than on a large land mass with
a mobile population. This phenomenon can also be the gift of the islands
to the rest of the world: experiments with sustainability in the islands
can become models for developed countries which have not yet even recognized
the degree to which they are unsustainable.
Thoughts on Concepts of Sustainability
The concept of "sustainability"
in the development context became widely discussed as a result of the
report of the Brundtland Commission, established by the United
The crux of that commission's focus on the relationship between economic
development and environmental protection was the concern for intergenerational
equity. The current generation, in striving for economic development,
was cautioned to treat the natural resource base in such a way as to preserve
means for future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission
on Environment and Development 1987; World Bank 1996).
In its initial development
context, sustainability was used primarily in the realm of economics:
whether a particular economic approach would be sustainable for a society.
In fact, there remains a notion that economic growth can be "sustainable"
(Fairbairn 1991; World Bank 1996). While some level of economic growth
may be needed in many
Pacific island countries, there is no model of growth
which is sustainable over time. We live on a finite planet, and the limits
of our growth are rapidly being reached, if not already exceeded in some
domains. That this has not yet been widely recognized in the economic
realm possibly stems from the fact that many economists are less familiar
with the natural world than they are with the constructed world of economics;
it may also have some relati
onship to the size of the land mass with which
they are familiar.
Concern with the "narrow"
approach of sustainability dealing only with economics was raised by persons
involved in the environmental movement. They argued that looking at sustainability
in strictly economic terms missed the larger point: failure to pay attention
o the long-term viability of the society's natural resources (land, air,
water at a minimum) means there can be no real sustainability in the long
More recently, scholars
and practitioners have recognized two other dimensions in the puzzle of
sustainability: socio-cultural factors and moral/ethical/spiritual values.
It is arg
ued that, in addition to the issues of economics and the environment,
cultural, social and political traditions and values of a society must
be taken into account in determining whether a path is sustainable. Ethicists
have weighed in with even less quantifiable concerns: whether social justice
is being served by the decisions, and the degree to which higher moral,
spiritual and ethical values are manifested in the decision-making process
Ultimately, people in
all nations will face the issue of creating a sustainable life-style.
The least sustainable societies are those in the developed "west," which
rely on exploitation of the natural resources base of "less developed"
countries to meet ever-growing demands for raw materials as well as consumer
goods. It is pr
obable that all communities have passed through a period
of sustainability, fleeting though that may have been. In the past, the
drive to acquire "more" and "better" has propelled communities away from
self-sufficiency and sustainability and toward a life-style that depends
on utilization of resources from beyond our own borders. Given enough
power, or money, these needs can be met through the economic market system.
Destruction of a country's reso
urce base can be ignored if there is the
possibility of getting necessary raw materials from elsewhere. This is
particularly so if the economic imbalance between buyer and supplier means
the cost of goods obtained from afar is so low that distance and transport
are not inhibiting factors. However, it is just a matter of time until
the inequity of this situation (the excessive use of resources by one
group of people at the expense of others) is no l
onger tolerated, and
citizens of the over-consuming western nations will be facing the same
issues as are the people of the Pacific islands.
Some words about this
chapter: the author's experience is predominantly in the part of the Pacific
known as Micronesia, which is comprised of very small islands lacking
in extensive terrest
rial natural resources, characterized by rapid population
growth, and excessive dependency on foreign aid from the US and, in the
case of Kiribati, from Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and New Zealand.
Some of the islands in the South Pacific, notably Papua New Guinea, Fiji,
and to a lesser extent, Vanuatu, have a wider array of land-based natural
resources which could be managed on a sustained basis to provide economic
benefits to the local p
eople (forestry, cattle production). Some of the
islands have had rich mineral deposits, which, by their very nature, are
not subject to sustainable methods of utilization (Papua New Guinea, Nauru,
Notwithstanding the focus
in this chapter, it should be noted that many of the issues and problems
which are discussed here
are found in the larger, metropolitan states
and countries such as Hawai'i and New Zealand, where there are large populations
of Pacific islanders. While the scale differs, the issues, particularly
for the Maori and Hawaiian people, remain the same.
There are varying theories
of the settlement patterns and lifestyles of the early Pacific islands
inhabitants. Archaeological evidence indicates that some islands were
once inhabited and then abandoned, either through death or by immigration.
Even with few natural resources to draw upon, other islands were inhabited
for centuries (Levin 1994) and were still occup
ied when the first recorded
visits by Europeans occurred. What made the difference?
Some islands were more
blessed with natural resources than others. On some of the very small,
low atolls, the line between life and death must have been very fine indeed.
However, even on these islands, there was archaeological evidence of prehistoric
settlements (including pavements and temples) indicating that people lived
there for more than an occasional visit (Terrell, 1986). Reasons why these
islands might have been abandoned as living places likely rest with scarcity
One of the limiting factors
appears to have been the amount of rainfall on a particular islan
Dodd 1983.) There can be long periods of time between rainy periods and
early catchment systems may have been inadequate to see people through
a drought. While some Pacific islands receive great amounts of rain, others
can experience drought for months at a time (Oliver 1989).
Cultivated crops provided
much of the daily
sustenance. These crops included taro, yams, breadfruit,
bananas, pandanus, cassava, sugarcane and sweet potatoes (Segal 1989;
Pollock 1992), as well as rice in the Marianas. Even the low coral atolls
supported an array of staple foods. Along with coconuts, islanders raised
taro, breadfruit, and bananas in specially prepared planting sites (Hunter-Anderson
1996). In addition, islanders caught fish from the lagoon. On some islands,
pigs and dogs wer
e raised and eaten at special feasts. Where coconut palms
existed, drinking water was available from the green nuts, and some islanders
made a fermented drink from the sap of the palm.
Diseases or natural disasters
which affected the food resources could destroy the population through
starvation if there were not other islands to
which the inhabitants could
sail. The caste system on Yap, for example, reflects the social and economic
relationships between the outer islanders of Yap (from islands such as
Woleai and Ulithi) and the Yapese "main" islanders who gave shelter and
food in times when the low outliers were unable to support their populations
as a result of devastating storms (Hunter-Anderson 1996).
Early western visitors
to the islands did not find people to be dying out as a result of malnutrition
(Oliver 1989), suggesting that measures were taken to ensure that resources
were marshaled in such a way as to be able to feed the extant population
(Slatter 1994). These measures included such things as taboos on when
certain crops could be harvested and by whom, when particular fish were
caught, and where and when they were off-limits due to the need
to replenish the species during the spawning season (Brower 1983; Levin
1994). In many islands there was also a strong lagoon and reef tenure
system which ensured that the owners managed the fishery resource to provide
a continuing supply of food (Johannes 1981; Liew 1990). The villages were
self-sustaining, having access to natural resources that supplied their
food, housing, clothing
, medicines, and means of transportation (Hunter-Anderson
Possibly as a result
of this husbanding of the local natural resources, small islands were
able to support populations which seem very large for the size of the
land mass on which they lived (Helu-Thaman 1994). Archaeologists estimate
that Yap, an island in Microne
sia of 39 square miles (100.2 sq. km.),
may have supported a population as large as 50,000 people on its main
island (Labby 1976). That compares with a current population on Yap proper
of about 7,500 people (Yap State Office of the Governor 1994).
However, recent research
is accumulating increasing evidence of environmental impact by prec
populations (Kirch 1997a). Archaeological and palynological work in Mangaia,
Tikopia, and other islands have demonstated a widespread pattern of forest
conversion to grasslands and fernlands, to the point that agriculture
became limited to relatively small lowland areas where sediment had accumulated.
On Mangaia (along with deforestation and exotic introductions), there
were extinctions of 16 bird species, declines in fruit bats and other
forest species, and increased consumption of rats and human flesh, mostly
in upper archaeological strata (Kirch 1997b). On Easter Island (Figure
34.1), complete destruction of the forest resource has been linked to
warfare, famine, and a population "crash" (Bahn and Flenley 1992).
Environmental impact was not l
to the smallest islands. In Hawaii, Polynesian settlement resulted in
forest destruction, elevated erosion rates, and extinctions of birds and
other forest dependent fauna. In the case of birds, this actually exceeded
historically documented postcontact extinctions. In New Zealand, precontact
populations worked natural resources "to the edge of viability and beyond"
through deforestation; soil erosion; avifaunal extinctions (including
all moa species); and overexploitation of marine life; and by the 15th
century, northern New Zealand came to be dotted with fortifications, a
likely consequence of the increasing pressure on resources (Anderson and
McGlone 1992). On New Guinea, impact included conversion of forests to
grasslands (especially in the highlands) and extinctions of marsupial
megafauna (Kirch 1997).
Impact of European Contact
Pacific islanders had
been living on their islands for extended periods of time, in some cases
over several thousand years, before the "discovery" of their islands by
western explorers. The earliest European contact with P
occurred between Magellan and the people of southern Guam in 1521 (Hezel
1983). After replenishing their boats with desperately needed food and
water, and killing some Guamanians in the process, the Spanish fleet sailed
away, only to be followed in later years by successive waves of explorers,
whalers, missionaries and colonizing nations.
In the south Pacific,
the French and British vied for various islands in the region, with England
successfully acquiring Australia and New Zealand, and the French settling
for parts of Polynesia and Melanesia. What did these people bring to the
islanders who greeted them with varying degrees of welcome or hostility?
In the late 1700s, efforts
were made to establish Catholic missions in the western Caroline islands
(Hezel and Berg 1980). Similar missionary efforts took place at about
this same time in parts of the south Pacific by the London Missionary
Society (Dodd 1983).
The missionaries did
not support traditional practices of
the people whom they came to heal
and convert. It was felt that the native people of the islands were lacking
in "civilization" and were greatly in need of the teachings offered by
the missionaries (Ellis 1833). Not only was the spiritual dimension fair
game for the missionaries, but other aspects of the culture were modified
as well (Shouksmith 1993). After experiencing a cyclone in Rarotonga,
a missionary writes that "it became an earnest ... ai
m of the missionary
to import such kinds of food as wind and wave could not so easily destroy"
and to build houses which would not be so subject to destruction from
storms (Sunderland and Buzacott 1866). A common pattern among the missionaries
was to prohibit the continuation of some traditional practices, particularly
clothing or lack of it (Ravuvu 1988), dances, and story-telling which
seemed unchristian in the eyes of the missionaries. In so doi
ng, the missionaries
systematically devalued the traditional patterns of island living, and
began the process of substituting imported customs and goods which continues
to this day.
In the early 1800s, traders
came to the islands seeking such things as sandalwood, sea cucumbers,
and pearls (see, e.g., Rapaport 1995). In Fiji, for
example, a profitable
trade in sandalwood developed through the first Europeans to visit the
islands. In only ten years, the supply of trees had been exhausted and
the sandalwood trade ended (Derrick 1951). The islanders had received
trade goods in return: glass beads, iron, adzes, cloth, and pots. While
the monetary value of the trade was very unequal, the contact was even
more harmful in terms of the threat to the survival of island communities
and their culture and lifestyle (Campbell 1989). Most distressing, during
this early contact period many villages were decimated by the introduction
of diseases brought by the foreigners: cholera in some cases and dysentery
in others (Gravelle 1979).
As a result of the importation
of diseases by outsiders who visited the islands,
some local populations
were put at risk of survival. In Micronesia, for example, the island of
Kosrae was not visited by westerners until the French ship, Coquille,
put officers ashore in 1824. At the time of the first visits to the islands,
the population was estimated to be around 3,000, although the early visitors
report that the women were generally hidden away from the visitors, so
these reports may have been underestimates. It was als
o noted that Kosrae
contained several villages not currently occupied, which may have indicated
a decline in population prior to the advent of the visitors. Whalers and
traders followed the first explorers who visited Kosrae and by the early
1890's, largely as a result of introduced diseases, the Kosraean population
was down to less than 300 (Segal 1989).
The lessons taught by
the missionaries and traders throughout the Pacific were important precursors
of a dependence which was to intensify over time. From the missionaries,
the islanders learned that their traditional lifestyles and beliefs were
not acceptable. In some cases, even the language was forbidden to be spoken
in places such as the mission schools. From the traders, local people
observed the extirpation of entire
resources which had formerly been carefully
husbanded. The methods of conservation which had sustained the islanders
through generations were obliterated within a few short years in the haste
to remove natural resources and sell them to waiting markets. While the
island people often did not directly participate in the trade, nor did
they always benefit from it, they observed the annihilation of species
as a practice of "more civilized" peoples.
While the early missionaries,
traders and whalers were essentially "free agents" in that they were not
operating on behalf of any government, they were followed in many cases
by representatives of national governments which had an interest in developing
the islands for their own purposes. England and France were active in
the south Pacific, developing plantations for sugar and coconuts, the
United States established a coaling station in Samoa, the Japanese established
outposts in Micronesia for purposes of growing food supplies needed on
their crowded islands. Great Britain annexed Fiji at the request of one
of the native rulers who feared he would be unable to keep the country
Most of the colonial
nations were content with exploiting the natural resources, many of which
were not currently utilized by the local people. Such things as minerals,
guano and sandalwood had not been of particular use to the islanders (Campbell
1989). Nor could they harvest the resources from the ocean to the degree
practiced by the colonials. The use of land, however, was a different
picture, and the usu
rpation of land created dislocations for which resolution
is still being sought in the courts.
Japan, unlike the western
colonial nations, came to see Micronesia as a permanent part of its realm,
providing both a relief valve for crowding in their own islands, and a
source of food and fisheries to feed their population. As the Japanese
government encouraged colonization of the islands, eventually the Micronesians
were outnumbered on their own islands. For example, in Saipan in the mid-1930's,
there were 3,000 Chamorros and Carolinians and more than 20,000 Japanese
(Peattie 1988). While Saipan was the most highly impacted by the Japanese
flood of immigrants, throughout Micronesia there were Japanese families
settled in the islands, and by 1938, over 50% of Palau's population was
Japanese (Peattie 1988).
Some of the ruling foreign
nations were less than benign in their treatment of the local people.
In Kosrae, for example, as World War II intensified in the Pacific, the
Japanese forced the Kosraeans to move to the interior of the island and
engaged the men in digging caves and fortifications for use i
n the event
of an invasion of the island by the US (Segal 1989; see also Peattie 1989).
This act separated families and more importantly, removed people from
their traditional lands and access to the reefs on which they depended
for their food.
As people moved from
their traditional homesites into the administrative centers of t
either by their own desire or under edict of the ruling government, they
became estranged from their land and traditional fishing patterns. Subsistence
agriculture suffered from the migration; fewer farmers grew fewer crops,
and traditional methods of irrigating and storing crops were lost (Campbell
As they mo
ved into urban
settings, islanders were exposed to an ever-widening array of goods, including
food, which were being imported to the islands to satisfy the needs of
the expatriate communities (Pollock 1992). Even on remote atolls, imported
foods were introduced (Levin 1994). Demand for these goods of modern life
created a need for cash, which could be obtained by selling some of their
own foodstuffs if the family was still working their traditional
selling or leasing their land, or getting a job. The long-range effect
of these cash-economy activities was to erode the traditional patterns
of sharing found in most of the islands (Ravuvu 1988). Status in many
of these societies depended on the ability to distribute property, as
opposed to accumulating it. Such accumulation had no effect on status,
until the impact of western cultures began to alter these traditional
hus interfering with the social structure of the community
During the colonial era
in the islands, the sought-after jobs were those with the government,
because they paid a cash wage. The example of Kosrae, in Micronesia, illustrates
the role of the government in providing employment in the islands. On
Kosrae in 1
975, of a resident population of 4,200, the Trust Territory
administration employed 291 on a year-round, full-time basis, with an
average salary of $3,100 (Peoples 1985). In 1994, the public sector employment
in Kosrae reached 67% of the total formal sector employment (FSM 1995).
The desire to have a
paying job created a demand fo
r an education system which is relevant
to the types of job skills needed for employment in the government sector.
According to Ravuvu (1988), "Formal education has . . . become dysfunctional;
often the skills and knowledge acquired have little relevance to life
in the villages." (See Helu-Thaman 1994). Performance on standardized
examinations, which determines employability after leaving school, has
become the driving force for most of the educati
on in countries such as
Fiji in the south Pacific (Ravuvu 1988). Further, the values and mannerisms
taught in the schools were often contradictory to the traditional values
and patterns of the people. The emergence of centralized school systems
undermined the role of traditional teachers in the villages. The formal
schools also taught subjects which were basically irrelevant to the local
situation -- the history and geography of the US or the Briti
for example (Ravuvu 1988).
In the Japanese era in
Micronesia, over half the school day was devoted to teaching Japanese,
with an emphasis on Japanese "moral education" including loyalty to the
Japanese empire. Students were not allowed to speak their own languages,
and no time was devoted to the local culture,
history or traditions (Peattie
1988; see also Ravuvu 1988). School systems developed by the Japanese
that had originally been intended to educate the islanders to the Japanese
way of life were gradually converted to systems which provided a traditional
Japanese education to the children of the expatriate families living in
the islands. The island children were given a minimum level of education
(usually three grades), conducted in Japanese, which
they could not adequately
learn in such a short time, and then returned to their communities (Peattie
Issues of land tenure
which plague many islands to this day have their seeds in the colonial
administrations. After 1918, Japan undertook land surveys throughout the
islands they administered in Micronesia. They designate
d land that was
not "in use" as government land (Segal 1989). To the non-island eye, much
of the land may have appeared unused, however, it was known to local people
to be land of a particular clan or family, and was often part of the extended
farming system of the family. Even today, the problems created by this
early dispossession of land are keeping the courts tied up resolving land
The development of bureaucracies
fit in nicely with the increasing interest in obtaining government jobs
in order to have a regular cash income. Traditional decision-making and
leadership systems stemmed from such things as ascribed status in the
village, age, marital status and lineage (Coyne 1992). In bureaucracies,
status is generally accorded by seniority and rank withi
n the system.
The government bureaucracy on many islands became the decision-making
entity for the island, usurping the role of the traditional leaders. This
fact led further to the decline of traditional practices and problem-solving
Even the diets of islanders
were impacted by the colonial powers. Following the imp
acts on consumption
begun by the missionaries, the later "dietary colonialism" frequently
stemmed from programs in home economics sponsored by government community
or health departments. These programs were based on western tastes and
foods, and further denigrated the importance of local Pacific islands
foods and eating patterns. Islanders developed high incidences of diet-linked
diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, alcoholism, and malnutrition
Just as the earlier importation
of goods and education programs influenced the desires of the local people,
the development of mass communication systems such as television spurred
the creation of desires that could be satisfied only by increased importation,
or emigration from the island community to the land
where the advertisements
originated. Additionally, the US or Australian advertisements frequently
offered images which were the height of cultural insensitivity and which
ultimately served to break down the traditional values and practices (Kabutaulaka
1995; O'Rourke 1982).
In sum, the impacts of
European contact on the
sustainability of the islands was resoundingly
negative. Islanders moved from self-sufficient, interdependent communities
into urbanized areas, where they were dependent on wage-paying jobs to
provide their sustenance. Imported foods, materials and consumer goods
became "necessities" for the islanders, and they needed jobs to pay for
these things. Traditional values were negated, and in their place the
values of the colonials were implanted. Commu
nities and governments became
dependent upon funds brought into the islands through aid, remittances
from relatives living abroad, and the exploitation of existing natural
resources. The few people who remained self-sufficient in their lifestyle
often were regarded as failures (Ravuvu 1988). From the perspective that
these were societies very much in transition, the trend toward independence
seemed a risky step, yet that was the next move for many
of the islands.
Most of the island groups
are now independent countries, free to chart their own course in the world.
But the effects of the colonial era linger
and have left countries which,
in many cases, are heavily dependent upon outside funding sources for
their continued survival (Ward 1993). Illustrative of this situation is
the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a country composed of four states
(Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk) which were part of the former Trust Territories
of the Pacific Islands. Affiliated with the US through a Compact of Free
Association, by 2001, the FSM (1994 population of
105,506), will have
received a total of US $907 million over the 15-year period of the original
Compact (Federated States of Micronesia 1995). In addition, aid funds
in the form of grants and loans have also been received from other countries
such as Australia and Japan, and from regional development organizations
such as the Asian Development Bank.
Many Pacific island countries
are models of the MIRAB form of economies: they survive through migration,
remittances from relatives abroad, aid from other countries
and development organizations which sustain their overlarge bureaucracies
(Connell 1991). There is debate over whether, in the long run, these economies
can be sustained, as they are overly dependent on outside financial resources,
to foster an excessively large public sector and have paid little
attention to issues of self-sufficiency for the people who remain on the
island. See, for example, the discussion in Brown, 1992.
The vulnerability of
these small islands to schemes proposed by other nations is also alarming.
For example, there have been a number of propos
als for specific Pacific
islands to become nuclear waste disposal sites (MIJ 1990, 21; 1994, 1,
4), or to become the repository of garbage exported from metropolitan
areas (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1989, A-1, A-6; Oregonian, 1990, A10).
Under pressure to show economic growth, some island governments are seriously
considering accepting these schemes even though the ecological and socio-cultural
impacts are not fully known.
Threats to the future
viability of the islands also come in the form of proposals for golf courses
and large resorts. For example, an agreement was signed in 1996 between
the government of the Marshall Islands and a Korean investment group for
a major resort on the island of Mili. Plans include casinos, hotels and
condominiums, shops, golf cou
rses, and, not incidentally, the relocation
of the current Marshallese residents to other islands (MIJ 1996b, 1, 16).
Proposals such as these often utilize the best agricultural land, and
would bring few, if any, benefits to the islanders. Typically, these proposals
are developed by foreign interests who sell packaged tours to people who
would come for the golf, sunshine, beaches and fancy hotels that accompany
the golf courses. In 1993, the Japane
se Ocean Development Company proposed
a resort for Palau that would cover 435 acres, with a 680-room Mediterranean-style
hotel, two 12-story towers, a 150-room complex for the employees and their
families, parks, apartments, a marina capable of holding 600 boats, a
nightclub, cultural center, casino, restaurants, and dive facility (Micronesian
Investment Quarterly 1993).
Large tourist resorts
of this type already exist in places such as Saipan in the Northern Marianas,
and in Guam. The typical scenario is for plane-loads of Japanese tourists
to visit these resorts, paying for their trip in Japan. The foods, building
materials, and supplies that are used in the resorts are imported from
Japan, and the labor is most often imported from outside of the region.
The small amount
of money that flows into the local economy stems from
leases on the land for the resort, the sale of handicrafts and trinkets
to the tourists, and a few jobs in the lower echelons of the enterprise
that are held by local people.
This large-scale tourism
is not the stuff of successful economic (or sustainable) development for
islands. Not only does this kind of development fail to bring reasonable
sums of money into the local economy, but it challenges the possibility
of locally sustainable living by utilizing available agricultural land
for tourism properties. Subsistence agriculture is still very important
in most of the Pacific island countries, and is an efficient part of the
economy (Asian Development Bank 1995), so it is critical to support efforts
to continue th
ese traditional practices.
It is highly questionable
whether the small islands in the Pacific will ever become "developed"
in the western sense. That is, they will likely not be able to be a part
of the larger world economy, or to do so on their own terms, without outside
Most of the smaller island
nations simply do not have what it takes to become equal players on the
world's economic stage. The distance from markets, expensive transportation,
limited natural resources, fragile ecological systems, lack of skilled
work force, exposure to devastating natural hazards, dependence on outside
funding sources and institutions, highly politicize
d and sometimes unstable
environments all counteract economic development in the traditional western
sense (Connell 1991; ADB 1995). Furthermore, efforts to conform to the
western model of development have resulted in an unequal distribution
of resources and benefits, destruction of peoples' ability to pursue a
self-sufficient lifestyle, environmental degradation, and a focus on economic
support not for local people but for business and industry wh
in little more than marginal benefits locally (Griffen 1994).
includes deforestation, soil erosion, and extinctions; as well as a variety
of new problems. Land, fresh water, and reefs have been polluted by mining
wastes and nuclear testing (rendering several islands uninhabitable into
the distant future), runoff of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers
(which result in eutrophication), urban and industrial wastes, and oil
spills. Deforestation has extended to previously intact upland ecosystems.
Exploitation and extinction of marine resources has been severe in both
sessile species (such as clams and pearl oysters) and mobile long-lived
species (such as turtles, whales, deep-water snappers and continental
shelf fishes). The g
lobal phenomenon of sea level rise is especially worrisome
on coral atolls (Dahl and Baumgart 1983, Brodie et al. 1990).
The destruction of self-sufficiency
among the local people generally is often not taken into account in the
economics of the decision-makers. A study of logging activities on the
island of Choiseul, Solomon Islands is i
nstructive in this regard. The
villagers of Kuku received some timber royalties, but lost their ability
to continue their self-sufficient life-styles. Prior to the logging, the
forests provided shelter for gardens, food gathering opportunities, firewood
production, housing materials, traditional medicines and miscellaneous
products such as hunting equipment made from bush materials. The logging
royalties, a one-time payment, amounted to $18,162 for
Kuku village. The
net loss due to the destruction of their traditional forest activities,
sustained over time, was determined to be $158,451. Logging royalties,
were no substitute for the losses in subsistence production from the rain
forest, shown in Table 34.1 (Cassells 1993.)
Since the "western model"
to provide the answers for the small Pacific nations, it
is important to look at other options for the futures of these islands.
These are not options which have been given much credence by the metropolitan
countries of the world, in part because the scale must be so small to
work in the islands (Fairbairn-Dunlop 1994). However, as pointed out in
the introduction to this chapter, these are options that, in the future,
may become of greater importan
ce even to the large, developed countries
of the world.
The western models of
development have not worked well for the island microstates. Measuring
per capita income growth
is not necessarily the most useful means of determining
the level of "development" of the islands, and to require such "growth"
puts pressure on the countries to engage in activities and practices which
are not in accord with the realities of their islands. Large-scale growth
and development will ultimately destroy the resource base of the islands
and engender permanent states of dependency on outside aid in order for
families to continue to live o
n the islands.
Rather than quickly embracing
schemes for development which come from outside the island communities,
islanders would be well advised to be cautious about such proposals, and
to determine the cultural, environmental and social impacts likely to
accompany plans for development (Ravuvu 1988).
In reality, there is
limited development potential for these islands; and it is at a scale
not consistent with the plans and proposals which have been made for large-scale
development, whether for tuna canneries, golf courses and resorts, or
garbage dumps. More environmentally and socially reasonable efforts at
development are needed, which will enable islander
s to continue to participate,
albeit at a reduced level, in the cash economy. Focus is needed on the
development and support of small businesses which are locally owned and
controlled, including such activities as small-scale ecotourism resorts,
and food production in the form of mixed or truck gardens. In addition,
the human resources of the island may provide a form of sustainability
through the continuation of remittances from members who have m
According to Connell
(1991), "tourism constitutes perhaps the only economic sector where there
are genuine comparative advantages for island microstates: clean beaches,
unpolluted waters, warm weather, and . . . distinctive cultures." Without
care, those advantages will be lost through over-develo
pment, as we are
beginning to see in places such as Guam and Saipan. Rather than seeking
to increase the numbers of tourists visiting an island each year, which
is the typical measure of economic growth, it may be necessary to reduce
the numbers of such visitors in order to conserve the quality of the experience,
preserve the natural resource base, and increase the value of the enterprise
to the local communities (Oelrichs 1992). Carefully designed
such tourism can reflect local values rather than mimicking tourist development
from other locations.
Guam provides instructive
examples of the impacts of rapid growth, largely connected to seemingly
uncontrolled tourism development. Sedimentation from runoff associated
with soil disturbances from building has affe
cted up to 70% of the reef
in certain bays; as a result, some reefs have lost 90-95% of their coral
habitats in the last several years (Technical Report 1993). In the Tumon-Tamuning
tourist area, overloaded sewage systems periodically discharge untreated
or poorly treated wastes onto streets and into coastal waters (ibid.,
97). Freshwater resources on Guam are provided by aquifers which are recharged
by rainfall. As more construction occurs, fewer
areas remain to serve
as recharge for the aquifers. Further, irrigation of the currently existing
seven golf courses uses 1/5 - 1/10 of the island's water supply; proposals
to build 22 more golf courses have been approved (Roos 1993). In addition
to tourist-related landscape use, tourists also consume more water (450
gallons per day per room) than the average resident, putting stress on
the limited freshwater resource (ibid., 17). Finally, tourists
additional demands for expensive electrical power, add to the wastewater
load, and generate solid waste at the rate of four pounds per day (Technical
Throughout the Pacific
islands, food production activities (agriculture and fishing) continue
to employ the greatest percentage of the labor force, either in co
efforts, or more commonly, in self-sufficient endeavors (Ward 1993; FSM
1995). In Western Samoa, 60% of the total agricultural production is subsistence,
and in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu, the figure is about 75%
(Ward 1993; Wiseman 1993). Even a country like the FSM, which has been
inundated by large amounts of US aid for several decades, continues to
rely on its traditional subsistence sector. In 1995, 21% of the gross
domestic product was produced by non-market production (FSM 1995). At
the same time, in a country such as the Marshall Islands, where 99% of
the green vegetables are imported in cans (Micronesian Investment Quarterly
1994), there is a need to replant the traditional crops that have been
displaced by the ready availability of imported (and expensive) canned
goods. Agriculture is the sector "upon which sound economic development
and economic in
dependence will continue to be based" (Siwatibau 1991).
The benefits of a traditional
diet have been reported recently. Longitudinal studies of the health effects
of the traditional Hawaiian diet on a group of people studied by Dr. Terry
Shintani of the Wai'anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center have demonstrated
effects on cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood pressure
and weight control. The diet consists of starchy foods such as taro, sweet
potato, poi, breadfruit, and fish, fruits and vegetables, with very little
meat, sweets or salt (Van Slot 1997).
Families need to be supported
in their efforts to continue or return to their mixed
crop farming activities
in order to maintain a diet rich in the starches, vegetables and fruits
which nourished their ancestors (FSM 1995). In addition, traditional farming
practices can provide a small, steady income for those who continue to
plant and harvest traditional crops. For example, a woman working in her
Yapese mixed garden can earn $8 for a day's work if she sells the surplus
produce not needed by her family. With a job in the garment
80¢ an hour, she earns less in a day, and has not produced food for her
family (Falanruw 1996).
In addition to substituting
local foods for imports, there are other efforts which can enhance the
sustainability and self-sufficiency of the islands. In Vanuatu, for example,
there is growing recognition that imported out
board motor systems are
too costly to buy and maintain. The response has been a reintroduction
of the traditional outrigger paddling canoe which is now being rigged
for sailing so it can be used in self-sufficient fishing endeavors (MIJ
Schemes to encourage
commercial agriculture production though monoculture also threat
island environment. Such efforts require large-scale land clearing, and
use of pesticides and fertilizers which are not involved in the mixed
farming methods traditionally practiced (James 1993). The results of such
efforts are loss of important trees, erosion, siltation of the lagoon,
and depletion of soil (Falanruw 1994). The Tonga "squash boom" is a case
in point. Extensive cultivation for export to Japan has led to land degradation
due to the fertilizers and pesticides used in the commercial process.
Once the land has been used for squash, it must be left fallow for the
following year. Monocrop farming has reduced land available for family
food production, removing farmers from subsistence and small cash crop
farming activities into a reliance on an external market (Tongamoa 1997).
Some commercial planting
schemes are not well-founded, and the resulting failures can be costly
to the island governments both in terms of subsidies and loss of confidence
among the disillusioned farmers (Ravuvu 1988). Tonga provides another
example: the promotion by the government and external aid agencies of
coffee plantations. The purpose of the program was to provide income for
local farmers. Coffee faces a diffi
cult market, in direct competition
with experienced South American growers and distributors. When the coffee
didn't sell well on the international market, there was no local market
to fall back upon, unlike the situation with pineapples or bananas. Eventually
the farmers abandoned the coffee plantations (Tongamoa 1997).
Much of th
e focus on
fisheries has been on the pelagic species, for which many of the island
nations have sold fishing rights to industrialized nations equipped with
the necessary capital to harvest these fish (Slatter 1994). As a form
of income generation for the island nations, access fees paid be various
nations differ dramatically. World Bank staff have identified a range
from 10 percent of the value of the catch (paid by the US) to 2.2 percent
(paid by Korea), with an average of 4.4 percent (World Bank 1996). The
present system of off-shore fisheries management, which is difficult to
monitor and enforce, "encourages overexploitation" (idem).
purposes, attention needs to be paid to the coastal fish resources, from
which most households can derive an important
source of protein. These
are the fisheries for which traditional management systems were in place
in the past, and where women have had a particularly important role in
the harvest of non-fish seafood (Bidesi 1994).
Travelers in the Pacific
note the continuous flow of exchanges between member of families and clans
g in the islands and those who have migrated to metropolitan countries.
This occurs in the form of people moving back and forth, maintaining important
familial linkages, and in the forms of commodities and cash. The commodities
are found in the ubiquitous cooler chests of food moving from the islands
to relatives in places where "local" foods are not available, and in the
cartons of consumer goods that are brought to the islands by returning
members. In addition, there is movement of cash into the islands
for a variety of purposes.
The traditional obligations
of families and clans included the exchange responsibilities, and these
are kept alive even across distances. When a family member migrates to
a metropolitan country, there is often a specific purpose for doing so
-- to obtain an education, and get a job which will provide cash for the
family. Often this cash is to help educate younger siblings, or to build
a house for the parents. As the younger family members receive an education,
and are employable, they will replace the earlier migrant, who is then
free to return to the island home. Through this revolving system, the
remittance exchange is actually more sustainable than would be expected
in social sys
tems without strong family responsibility components (Tongamoa
1997). See also Bertram 1993.
The choice of technology
to be utilized in the islands is another facet of sustainability. "Appropriate"
technology is that which is relatively simple to maintain, requires few
outside inputs, and ideally can be created from locally available mate
Dependence on inappropriate technology can lead to exploitation of nature
resources to maintain the technology. Liew (1990) cites the example of
diesel-fueled generators to provide electricity for remote atolls in Kiribati
and Tokelau. This has created a need for cash income in the households
to pay for the electricity, and for cash revenues for the government to
pay for the fuel. The cash is derived through sale of limited natural
In the education sector,
attention needs to be paid to providing an education which incorporates
traditional information and skills, as well as those needed to succeed
in the changing world. While preparation for tertiary education may be
appropriate for some children, not all will benefit from this emphasis,
curriculum should provide "tracks" for learners who will provide
the work force for the islands. Many skills are in short supply among
islanders, and a strong vocational program of study can begin to meet
these needs. The influx of "foreign" workers in professional, managerial
and administrative roles is a result of the lack of islanders with these
skills (Gannicott 1993). In some countries, in spite of policies of universal
education, the reality
is that many children are not schooled, due to
lack of resources. Youth and young adults who have not obtained a primary
education need to be provided with general and nonformal education (Rofeta
The benefits of a movement
to self-sufficiency and sustainability will reach beyond the obvious ones
of increasing food securi
ty in the islands and maintaining viable ocean
resources. Involving local communities in the planning and implementation
of measures to accomplish sustainability will strengthen these communities
and their roles in the life of the islands (Helu-Thaman 1992). Whether
through usurpation by governing bodies or lack of awareness of gradual
shifts in power from the people, many decisions that used to be made at
the village level are now centralized. In
addition to the alienation caused
by such power shifts, important cultural roles and benefits have been
lost or muted. As communities are reintegrated into the decision-making
process for their futures, there can occur a revitalization of the cultural
attributes which are now in danger of being lost (FSM 1995).
In the past, environmental awareness,
self-sufficiency and sustainability were central to the lifestyles of
the people who first settled the Pacific islands (Helu-Thaman 1993; Clarke,
1990). Some of this knowledge remains, and traditional behavior is still
practiced in places throughout the Pacific. Reinforcement and wider reintroduction
of these remnants of sustainable living can benefit not only the islands,
but can also serve as a mod
el of conscious living within the limits of
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Table 34.1 Estimated annual value of forest produce
per household in Choiseul, Solomon Islands; values are in Solmon Islands
dollars, determined on the basis of surrogate pricing (see Cassells 1992
Value per year
Nut and fruit trees
Other forest food
List of Figures
Figure 34.1. Population
growth, overexploitation of resources, and population decline on Easter
Island (after Bahn and Flenley 1992)