Melanesian axiology, communal land tenure, and the prospect of sustainable development within papua new guinea
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 6 (1):89-101 (1993)
It is the contention of this paper that some progress in alleviating the social and environmental problems which are beginning to face Papua New Guinea can be achieved by supporting traditional Melanesian values through maintaining the customary system of communal land tenure. In accordance with this aim, I will proceed to contrast certain Western attitudes towards individual freedom, selfinterested behaviour, individual and communal interests and private ownership with attitudes and values expressed in the traditional Melanesian approach. In order to demonstrate the latter, I will briefly touch upon the phenomenon of wantokism and indicate how the Melanesian values associated with this concept find their locus in the system of customary communal ownership. Subsequently, I will describe how the emergence of a cash economy and the attachment to Western gadgetry and products have effected injury to the environment and undermined values which have previously maintained Melanesian social cohesion. While admitting that little can be done to eradicate the desire for cash and the products it can buy, I suggest that Melanesian communities and the environment itself would receive more protection if future development in Papua New Guinea embraced a system which incorporated certain of the traditional Melanesian values through the preservation of the communal form of land tenure. Ultimately, I suggest a way in which customary communal land tenure can be integrated into the established Anglo-Australian legal system.
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