Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Papua New Guinea

On the left side of the island of New Guinea is the country better known as Indonesia; on the right side is Papua. Fortunately there is room for both, as Papua is the world’s second largest island (Greenland is the largest, though technically are not Australia and the joint continent of the two Americas both islands, in that you can sail all the way around them, and an island is an area of land surrounded on all sides by water? No, I am told, they are continents. So what makes a continent? Answers please in the comment box at the foot of the page).

Some fascinating statistics for this island Paradise:

80% of the population live in rural poverty, with no modern conveniences of any kind (is that not Paradise? No TV, no cars, no fast-food joints, no computers, no loud music being played at 2am by your neighbours, no movies, no cellphones, no one constantly trying to convince you to buy something you don’t need, and can’t afford, but everyone else has one so you must…)

PNG has more languages spoken than the rest of the world put together – over 700 native tongues. And yet – no civil war.

Tribes who occupy the mountain region live such isolated lives, they are believed not to know of the existence of other tribes on the island, and use bartering instead of money (radical capitalism!)

The glorious rainforests are being cut down at an alarming rate. I should explain my use of the world “alarming”. What is alarming is that the companies undertaking the logging are Malaysian, not Papua New Guinean, so the income is going overseas and PNG is not benefiting. The fact that the rainforest is being cut down is only alarming to conservationists, who want the world tomorrow to be like it is today – conservatism and conservationism are etymologically synonymous. Based on historical precedents, if the rainforests continue to be cut down at the present rate, conservationists in PNG will be mourning the loss of PNG’s “glorious countryside”, the devastation of “this green and pleasant land”, in about 400 years. We in Britain are 1000 years ahead of that!

There is also the challenge of: how do we get out of this primordial poverty, unless we cut down the rainforests, because they are obstacles to our access to our huge reserves of oil and natural gas? To which the answer is unquestionably: don’t ask the Malaysians.

I should also explain my ironic use of the word "Paradise" earlier. PNG is subject to more volcanic activity, earthquakes and tidal waves than any other island in the world. "Paradise" is a term used by believers in divinities; so is "intelligent design", though it remains unclear how volcanic activity, earthquakes and tidal waves fit into either of these two concepts. Mount Tavurvur last erupted as recently as 2014; the time before that, in 1994, Mount Vulcan blew too, and completely annihilated the town of Rabaul.

Marks for: 1

Marks against: 3 (1 for the volcanoes, 1 for the earthquakes and 1 for the tidal waves)

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