Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ethics (on Island Time)


Photo: 9am at the classroom... but where are the students?

Day 1 of the Vanuatu PDC started promptly on island time (2pm vs the scheduled 9am), and we had a beautiful class discussion and exchange of cultural ethics & values to kick things off.

Photo: English on the left, Bislama on the right.

English: Earth Care
Hawaiian: Malama A'ina
Bislama: Lukaotem Gud Kraon ('Look out 'em good ground')
Local Example: The traditional practice of slash-n-burn agriculture (where a garden plot is cleared from the forest by a controlled burn) has evolved from a cultural practice of working with what the landscape has to offer.  Once food crops were grown & harvested, a family would move on to clear & farm another plot, leaving the old one to fallow so that the jungle could reclaim it and replenish the nutrients taken from the land to grow those crops.  Only after the land had a chance to regenerate itself would it be farmed again, a practice which makes sense given the low populations supported by the land.

Photo: Child on Dixson's Reef; wanting to create a better world for our children is fundamental human value which transcends all boundaries.

 English: People Care
Hawaiian: Aloha
Bislama: Lukaotem Gud Pipol ('Look out 'em good people')
Local Example: The islands' communities are interdependent with each other, and rely upon people looking after each other - each producing its own specialty matched to its lands (good fishing, or special varieties of yam, taro, banana, kava, etc) and trading its surplus with neighboring communities.  In this way a diverse, resilient network of community has been created which can adapt dynamically and respond creatively to challenges; especially useful in a land of seasonal cyclones and volcanic activity.

Photo: Community bamboo woodlot outside of village at Dixson's Reef.

English: Resource Share
Hawaiian: Kapu
Bislama: Sherem Ol Samting / Tabu ('Share 'em all something / Taboo')
Local Example: Sharing of resources also means stewarding of the resources entrusted to you; this is done most effectively by setting limits to consumption, population & growth.  Tabu is one system used to to limit consumption by forbidding the use of an overtaxed resource to allow it to recover (e.g a reef ecosystem or wild harvest area); the practice of requiring marrying daughters to move to the communities of their spouses was used traditionally as a way to limit population growth within island communities.


Photo: The balance between tradition & innovation / culture & change must be maintained if healthy culture is to keep evolving.  Without one or the other, culture (tradition) will become extinct.

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