Although the Solomon Islands are hardly mentioned within the spectrum
of global news, they can be described as
the center of extremely important global issues. Trying to live in
a developing country becomes difficult when the country’s
natural resources start diminishing at alarming rates. While the natives
barely survive by subsistence farming and hunting,
major corporations and foreign investors obtain massive amounts of
money by commercial logging and fishing. In fact,
the tropical rain forests are predicted to be depleted in only three
years if the government allows their logging licenses to
continue at 4,000,000 cubic meters per year instead of a recommended
sustainable harvest rate of 325,000 meters per
year (Lineback, 1998). The nation’s largest commercial fishery, Solomon
Taiyo Ltd. illustrates the problem with
declining fish stocks as their commercial catch dropped 20 percent
from 1993 (Bank of Hawaii). The native populations as
well as the investors place heavy demands on the ecosystem. Unfortunately,
the environment will not be able to support
all the needs and wants of everyone. Therefore, the duty to preserve
the Solomon Islands lies in the cooperation of the government, the natives,
and the corporations. By educating the population about how to take an
active role in conservation and substitution, the Solomon’s’ resources
can be saved. The political, social and economic arenas of the islands
must work together to accomplish the common goal of protecting the environment.
Since each arena affects the other, the process of destruction needs to
be stopped at all levels.
Welcome to the Solomon Islands
"The chain of islands known as the Solomon Islands is located in the
Pacific just to the north and east of the island of New Guinea and 1,000
miles (1,609 km.) northeast of Australia." (Lineback, 1998). They also
occupy around 900 miles over the South Pacific Ocean, but the islands themselves
are not always closely linked (see Figure 1). The Solomon Islands are part
of the chain of Melanesian islands on the eastern side of the East Indies,
and they include some Polynesian outliers (Kent, 1972). Each island possesses
unique qualities that transcribes unto the villagers that settled within
them. Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Malaita, New Georgia, Makira, and Santa Isabel
are the six major islands which are divided into provinces with Honiara,
Guadalcanal as the capital territory (see Figure 2).
Several of the islands were formed from ancient volcanoes and lava flows,
but Ontong Java and the other fringe islands are made of coral (Diamond,
1995). When microscopic sea creatures attach themselves to a solid base,
they secrete lime as they multiply in number. As these secretions built
one on top of each another, it become large enough to be called a coral
reef. However, in the Solomon Islands the coral structures becomes so enlarged
that it forms islands which are "thrust up from the sea by earthquakes
or left as a ring when a mountain collapses" (Diamond, 1995). While Ontong
Java is a group of low coral atolls that lays just above the sea, Bellona
and Rennell are two of the largest existing atolls. Since Ontong Java’s
land consists mostly of salty soil, the inhabitants are forced to cook
with sea water and collect rain for drinking water. Only the big islands
had the luxury of underground streams for freshwater. On the other hand,
Rennell and Bellona are tropical islands, and the former even has the largest
lake in the South Pacific, Lake Tegano.
Anuta, Fataka, and Tikopia are the last of the main islands, and along
with the six major islands (Choiseul, Guadacanal, Malaita, New Georgia,
Makira and Santa Isabel) they make up a group of volcanic islands. On some
of the islands the trees cover as much as 90% of the area, and unique wildlife
roams this encompassing as well. Furthermore, there are short, but fast-flowing
rivers that channel into the ocean. They are the tips of undersea volcanoes
that are common in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," and the smaller islands
are where overpopulation starts being a problem (see Figure 3).
Three main types of soil found on the Solomon Islands are volcanic,
limestone and island soils. Volcanic soils can either be extremely fertile
or just a top coating of volcanic dust over thin coral and clay (Kent,
1972). Limestone soil can become waterlogged easily on the plains, but
it works better on higher altitudes. Using this type of soil will not produce
good crops because it tends to be very infertile. Lastly, the island soils
are barely able to support the Islanders that depend on subsistence farming
Minerals located on the Solomon Islands include gold, copper, bauxite,
phosphate, nickel, and cobalt deposits. In December of 1997, the Leigh
Resource Corporation attained a prospecting license that resulted in the
discovery of "a porphyry copper gold system (Tango) and a structurally
hosted epithermal gold system (Vulu)" on Vangunu Island. Although these
findings appear to be good news, the Bougainville civil war tends to put
a damper on the process of copper mining. An interesting twist involves
the mining of coral from the ocean, and sand from the beaches.
Vegetation on the Solomons vary from more than 230 species of orchids
to mangrove swamps or beaches lined with a few coconut palms near the shore
area. "There are two main categories of forest: coastal, subdivided into
beach forest and mangrove forest, and primary inland forest, subdivided
into lowland and foothill forest, freshwater swamp, and mountain forest...the
rain forest becomes increasingly dense, forming an enclosed world of its
own..." (Kent, 1972). Bougainvillea vines, begonias and hibiscus are prominent
flowering plants on the islands. Meanwhile, water lilies have been spotted
in rivers. Multitudes of fruit including coconuts, bananas, almonds, papayas
and apples grow in the wilds.
Hundreds of multi-colored butterflies (ex. blue birdwind butterfly)
along with various species of birds flourish in the forests. Famous birds
that habitat the Solomon Islands are parrots of every color in the rainbow,
frigate birds and frogmouth birds. Within the forests lie spiders, pythons,
Rana frogs, monitor lizards, geckos, skinks and the largest freshwater
crocodiles in the world. About 20 distinct species of mosquitoes thrive
on the islands because they thrive in the warm, wet climate. Some mammals
that have evolved naturally or were shipped on boats include rats, bats,
cuscuses, cats, dogs and cattle. By far the most important animals (economically)
are aquatic creatures, namely fish. Bonito (a type of tuna), tunny, mackerel
and porpoise are caught for commercial value. Other commodities sold for
food comprise of shellfish and sea cucumbers. Amid the coral reefs swim
invaluable species of tropical fish such as coral rock cod, a clown triggerfish
and a gaimard wrasse. Other creatures located in the vicinity of the reefs
are barracudas, sharks and longnosed garfish. Even the finback, sperm and
sulfur-belly whales swim in deeper waters further away from shore.
A Market of Raw Materials
One of the biggest economic problems for the Solomons includes their
precarious position as a market for raw materials. Their situation resembles
the stages of colonialism because of their exportation of raw goods and
importation of manufactured goods. Unless they learn how to manufacture
the goods they need, it will be impossible for the country to become self-sufficient.
Abdul Azeez, a fisherman on Thulusdhoo (in Maldives) accurately described
the economic situation by saying that, "The world will have to limit economic
activity if we want to prevent a disaster. But that is not going to happen,
because every country, rich or poor, wants more than it has." Solomon Mamaloni,
the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands made matters worse by pushing
the previous Prime Minister’s deadline for slapping a total ban on the
export of roundlogs by 1999. Since the previous Prime Minister set the
deadline for 1997, the new government fails to understand the urgency of
the matter. Mamaloni also let the current logging be 9 times past the sustainable
levels and loggable rain forests will be finished by the turn of the century.
A bit ironic; logging controls will come in one year before there is nothing
left to cut.(Islands Business Pacific). Mamaloni came up with selling oxygen
and rain forest water to help the national deficit at $128 million dollars
As the years pass by, the population grows more diverse because of the
massive foreign investment from other countries. Coconut plantations invaded
the tropical rainforests after they’ve been cleared for the valuable timber.
Money hungry companies from Malaysia, Japan, Australia and other Asian
countries take advantage of the Solomon Islanders because of their lack
of economic (human-made) capital. The entire country depends on foreign
countries for manufactured products, but they are not going to get these
goods for free. The Islanders need to have a stable cash flow to purchase
all the goods that they need. Unfortunately, the only valuable exports
are natural resources such as timber, fish (tuna), and copra. While the
Solomon government led by Mamaloni sells permits to the forest ‘butchers’
(foreign companies), the indigenous people are starting to protest. What
shall happen to us if life as we know it changes with the destruction of
our habitat? What will happen to our knowledge and traditions that has
been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years?
The Way of Life
The Solomon Islanders vary from island to island, and village to village.
With a population of 400,000 people (WPDS, 1997), there are an amazing
60 different dialects being spoken. Religion, tradition, and other ways
of life are dissimilar within each group. The Islanders even look unlike
each other. "About 90 percent of the working population is involved in
subsistence agriculture, but less than 2 percent of the land is under cultivation"
(Diamond, 1995). A large work force in a small concentrated area of occupation
emulates the situation on most of the islands. The Solomons have no railroads,
about 2,100 km of road (800 km of private logging and plantation roads),
27 usable airports, two industries (copra, tuna), 4 AM radio stations,
no TV, and an external debt of $128 million dollars (www.op). Most of the
population are Christian (97%), others are Bahai or still follow traditional
beliefs. Each tribe or village tends to depart from the common experience
because their way of life varies depending on location, tradition and beliefs.
For example, the Vaturanga live in the northwestern part of Guadalcanal,
and they "depend heavily upon their traditional lands and their traditional
skills for day to day survival. They grow many crops in their gardens,
fish on nearby coral reefs, occasionally hunt wild pigs, and keep domestic
pigs and chickens" (www.geocities). They are socially organized into matrilineal
clans which control things like the land and resources. The Vaturanga believe
in tidao (devils), female spirits, and magic (good and bad). Another
example would be the Kwaio who are bush people living on Malaita Island,
and they have taboos such as women being kept separate from men. Thus,
the Solomon Islands is "home to some of the world’s most diverse peoples"
Education takes the number one position in the battle for the conservation
of the natural resources on the Solomon Islands. During the 1960’s, there
were only 3 university graduates in the whole population. Families could
not afford to send their sons to high school because of the high tuition,
room/board and the cost of transportation to Honiara. At this time period,
there existed only one high school. If someone wanted to attend a college
or university, they had to be sent to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, or even Australia
or England (Diamond, 1995). Although these numbers have increased over
the years to sixty students attending school abroad, the literacy rate
is only 60% due to difficulty in finding books or a school in certain villages.
Women tend to be less educated than their male counterparts. Both sexes
need to receive the same opportunities to help shape their future. Education
has to be achieved because the Solomon Islanders need more doctors, scientists,
lawyers and businessmen.
One of the obstacles to education is the enormous diversity of the people.
The villages themselves are physically isolated from each other on many
islands. Each tribe or clan has a different belief system, laws, traditions,
and even languages. How can you teach everyone about their perilous situation
if there are sixty languages to contend with? But, according to the citizens
of Maldives, it can be done. "Even residents with little formal education
can ramble on about the issue" (Filkins, 1997). What issue are they talking
about? Global warming, the stubbornness of the North in limiting emissions
into the air, and the threat of sea levels rising.
According to the 1997 World Population Data Sheet, the Solomon Islands
have a population of .4 million people with a total fertility rate of 5.7.
However, the life expectancy of both the male and the female is uncharacteristically
high on par with more developed countries. The combination of these statistics
with the natural increase of 3.4% forecasts a continual increase in population.
One solution to help slow down the birth rate would be to educate the women.
If the women are able to work in different fields and learn about contraception,
there would be a decline in the total fertility rate. Forced migration
already occurs on the smaller islands due to the inability of the land
to sustain the rising population. Since the soil yields only to subsistence
levels of the current population, many families need to move into less
impacted areas. Another limiting factor involves the shortage of freshwater
on the coral atolls. Mosquitoes are the number one carriers of disease,
so the members of the village can not prevent contamination by avoiding
their fellow villagers.
Health Care Crisis
Without necessary medical facilities and faculty, several diseases spread
throughout the islands at an alarming rates. Malaria still runs rampant
among the Solomon Islands because of the underdevelopment of a health care
infrastructure. "In 1992, the Solomon Islands recorded a national rate
of 440 malarial cases per 1,000 population" (Toka, 1997). Since malaria
affects a good number of Solomon Islanders, international aid agencies
need to continue with their monetary support towards a solution. For example,
the United Nations Development program in Fiji donated $548,000 for the
implementation of a sustainable community-based malaria control program
in the Solomon Islands (Toka, 1997). George Taleo, the national malaria
supervisor on the neighboring island of Vanuatu explains that "efforts
are focused on the use of permethrin-treated bednets, ultra-low volume
spraying through fogging and biological control using larvivorous fish
which is now increasingly being done by local communities." Accomplishing
a 10 out of a thousand incidence rate and a zero mortality rate for malaria,
requires the cooperation of government to create a working health care
system. Other forms of illness also starts to appear as the Mamaloni government
fails to initiate the development of a stable medical field. "The incidence
of filariasis is increasing in tropical and subtropical areas because of
the rapid and unplanned growth of cities, which provide breeding sites
for the mosquitoes that carry the disease" (Maugh II, 1998). Filariasis
is a fairly recent disease that affects both men and women by swelling
limbs and appendages to grotesque sizes. The most interesting side to this
disease is the ostracizing and rejection of people when they contract this
Government and Policy
By the 1900s, Great Britain had the Solomon Islands under their control.
While under the first British commissioner, Morris Woodford, the Solomon
Islanders lost much of their land because Woodford had a different definition
of property. Villagers viewed the land as a group holding, like the commons
in England. The only reason areas of land seemed vacant was during a ‘rest’
period. When the islanders sold their land to pay off debts or gave into
the pressure by Woodford, they "often sold land with the belief that the
land would revert back to them when the person who made the purchase died...purchasing
the land did not mean purchasing the trees on the land, nor would purchasing
the trees mean that the land had been purchased" (Diamond, 1995). Land
rights remains a big problem today because most of the Solomon Islanders
still have a communal ownership system. In fact, these properties are extended
into the ocean up to the coral reefs in certain cases. Furthermore, some
of the Islanders have tried to retrieve the land that Woodford sold to
foreigners by taking them to court. Unfortunately, most of the cases heard
in 1990 ruled in favor of the purchaser.
During World War II (1941-1944), the Japanese invaded the Solomon Islands.
Although "the actual invasion and combat only lasted two years...its effects
changed the Solomon Islanders and their relationship with Europeans forever"(Diamond,
1995). When the Japanese occupation began, many of the Europeans left the
islands. Soon the Japanese soldiers tortured the people by looting the
churches and destroying villages. The Europeans that remained started a
group called the "coast watchers." With the help of the natives, they managed
to set up a spy ring, and broadcast ship movements in makeshift radio stations.
The Solomon Islanders also helped the American soldiers by joining the
Solomon Island Labour Corps whose job was to unload cargo, and bring ammunition
to the front lines. After the war ended, the Solomon Islanders lost the
respect and fear they had for Britain because the Americans had treated
them with both respect and generosity during the war. "The country became
restless under British rule"(Diamond, 1995).
In 1978, the Solomon Islands were officially declared an independent
nation. However, the Solomons are still considered a member of the Commonwealth
which means that Britain appoints a governor-general who advises the Solomon
government. With the about 90% of the population depending on subsistence
agriculture, fishing and forestry for at least part of their livelihood
(www.op), the Islanders aren’t too happy with the government for exporting
these commodities away (agriculture, fishing and forestry is 75% of GDP).
The Solomons have a 650 million pound deficit, and when the government-owned
plantations were sold last year, more than 450 forestry workers became
unemployed. So the foreign companies are not only getting the timber, but
the government has eliminated the possibility of the Islanders earning
money for doing the labor. What brilliant plan had the government thought
of to help ease this horrible situation? They’re going to sell rain forest
oxygen and water.
The people countered this idea by stating that oxygen remains the same
no matter where it’s collected, and the fact that rain forest water may
not be such a good idea. "The sad irony is that bottled water may become
a necessity, not just a tourist item, as good drinking water becomes harder
to find and the supply to Honiara increasingly erratic" (Baird, 1996).
Maybe Mamaloni should concentrate more on the problems staring him in the
face and less on the possibility of selling oxygen.
On a positive note, the public was outraged when they discovered that
a Malaysian logging firm bribed 7 of their government ministers. Another
powerful incident of protest occurred over $10 billion dollars compensation
for back-payments of profits and environmental concerns when the Panguna
mine (Bougainville, Papua New Guinea) was raped of it’s gold, silver and
especially copper. When Bougainville Copper Limited refused to pay up,
the Bougainville Resistance Organization repeatedly attacked the workers
and equipment . A civil war forced the mine to close in 1989. Foreign "timber
companies will fail even to abide by minimal good management practices"
(Baird, 1996). When is the government going to step in and regulate what
the logging companies have promised to do? Ten years from now when there
are no more trees to cut? With the environmentalists and the indigenous
people leading the way towards conservation, they are beginning to understand
that the economy, society and the environment are not interchangeable.
Wanting to limit the influence of foreign investors does not make it so,
the Solomon Islanders have a lot of hard work ahead of them if they want
to achieve environmental, economic and social sustainability.
A recent Australian study concluded that the sustainable harvest rate
for the Solomon Islands amounted to 325,000 cubic meters per year. "Actual
logging rates are 700,000 cubic meter per year...The government, however,
has issued logging licenses for 4,000,000 cubic meters per year...such
an elevated logging rate (12 times the sustainable rate) could deplete
the Solomon Island’s forests in only three years" (Lineback, 1998). With
only 5 million acres of tropical rain forest left, these logging rates
are alarming. The Solomon government seems to believe that they don’t have
much of a choice when it comes to selling the Island’s timber off to the
highest bidders. Foreign investment companies buy plots of land by purchasing
a permit from the government to cut down the precious trees. Logging companies
are by far the biggest threat to the tropical rain forests, and yet they
are still increasing their production rate. Some companies have resorted
to illegal exportation and the violation of sacred tribal sites. In addition,
the coconut plantations also owned by foreign investors treat the land
without any environmental considerations. The constant use and re-use of
the same areas of land also degrades the soil. Include all the subsistence
farmers that still use the slash and burn technique into the equation,
and the forests don’t have a chance. In fact, firms have started to "violate
established conservation practices by cutting slopes of more than 30 degrees,
which causes erosion, and within 50 yards of streams, which pollutes the
waterways" (Gray, 1996).
Since the nutrients in the tropical rain forest are not stored in the
soil, the loss of deep-rooted trees can convert the soil into a drier mass
vulnerable to wind and rain. While the trees suffer harsh logging rates,
the streams and rivers become polluted with infertile runoff. With the
logging companies ignoring the "rule that says they must leave a strip
of untouched forest beside any waterway" (Baird, 1996), bodies of water
fall victim to discarded sediment. Much of the dirt discharges into the
water, and it flows down river all the way into the ocean. Furthermore,
coastal erosion interferes with the process of sedimentation that protects
the shoreline from storms and hurricanes. Any change in the process, "through
alterations in external factors such as sediment supply, wave direction,
wave height and vegetation growth, will elicit a temporary response in
island size, shape or location" (Bayliss-Smith, 1988).
Cutting down the rain forests affects more than just the soil. Various
species occupied the forest, and they depended on each other for survival.
Unlike other areas the climate on the Solomon Islands creates "a competitive
environment where monocultures, or large areas of a single species, seldom
occur naturally. The rain forest, then, is composed of intermingled species,
rather than large stands of one species"(Lineback, 1998). Without fertile
soil the different types of vegetation such as the underbrush or flowers
perish. After the plants die from malnutrition, the herbivores that counted
on the vegetation for nourishment die of starvation. A pattern forms when
the animals that feed upon insects or small herbivores die without their
food source. Finally, the process reaches the Solomon Islanders who can’t
grow crops or hunt any animals to feed themselves.
Habitat destruction can also occur beneath the ocean’s surface in the
coral reefs. Several things contribute to the eradication of the process
that keeps the reefs alive. The most direct method involves the collecting
of coral for the conversion into lime. "Mining coral removes habitat of
local marine species, and weakens coastal storm defenses" (Meltzoff, 1988).
Hurricanes are common in the Solomon Islands, and they can create sandbars
offshore if they beach doesn’t possess enough sand. Another example is
when sedimentation from deforestation makes it into the ocean, then the
water quality drops. The change in quality could affect the organisms that
build up the coral reefs. With less sunlight hitting the surface of the
water, photosynthesis slows down, and fewer amounts of plankton are produced.
For plankton feeding fish, the loss of nutrition means a reduction in the
population size. Food chains in the ocean alter as the number of species
in the water changes dramatically. On the other hand, if too much nitrogen
and phosphorous flow down into the ocean, dangerous algae blooms can occur.
Such occurrences have been known to kill fish, shellfish, and possibly
humans that come in contact with either of the previous two. Massive clumps
of plankton also attracts heat, so the water will invariably become warmer
which can affect the coral reefs.
The Solomon Islands’ fisheries are definitely in trouble with the amount
of overfishing taking place. "Most important in the Solomon Islands...is
the open-sea commercial tuna fishery, whose dominant pole-and-line technology
is completely dependent on a regular supply of live baitfish from coastal
lagoons under customary jurisdiction"(Hviding, 1996). Commercial fishermen
along with natives catch two times more fish than the ocean can supply
naturally. An increasing trend between these two parties includes a major
debate between the local population’s "limited entry" ideology and the
industrial sector’s "open access" ideology. The former ideology concentrating
more on area-intensive marine resource use versus the latter ideology of
area-extensive. Since fish brings in large amounts of money (about 30%
of all income earnings), the country fails to regulate the market efficiently.
Furthermore, tribal peoples also depend heavily on what they catch from
the ocean to survive.
"For such countries--the Maldives, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Fiji
and others--even a small rise in the world’s sea levels could mean not
just washed-out sea walls and eroded coastlines but national catastrophe
and even extinction"(Filkins, 1997). Many of the Solomon Islands are barely
above sea level especially the coral atolls and the raised coral reefs.
If global warming continues to melt the polar ice caps, then the Solomon
Islanders need to prepare now for a possible disaster. If the predictions
of a rise anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet by 2100 (International Panel
on Climate Change) comes true, there must be massive migrations unto safer
islands. Although the islands themselves are not producing the dangerous
emissions, they are the ones who will pay the price for them. The developed
countries like the United States are refusing to cut back the air pollution
to the levels asked for by the Pacific Islands.
Biodiversity and Exotic Species
As the environment changes whether it was due to a change in temperature
(climate or ocean) or quality (water, air or soil), the species habituating
that area must change as well. Darwinism starts to penetrate the Islands
because only the strong will survive. When scarcity hits the Solomons,
the organisms that can live off the least amount of food or water shall
prevail. An extremely wonderful example of a complex ecosystem that may
soon be threatened are the mangroves. The mangroves are tropical wetlands
that possess unique qualities not found in any areas of the world. For
example, the mangroves contain highly saturated soils and trees with three
unusual features. They have prop roots which balances the tree on unconsolidated
soil, and unwittingly becomes a center of biodiversity. Pneutophores (snorkels)
and viviparous seeds are the remaining characteristics which allow the
mangroves to thrive in a stratified area impacted by freshwater (from the
rivers) as well as saltwater (from the ocean).With only .2 square kilometers
of salt-tolerant mangroves left, these rare wetlands must be protected.
A narrow surviving corridor of species decreases the biodiversity of
the islands because natural selection leaves behind several organisms.
The ocean will also start to homogenize when water quality changes, and
only a few marine creatures can adapt quick enough to survive. Although
evolution takes decades or even centuries to change the demography of species,
the threat of exotic species seems to be moving quicker than ever. For
some reason, exotics are able to thrive in less than favorable conditions
compared to native species. Combined with one or all of the other environmental
problems, exotic species can be the end of many organisms. The Solomon
Islands communicate with other countries mainly by ship because of their
isolated situations. Usually ships travel all over the world, and they
can be carriers of exotic ships especially with the practice of using "ballast
water." For the time being, the major exotic species infestation in the
Solomons are ants.
Solomon Islanders tend to live in isolated villages along different
islands (with the exception of Honiara), and they rarely share a common
culture. With such a diverse population, achieving certain goals are only
going to be the result of hard work and dedication. Problems that stem
from the enormous variety include:
Nationwide communication due to the language barrier.
The establishment of treaties or contracts between the government, the
native population and the foreign investors.
Educational progress in accordance with the development of new structures
A shift away from short-term benefits.
As a developing country, the Solomons are no exception when it comes
to their economic standing in the world. Their economic status mirrors
those of nineteenth and twentieth century "colonies" to the stronger powers.
The more developed countries (ex. Japan) sell the Solomon Islands manufactured
goods, in return for raw materials such as timber and fish. As a market
for raw materials, the Solomons experience these problems:
Dependence on developed countries for manufactured goods.
Exportation of slow regenerative products.
Lack of capital and infrastructure.
Loss of employment due to selling raw logs.
Controversies between natives and foreigners over land and sea ownership.
"Particularly important, moreover, are the roles of formal political
institutions as mediators and conveyors of the different views of traditional
users and new parties" (Hviding, 1996). The government holds the key to
uniting the Solomon Islanders in the struggle for their resources:
Government regulation of tropical rainforests.
Government enforcement of conservation practices and environmental policies.
Government subsidies for the advancement of education and research for
With the Solomon Islanders being such a diverse nation, the language
and cultural barrier between each tribe poses a serious threat to any community
based project. Since the educational programs are behind in manpower and
technology, there must be a major push towards a new network which includes
the development of new facilities to teach the people within their own
villages. To stop the alarming rates of destruction of the forests and
aquatic environments, people are going to have to understand one another.
Simple as it may sound, the cultural gaps between each individual tribe,
the collective indigenous population and the commercial or industrial (usually
foreign) investors run miles apart from each other. The first step to breach
such distances between tradition and modern styles of thinking revolves
around educating all parties. This goal involves massive changes to existing
structures of educational policy because there are not enough faculty or
administration to implement such an extensive plan. However, the most important
factor (in anything these days) in the building of new schools and colleges
is and always will be money. The real challenge to this project requires
looking at the long-term benefit rather than the short-term, but today’s
economic policies are geared towards the immediate gain.
If the Solomon Islands remain a market of natural resources, long-term
problems will arise due to scarcity. The natural resources taken out of
the earth will not be able to regenerate themselves as quickly as before,
and with an increasing population this trend could speed up even more.
A proposed plan includes "the regime of investment incentives will be streamlined
and reoriented to induce import substitution activity, production for export
markets and tourism development as means of reducing the country’s dependence
on imported manufactured goods and the export of primary products"(www.solomons).
However, the production of substitutes and the creation of a tourist industry
utilizes a lot of time, energy and capital.
Since the government has been selling their former plantations wholesale
to foreign investors, the Solomon Islanders lost a vital income because
the logging companies were able to cut and transport the raw logs themselves.
Creating a substitution process for things that the Islands usually import,
the government could give jobs back to the people in that production line.
Starting this project takes a group of professionals who are well-trained
in the sciences of economics and ecology. These scientists need to work
together in assessing the islands for elements that can be used for substitution
as well how to set up an industry without creating more damage than the
rampant logging managed to do. After the creation of the working process,
the Solomon Islanders learn the trade and passes it down from generation
to generation. Preferably, every village adds extracurricular activity
to educate the public in the dangers of unsustainable living like the people
Eco-tourism seems to be the new rage within the development of beautiful
third world countries. In fact, the Solomon Islands looks like "an ideal
vacation spot-sparkling, clear blue water, a fine sandy beach, great reef
diving, snorkeling, canoeing and fishing, not to mention friendly people
and delicious seafood...there’s always hiking in the pristine rainforests,
visits to the colourful local markets, or absorbing the local culture"(Hunnam,
1996). With all these wonderful things to do, who wouldn’t want to spend
an ideal vacation here (see Figure 4)? The Michi Village, a small community
tourism venture was designed to meet community, cultural and conservation
needs (1997). The "tourism project has also brought social and cultural
benefits to the community...traditional customs, dance, song, and history-undocumented
knowledge passed orally from one generation to the next..." (Hunnam, 1997).
The key to the success of this resort was the involvement of the community
and the joining of indigenous knowledge to the professional arena of thought.
Although the Michi Village achieved success, "the Solomon Islands are
not well suited for mass market tourism, because of their size and fragility
of the environment, and because of the inconvenience in transport, as yet
rudimentary infrastructure, and the high cost of getting to and staying
in the islands"(www.boh). Another pressing problem for the islands are
the numerous cases of malaria. "Although research has been conducted over
the years, malaria remains a serious problem and an impediment both to
foreign travel and foreign investment" (www.boh). Most critics of eco-tourism
on a massive scale agree that the only beneficial solution contains a plan
for a niche market aimed at small pools of tourists. On a local level,
one group of handcrafters look forward to the increase in local market
opportunities, while the other side (mainly fishers) are nervous about
a serious decrease in native access to the fishing grounds. Since the bulk
of tourists visit the Solomon Islands for the "untouched" coral reefs,
the local fishers are wary of resorts marking off places for them to fish
because of the wants of the tourists. "Despite this emphasis of the tourist
operation on not touching the reefs, but merely looking at them, conflict
has arisen at intervals between the resort managers and the groups who
use and have customary control over the reefs where diving takes place"(Hviding,
1996). Customary respect for the leaders of butubutus (tribes) requires
the resort managers to ask for permission to dive around the coral reefs
as well as monetary compensation. Needless to say, this tradition causes
several problems between the local and foreign players.
With the government allowing the foreign logging and fishing companies
to reap all of the Solomon’s natural resources, the people have to take
action. Prime Minister Mamaloni has proposed to sell oxygen and rain forest
water as a solution towards environmental sustainability (Baird, 1996).
This idea remains absurd considering the fact that within the turn of the
century the loggable rain forest will be demolished. The Mamaloni government
should begin demanding the implementation of conservation practices and
restrictions on the extraction of natural resources. For example, a simple
thing that the government could do was to enforce the conservation laws
already in place like forcing the logging firms to cut the slopes less
than 30 degrees which would avoid erosion and the pollution of the waterways
(Gray, 1996). Or simply planting more trees, and cutting them down at a
decreased rate. Limiting the number of plantations (timber or coconut)
will help conserve the soil, and keep the waterways cleaner. Furthermore,
the government can incorporate the indigenous knowledge from the native
population with scientists to create a workable plan in reviving the ravished
areas. After all, the Solomon Islanders used to rotate the fields and they
all are professionals when it comes to subsistence farming.
In the ocean and surrounding aquatic areas, the government must take
a stand with the locals in their move towards environmentally stable fish
and shellfish populations. Instead of catering to the needs of the foreign
investors, the Mamaloni government needs to improve the depleting numbers
of sea creatures (tuna being the number one fishing industry). Since the
sheltered reef and lagoon systems of the Solomons have suitable conditions
for lagoon-based aquaculture, the Solomon Islanders started small-scale
farms of seaweed and giant clams. These clams are a highly valued local
food, and a potential export for the Asian markets. Unfortunately, the
value of the giant clams triggered extensive poaching by mainly Taiwanese
ships. One thing the government created in cooperation with ICLARM (International
Center for Living Aquatic Resource Management was an international coastal
aquaculture research center. This center resides at Aruligo on the northwest
side of Guadalcanal, and was established by the Manila-based ICLARM in
1987. The Aruligo research center aims "to develop suitable farming systems
for the village-based cultivation of giant clams, with a view both to rural
cash cropping an to restocking depleted reefs"(Hviding, 1996). For the
Solomon Islands this experiment qualifies as a big step forward in the
conservation and protection of the coral reefs and the surrounding waters.
The Solomon Islands possess valuable natural resources that should be
protected because they are vanishing at an appalling rate. Beautiful lagoons,
rushing rivers and lush rainforests cover the islands, and contribute to
the illusion of a tropical paradise (see Figure 5). In reality, the Solomons
resemble a giant magnet that attracts foreign investors and commercial
opportunists. According to an Australian study, logging companies devastate
the rainforests at more than twice the sustainable rate, around 700,000
cubic meters a year. What does the Mamaloni government do to try and stop
the unsustainable rate? The government issued even more logging licenses
that added up to a harvest rate of 4,000,000 cubic meters per year (Lineback,
1998). Another large export commodity for the Solomons involves massive
amounts of fish. With the natives fishing for their survival and the commercial
enterprises fishing for money, the number of catch per unit effort decreases.
In other words, catching the same amount of fish for everyone will take
a larger amount of energy (technology or labor). Furthermore, the majority
of the population remains unaware of the pressing problems happening around
them. Without the creation of a stable health and educational infrastructure,
the Solomon Islanders can not deal with the onslaught of social-economic
problems. The only way to improve the conditions of the Solomon Islands
involves the full cooperation of the government in protecting the environment
and providing adequate information to ensure the survival of the people.
What has the government recently proposed to help the islands? Selling
rainforest oxygen and water seems ridiculous as a solution to the preservation
of the natural environment. Unfortunately, the government still needs to
get their heads out of the clouds, and plant their feet firmly on the ground.
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