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Cultural antropology Essay

Judith M. Fitzpatrick has worked in the Pacific for the last 25 years investigating health and environment issues from a cultural perspective. Her book “Endangered Peoples of Oceania: Struggles to Survive and Thrive” presents a unique opportunity to discover how the peoples of Oceania are struggling to be economically independent and autonomous while maintaining their distinctive cultural traditions. This book introduces a wide range of Pacific Islanders and indigenous and migrant cultures in Australia and New Zealand and the challenges they face today.

This volume focuses on 16 endangered peoples, from Micronesians and Melanesians to Samoans in New Zealand. One can find out about the contemporary impacts and responses to such factors as nuclear testing, migration for jobs and uncontrolled development. The chapters are written by different anthropologists based on their recent fieldwork. This is a well-researched book is packed with information that is unavailable elsewhere. It is an invaluable source that moves beyond its useful overview to provide the details of individual cultural struggles.

This book is a good introduction to the Pacific and Australia. It gives wide, comprehensive view of the many challenges faced by contemporary Pacific and Australian Koori peoples. It provides thought provoking issues that engages and encourages one to think about communities outside of his locality. Each chapter is written by a different scholar, introducing the cultural area, the people and their interaction with foreign forces. It frames up the most obstinate issues and the people’s reactions and solutions to the foreign influences.

Each chapter provides a series of questions to provoke reflective thought, a list of websites and related videos. It is a very useful and informative resource. The peoples of Oceania are struggling to be economically independent and autonomous while maintaining their distinctive cultural traditions. Each chapter in Endangered Peoples of Oceania: Struggles to Survive and Thrive is devoted to a specific people, including a cultural overview of their history, subsistence strategies, social and political organization, and religion and world view; threats to their survival; and their response to these threats.

A section entitled “Food for Thought” poses questions that encourage a personal engagement with the experience of these peoples. For example, the adverse environmental impact of mining in Papua New Guinea has generated major social disruption in several areas of Papua New Guinea where mining has taken place. On Bougainville, the site of the CRA/RTZ Panguna Copper mine, battles over benefits, compensation and environmental degradation eventually led to the abandonment of the mine by the company, claims for secession by some Bougainvilleans and a decade-long civil war.

It has also occasioned litigation by, or on behalf of, affected communities that has been very expensive for the companies concerned. In 1996 BHP was forced to pay K150 million as compensation to communities of the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers (Politicized Ecology: Local Responses to Mining in Papua New Guinea, Macintyre M. , Oceania, 2004). Another problem to raise is the problem resulting from the ongoing effects of global warming. The low-lying atoll nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati have lost already a number of their beautiful islets and the infringement of rising water levels are becoming apparent on many of the main islands and atolls.

Indeed, this is a widespread problem throughout Oceania with other atoll nations such as the Marshall Islands and Tokelau Islands also in imminent danger from rising water levels. It is indeed rather disappointing that the world’s major industrial countries have taken no action on the serious problem of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. In this respect, one can only assume that these nations are not prepared to impose a financial cost on their industries to clean up – rather they are prepared to sacrifice the people of the world’s low-lying atoll nations.

The options available to both these countries are quite limited. In Tuvalu, all the islands are low-lying coral atolls and one can only assume that all these islands may well be lost over the next 40-50 years. In saying this, it is recognized that an island becomes “lost” long before the water level covers the island but rather at the point where the rising water level gets into the food chain rendering the traditional crops such as babai or taro, breadfruit, bananas, etc. inedible. Tuvalu would appear to have repatriation as its primary option although some form of retaining walls around the capital, Funafuti, had been mooted.

In this respect, one has to consider the possibility that New Zealand who has, to her credit, accepted many island people will, in due course, not be able to accept further migration from island countries. It can only be assumed that there is a possibility that the Tuvaluan people will have to look at further destinations rather than New Zealand. References: 1. Fitzpatrick, Judith M. , Edi. , 2001, Endangered Peoples of Oceania: Struggles to Survive and Thrive, West port, CT: Greenwood Press.


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