Education and Environment by Ralf Stüttgen

October 4, 2009 at 1:15 am (Papua New Guinea) (, , , , , , , , , )

The views from Ralf's property in the Wewak Hills

The views from Ralf's property in the Wewak Hills

Ralf discusses Sepik carvings with US Ambassador, Leslie Rowe

Ralf discusses Sepik carvings with US Ambassador, Leslie Rowe

Proper education not only teaches people to understand and protect the environment, but also frees them of the need to destroy it in order to survive.

Little Malachai, aged 10, near Wewak, roams his tribal grounds with his catapult, shooting at every wild bird that comes in sight. Often he hits one from forty or fifty metres away. Told that wild birds could be wiped out if he continues this practice, he angrily replies: “This is our bush and our wildlife, we can do this, we have to do it. This is the only way for us to get meat.”

Thirty years ago this jungle had a lot of cassowaries. Today there are none left in a five-mile radius around most of the villages. Similarly, the numbers of tree kangaroos or cuscuses, and large fruit bats have dropped to a fraction of what they were a generation ago. “My father used to come home with a whole bag of bats from a hunt. Now we only catch three or four in one night”, laments a young man.

A hundred years ago, a typical New Guinean mother might have given birth to ten children in her lifetime, but only one or two of her children would have survived to adulthood. Today, with hospitals and medical care most survive. The population of PNG has doubled since the introduction of Western medical  facilities, and everybody lusts and needs to be fed from gardens. At present only a small percent of the population live in towns and eat canned meat and imported food.

Logging companies come into the country, and destroy it. “Do you know that if loggers give you K100000 , their company makes a million on your timber on the overseas market.”  “I don’t care what you say”, a local leader told me, “we need the money”.

Scientists worldwide do valuable research on endangered species. But good advice to locals and even politicians remains ineffective. To protect elephants or primates, the poachers would have to be educated to a level where they can make better money than from tusks or monkey meat.

To provide good quality education, the annual budget of a primary school, grades one to six, requires up to one million dollars, secondary and tertiary education costs more. Would well-meaning scientists be able to organise such sums? I think not, so governments need to be approached.

An idea in this context would be for governments to require companies to pay more or less the same rate of taxation, but that this money must be paid directly to provide education to the people in the areas where the companies operate. Taxation imposed and collected by central governments in undeveloped countries inevitably leads to education being poorly resourced, resulting in inferior physical infrastructure and teachers. Taxation legislation requiring this direct local commercial input into education would result in education being given the high priority that it needs.

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1 Comment

  1. Asylum Seekers – Australia’s Hope? by Ralf Stüttgen | Stories by David Wall said,

    […] Education and Environment by Ralf Stüttgen » Ralf discusses Sepik carvings with US Ambassador, Leslie Rowe […]

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