New Guinea: Collapse Project

Graham Braden

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Although many will argue that the reason for success in New Guinea is because of its isolation from the world, the primary reason for the success is because of the primitive form of government in each tribe, secondary causes being the silviculture of casuarina oligondon to help combat deforestation, and the advanced agricultural techniques developed over thousands of years.


New Guinea is an isolated country/island off the coast of Australia.The first people came to New Guinea about 46,000 years ago while migrating from Indonesia. New Guinea is a vey primitive country and for the most part has been untouched. The Island lies in a tropical zone and contains rainforest, volcanoes, and lakes all of which aid the over 700 tribes living on the island. Over 93% of the island is covered in rainforest taking up a majority of the country. Because of this lumber is the main resource on the island. As far as weather on the island there are two basic seasons: a wet season from december to march and a dry season from May to October.

Reason 1:

(1)The primary reason for the success of the island has come from the simple form of government that every tribe follows. In each village there is no chief or group with absolute power, however, there is a "Big Men" or someone who most villagers trust and is influential. Still, the big man is no more powerful than anyone else in the tribe so when a decision needs to be made everyone in the tribe can express their opinion. This process can be dragged out and take a long time, however, it insures that each decision or change made is beneficial for the tribe.This primitive form of a republic is the reason for things like silviculture which saved New Guinea from collapse due to deforestation much like the Mayans. It is also responsible for the many of the agricultural techniques that allow the people in New Guinea to thrive. Furthermore, unlike many other civilizations where poor decisions by the government or a leader becoming to powerful causes the collapse of that civilization, the government among the tribes in New Guinea has not gotten any more complex than it was thousands of years ago. It is because of this that New Guinea has had so much success.

Reason 2:

(2)A secondary reason for the success of New Guinea is because of silviculture, or the process of growing trees instead of field crops as in conventional agriculture. Wood is the primary resource in New Guinea and is used for building, tools, and heat. After a spike in fertile soil from volcanic ash, crop growth was stimulated which then caused a major spike in population. With more people there needed to be more wood, this intern caused deforestation across New guinea. In order to fix this problem tribes got togethers and everybody put there ideas together. One villager must have noticed that the seeds of the casuarina tree were scattered across the river banks and that they could be used to produce more wood. The casuarina tree is good when combating deforestation because it is fast growing and a very hard wood, however, at the same time it is easy to split. Additionally, it adds nutrients to the soil and stops the soil from eroding away, especially, in the highlands where villagers farm on hill sides. This means that you can continue to plant the tree over an over again and not have to worry about the soil becoming less fertile.

Reason 3:

(3)Another reason for the success of New Guinea comes from there very advance agricultural techniques. New Guinea is split up into two major parts: the highlands and the lowlands. Both ares have different agricultural similarities and differences that help them succeed. In the highlands the temperatures are cooler and make better conditions for sweet potatoes. However, much of the farming must be done on a slope. In order to make sure that the crops get the proper amount water, but at the same make sure that the ground doesn't erode away taking crops with it tribes have developed vertical drainage systems. These for of irrigations gets water to the crops and makes sure that rain water does not flood the fields during their wet season. Moreover, in the low altitude zones sago is the main crop since it grows best in the climate in this area. Through trial and error over thousands of years, tribes in New Guinea have developed techniques such as vertical drainage ditches and discovered what grows best where. It has enabled tribes to create surplus and continue to thrive.
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Citation :

Works Cited

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

"New Guinea." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

Ohtsuka, Ryutaro. "5. Agricultural Sustainability and Food in Papua New Guinea." 5. Agricultural Sustainability and Food in Papua New Guinea. United Nations University, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <>.

The currency is not important for this article since it is talking about the agriculture of ancient society and tribes that have been practicing the same techniques for thousands of years. This source is reliable since it hits many of the same points Jared diamond and many other sources agree on. One being that the highlands are more densely populated due to the fact that sweet potato has a very high productivity. This source has authority because it is a .edu. Lastly, this site's purpose is to simply present facts in a way to show the agricultural sustainability of the low and highlands in New Guinea

"Pacific Ocean Cultures." Ancient and Medieval World. Marshall Cavendish Digital, 2014. Web. 04 March 2014.<>.

"Papua New Guinea: Environment." World Geography: Understanding a Changing World. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.

Roscoe, Paul. "Hunter Gatherers - New Guinea." Hunter Gatherers - New Guinea. Climate Change Institute, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <>.

Currency is irrelevant for this article since it is talking about timely information. This source is reliable since a lot of the information correlates with the collapse book. It talks about how the people of New Guinea relied on agriculture as a source of energy. This is what most databases and sites say about New Guinea. This article has authority since it was written by Paul Roscoe, Professor of Anthropology and Cooperating Professor of Climate Change Institute. He also has a Ph.D from the University of Rochester. Furthermore, this article is a .edu meaning that it was written by a university giving it authority. This articles purpose is strictly factual and talks about a professors experience in New Guinea. It also points to academic articles as back up information.