Papua New Guinea

By Scott Serena


Papua New Guinea is an island off the coast of Australia that was formed by settlers about 46,000 years ago. The geography posed a challenge, however the people were able to adapt and learned to farm on the highlands, a new technique that no other civilization had ever attempted. They continued to grow as a civilization, and are currently one of the most thriving countries in the world.
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Despite tough geography and environmental struggles, the people of Papua New Guinea have been able to make a living off the land for many years which has made them very successful, while also running a hands off political approach. Even with all this success, Papua New Guinea has recently been changing their old ways, which will eventually set themselves up for collapse.

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Surviving Geographical Challenges

As shown in the picture above, the geography of Papua New Guinea is thick, rugged, and what appears to be impossible to live on. Most of the land is rocky and highland, and it seems impossible to farm on to create food. However, the people of Papua have adapted over thousands of years. Their innovations seem strange to outside people, but they really know what they are doing. To illustrate, in ¨Collapse¨ by Jared Diamond, Diamond tells a story about a European agricultural advisor that convinces some New Guinean highland farmers to re-orient their horizontal drains, which in the end creates their garden to collapse into the river below. The people were awed at first by the standard European designs, but their own drains were oriented in that way for a reason. On a final note, Papua New Guinea is exposed to many volcanoes. The most popular one was Ritter Island, which erupted a few times and actually laterally collapsed in 1888. This collapsed shot a ton of ash into the air which destroyed many of the plants temporarily. In short, New Guineans have been able to deal with their tough society for many years.

Hands-Off Government Approach

One of the reasons of success for Papua New Guinea was the government. At the beginning of their civilization, there was no such thing as "Government" or a "Political System". All of the people in the villages depended on each other and there wasn't anyone who had a true leader role. However, Jared Diamond describes that there were "Big Men" in each of the villages, who were similar to chiefs. They lived in huts and farmed like everyone else, but every one trusted them and knew that they would make the right decisions if something arose. If the village did need to make a decision, everyone would sit down together and work out the best solution. In total, this type of government in the villages of Papua New Guinea created a peaceful environment among everyone
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Environmental Benefits

Lastly, the people of Papua New Guinea were able to gain a lot off of the land even with the tough geography. To start, the soil that they worked on was very fertile because of volcanic eruptions. While these eruptions were chaotic and caused a lot of damage to the crops at first, it helped New Guineans in the long run because it created very fertile soil that exponentially increased the amount of plant growth. This was a blessing, but also a curse. Lots of trees were sprouting up, and with this surplus of wood, it caused society to flourish and actually increase the population. The reason for this was because wood was used every day for building, farming, heating the home, etc. Yet another issue arose when the larger population used up most of the surplus of wood. This issue was resolved when villagers discovered casurina pollen, which grew trees that were easy to cut, and had hydrogen removing roots that didn't damage or erode the soil. This helped keep the fertile soil from the previous volcano eruptions. In short, the New Guineans were able to benefit from a lot off their land.
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To sum up, New Guinea has survived and thrived for a very long time. They have been able to live off the land and make a living given the harsh geography. Despite this success, New Guinea has recently been changing their old, working ways and they are setting themselves up for a slow and steady collapse. Their government has changed to a corrupt democracy, their economy has fallen, and because of these the country is going into civil turmoil that will eventually cause the nation to collapse.

Works Cited

1. Diamond, Jared M. "Opposite Paths to Sucess." Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. 283. Print.

2. "Papua New Guinea Deforestation at Critical Level." The Watchers. N.p., 30 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

3. Windybank, Susan. "Papua New Guinea on the Brink." The Centre for Independent Studies. N.p., 12 Mar. 2003. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

4. Windybank, Susan. "Will Papua New Guinea Become a 'failed State'? A Downward Spiral." International Herald Tribune 8 Apr. 2003: 7. Global Issues In Context. Web. 4 Mar. 2014