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 to survive.
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 (1988).
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" (Diamond, 1995).
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 disease.
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:
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:
"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:
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 of Maldives.
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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