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01 January 2017

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From Georgina Numbasa.....A great piece…

Many of us who have lived in both worlds- village life and town life will identify with this experience.

My big brother George and I were born in Wewak, George was 2 years old and I was couple of months old when we left home to join our dad in Mt Hagen and later moved throughout the highlands provinces, Morobe and Madang.

My younger siblings were born away from home and we were raised away from home. I am so grateful for my late Father to bring us back to the village with the main purpose of making sure we know our roots, our story and appreciate who we are.

Also through education, work and travel you encounter people of varied cultures. All these experiences will make you appreciate being a Papua New Guinean and will greatly influence your world views, affect how you treat your fellow countryman and the desire to see PNG change and develop for the better.

When you are in Paris and you see a fellow country man from Simbu, oh you forget the world is watching…you both scream, ran towards each other ignoring the traffic and give each other the world’s biggest hug!!!

But back at home in PNG when something goes wrong, oh em Simbu, mi Sepik and we start killing each other…Nonsense!!! That must stop.

When I was studying for my Masters in Environmental Science 10 years ago, I noticed that I tend to have the upper hand in most discussions around traditional/indigenous environmental conservation and management practices, calculating Ecological Footprints, Environmental Economics on placing cultural values on natural resources etc that was more sustainable before the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of western knowledge systems that deemed local knowledge inferior, well not anymore.

In all the Courses, my Professors will always ask me to give a PNG example. In one particular Course, I realised that 10 minutes before the lecture ends, the Professor will always ask me to take over and conclude the lecture with a PNG example.

Towards the end of the semester I asked why he chose me and not the other students in class. I will never forget his response. He said “Georgina, what does the world know about the intrinsic value of the environment? The World knows that PNG has some of the most sustainable traditional environmental practices that money can’t buy. We want to know what you have, while you are here, tell us, tell the world, the world is now shifting towards embracing local wisdom and knowledge in environmental management”.

When I return back to teaching at UPNG, I observed very interesting responses from the students. When students were asked to provide examples of their traditional environmental practices in conservation and management from their respective villages or provinces, many were not motivated to do so and not serious. A good number of students were lost.

I must admit at one stage I was annoyed and was going to tell them that, look you are not Australians or Americans who came here by boat and have completely lost touch with your environment, or sense of place or belonging.

But, then there is always the reality of a changing modern PNG, a growing number of children in this generation will not know much or even a thing about their culture. Many are born and raised in towns and cities or in urban settlements that have failed to maintain connection with their home of origin.

Personally, it is very enriching to have lived both worlds of village and town life and I believe what matters is how we individuals can merge the benefits of both worlds to contribute to the development of our country and people in our own respective areas of expertise.

This is a marvellously evocative piece. It conveys beautifully the joys and dilemmas arising during the transition from village life into the modern world. Congratulations Emma.

Wonderful writing, Emma. Thank you!

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