Sink or Swim | Pacific Voyagers


Sink or Swim

An older reflection from the Uto Ni Yalo

From Lattitude 15o S, Longitude 164o E

Lets take time away from our crew happenings to dwell on something we’ve all been discussing on board. Effectively, this is what we are all passionate about. Here you have a group of 15 crew on board your Uto ni Yalo at this present time. These are our collective thoughts.

How much do we really know about our environment?

What if we said that in March, on the day before the full moon there will be hundreds if not thousands of groupers, rock cods, or kawakawa, enmassed in an area less than 1,000 square meters at the mouth of the Dreketi River in Vanua Levu?

Now what if we said that there is a particular tree in the highlands of Naitasiri that flowers seasonally, each flowering season signifying the aggregation of the rabbit fishes or nuqa along certain parts of the coral coast?

Now you’d probably think we’re insane, or you’d say sivia na yaqona, lai lotu mada (too much kava, go to church), right?

Allow us to ask you a few questions.

How many different names of marine fishes do you know? Just one, maybe two? If you’ve heard of and can identify a kakarawa, bubute, lawÄ«, kalia, varivoce, saqa, vilu, saku vorowaqa, bosita, nuqa, bati lumi, daniva, maqwa, tei, ulurua, ilava vucesa, bose tei, bune, kata ni ose, etc than you’re a local genius.

If not, don’t despair. You’re one of the many thousands of Pacific islanders who no longer live a subsistence lifestyle and are detached from the very knowledge that have sustained your forebears for millenia. But you’re not alone!

By now if you are fuming or curious as to what on earth we are yapping on about! Don’t worry, this is still a tale of environmental issues. Just a difficult one to explain in a few short sentences.

Turn on the TV, radio or read the papers and you will probably be as tired as us about our national problems. Job losses, urban drift, increased poverty, trade imbalance. These are issues facing us right now.

What do we do? A wise man once said something to the effect, “if you give a man fish he will eat for a day. If you teach him how to fish he will live longer”.

Subsistence living means understanding ones environment. It is about understanding how the living (plants and animals) interact with each other and how these interact with the non-living (soil, sunlight, fresh water, moon, currents, tide, depth, salt water, etc). It means re-visiting our traditional knowledge.

To live is to learn. No amount of books nor talanoa sessions will ever empower you with these knowledge. Go fishing, planting, trekking, etc with your elders and practically learn from them.

Given our current development issues, we are the few who believe that should we be cut out from the rest of the world, we will still survive. Why?

Robert Johannes, in his book called Words of the Lagoon summed it up best:

“Pacific island economies were traditionally self-sufficient. Detailed knowledge of the local environment and of ways to exploit it wisely was essential to this sufficiency. The success of an involuntary return to greater self-sufficiency would hinge largely on the extent to which traditional knowledge – knowledge gained specifically to foster self-sufficiency – has been retained.”

It’s up to us now. Do we swim or sink? We choose the former.

A thought provoking day to you all. One love!

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