Papua New Guinea
In October 2019 I conducted research in psychology and culture in Kiriwina, the biggest of the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. While staying in the village of Kavataria and examining culture, my intentions were never to change anything, but to observe. However, I couldn’t ignore the negative effects of the outside world on the local environment and people’s health. So I tried to understand the environmental problems of the community - and any ways we might be able to solve them.
In many developing countries plastic pollution is out of control - there are no facilities or proper infrastructure for waste management and also a lack of awareness. Like many islands nations around the world, in Kiriwina, people rely mostly on fish for their nutrition. However, plastic waste is piled up in villages, beaches and the sea floor, polluting the water and marine life which they rely on.
Plastic was introduced worldwide, in multiple forms, but without the knowledge of how to manage the waste it creates, which has resulted in terrible consequences for the environment - and the people using it.
I had the privilege to spend time with the people of Kiriwina island, learn about their culture and their once sustainable way of living that is inevitably changing with development, the exposure to Western goods and the introduction of materials such as plastic.
I led a small cleanup with the kids in the village, which sparked a conversation and was raised up as a subject in their community meeting. We talked about how plastic is harmful for our health, environment and also contributing to land loss. Kids joined me in collecting trash and plastic pieces to create a unique piece of art - a fish made of plastic.
Our “Plastic Fish” artwork spoke to the people because fish are so important in their nutrition and culture - I hope, it started a change. The plastic fish is now hanging in Kavataria Elementary School and my dear friend, Titi Chris the school teacher and principal, wrote the text for it.
In fact, the problem is far from being solved and together with community conservation and awareness projects, a worldwide solution for plastic pollution most take place in order to prevent further impact on the environment, oceans, wildlife and many communities around the world that rely on the oceans for their living.
As we go, we still have so much to learn from traditional societies.
Thank you Kiriwina for this incredible once in a lifetime experience.