Seeing REDD: The Political Ecology of Logging in Papua New Guinea

Date and Time: 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 09:30
, Austin - University of Cambridge

Papua New Guinea’s rainforests contain 8% of terrestrial biodiversity, yet 25% of the country's forest cover was lost or degraded from 1972-2002. In Vanimo, West Sepik Province, trees provide everything from food and shelter to sacred medicines and political boundaries. But as Malaysian loggers build new oil palm plantations, a conflict grows between forest-dependent peoples and those seeking paychecks in a cash economy. In response to deforestation and associated climate change, the UN launched REDD in 2008 to incentivize forest conservation through carbon trading. While the initiative is gaining ground among resource owners, plant-based sorcery remains a powerful mechanism for political control in land disputes. And with forest disappearing at an unprecedented rate, plants used for magical protection are increasingly scarce. In my paper, I examine sorcery practices within the context of environmental politics, provide examples of sacred plants currently threatened by logging, and offer proposals for equitable REDD+ implementation.