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The fallen calophyllum tree & our real connection to Bougainville

Calophyllum treeSIMON PENTANU

BUKA - A fallen calophyllum tree hacked to death and felled into the sea by the most predatory species on the planet.

This is old growth beach tree is more than a century old.

I know this tree, this is where we used to roam, run and swim along the beach and foreshore when growing up as children in the early 1950s into the 1960s before some of us left the village to get educated in classrooms.

Some of the calophyllum of similar age and size, along with other old growth beach tree species, are still standing along the beach. It is always a great relief to see and touch them and get a sense of perspective of how small a man is compared to their height and huge shade-providing foliage.

This fallen calophyllum met with its fate because, compared to the others along the beach, it had a straighter trunk attractive to provide a couple of sawn planks which were used to contribute to building material for teachers’ housing at the local island school.

If it were still standing today, its contribution to the environment as a living tree would be enormously greater - and continuing - at a time when we can ill afford to cause further menace to our island’s fragile environment.

For better or worse, Bougainville’s future depends on how well we, the leaders, listen to and communicate with our people and how seriously we commit to care about the environment.

The crisis that began in Panguna was largely, and in so many ways, an environmental protest.

The environment is the island of Bougainville that supports us, sustains our livelihood and sustains all life on the island.

Our biodiverse environment is our real capital from beginning to end - it is our Alpha and Omega. Our real capital is not money in the bank, shares in the stock market or gold bars and bullion in vaults.

Our environment is what has sustained us in the past before the arrival of missionaries and colonisers. It is what continues to sustain the huge bulk of our unsalaried population. And it is what will continue to sustain us if we do not scorch, poison or destroy it in the name of wanton progress.

We must graduate to a mindset wherein we are clearly aware of the repercussions and consequences of our own actions where we live.

We must also be mindful and aware of our symbiotic relationship with our environment - the natural world. We must inculcate this in the minds and hearts of our children as we bring them up.

Our natural, spiritual and physical connection to, and symbiotic relationship with, Bougainville is not imaginary. It is real.

The bottom line with this is, there is no other Bougainville we can bequeath to our children, their children and their children’s children if we gradually and knowingly destroy the only Bougainville we have.


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Kenny Pawa Ambaisi

Bougainville is an important Island province of PNG. However it went into crisis because of poor decisions.

Memorandums of understanding and agreements about our resources must be done considering how our people can benefit.

Thank you Simon for highlighting this as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is gearing up for political independence.

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