For the last 5 or so months I have been completely emerged in the backpacker travelling lifestyle – hostel living, goon drinking, sleeping on buses, day trips with others my age and even more nights out. But last night at the Doc Week Screening of CANNING PARADISE I had my eyes completely opened to the UGLY side of travel. Having travelling more Western World countries than not you take the way life is for granted, you forget that some countries are yet to be ‘Westernised’ and still live life in the way generations have for thousands of years – currently in Papua New Guinea this is being taken away from them piece by piece.
So what am I babbling on about? Let me set the scene for you.
Canning Paradise Trailer and below the synopsis of the film.
A film By Olivier Pollet
All problems start when mankind loses its connection with the land. Canning Paradise is a skilful report of cause and effect. Capitalism’s fury is unleashed over Papua New Guinea after the European Union strikes a deal with the country to allow canned tuna from PNG to enter the union, duty free.
The result is ruthless foreign investment and an environmental and social disaster. A story about human rights violation that is happening only a one and a half hour plane ride away from Cairns. Excerpt From Here
Going in to this screening I had no clue about the issue or what I was going to be educated about in the next 90 minutes. I simply choose that screening over any other because it was about travel but in those 90 minutes you go from confused to understanding to wanting to make a change. Olivier has done an amazing job taking such a complex issue and making it in to a film that can educate even a 21 year old girl who has never read anything about this issue before. Now here I am completely inspired by what I learnt last night and trying in my own words to share it to all of you who I’m guessing like me have no clue about these issues.
In Papua New Guinea like many other Pacific countries, Africa and South America they are not wealthy in money but in land and resources. It is where they build their houses, it is where they grow food or go to hunt for food be that on land or in the waters. Without the land and resources they are poor – they will be forced in to poverty because they are not rich in money. The problem that has been happening in the last few years is that tuna companies (RD Tuna) are coming and taking over the land and taking away the resources. They are setting up their boats near to the shore, taking away all the fish and polluting the seas, which in turn is polluting the rivers and streams. For their warehouses they need land, so instead of buying the land off the people – as there is no chance they would sell – they go barging in to the tribal areas and forced them to sign a paper document they do not understand which allows RD Tuna and other such projects to have rights of the land for 99 years.
The people in PNG are confused, angry and hurt. They do not really understand what is happening except that their land is being taken away and the Government are just sitting back and watching it happen. Laws have been passed which only make the situation worse for people in PNG except a ruling of minimum wages. Still these companies are ignoring this rule and if anyone complains they are just fired and replaced so it is better not to say anything. Since when is that right? Not only this but these companies have promised the people of PNG benefits such as jobs and money to come from their company being in their town or village. However like everything these promises seem to vanish one at a time, being given to larger countries such as China.
The government are constantly promising benefits but the people of Madang haven’t seen any. They are having their homes destroyed and struggling to find enough fish to feed their families. It has been reported that women are exchanging sex for fish – that is not right! All they keep seeing is loss after loss and they really believe that the only way they are going to make a difference in this situation is VIOLENCE. This country saw a similar thing happen during the Bougainville crisis in the 80’s/90’s, where to finally get heard and action happen it came to Civil War. This situation is not dissimilar and if nothing gets done I fear that will be the case here.
Over the past 50 years I’m aware that we have seen many different situations of this type – I mean even Australia have had their own issues with the Aboriginals who were asked to leave their land and live in a Westernised world. This issue is a here and now issue – it is happening this very day and I feel as travellers if we aren’t aware of it, how can people that don’t travel be aware. And if no one is aware how is anything going to change?