Understanding a conservation system means understanding not only the nature of what is being conserved, but also the viewpoint of the conserver. Knowledge of this second element is essential if we are to comprehend a system of resource manageÂ ment employed by a people whose perception of their environment differs from our own. Watt (83) has said that a prudent civilization should take seriously the ideas of other civilizations about resource use. "Over the short term," he states, "the ideas of civilization A might appear vastly superior to those of civilization B. But over the long term it could turn out that the apparently 'primitive' practices of civilizaÂ tion B were based on millenia of trial and error and incorporated deep wisdom that was unintelligible to civilization A." The following is an account of the rise and decline of a millenia-old system of controlled exploitation of marine resources that incorporates a wisdom Westerners are only now beginning to appreciate after having brought about its widespread decay. The inhabitants of Oceania [defined here as the islands of Polynesia (excluding New Zealand), Melanesia (excluding New Guinea), and Micronesia] traditionally obtained the bulk of their protein from the sea. They often
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1978
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