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Papua New Guinea is going through a crisis: A concentration on conventional approaches to development, including an unsustainable reliance on mining, forestry, and foreign aid, has contributed to the country's slow decline since independence in 1975. Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Development attempts to address problems and gaps in the literature on development and develop a new qualitative conception of community sustainability informed by substantial and innovative research in Papua New Guinea. In this context, sustainability is conceived in terms that include not just practices tied to economic development. It also informs questions of wellbeing and social integration, community-building, social support, and infrastructure renewal. In short, the concern with sustainability here entails undertaking an analysis of how communities are sustained through time, how they cohere and change, rather than being constrained within discourses and models of development. From another angle, this project presents an account of community sustainability detached from instrumental concerns with economic development.
Contributors address questions such as: What are the stories and histories through which people respond to their nation's development? What is the everyday social environment of groups living in highly diverse areas (migrant settlements, urban villages, remote communities)? They seek to contribute to a creative and dynamic grass-roots response to the demands of everyday life and local-global pressures. While the overdeveloped world faces an intersecting crisis created by global climate change and financial instability, Papua New Guinea, with all its difficulties, still has the basis for responding to this manifold predicament. Its secret lies in what has been seen as its weakness: underdeveloped economies and communities, where people still maintain sustainable relations to each other and the natural world.
Paul James is professor of globalization and cultural diversity, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Yaso Nadarajah is research fellow at the Globalism Research Centre, RMIT. Karen Haive is first assistant secretary in the Department for Community Development, Papua New Guinea. Victoria Stead is research assistant in the Department for Community Development, Papua New Guinea.