Feet on both sides of the border

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

We’ve been sailing past and through some of the most wonderfully named parts of the world – Flores, Butu, Ceram, Halmahera and their associated seas – which for me conjure up images of trading ships at full sail, laden down with cargoes of nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

It’s a very Eurocentric view, of course, and the spice trade was often at the expense of the local population, but I can’t help finding the associations with exploration and uncharted waters bewitching. (And for a very readable account of that period in history, you could do worse than track down a copy of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton.)

But while these exotic locations drift by, we’re preparing for our arrival in Jakarta next week, and the long journey is also giving me a chance to catch up on some of the interviews I conducted between Jayapura and Manokwari.

One of the more interesting and colourful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this expedition is Dorothy. She’s a Greenpeace forest campaigner from Papua New Guinea and joined the Esperanza in Port Moresby in August. Dorothy left the ship last weekend in Manokwari but before she disembarked, I wanted to find out why it was important that she stay on the ship over the border into the Indonesian half of New Guinea.

Listen to the audio clip below and hear about Dorothy’s links to both Papua and Papua New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.

You’ve been on the Esperanza for both the Papua New Guina leg and some of the Indonesian leg. Why was it important to you to be on both sides of the border?
It’s been very important for many reasons. The first one being, as a campaigner, it’s good to understand that this island is rich in biodiversity and it’s one ecological system. The island has similar problems on both sides of the border and as a campaigner it’s important for me to understand what is happening here as well as in Papua New Guinea.

Also, as we go to international conferences, we tend to talk about the island as one, the island of New Guinea. It’s the world’s third largest rainforest and it’s important to think of it as a whole rather than as in parts. It has also enriched me personally to see the struggle of my colleagues on this side of the border, and the issues that they have here.

And you have quite strong personal ties to Papua, as well.
Personally, this visit has been a little bit emotional for me. Partly because I see the beauty of my island, being a descendent of people from the Papuan side. I’m actually from Papua New Guinea but my grandmother is from this side of the border, and it has been emotional for me to see the connections of my people in Papua to the environment, and to the forest especially because most of them are still dependent on it for their livelihood.

I have family on this side who live under a different political system, who live under different land and forest use laws. While it’s emotional, it’s also interesting to learn about their rights and it makes me more determined to see things in a way that unite us as indigenous people of this island rather than as people from two different countries with different legal and political systems.


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