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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 34-47

Governing uncertainty: Resilience, dwelling, and flexible resource management in Oceania

Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, San Diego, USA

Correspondence Address:
Matthew Lauer
Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, San Diego
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.182802

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Date of Web Publication20-May-2016


This article examines the flexible, customary land and sea tenure practices on a small island in Melanesia. I use the dwelling concept to analyse how governance practices on the island function during three different kinds of social-ecological change: 1) rapid demographic expansion; 2) a destructive tsunami; and 3) several recent development projects. In contrast to conventional resilience approaches, the dwelling concept draws attention to the immediate experience and practical application of environmental management. Results show that flexible resource governance is not based on a set of pre-determined rules, but instead, it is a socially-situated, experiential activity involving tension, conflict, and contestation as people negotiate access to land and sea resources. I argue that a dwelling perspective enhances resilience-focused research by providing a broader, non-dichotomising nature-culture analytical lens and by expanding the scope of inquiry to include power dynamics and contestation between social groups, processes that dominate the everyday experience of flexible ecosystem management governance but tend to be overlooked in most resilience research. With its emphasis on the complexity, contingency, and asymmetry of interacting social, economic, political, and ecological processes the dwelling approach complements 'new ecology', the epistemological shift that help inspire resilience research.

Keywords: governance, politics, social-ecological systems, nature-culture dichotomy, Solomon Islands, resilience framework

How to cite this article:
Lauer M. Governing uncertainty: Resilience, dwelling, and flexible resource management in Oceania. Conservat Soc 2016;14:34-47

How to cite this URL:
Lauer M. Governing uncertainty: Resilience, dwelling, and flexible resource management in Oceania. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Jul 2];14:34-47. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2016/14/1/34/182802

   Introduction Top

In much of the western Pacific, particularly Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea, land and marine resources are managed, and are under the control of local communities. In the Solomon Islands, for example, over 85% of the land and almost all of the near-shore resources remain under 'customary' tenure. Until recently, it was widely assumed that such common-property arrangements were a relic that would inevitably disappear, replaced by either state management or private ownership of natural resources (Hardin 1968). In the 1980s, however, local resource management practices like those in the western Pacific began to generate much interest across the social and natural sciences. A vigorous flood of work on common property arrangements emerged, documenting how, in many different environments and social contexts—from the Swiss Alps to the coasts of Maine to Melanesia—local groups have demonstrated the capacity to sustainably manage their natural resources over the long term (McCay and Acheson 1987; Feeny 1990; Ostrom 2002). In the Pacific, customary marine tenure in particular has attracted a large literature that explores the strengths and weaknesses of combining local marine management with marine conservation (Johannes 1978; Cinner and Aswani 2007; Cohen and Foale 2013).

One of the key institutional characteristics that enable local groups to sustainably self-manage resources in changing social and ecological contexts is 'flexibility' (Dietz et al. 2003; Folke et al. 2005). “Institutions must be designed to allow for adaptation because some current understanding is likely to be wrong, the required scale of organisation can shift, and the biophysical and social systems change” (Dietz et al. 2003: 1909). Adaptation and capacity for change require flexibility. Rigid management institutions that may be fined-tuned to specific ecological or social dynamics can quickly become obsolete when ecological or social circumstances change.

The emphasis on institutional flexibility and managing for uncertainty parallels broader epistemological shifts in the social and natural sciences away from static, equilibrium views of ecological and social systems, toward approaches that privilege non-linearity, surprise, complexity, and spatial and temporal variability across different scales (Scoones 1999). One particularly prominent approach emerging from 'non-equilibrium' thinking is, what is broadly known as, the resilience framework (Folke 2006; Walker and Salt 2006). Over the past decade the concept of resilience has permeated much scientific and popular debate particularly in the arenas of global environmental change, environmental conservation, and disaster research. Both, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, now see resilience as one of their top priorities (The World Bank 2013) and Time magazine declared that resilience was the environmental buzzword of 2013 (Walsh 2013).

In many ways the rise of resilience has been encouraging. A raft of increasingly sophisticated analyses, and integrative and participatory policies for environmental management has been generated. However, the resilience framework has attracted a number of critiques (Leach 2008; Hornborg 2009; Welsh 2013). Anthropologists and social scientists have suggested that the theoretical foundations upon which the resilience framework construes so-called 'social-ecological systems' is problematic (Cote and Nightingale 2012; Brown 2014; Fabinyi, et al. 2014). Specifically, the framework relies on a nature-culture dichotomy, where the social and ecological are isolated and contrasted as coherent, autonomous systems with abstract qualities and principles.

Below I propose that resilience research can be enhanced and placed on a more comprehensive theoretical footing if the relationship between humans and non-humans is approached from a 'dwelling perspective' (Ingold 2000). Instead of conceptualising human-environment interactions as ontologically separate processes, the dwelling perspective starts from the premise that humans live in their natural environment rather than apart from it. The perspective encourages us to explore the experiential aspects of resource governance as it is actually practised, focusing attention on how governance is worked out in particular instances and circumstances.

With these theoretical themes in mind, this article seeks to engage critically yet constructively with the resilience framework and deepen our understanding of flexible resource management by examining resource governance on a Melanesian island. Melanesia, where customary land and sea tenure continues to regulate resource use and access, provides an ideal context to explore how flexible resource management institutions accommodate changing social-ecological conditions. The region faces numerous abrupt social and ecological changes (e.g., tsunamis, political coups) as well as slow changes (e.g., climate change, demographic change), yet uncodified tenure arrangements continue to be the basis of local resource management when dealing with changing social and ecological circumstances (Crocombe 1971; Rodman 1987; Baines 1989; Hviding 1998; Aswani 1999; Aswani 2002). The fluidity and flexibility of these tenure arrangements are related to underlying patterns of marriage, lineage-based descent reckoning, post-marital residence, exchange practices, and notions of place. However, these foundations of social life are rapidly transforming as Oceania is becoming increasingly entangled with capitalism (McDougall 2005; McCormack and Barclay 2013).

I begin the article with a theoretical discussion of resilience and the dwelling perspective. This is followed by an analysis of the history, adaptations, and local perceptions of customary land and sea tenure arrangements on Simbo, a small island in the western Solomon Islands. To help reveal the dynamics of how governance responds when subjected to different kinds of social and ecological disturbances I take cues from the resilience framework and discuss cases of both slow, incremental change, and fast, abrupt change. Resilience research has shown that examining disruptions that occur at different temporal scales help to expose the decision-making and adaptive capacities of resource management practices, such as customary tenure. In the discussion, I reflect upon lessons learned from the Simbo case to illuminate the strengths and weakness of the resilience framework for analysing flexible resource management practices and how a dwelling perspective can expand the scope of analysis, and thus enhance resilience research.

   Resilience and Dwelling Top

The resilience framework has guided much recent human-environmental research and has generated increasingly sophisticated analyses. Resilience is typically defined as the ability of a social-ecological system to absorb shocks without altering its fundamental structures and processes and flipping into another state or phase (Holling 1973). Resilience research in the environmental sciences emerged in response to often-critiqued models of ecological systems that dominated the science of ecology over most of the twentieth century. Conventional conceptualisations of ecological dynamics assumed that natural systems would seek stable equilibrium points or cycles because of inherent homoeostatic regulation. Disturbances were viewed as detrimental and subversive breaks from an optimal stable state rather than inherent aspects of the system. These assumptions about ecosystems translated into management initiatives that attempted to suppress disturbance and strive for optimal levels of protection or extraction. Known as command-and-control resource management, these strategies targeted single species rather than ecosystems. Over time, however, the inadequacies of these approaches became apparent and sometimes led to dramatic management failures, such as the classic case of Northern Cod fishery which, after decades of science-based management, experienced a complete collapse in the late 1980s (Myers, Hutchings, and Barrowman 1997).

By contrast, the resilience framework was inspired by 'new ecology' (Scoones 1999), which stresses the non-linearity, unpredictability of systems as well as the complex links and feedback within coupled, social and ecological systems (Walker et al. 2006). From the resilience perspective, the natural state of a system is assumed to be adaptive change rather than mechanical equilibrium and thus systems need to be managed for flexibility rather than toward an abstract optimal state (Holling 1978, Walters 1986; Olsson et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2005). Resilience scholars conceptualise the dynamics of these processes as a 'panarchy', defined as distinct yet interlinked “never-ending adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal” (Holling 2000: 7). Cycles are thought to occur at different spatial, temporal, and organisational scales with faster or small-scale adaptive cycles nested within slower or large-scale cycles. Thus, the goal of the resilience framework is to understand these cycles, their scales, and their dynamic interaction through time and space (Gunderson and Holling 2002).

Resilience scholars argue that one of the most promising aspects of the framework is that it provides a theoretical platform to holistically conceptualise human-environmental dynamics. This has brought social and natural scientists together to explore not just the impact of humans on the environment but also the co-evolution of human and environmental systems through time. Because humans are understood as integrated aspects of the system, their interests, values, conceptualisations, local ecological knowledge, and resource management practices have all become important analytical domains of interest (Berkes et al. 2003).

An emerging critical literature, however, has exposed a number of problematic assumptions underlying the resilience framework and so-called 'social-ecological systems' (Leach 2008; Hornborg 2009; Cote and Nightingale 2012, Hatt 2013; Welsh 2013; Brown 2014; Fabinyi et al. 2014). Questions have been raised if the resilience framework adequately conceptualises the social dimensions of social-ecological systems. Typically, the resilience framework emphasises consensus and collective action among social groups rather than contestation and power asymmetries. This lack of attention to the dynamics of social difference is related in large measure to the framework's conceptualisation of social groupings as institutions operating within an integrated social system (Hatt 2013). These institutions, whether related to religious, economic, or natural resources, are envisioned as fulfilling key functions and “…must be oriented toward certain goals or objectives…[and] create mechanisms of integration and adaptation” (Westley et al. 2002: 107). This kind of functional, systems thinking closely parallels that of ecological anthropology in the 1960s and 1970s (Rappaport 1984), approaches that were widely criticised for privileging the integrated nature of human societies and overlooking the role of power, human agency, and structural arrangements. Considering how global capitalism has led to huge economic inequalities, exploitation, and global environmental degradation, there is little doubt that society does not necessarily evolve to fulfil human needs or maintain biophysical systems.

Thus, in a curious twist of irony, the resilience framework adheres to a conceptualisation of the social that it explicitly rejects when applied to the biophysical world. As noted above, the resilience framework was developed as an alternative to twentieth-century systems ecology (e.g., Odum 1969) that viewed ecological dynamics in terms of homoeostatic regulation and mechanical equilibrium. But the more dynamic, non-linear, heterogeneous, and diverse conceptualisation of natural processes adopted by the resilience framework has not been applied to the 'social' side of social-ecological systems.

The way in which the social is conceptualised in much resilience research, indicates a deeper and more profound weakness of the framework—an adherence to a nature-culture dichotomy. This is also a curious irony since one of the overarching goals of resilience framework is to move beyond an ontological separation of social and ecological processes (Berkes et al. 1998). Concepts such as panarchy, coupled social-ecological, as well as focus on temporal and spatial scale were all envisioned as ways to gain insight into the mutual influences of social and the ecological. Resilience theorists recognise that the nature-culture dichotomy can distort analyses of social-ecological dynamics and that many non-western cultures can offer alternative models for human non-human relations (Descola and Pálsson 1996, Franklin 2002). Yet, the failure of most resilience analyses to address the diversity of social processes suggests that resilience research continues to lack a theoretical foundation to comprehensively analyse human and non-human interaction without imposing a dichotomising ontology.

Dwelling perspective

There are, however, a few examples of resilience-focused research that have moved towards a more explicitly non-Cartesian stance (Davidson and Berkes 2003). Broadly defined, these scholars explore resilience within a 'human-in ecosystem' or 'dwelling perspective'. Developed primarily by Tim Ingold (2000), the dwelling perspective starts from the premise that inhabiting a landscape is inseparable from experiencing it. As a result, the lived experience of a particular place is the focus of analysis. In this way “the social is not to be thought of as existing in some sense prior to its landscape, but emerging with it, through it” (Franklin 2002: 72). From a dwelling perspective there is no external position by which to contrast humanity from a biophysical world, and thus, it presents a broader theoretical framework to move beyond treating social and ecological systems as interrelated, but separate domains.

Importantly, this ongoing process of dwelling can also involve suffering—both human and non-human (Ingold 2005). All organisms, from simple to complex, can contribute to each other's mutual development but they, also, may block and subvert each other's existence. Predators hunt, storms destroy, people harvest crops, and organisms make other organisms sick. The ongoing, everyday experiences of dwelling in the world are inextricably linked to relations of power and influence, relations that much of the resilience literature tends to overlook (Fabinyi, Evans, and Foale 2014).

To illustrate how a dwelling perspective can enhance resilience research, I now turn to the ways in which the inhabitants of Simbo envision their relationship with their island and how they have dealt with changing ecological and social conditions. I focus on their experience of everyday negotiations and tensions associated with three important changes that have occurred: 1) rapid population growth; 2) a major tsunami; and 3) the rise of development projects. Rather than explicating an abstract set of principles that guide natural resource governance, my analysis, following the dwelling perspective, privileges Simboan understandings derived from their lived experience and everyday involvement in changing social and ecological circumstances. In this way we can begin to understand how flexible environmental governance is not a predetermined set of rules put into action but rather a social and ecological process anchored in practical experience.

   Solomon Islands Case Study Top

Simbo is a small island (~10 sq. km) in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands with a current population of approximately 1,700 and a high population density (170 per sq. km) relative to the rest of the country (Solomon Islands Government 2011) ([Figure 1]). Simbo has its own Austronesian language unique to the island. In addition, many Simboans speak Solomon Islands Pijin, the lingua franca of the Solomons as well as other Austronesian languages from nearby islands. The population relies heavily on fishing and gardening as the basis of their livelihood and coastal fisheries provide more than 70% of the population's protein intake (Schwarz et al. 2012).
Figure 1 The Solomon Islands with inset of Simbo Island and its land/sea tenure estates

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This research builds on 12 years of human ecological research conducted by the author in the western Solomon Islands (Lauer and Aswani 2009; Lauer 2012, Lauer et al. 2013; Lauer 2014). For this article, 20 weeks of field research was carried out during five visits to Simbo starting in 2008. In 2009, with the aid of local assistants, I conducted a comprehensive household survey, in which, 18% of households were interviewed on a variety of topics including demographics, adaptations to climate change and natural disasters, migration, remittances, time allocation, livelihoods, household income, food consumption, and household living standards. Households were selected randomly from each of the main village areas, Lengana, Masuru, Tapurai, Riquru, and Nusa Simbo, although an effort was made to have equal representation of genders and different age groups. The interviews lasted 60-80 minutes each and were conducted in Solomon Islands Pijin or the Simbo language. Several follow-up household surveys were conducted in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014—three of these focused on the impact of a 2007 tsunami; another assessed garden productivity and land tenure arrangements. Multiple focus group surveys were conducted throughout the study period in all main villages where groups of five to seven informants were asked a range of questions about historic settlement patterns, customary tenure regimes, and the dynamics of community response, resettlement, and recovery of the 2007 tsunami. Ethnographic interviews were also conducted of key informants such as chiefs, community leaders, pastors, non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff, youth groups, women's groups, and government officials.

   Simbo Resource Governance Top

The way in which Simboans conceptualise their land and seascapes, and how they govern them, suggest an ontology that does not separate human activity or society from a distinct realm of 'nature'. On Simbo, as among people of Marovo Lagoon in nearby New Georgia Island, “there are basic concepts…that do conform to a 'wild-tame' dimension. But these concepts are matter or degree and function as analogic codes rather than binary oppositions” (Hviding 1996b: 170). The blurring of the cultural and the biophysical world is revealed quite clearly when you accompany a Simboan on a walk through Simbo's interior. Your companion will point out how nearly every inch of the island is under a state of cultivation or shaped in some way by Simbo's current or past inhabitants. Land resources include actively cultivated gardens (poki), canarium nut orchards (auro), coconut plantations (idida), sago palm groves (pipina), a variety of fruit trees, and less important nut trees (e.g., cutnut, Tahitian chestnut, betel nut, etc.). There is a term for virgin forest (muqu), but this landscape refers primarily to a distinct area on the island called magoromo—an area between the two mountains, Patukio and Matidini, that cannot be gardened because of extremely rocky terrain and is thought to be haunted by malevolent spirits. In this sense, muqu is not a space of neutral objects but rather imbued with life and meaning.

Simboans relations with environment could be characterised as one of practical engagement rather than a nature-culture dualism (cf. Hviding 1996a for a similar case in Marovo Lagoon). This engagement is most overtly expressed through their tenure arrangements. Typically, tenure on Simbo involve simultaneous and overlapping layers of rights to land and other resources, a pattern found across Oceania that was famously described by Crocombe (1971: 17) as being like an iceberg, in that only a small fraction of rights appear on the surface but “as soon as the visible part melts away or breaks off by non-use or absence or inadequate defence, it is replaced by the next highest claimants in the supporting structure.” All cultivatable land on Simbo is divided into small land blocks known as inia, which are controlled by household heads and their immediate relatives.

Although households control access to canarium nut orchards and coconut plantations, in some cases the orchards may be on an inia owned by another household. When granted permission, new orchards can be planted on someone else's inia and the planter controls the produce derived from it. In addition, households control megapode (Megapodius eremite) nesting areas. Melanesia megapode birds thrive around Simbo's thermally active volcano on the southern end of the island. The bird's eggs are one of the more important income-generating resources on Simbo ([Figure 2]). Like the garden areas, the entire megapode area is divided into inia plots. Individual trees may also have specific owners—usually the person who planted the trees or an immediate relative. If someone notices a small sapling growing along a trail or even on another family's inia and clears the area around it, the person can claim the rights to the tree.
Figure 2 Household livelihood activities ranked by importance in 2009 (n=57) Source: Lauer 2013

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Inheritance rights to land, orchards, and specific trees are transferred cognatically from parents to children or passed between affines. Cognatic descent systems do not favour the maternal or paternal side, so in theory, all Simboans have a traceable, linked pedigree. Simboans commonly state that, 'everyone on our small island is related' and could theoretically claim access rights to many more blocks of land than they currently cultivate or actively care for. In practice, however, households only have 'secure' rights to the land that they are actively cultivating and maintaining.

Because action plays an equal, if not larger, role than kin relations in determining rights to land, households have to make decisions about which lands they will actively maintain rights. Through time, inter-generational transfers of property rights involve some reshuffling and households make strategic decisions about which rights to sustain, and which to relinquish. Today, it is quite common for siblings to argue and dispute their family's landholdings because a household head did not precisely define the distribution of his lands to his children. In these cases, the offspring of the head of a household must work out the arrangement on their own.

The fluidity of Simbo's tenure arrangements rests firmly on an important cultural imperative that shapes land distribution. By right of birth, every Simboan who has at least one parent from the island is guaranteed access to enough land to provide for his or her family. It is culturally impossible for a Simboan to be a landless labourer, although in practice it is possible that a few powerful leaders could monopolise land resources. Fortunately this has not occurred on Simbo.

   Leadership and Land/sea Estates Top

The inherent fluidity and flexibility of Simbo land tenure arrangements requires an approach like the dwelling perspective that privileges active engagement rather than abstract rules or principles while also accounting for tension, conflict, and contestation. To resolve minor disputes over island resources, households typically consult Simbo's traditional leadership. Leaders, known as bangara or sif (sif=chief) in Solomon Islands Pijin, are the guardians of the land and sea, and monitor the uses and distribution. To understand the role of traditional leadership, it is important to note that Simbo households do not have exclusive rights over their inia. As is common throughout the islands of Melanesia, household plots are contained within larger estates or districts known as a gusu. Four districts demarcate Simbo's diverse land and sea resources: 1) Karivara, 2) Narovo, 3) Nusa Simbo, and 4) Ove ([Figure 1]). These districts are reflected in the traditional name of the island, Mandegugusu, which translates literally as 'four places'. The Simbo concept of gusu does not analytically separate land and sea resources but rather signifies habitation, history, and land and sea territories as a coherent and living whole.

Each of Simbo's districts has a recognised bangara who leads a kin-based group known as bubutu[1]. Bubutu, commonly referred to as a traeb (tribe) or laen (line) in Solomon Islands Pijin, represent the fundamental, organising social unit that enables Simbo customary tenure arrangements and management of the island's resources. Bi-lateral kin recognition forms the basis of land and sea rights and bubutu membership results in an inherently flexible social organisation, described as the 'contextual definition of status' (Keesing 1971), which allows adept individuals to exploit others who are less skilled at expressing their land rights or simply do not know their rights (Rodman 1987: 53). Up until the middle of the twentieth century, securing land rights involved three basic criteria: 1) the ability of an individual to articulate his or her knowledge about their own genealogy (tututi); 2) the history of land-use practices; and 3) past configurations of kinship relations and chiefly authority.

Beginning with the arrival of the British colonial government, an increasingly important criterion—literacy—has emerged, which is a prerequisite for any Simboan to defend their land rights and play a role in decision-making. To effectively convince other Simboans of their knowledge, Simboans are now relying more than ever on written documents. Chiefs in particular, no longer, can simply rely on memorised oral arguments about their genealogies and historic accounts of island land use practices when defending their claims to leadership. During my interviews with chiefs, they would conspicuously produce written documents detailing their genealogies. The sophistication and specificity of these documents varied widely. Some were handwritten narratives, others were typed lists of names, and some were computer-generated flowcharts with detailed notes about each relative.

Moreover, if Simbo's leadership cannot resolve land disputes, the parties will bring their case to the formal court system. The Solomon Islands have a system of local courts that deal primarily with customary land disputes (Scheffler and Larmour 1987; Guo 2011). In order for the local court to accept a case, a number of documents must be submitted detailing the dispute and demonstrating that the traditional leadership did not resolve it. Literacy plays an enormous role both in the process and the inevitable appeals that occur as cases move through the Solomon's legal system.

With this reliance on written documents, it is becoming increasingly important for Simboans to attain some level of education and literacy or rely on close relatives who have these skills. The prominent role education plays in resolving land disputes is occurring across the Solomons and is pithily summarised by this Malaitan elder:

Before, there's no dispute, but today people go to school and they must make more dispute… you must know generation [i.e., genealogy]. Because... as I look in local court, you started dispute and you lose and you're not the owner of that land. Then one man behind you made claim again, from what? Because they went to school, get educated and knew enough English and make court against same tribes (Comments by an old man in his seventies, 1997 interview). (Guo 2011: 232).

When uncultivated land existed on Simbo in the past, bubutu leadership played a key role in deciding who could clear forest within the district for new gardens (inia). But since households already control all cultivatable land, the bubutu leaders' power to shape land tenure has diminished and they are now only consulted when there is a dispute over current rights or boundaries of an inia or auro. The ability of bubutu leaders to radically alter the distribution of land in their favour is also constrained by the cultural tradition that every Simboan must have land.

   Marine Resources Top

Simboans relate with their marine environment in similar ways as they relate to land. As mentioned above, land and sea are not ontologically separated; they mutually influence each other within a gusu. Sea tenure, however, is more generalised than land tenure. The island has a diverse marine environment that includes shallow reefs (mati), mangroves (pepetu) barrier islands (nusa), sand banks (avasa), pools (kopi), passages (kobosona), outer reef drops (taqelese), seagrass beds (evevu), and offshore deep reefs (gasaru). All marine resource areas, like land, have specific names and are associated with the adjacent gusu. Except for spear fishing (opera igana), subsistence fishing is unrestricted and open to anyone, including outsiders from other islands such as church pastors, or government-salaried schoolteachers and nurses who live on the island for extended periods. In the past, some temporal restrictions were enforced by chiefs. For example, until the 1950s, some parts of the lagoon were closed to fishing during extreme low-tide events when fish would become trapped inside the lagoon's shallow pools. It was thought that fishing during this time was overly destructive and would damage the overall productivity of the reef.

   Sharing and Profiting Top

The inseparability of culture and nature is further evidenced by the way in which principles of resource ownership are intimately intertwined with systems of exchange and the sharing of labour and resources between households, within bubutus, and the wider community. Village life on Simbo continues to revolve around notions of generosity and reciprocal obligations known as varivagana, although the growing need for cash has progressively weakened these practices. Varivagana connotes love, a feeling of concern for other people, and maintaining community relationships. In the context of varivagana, relationships with kin and the wider community have priority over self-centred activities such as profit-making or resource accumulation. The importance of reciprocal exchange relates to a sense of personhood found throughout Melanesia that favours the socio-centric person over egocentric selfhood (Strathern 1988, Wagner 1991).

In addition to varivagana, there is intense opposition to lucrative profit earning for self-benefit. Those who pursue money for their own personal gain rather than working for each other's benefitare insultingly labeled bulo poata. As a noun, bulo means 'heart,' butwhen qualifying a noun it translates as 'an obsession or love for something,' or 'where your heart is'. Poata, on the other hand, is the Simbo word for money, referring to both traditional shell money and modern currency. Thus bulo poata is a stinging insult that indicates that a person is 'money crazy', 'money obsessed', or 'in love with money'.

Scorn for self-interested profit-making applies to Simboans and outsiders alike. If, for example, a Simboan fisherman fishes for profit over a protracted period his relatives will inevitably make requests for cash from him. As a result, my household surveys indicate that commercial fishing is non-existent on Simbo. In a 2012 survey of 48 households across the island, not a single respondent indicated that they were selling fish in the Gizo market, the only viable market in the region. Some fishers sell their catches to other Simbo households, but this involves a small fraction of fish caught and profits are minimal. If a non-Simbo fisher enters Simbo waters to fish commercially, the Simboans will quickly take action and send a canoe to confront the poachers. This occurs several times a year when Gilbertese [2] fishermen from Gizo clandestinely attempt to fish around Simbo. Usually the interlopers will flee once they realise they have been detected so they can avoid confrontation.

   Negotiating and Accommodating Change Top

One of the key insights of resilience research is to focus on the temporal dimensions of social-ecological change. Some change can occur rapidly (e.g., a tsunami) while other kinds of change may occur over decades, centuries, etc. But rather than approaching Simbo as an abstract social-ecological system, I focus, following the dwelling perspective, on the practical application of flexible resource governance during different kinds of ecological and social change.

Slow change: demographic expansion

Resilience research typically treats population growth in the aggregate and as a property of a social-ecological system. If we approach demographic changes from a dwelling perspective and focus our attention on the knowledge and understanding Simboans derive from their active involvement in population expansion, we learn that their overriding concern with population growth is an increase in land ownership inequalities. Simboans are well aware that their population has rapidly expanded over the last century. In 1930, the first recorded census of Simbo documented 376 residents. Subsequent censuses show Simbo's population growing rapidly as the island gained access to medical care and Christian missionaries ended the practice of infanticide (Dureau 1994). The population grew (374%) from 376 residents in 1930 to 1782 in 2009 ([Table 1]).
Table 1 Simbo population data

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Despite the massive increase in population over the last century, adequate land and marine resources continue to support subsistence activities. In a 2012 household survey, we asked 49 household heads: what are the major natural resource problems on the island? Thirty-nine percent responded that no major problems existed, 14% mentioned about lack of timber on the island, and only 12% thought that land shortages existed. In addition, marine resources appear to be in a healthy state. Underwater surveys conducted by marine scientists to assess coral reef conditions also suggest relatively low human pressures on the reefs around the island (Lauer et al. 2013). These results contrast with a broad sentiment among Simboans that their island is 'small' and 'poor' relative to other islands in the region because the island lacks harvestable timber, and thus, timber royalties. Most other islands in the western Solomons have been logged and the local communities have received substantial sums of money from these activities. Even though resource scarcity is not a major problem on Simbo, many Simboans have migrated to other islands in search of wage-earning employment. According to the 1999 census, 43% (725) of people born on Simbo reside, either permanently or temporarily, in other parts of the Solomons.

An increase in land ownership inequalities is the key everyday experience that Simboans associate with rapid population growth. Since land and resource ownership rights on Simbo are inherited, some families over the last century were able to gain rights by converting virgin forest into economically productive landscape. During the expansion of the population and movement of villages out of protected valleys on the southern half of the island to the central (Lengana) and northern (Narovo) half of the island, certain families who cleared or planted orchards gained an advantage, and today retain rights over more land than others. This is most notable in canarium nut orchards because they require less labour to maintain than garden areas, allowing households to preserve their rights and keep other households at bay who may also have a genealogical tie to the orchards. In 2011, the top 20% of 49 households interviewed controlled 48.05% of all auro (an auro is locally defined as 10 trees or more) while the bottom 20% had just 3.86% ([Table 2]).
Table 2 Simbo household ownership of auro (Canarium nut orchard) by quintile in 2011 (n=49)

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Even though the canarium nut itself has little economic value it is an important subsistence food, with 64.5% of households interviewed eating the nuts on a daily basis, and 33.3% eating them on a weekly basis. In addition, the canarium nut trees have become locally valuable for their timber.

Inequality in land distribution most likely existed prior to the demographic expansion, with influential chiefs manipulating others to gain access to orchards or clear forest on unused land. However, in the past, a chief's offspring may or may not have sustained control over those lands because his control could dissolve if he was removed from power. In addition, there was adequate unused land (meqe) in pre-contact times, which could be brought under a family's control through physical modification. Until the 1950s, the northern half of the island always had cultivatable land that had been abandoned for many years and reverted to jungle.

Current land inequalities, however, are not severe enough to allow a small group of families to monopolise resource use and dramatically increase their economic or social status. In fact, the periodic consolidation of power on Simbo is not new. Prominent Simbo leaders, prior to European contact, would emerge but eventually their control would recede (Jackson 1978).

A key constraint on the power of those with more land holdings is the cultural prescription that all Simboans have a right to enough land for subsistence. Any individual with a blood tie to Simbo is guaranteed access to some land. A second factor is increased access to education. Simbo has had an elementary school since the 1960s, enabling over 80% of the current population to gain basic literacy. As mentioned above, the strength of a land claim has progressively become more dependent on the ability of an individual to convince others that their claims are legitimate through written documents. Broad access to education hampers a small, landholding elite's ability to manipulate others and gain monopolistic control over resources on the island.

Sudden ecological disruption: 2007 tsunami

Approaching disaster response, as a process of dwelling, reveals how so-called 'institutions', like customary land tenure, are not really organised social units that impose external rules or forces on people. Instead, we can begin to view institutions as creative and generative process of negotiations, and performances that are not analytically separated from the experience of everyday life. Portraying customary land tenure in this way provides a more comprehensive theoretical basis than mainstream resilience research for understanding the functioning of institutions during times of need.

Simbo's experience with a 12 m wave that slammed into the island on April 2, 2007 reflects these creative processes that underlie customary land tenure. The immense tsunami created by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, killed nine people on Simbo, and completely destroyed two villages (Fritz and Kalligeris 2008; Lauer 2012). In the wake of the tsunami, every village on Simbo relocated to high elevation gardens. Interestingly, the households that controlled these gardens allowed themto be settled, which destroyed crops grown in these gardens. This relaxation of land rights surprised many Simboans. One man from Masuru commented that he was amazed when he and other villagers from Masuru began building a temporary shelter in a garden without asking permission from the owner. Although the garden owner was never consulted, he was not offended and did not even mention the fact that his garden was being destroyed.

Exclusive household rights to garden land (inia) forms the basis of land tenure on the island and enforcement is stringent and potentially contentious. After the tsunami, the rights of the households who controlled resettlement areas were superseded by the social norm that all Simboans must have access to resources to maintain a basic livelihood. Culturally, it was very difficult for the households who had rights to the land selected for the resettlement camps to deny others access to it. The dislocated families had an indisputable need to relocate and this fact was widely recognised by all Simboans.

In addition to the relaxation of customary landholding practices, reciprocal exchangeand sharing (varivagana) was strengthened. Anyone could harvest food crops or collect building materials from any garden regardless of ownership and without asking permission. Under normal circumstances this would have generated disputes. Shop owners were also generous and distributed packaged food from their stores to needy community members.

Social disruptions: rural entrepreneurship and development

As emphasised by the dwelling perspective, to dwell in the world is not always a harmonious existence. Unlike more conventional resilience research that privileges consensus and homogeneity, the dwelling perspective acknowledges that practical engagement with the human and non-human world is permeated by asymmetrical cultural, political, and ecological relationships. In the following example, we see how those same practices that accommodated the needs of Simbo communities after the tsunami, generate tension, conflict, and disruption when entrepreneurial Simboans attempt to implement economic development projects.

Since the 1960s, a number of local Simbo entrepreneurs have initiated economic development projects with financial and technical assistance from the Solomon Islands government or international NGOs. These projects include women's sewing initiatives, cattle husbandry, aquaculture, and micro-grants for local shops. However, all of these projects have collapsed due to disputes arising over distribution of the financial benefits.[3] Currently, the only commercial enterprises on the island are small shops, which typically survive for only 6-12 months before going bankrupt.

To illustrate how income-generating projects consistently fail, I will describe two current projects; the construction of a mobile phone antenna and the establishment of an eco-lodge. In 2007, Solomon Telekom Company, the state-owned telecommunication company, began expanding cellular phone service into the western Solomon Islands. They first established service in Gizo, which provided partial, unreliable coverage on Simbo. In 2008, a private company, Digicel, contacted landowners on Simbo and surveyed the island. The results determined an optimal site location that would provide the widest network coverage for Simbo as well as the southwest coast of Ranonga (the nearest island to the north). After a site was tentatively selected, disputes quickly arose over rights to the land. The key issue was that the cell phone operator had to pay rent and several Simboans insisted that they had rights to the land and thus should receive some of the rent income. Digicel eventually dropped its plans to build the tower, but in 2012, Solomon Telekom finally built a cell tower on a different site located in a garden just above Lengana village. This new site was sub-optimal relative to the site slated for the original tower during the initial land survey. The new site is at a lower elevation and provides only partial coverage to Simbo and no coverage to Ranonga.

Within weeks of completing the installation and activating cell phone service, a prominent Simbo man living off the island in the village of Pailonge, Ghizo Island, claimed he had rights to the site and demanded that he be compensated by Telekom. With the help of several sons who live in Honiara, he wrote letters to Telekom declaring that he had strong genealogical ties to the land and that he should be compensated. Simbo leadership was unable to work out a compromise so the case is now in the local Solomon Islands courts. As of January 2014, the dispute is pending a court hearing and all rent payments have been suspended.

A more recent example of development on Simbo involves an eco-lodge at the base of Ove, the island's active volcano. The Ove area has long been thought to have potential as a tourist attraction because of the active volcano and a picturesque lake. Attempting to capitalise on this opportunity, a local man received funds from the Ministry of Tourism to build a leaf house, clear the area, and purchase a large boat with a 40 hp motor to transport tourists from Gizo. But just a few weeks into the project, a prominent man who currently resides in Honiara, and holds a salaried position with the national government, sent a letter to the Ministry of Tourism requesting that the project be suspended until the land tenure situation could be clarified. During my visit in January 2014, the Ministry of Tourism stopped transferring payments to the project coordinators and the venture was at a standstill. A local man summed up the situation: “The eco-lodge will fail. The owner of that house site did not consult with anyone and just went ahead with the project and started building. It was bound to be a dispute. Today on Simbo brothers dispute their brothers. Everyone thinks they are a chief.” (Interview, January 27, 2014).

In both cases, individuals who were either literate or had close literate relatives contested the development projects. In addition, local Simbo chiefs were unable to resolve the disputes. With written documents, the disputants were able to effectively express their claims and convince the local Solomon Islands court to hear the cases.

These conflicts and tensions, that arise when economic development projects are pursued on Simbo, highlight the limitations of conventional resilience research, which views human activity and practices as shaped primarily by organised social units or consensus building institutions. Simbo's experience with the tsunami suggests that reciprocal sharing, leadership, and land tenure are practices that can generate harmony and consensus but also, in the case of entrepreneurial activities, generate human suffering, tension, and conflict. A dwelling perspective provides the analytic breadth and conceptual grounding to explore the conflictual and the consensus building dimensions of resource governance.

Local perceptions

Simboan's perceptions of their resource management practices are in many ways parallel to those of the dwelling perspective. They emphasise the experiential dimensions of their tenure and sharing practices and are quite ambivalent about their efficacy. On the one hand they readily acknowledge how their practices provide every Simboan the ability to maintain a subsistence livelihood. A landless Simboan is culturally unacceptable, but in practice may become a reality if households or individuals leave the island over several successive generations. But even with families who have left Simbo, connection with the island runs deep. As is common across the Pacific, land and other island resources are more than commodities or productive spaces—they are interlaced with aspects of social life, social organisation, and cultural identity.

Notwithstanding these deep attachments to their island, Simboans actively discuss and ponder the perceived problems and the unsettling, socially disruptive nature of their tenure practices. In local idioms the land tenure system was disparagingly described to me as a 'skin boil' that lurks underneath social life and bursts out unexpectedly. Those on the island with higher levels of education emphasise how customary tenure stifles economic development and inhibits the population from enjoying the benefits of capitalism and the global economy. The vast majority of the population needs more cash (98% of survey respondents), a situation that could be improved if economic development projects were more successful. However, Simboans are not willing to modify the central tenants of ownership and distribution of resources that present key obstacles to economic development. This is the case even though Simboans, like most Solomon Islanders, have a deep desire for Western goods, lifestyles, and economic development. They tend to reject local practices and assume that the Western analogue is superior. The yearning for economic development is reflected in material possessions and conspicuous consumption of foreign goods. Households with access to cash will shun locally available materials like sago palm and build a tin-roofed house with saw-cut lumber. Residents also seek conspicuous markers of affluence such as water tanks, outboard motors, and fibreglass canoes or boats.

Another perceived problem is the growing frequency of land disputes. Active discourse on the island bemoans the tensions and disputes caused by increasingly intense and frequent conflicts over land rights. One commonly hears the phrase 'brothers will dispute their brothers' and that in previous times, life was more peaceful and wholesome. As one man from Lengana stated, “The way of life before, people were not selfish (ngongoza). They shared (varivagana). If you caught ten fish, you shared them. People respected the chiefs. Today everyone wants to be chief and no one can agree on anything without disputes.” (Interview, January 29, 2014).

   Discussion and Conclusion Top

The resilience framework has guided much recent human-environmental research, and has generated increasingly sophisticated analyses. Topics such as flexible management institutions and temporal, spatial, and multi-scale dynamics have become path-breaking themes in current human-environmental analyses. Moreover, resilience thinking has spread to policy and conservation practitioner circles, particularly in the arena of climate change, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable development. This rise of resilience as a policy framework has much to commend since its overarching goal is to enable individuals, groups, and institutions to take responsibility and participate in transforming themselves to withstand an increasingly uncertain world.

However, observations on Simbo's experience with change and, the way in which Simboans relate with their landscapes and seascapes exposes some fundamental weaknesses of the resilience framework. Critics of the resilience framework note that analysis of the social dimensions of resilience tend to overlook conflict and power dynamics among and between social groupings, avoiding normative questions about why resilience should be a goal, who should benefit from it, and to what should a system be made resilient (Agrawal 2003; Leach 2008; Cote and Nightingale 2012; Turner 2013). For example, Hughes et al. (2005) neglect normative questions when they argue that successful approaches to managing social-ecological systems require: 1) embracing uncertainty and change; 2) building knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; 3) developing management practices that measure; 4) interpret and respond to ecological feedback; and 5) supporting flexible institutions and social networks in multi-level governance systems. These kinds of abstract aspects of system function and structure take precedent over emerging day-to-day practices, activities, and power struggles between competing groups as well as normative questions about why resilience is desirable. The resilience approach's central guiding principle of managing for an uncertain world assumes uncertainty is a 'natural', pre-condition of social-ecological systems, without exploring the extent to which 'uncertainty' itself emerges through contestation over landscapes and seascapes.

These conceptual weaknesses of the resilience approach are quite relevant when we consider how Simbo's inhabitants perceive and experience flexible governance in the face of changing social-ecological conditions. Politics, negotiation, and power relations are fundamental to people's daily involvement in flexible resource management institutions. The cultural imperatives that delimit customary tenure focus attention on how benefits are distributed and who has the power to determine dispute outcomes. Social practices, rather than explicitly economic concerns, compel Simboans to share resources, distribute land, and constrain the ability of the powerful to dominate local affairs and decisions about resource use. Commentators have long noted that a significant underlying threat to Melanesian tenure arrangements is that a self-interested elite could manipulate the system to their own ends, leaving a portion of society landless, dispossessed, and poor (Baines 1989: 293, Macintyre and Foale 2007). On Simbo, this situation has thus far been avoided; the recent decline of traditional chiefly power and emergence of literate, educated leaders has not led to a drastic change in the fundamentals of customary land and sea tenure. The educated elite's power to control local affairs and monopolise access to resources continues to be limited as Simboans actively negotiate the distribution of resources.

The cultural constraints underlying Simbo land and sea tenure practices remain durable despite over a century of social change because Simboans remain deeply attached to their island. All Simboans, by birthright, must have some land for subsistence. But their 'land' is not simply a backdrop of nature upon which people live their lives and inherit rights. It is a testimony of countless generations of Simboans who have left their mark on it through place names, meanings, and memories. The central axiom of Simbo land tenure that all Simboans must have land for subsistence exposes the limitations of resilience approaches that adhere to a nature-culture dichotomy. The experiential dimensions of Simbo customary tenure perpetually reinforce a non-dualistic ontology where landscapes and seascapes are inseparable from the daily activities of fishing the lagoons, clearing gardens, and harvesting crops, and the constant negotiations and tensions associated with access to land and sea resources.

It stands to reason that flexible resource governance on Simbo is more appropriately conceptualised as a life process where Simboans continually generate and regenerate themselves and their landscapes. The Simboan's deep connection to place provides a durable 'social safety net' that undergirds the ambiguity and contextual flexibility of the tenure system and limits the possibility of manipulation by a small group of individuals. In local idioms, these processes are expressed and sustained most explicitly through varivangana, a practice that obligates Simboans to reciprocally share resources and labour with kin and the wider community.

But these cultural axioms and constraints are not predetermined plans of action or rules that govern resource management activities. Rather, they are better understood as intrinsically dynamic and partially improvised practices that are inseparable from the specific contexts in which they are applied and structured by the interactions of Simboans (past and present) and the non-human world.

Not only does the Simboan lifeworld limit the possibility of a small group controlling the system, these same processes limit the extent to which individuals can pursue self-interested, profit-generating activities. Simboans who place their own interests above that of the wider community are quickly labelled 'bulo poata', a powerful insult directed at those who are overly ambitious or greedy. Those with ambition, typically, will leave the island to pursue economic opportunities. Many Simboans, however, have also drawn the conclusion that these cultural constraints on flexibility stifle economic activity. The fact that almost all development projects have failed on the island is a stark reminder to Simboans that pursuing capitalist development in its current form is incompatible with social practices that place community interests above individual interests. But to change the basic tenets of their tenure system and allow individuals or families to accumulate wealth and land without sharing with their kin and other relatives is simply a cultural impossibility as it would fundamentally separate Simboans from their island, and, in effect, alienate them from themselves. As long as Simboans are able to successfully subsist on the island's resources there will be staunch resistance to any development that benefits some individuals at the expense of the rest.

Like other contexts in Oceania (Curry and Koczberski 2013), Simboans are selective and creative in their response to the mounting pressures of development and modernity. They realise that resource accumulation beyond subsistence would undermine the very basis of what it means to be a Simboan, severing their connection with their island and the ancestors who inhabited it in the past, which would be akin to cultural suicide. These embedded cultural attitudes about land distribution, resource sharing, and sociality have, in effect, suppressed the overexploitation of the islands' ecosystem. There is, however, apprehension about the decline of social cohesion, the increased frequency of land disputes, and the increasing pressure that market forces have on social life as more people earn salaries. These perceptions about changing village life parallels those reported in communities on other islands in the region such as Vella Lavella (Schwarz et al. 2011), Bellona (Reenberg et al. 2008), and island Papua New Guinea (Macintyre and Foale 2007).

Conceptualising the governance of uncertainty

A broader conceptual lesson we can draw from Simbo's experience is that flexible resource management is a lived process where humans and non-humans, through their activities, perpetually create and recreate the mutual conditions of their existence. In other words, 'flexibility' is not a pre-defined property of the system, external to social action. It is, instead, a context-dependent activity that is ontologically inseparable from the flow of daily life and from Simbo's landscapes and seascapes. In this sense, flexibility might be better understood as an aspect of the mutually constitutive relationships between the life giving land and sea and Simbo's inhabitants. As stated above, the fundamental constraints on Simbo's flexible management practices are embedded within this non-Cartesian interdependence and inseparability of land and people.

One of the more overt expressions of how flexibility is experienced on Simbo is encapsulated in the concept of gesu, which envisions the island, its resources, and people's relations with each other and the island as a 'place'. Rodman's excellent discussion of land and identity on Ambae, Vanuatu, echoes sentiments on Simbo in that, “personal essence is infused in the land. No longer simply a thing, land [and sea] becomes a place where people think of themselves sharing a territory not only with living residents but the memory of their ancestors and the future of their children” (Rodman 1987: 33–34). Across Melanesia, ancestors are thought to have left an indelible mark through names, landmarks, or groves of trees.

Importantly, Simbo's ongoing, everyday experience of place and flexible resource management suggests that conventional resilience research, which tends to privilege abstract system properties and collective choice and consensus, is inadequate, and that resilience research would be enhanced by a more comprehensive theoretical framework that can accommodate the daily experience of micro-power dynamics and contestation. Simboans constantly discuss their flexible resource management practices in terms of relations of power and influence. They are keenly sensitive to how different families or districts are affected by land tenure decisions. And with the encroachment of capitalism and globalisation, power dynamics have taken on new forms as the tension between individual self-interest and community well-being has increased. But even though novel forms of expressing power and gaining influence are emerging, power struggles are clearly not new or just a product of the contemporary context. Like much of the western Solomons, Simbo engaged in frequent inter-island headhunting prior to European contact, a practice rationalised as necessary to defend the island (Dureau 2000). Leaders from each of Simbo's districts vied for power and influence, mounting campaigns to raid other islands and take heads. The more severed heads a leader could accumulate meant more influence and power. And this history of pain and suffering has not disappeared; it is on constant display in the numerous shrines (tambuna) found throughout the island that house the many skulls of dead ancestors and enemies killed in headhunting raids. Moreover, Simbo origin stories and myths are filled with intrigue and the micro-politics of how past leaders rose and eventually fell from power.

These Simboan understandings of their customary tenure practices and their island's landscape and seascape have inspired me to adopt an approach that parallels in many ways those of the dwelling perspective (Ingold 2000). From a dwelling perspective, landscapes and seascapes are “constituted as an enduring record of—and testimony to—the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in doing so have left something of themselves there” (Ingold 1993: 152). Similarly, Simboans think of themselves, their resource management practices, and their island as ontological equivalents rather than as separate domains of experience. The constant flow and flux of resource ownership and use indicates how the island of Simbo and its inhabitants are constituted through a process of mutual regeneration and renewal. It is the immediate experience of accommodating change, both social and ecological and over short and long time periods, that are of most importance to Simboans. They understand these processes from the perspective of their practical engagement with the world, not as an external observer of an abstract 'social-ecological system'.

This process of dwelling, however, is not necessarily harmonious; it inevitably involves politics, power, and some level of suffering of both human and non-humans (Ingold 2005). As noted by Ingold: “the infliction of pain and suffering is not limited to relations among humans. Like other creatures, humans adopt various means to protect themselves. In so doing, they create places” (Ingold 2005: 501). Place, in this sense, is not something that emerges without effort. It involves constant negotiations and struggles with both humans and non-humans. That Simboans view their resource management practices as so problematic and rife with tension, while at the same time abhor the thought of dismantling it, suggests that tension and conflict are foundational to how Simboans dwell.

Rethinking resilience as a process of dwelling provides a conceptual foundation to expand our horizon of understanding to include politics and power, the subjectivities of actors, and the influence of social context on institutional outcomes. Moreover, the dwelling perspective provides a relational framework for thinking about environment, society, and nature, and as a result is much more in line with 'new ecological' thinking, the epistemological shift that inspired the resilience framework. New ecology not only questions long-established ideas of static, equilibrium, and balance, but it also involves a move toward a more relational view of 'all'life, rejecting the idea that the biophysical world is a distinctly separate realm from human activity and evolution (Botkin 1990). By emphasising the unfolding of life, human and non-human, the dwelling perspective encourages us to comprehend reality as a perpetual state of becoming rather than fixed, interacting structures or systems.

   Acknowledgements Top

Many thanks to the National Science Foundation Human Dimensions and Social Dynamics Program (NSF Award #0827022) and San Diego State University for their generous support. I wish to thank the Solomon Islands Government and the Western Provincial Government for permission to conduct yearly field research since 2001. A very special thanks to the Simbo people for their support and friendly hospitality. My Simbo research assistants, Nickson Sione, Samson Joi, and Simbo community leaders Gideon Tuke and Samson Ely, deserve special praise for their assistance, contributions, and friendship. Many thanks to three anonymous reviewers and the editors of Conservation and Society. Their comments and suggestions improved this article immensely.

   Notes Top

  1. Similar systems of cognatic social organisation can be found among Choiseul Islanders (Scheffler 1965), the Kwaio of Malaita (Keesing 1971), and the nearby inhabitants of Roviana (Aswani 1999) and Marovo lagoons (Hviding 1996).
  2. 'Gilbertese' are marginalized migrants from Kiribati who were moved to the Solomon Islands by the British colonial government and as result do not control any customary land.
  3. There are documented cases of lucrative cash cropping and rural entrepreneurship in other parts of Melanesia where customary land is more abundant (Fingleton 2005).

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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