Political Attempts to Defend the Environment: A Pacific Island Case

Joshua Epstein



How can Palauans, inhabitants of a small island group in the western Pacific, protect their environment from an array of complex threats? The present article examines the strengths and weaknesses of Palauan strategies in this regard. These illustrate the importance of political and socio-economic factors, gaps between relatively short-term considerations and long-term goals, and the maturation of Palau's environment and development dilemma. A number of roughly sequential events in Palau's recent history provide the case material. These start with the controversy over whether to locate a "superport" for oil in Palau, during the mid-to-late 1970s. Palau's emergence, in 1981, as a constitutional republic is the last event covered. The reader is also updated on subsequent events. Palau's characteristics were described in the author's first article, printed in the previous edition of the Journal of Environmental Systems [1]. The last article will discuss the instructive parallels between Palau's dilemma, and the nuclear and environmental problems that face us all.

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