A 'bogeyman' is an imaginary creature used to evoke fear and anxiety. The question we address here arises from a recent claim by Shearman et al (2008), that shifting cultivation is a real threat to Papua New Guinea (PNG)'s forests, and hence to global warming. We ask: is this threat real, or is it imaginary? We explore the evidence for this allegation by examining research on shifting cultivation in PNG and arguments about its impact on forests from the 1920s to the present day. We argue that the 2008 findings contradict most previous findings and have probably resulted from an incorrect classification of tall secondary-forest fallows as primary forest. Nevertheless, we find that the changes revealed in these forest fallows by the 2008 study are a serious cause for concern for the long-term food security and welfare of about five million people in PNG who depend upon shifting cultivation to feed themselves.
|Title of host publication||Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change: Indigenous People, Agriculture and Forest Conservation|
|Editors||Malcolm F Cairns|
|Place of Publication||Abingdon and New York|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|