Saturday, 13 April 2013


Anuta tempts the philosopher and moralist. Its 300 Polynesian people live on the smallest inhabited island in the South Pacific and sustain themselves by carefully harvesting their natural resources. Fragile, precious, beautiful life in utter isolation - a metaphor for planet Earth in a universe where we may still turn out to be alone.

The BBC sent ex-Royal Marine Bruce Parry there in 2007; he said afterwards, "If I had to pick one tribe to go back and live with permanently — and I hate doing this, it’s not a contest — it would be the people of Anuta [...] It’s got white beaches, blue seas, good food and gentle, friendly people who have a wonderful philosophy of sharing." The communal ethic is calleed "aropa" in their language.

In 2009 the BBC returned to include the story in their stunningly-shot series "South Pacific", contrasting Anuta with Easter Island, where the tribes' competition and reckless exploitation of their ecology led to catastrophe. (The Easter Islanders are the starting point for Belgrano whistleblower Clive Ponting's 1991 book, "A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations", reissued in 2007.)

BBC reporter Huw Cordey was part of the 2009 visit and made a radio programme for the Nature series, called "Anuta - An Island Governed By Love". He found that even in Anuta there are discontents, like anywhere else.

Yet we're still haunted by the myth of the happy land. As the poet Elizabeth Jennings says, "Sickness for Eden was so strong."

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