by Jason Roberts
University of Arizona Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-0-8165-4814-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8165-4815-6
Library of Congress Classification DU740.42
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.8970953

On a remote island in the South Pacific, the Lavongai have consistently struggled to obtain development through logging and commercial agriculture. Yet many Lavongai still long to move beyond the grind of subsistence work that has seemingly defined their lives on New Hanover, Papua New Guinea, for generations.

Following a long history of smaller-scale and largely unsuccessful resource development efforts, New Hanover became the site of three multinational-controlled special agricultural and business leases (SABLs) that combined to cover over 75 percent of the island for ninety-nine-year lease terms. These agroforestry projects were part of a national effort to encourage “sustainable” rural development by tapping into the growing global demand for agricultural lands and crops like oil palm and biofuels. They were supposed to succeed where the smaller-scale projects of the past had failed. Unfortunately, these SABLs resulted in significant forest loss and livelihood degradation, while doing little to promote the type of economic development that many Lavongai had been hoping for.

It is within this context that We Stay the Same grounds questions of hope for transformative economic change within Lavongai assessments of the inequitable relationships between global processes of resource development and the local lives that have become increasingly defined by the necessities and failures of these processes.
Written in a clear and relatable style for students, We Stay the Same combines ethnographic and ecological research to show how the Lavongai continue to survive and make meaningful lives in a situation where their own hopes for a better future have often been used against them as a mechanism of a more distantly profitable dispossession.