National Geographic : 1967 May
EKTACHROME BY Jim was referring to a flood of new develop ments emanating from Washington, D. C., and Trust Territory headquarters on Saipan. They seemed to him to signal a long-overdue new era in United States policy. "Through most of Micronesia's colonial history," Jim told me, "lack of education and of economic enterprise have left the islands in a state of suspended animation. And under the United States, until recently, we've had little more than a showing of the flag-a few administrators and experts, a handful of teachers, a scattering of doctors." I would hear the same cry and see more reasons for it elsewhere. On Babelthuap, the Territory's largest island, a gangling young American named Dan Cheatham squinted sadly at me from under the brim of a forest ranger's hat and said: "You are right now looking at the entire U. S. expeditionary force for forestry and conservation for 2,100 Pacific islands." On Ponape, plant pathologist Jim Zaiger told me that a disease is killing breadfruit trees on many islands: "Breadfruit means the good life to lots of Micronesians. If the cause of the malady isn't found soon, the crop will be doomed. Our appeals have brought some pathologists, but large-scale research is urgently needed to solve the problem." On Majuro, a crescent-shaped sliver of an island where 4,500 Micronesians live in tin shacks, an agricultural agent named David Ivra grimaced at the sight of a sick dog and told its owner and me: "We've been trying to get a veterinarian for Micronesia for years. One is finally coming. But not in time for this dog." Betel Nut Yields to Chewing Gum Outer-islanders forsake the clean, un cluttered beauty of their islands for the crowds and squalor of Majuro and five other district centers. They hover like moths around the attractions of the settlements-govern ment jobs, schools, hospitals, movies, high priced canned food, and higher-priced beer. If some of the older generation would rather fight than give up chewing betel nut, the youth have switched to chewing gum. In the movies, you can hardly hear the sound track over the gum popping.