[Coral-List] sustain vs. sustainable development

Jim Hendee Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov
Sun Feb 26 08:58:31 EST 2006

Hey, folks, I'm certainly not going to be one who runs around waving the
flag of *sustainability*. My main point was that these words means
different things to different people, most likely because they aren't
being used correctly. Like, let's look at the definition of the word
*sustain*, then look at how it is currently being used:


   1. To keep in existence; maintain.
   2. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.

Don't we want to do this for coral reefs? Of course we do. But now that
I've thrown the word out there (after admittedly not ever really using
it much--certainly not in fora like these), I'm starting to notice it
more. Like, I now see a Request For Proposals that mentions sustainable
development. What the heck is that supposed to mean? It means,
essentially, let's develop some enterprise(s) near the coast or coral
reef area that can support economies, yet not compromise the
environment. I think that's what it means. The concept of how you can
support an economy near a reef area, yet not compromise it (the reef
area, that is), is what should separate the good proposals and actions
from the bad. This approach says "let's find a way for people to live
[*develop*] near ecosystems without messing them up [too much]." Those
who are against sustainable development would prefer to either not
develop near these areas, or keep people out of the area, which is a
great idea if it is a realistic approach, but how do you push back the
tide of people? So, to me "sustainable development" seems to be an
oxymoron and a phrase meant to countenance or disguise coastal
development. I'll bet a real estate developer came up with that phrase.

So, what I said was we should sustain the reefs, not (necessarily)
permit sustainable development. I personally don't see how you can
sustain a clean environment and also permit people to crawl (swim) all
over it. I guess I'm saying our goal should be to sustain the reefs that
are in good condition, but what I admittedly didn't address was how to
fix the compromised reefs.

You have to accept what Alina says, that we're in a big mess and we have
to work with what we have, but to do that we all have to do our part and
we need strong leadership. Our leaders listen (theoretically) to lots of
voices and also to big money.

Now, addressing the charge that we first-world (and NOAA) coral
scientists have no clue as to what's going on in the rest of the world,
I would have to agree that THIS scientist is clueless about a lot of
international coral problems, at least from a first-person account. I
have never seen bombs on the ocean floor, and have never had my ear
drums blown out from blast-fishing. HOWEVER, I have been part of
proposal review processes before and I can tell you that a large number
of very savvy coral scientists (NOAA, academic and NGO) and policy
makers put large numbers of well-meaning hours into trying to determine
where best to fund coral conservation efforts (but the process is not
perfect). It's a very difficult decision process, and the final decision
makers ultimately have no other agenda except to conserve coral reefs.
If the squeaky wheel gets the grease (see also last sentence of previous
paragraph), then we have to agree on what needs to squeak the loudest,
or at least prioritize the squeaks. Which is what Phil was saying with
his plea to come up with 8 - 10 action items.


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