[Coral-List] Faith in local efforts; ferocity in facing the world

lesk at bu.edu lesk at bu.edu
Sun Feb 26 11:08:47 EST 2006

Phil Dustan asked what we can do.

Perhaps a start is to share what we are doing now, and help each other 
forge our puzzle pieces into a whole.  This sometimes works better than 
launching a new big empty vessel with a fancy name and fundraising 
needs in hopes of picking up paying passengers along the way.

Here is the piece I am on now.  A small idea emerged from a workshop 
several years ago in Los Cabos.  Conservation International organized a 
party called "Defying Ocean's End".  No, I did not make up that name, 
though margaritas inspired an indecent salute to go along with it. DOE 
is a business plan to save the sea, vetted by folks from Goldman Sachs 
Inc. to make sure the scientists, environmentalists and stakeholders 
present were able to add up the numbers properly.  A news piece on DOE 
is at


and the resulting Island Press book is at:

At DOE, Jeremy Jackson and I co-chaired a very lively working group 
focussed on science to "restore and maintain marine ecosystem 
function."  In order to restore a marine ecosystem, we reasoned that we 
should first restore faith in a coastal community that they can steward 
their local marine environment despite the sky falling all about them.

The small idea is this: resistance is not futile.  This is a tough nut 
because people are hearing that no matter what they do to control 
fishing pressure and overdevelopment in their own front yards, the 
First World is going to get them- cook them, innundate them, poison 
them, and overpower them economically, to the strains of a siren call 
irresistable to their greedy and their young.  The key would be for a 
local community to do their level best to manage their doings in their 
own bit of sea in an enduring and rewarding fashion (the "S" word).  If 
it works even a little, empowerment can hopefully do the rest.

After DOE, I teamed up with CI to work on this problem.  We were 
fortunate to get start-up funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore 
Foundation for a project called the Marine Management Area Science 
program (MMAS).  We have four years to get going.  Dr. Leah Bunce is 
the Project Director.  I am the PI.  Roger McManus is supervising 
staffer.  Sylvia Earle is spokesperson/Godess.  CI staff and partners 
are the implementing folks.  For anybody who is interested, as 
materials become available they are posted to a general access web 
site.  The quickest route to a fact sheet and workplan for the project 
is to put "CI MMAS" into Google and take the top hits.

The project is evolving faster than the web portal and we do need some 
privacy and distance to get something done.  However, link-ups, 
partnerships, criticisms are welcome.

At its core MMAS is a natural and social science research project. 
Because it is a research project, parts of it that are new will appear 
in peer-reviewed papers first, and then be applied and publicized.  
These parts mostly have to do with the invention of new diagnostics to 
help sort out the effects of local management efforts, from changes 
(good or bad) in marine and social systems due to other causes.  But 
much of what you will see in MMAS sounds like what others are doing, 
because all are part of the same global context.  Let us call it: 
Alina's Lament.

It is essential that these more general objectives be achieved 
collaboratively with other projects being carried out in the same 
geographical areas, in a united front.  The egofriction static charge 
of NGO's and Kurtz-like characters- scientists and saviors, 
parachute-diplomats and prodigal sons alike- must be smoothed or we 
will be each others' failures.  We are all human and we all set up 
fiefdoms and power structures as automatically as dogs piss to mark 
their having passed.  Once everybody has pissed we can get down to 
work, and the mix will smell at least as good, or as bad, as the mark 
of any one.

The Scientific Advisory Committee for MMAS has helped to guide us into 
a focus for the project in four primary geographical areas, and two for 
work to ramp up later on.  These areas are:

Greater Caribbean- primary focus on Belize and MBRS region
Brazil- Abrolhos Shelf
Tropical Eastern Pacific- Coiba, Cocos, Malpelo, Galapagos
Fiji Archipelago

The two areas for later on are Raja Ampat (eastern Indonesia) and the 
western Indian Ocean someplace.

In each place we are fitting our little piece (MMA science) into the 
context of existing, locally initiated partnerships and projects.  We 
also have some small, thematic research projects that are not 
geographically tied down to these spots except that the products will 
then be applied in each of them.

Those are our beans.  We have decided to work small.  Together, the 
sites constitute a global observatory for the efficacy of MMA effects 
under varied biological and social conditions, strewn across E-W and 
N-S biodiversity gradients.

Okay, that was my sharing time.  Now it is all of your turns.  Perhaps 
we can look at different parts of the world of tropical nearshore 
marine conservation organizationally, the way that ReefBase has helped 
us to do biologically.  Find the pressure points.  Hone the messages 
and the campaigns.  Move from one immediate objective to the next.  
Shout into the media's ear instead of the other way.  Remember, this 
isn't to say that the global UN diplomacy march on Washington thing 
isn't important, too.  All of us have folks in our organizations who, 
bless their hearts, are doing just that.  It just isn't what I am doing 
right now.

Sounds kind of like baloney but maybe what we do can be better than 
what it sounds like.  Now, that would be really novel.


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