[Coral-List] The blind men and the elephant

Michael Risk riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Thu Mar 16 08:35:42 EST 2006

Hi Bill.

Good to hear from you-and, as usual, spot-on.

I have no wish to enter into any protracted discussion-life has more to
offer than postings on coral-list. Nonetheless, there has been a flurry
of postings recently, about education, reef resiliency, sexy
scientists, etc-the thread running through all this input is concern
for the resource.

When it comes to putting action behind passion, however, the -list
reminds me of the old Persian fable of the blind men describing the
elephant. One guy grabs the trunk, says "It's very like a snake!", next
guy runs into a leg, says "No, it resembles a tree..." and so on.

In this debate, we have heard about people's favorite NGO, or
foundation, or activity (most involving the sender). We have heard
little from people who can see the whole elephant. I come back to the
fact that this field badly needs a very few widely-respected, forceful,
articulate spokespersons. It is in the nature of the field that these
will be hard to find.

With regard to Guana Cay, specifically:

I read the response from the Discovery Land CEO as the usual bafflegab.
There was no offer of mutual cooperation. If Todd Barber can get those
people to agree with the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions I
outlined, then my hat is off to him.

With regard to the general issue of development vs reefs:

Robert Bourke "disagrees" with me, but I am not sure what he means.
Surely no one imagines that monitoring is an end unto itself??!!
Monitoring is one leg of the MEC triumvirate. Relax, Canadian readers,
this does not refer to Mountain Equipment Co-op, but rather to
Monitoring, Enforcement and Control. 

The cop with the radar gun is Monitoring. When she pulls you over,
that's Enforcement. If she spent all day behind the radar gun, nothing
would be done. 

Another useful troika of concepts is
detection-identification-remediation. Detection is via monitoring,
using biology. Identification is geochemistry. Remediation is politics.

There is no doubt that some development can be done with minimal
impact. Robert cites golf courses in Hawaii-I understand some of them
are OK, but before I make my mind up I would want to consult with Bob
Richmond. In any event. ALL the developments with small footprints of
which I am aware have been co-operatively designed-and that ain't
happening at Guana. My understanding is that there are inadequate
baseline data, and that what little monitoring is under way is being
done by volunteers. (I can just imagine the dialogue in court...)

Tom Williams' post was hard to decipher, perhaps because my server
screwed up the formatting, but seemed to be largely critical. We need
positive thinking and acting-although "positive" is hard to define.

I have hold of the tusk. I am thinking "This is hard. This will be hard
to digest."


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