[Coral-List] Nefarious conservation

mark at mdspalding.co.uk mark at mdspalding.co.uk
Wed Feb 29 07:37:08 EST 2012

   We tend to think of ourselves as a likeable bunch, but coral reef scientists
   come in for quite a grilling in a new play about Chagos (London, till 10
   March). The play has received some top reviews. It tells the story of the
   history of the Islands and the people who were forcibly evicted by the
   British 40 years ago to make way for a US military base. The interesting
   twist for list-readers will be that it is not just military or political
   figures  who  are  critiqued,  but  also  the  recent  role  played by
   conservationists (represented by the play’s “marine biologist”, but in
   reality including many, many others).

   The play gets its title - “A Few Man Fridays” - from the derogatory term for
   the Chagossian people that was used by a UK official who deliberately used
   the establishment of an MPA as a means to further entrench the exclusion of
   these people from their homeland. The same official suggested that the
   environmental lobby was far more powerful than the human rights activists.
   Thus far he has been proved right.

   Of course a small number of us, while welcoming the concept, objected to the
   way the MPA was designated. This is effectively the same position as the
   Chagossians, who are very pro-conservation but want to be involved. What was
   amazing was how many big groups – the million member RSPB, the UK Marine
   Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Avaaz, and such heady organisations as the
   Royal Society, Linnean Society, Kew Gardens signed up to the MPA in a way
   and form that they knew, beforehand, would infuriate and disenfranchise the
   Mauritians and most Chagossians. They played the politicians game for them.
   They are all in the dock in this play, which their members, and any of you
   in the UK might like to see -

   I expect some of these conservationists might respond with claims that these
   groups were consulted (lip-service) and that Chagossians are involved (true,
   but only a small minority group). The take-home for me in all this – don’t
   rush conservation without balanced consultation, engage the stakeholders,
   and beware of powerful hidden agendas. Not exactly new, but clearly not sunk
   in yet in some minds. Perhaps these conservationists don’t care because they
   think the stakeholders will never get their islands back. But they might!
   What then?

   All best



   Mark D Spalding, PhD

   Senior Marine Scientist, Global Marine Team

   Post: Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK


   1. http://www.cardboardcitizens.org.uk/p2s59.html

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