[Coral-List] Science vs Science the Saga Continues

Bastiaan Vermonden bastiaan.vermonden at gmail.com
Thu Apr 4 13:54:11 EDT 2013

Dear coral listers,

I would like to ask what do you all hope to achieve from this discussion?
For me it is clear we should achieve cooperation and solutions to our
problems. I think that all of us on this list will agree that humans are
damaging the environment, that coral reefs are being lost and that we
should do something regardless of our background, ecologist, economist,
social scientist, biologist etc etc. What we don't agree about is the how
to tackle the problem and as long as we don't work together I don't believe
we will come with a solution. Now we can all point fingers towards each
others shortcomings or we can take a good look at out own and then see how
someone from another discipline can help us reduce those.

I think the final solution to coral reef and any other form of nature
conservation will not come biological and ecological research it will come
from business. Either that or we will need an entire social rethink as some
people seem to suggest, but before we advocate this we should consider this
quote from Churchill:

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all
the others that have been tried."

And maybe we can also change this into "capitalism is the worst form
of economic planning except for all the others that have been tried." I
certainly don't want to go to a feudal or centrally planned economic system!

So for me I believe that the day that we can apply for a job or start a
business that pays for each square meter, hectare, km of reef saved and
maintained or restored to a healthy or (near) pristine state will be the
day that coral reef conservation turns succesful.

So I don't mean jobs that pay us to be:

a conservationist,
a coral reef researcher,
a environmental educator
a marine park manager,
a marine park guard,
a artificial reef builder or coral transplanter
a policy maker and etc etc etc

It is essential that someone gets paid for and can make a living by
effectively conserving and restoring the marine environment and if these
persons are not effective they get fired. Based on my *general *observations
I do not believe that this is currently the case.

Lets take the marine park manager, most often his boss is a politician or
government official. Now if he starts to enforce his marine park to improve
the quality of the environment and hands out big fines before he knows it
the fishermen, irresponsible tourist operators and their business partners
and employees are upset and complaining to the local politician and the
marine park manager gets fired. But if instead (s)he just sits back and
relaxes cashes the pay check and doesn't upset anyone except for maybe some
nature lovers (or scientists ;) who can't organize sufficiently and don't
have employees and business partners to multiply their voice many times
over then (s)he keeps the job and the income.

Meanwhile tourism operators might have an incentive to ensure that the
reefs remain protected but in the short term they just don't want any
tourists to know that there are any problems or that the environment has
degraded because that could stop tourists from coming. So instead of making
people aware that there is a problem, often they are complicit in spreading
the illusion that the "marine" environment is healthy and sometimes even

& Fishermen (poor and rich!) meanwhile continue to operate on the basis
that if they don't catch the fish someone else will.

So does this mean that science is not necessary and that we sit back and
let business fix everything. No of course not, behind each business
revolution there is technical and social innovation ranging from the steam
engine to capitalism and even consumerism and most often also
the implementation of good policy. And these innovations are only possible
due to the work of scientists, innovators, philosophers, economists and

So my question is how will our work make it possible for people to make it
their job to conserve and protect a reef and make sure it resembles a reef
that we would expect to see if there were no people. I dream of such a job
and I am sure many of you here do as well. Yet just like you cannot be a
scientist if no one pays your salary and funds your research or any other
occupation we cannot tell our bosses that next week we are no longer coming
back to work and instead we are going to devote our life to saving our
favorite reef. In the end we need to eat, take care of ourselves and our
families and most of us want some luxury as well and therefore we need a

So to answer this question of how can make it someone's job
to (effectively) conserve and restore the reef we can use everyone from any
discipline with any good idea, any relevant insight whether they are a
biologist, economist, mathematician, physicist or whatever.

I dream of one day being one of many people making my living
effectively protecting a coral reef, I dream of one day participating in a
strike with (other) coral reef protectors and their families and friends to
prevent a government from destroying (our) reefs and livelihood, I dream of
one day breeding sharks to reintroduce to a degraded ecosystem, of planting
corals as if planting a new forest, I imagine participating in a lobby that
calls for politicians to provide subsidies to coral reef protection
companies rather than oil, military& banking companies. I dream of
politicians one day telling society that letting coral reefs fail is a
systemic risk to our society, that coral reefs and their associated
businesses are too big to fail!



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