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Should we despair?


The vibrancy of natural sites, both wilderness and managed, is as thrilling and uplifting as the ravages caused by man and nature are heart-breaking. To me, witnessing juvenile grouper in a healthy mangrove system is as pleasing as gliding through bottomless blue water in the company of giants of the deep. Conversely, the ravages on a reef system by earthquakes is as painful as diving lakes denuded by algal blooms. Having seen the best and the worst, I had some thoughts (and questions) about management, reclamation, clean-up, repair, containment, protection, exploitation, conservation, aquaculture, research, education, legislature, and a few other areas. 

Just as a single example, after the 2004 tsunami, reefs throughout Thailand were expected to heal relatively quickly left to their own devices. And, indeed, have managed quite well, when truly left to their own devices. The event required massive cleanup efforts and careful management to prevent further damage and new educational and legislative programs were commonly accepted as a sound and proper. But... thousands of acres of reefs continue to die off. Why? With a boom in tourist development (some 20% since 2010), a super-star rating for the area with the World Bank, sharply rising GDP, and an over-all optimistic economy, is there no-one to point out that continued irresponsible development and "progress" can only end in a resounding "I told you so" in the coming years? 

I don't mean to imply developing nations are to shoulder the guilt. First world nations, with inarguably more robustly-funded and experienced research institutions and facilities are failing to succesfully lead the way in education and support of the vital resources represented by to "other 70%" of the planet. Exploitation of natural resources without responsible containment and conservation is worse than uninformed. It is criminal. Need a few billion barrels of crude before alternate energy sources can develop to make up the deficit? Fine. Pump away. But cry not poverty when an ecological catastrophe pours millions of those same barrels into nearby fisheries. Like the saying goes: Man up! You made the mess, you clean it up.

This is taking the form of a rant so I will contain myself. The great questions, of course, are why, where, how, when, and who... The why we all know. Because that "other 70%" is our dearest and greatest resource. Where? Wherever you can make a difference, be it an  ocean or Congress, a local dive spot or University.  How? Pick up a plastic bag or lobby a politician, it all depends on what you are capable of. When? The sooner the better, folks. And finally, who? Well... everybody. We all live on this rock. A number of us is lucky enough to experience our oceans first hand. It should be us that tell the rest of them what they're missing, and more important, how to help.

Sometimes, I despair for there is so much to do. But then I slip on some fins and a mask. And pick up some trash.

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