Certain questions that must be answered before removing coral reefs
EDITOR: Inevitably, as all things on this small island nation do, the debate over the removal of coral reefs has now become a platform for personal attacks against those in opposition. Many people are spitting the oh-so-typical narrative that suggests anyone who opposes the reef removal must have a shining record of activism, and that they must be the poster child of environmentalism, never having harmed even a fly. This seems to be a common argument against anyone advocating for social justice and environmentalism, but is flawed in so many ways. Not only is it merely a petty attack on personal character that adds zero substantial matter to the argument, but it also suggests that you aren’t allowed the time and space to oppose anything unless you’re perfect. And none of us are perfect, are we?
Within the capitalist system, we all constantly live at odds with what we know is in the best interest of our planet.
We drive cars, we use plastic products, we use harmful pesticides, we use toxic aerosols, we smoke cigarettes, we use imported products that come via planes and boats that have high carbon footprints. The list can go on and on and on, but do we all use that as an excuse to say we can’t do better? No, because we know that making small, sustainable changes add up to meaningful progress. We know that the goal is to find ways to offset our carbon footprint, and to find ways to preserve our environment for our future generations. So we ban plastic bags, and the importation of older vehicles, and styrofoam products. We do beach clean ups, and ban killing Parrot Fish, and establish Marine Parks. We do those things in spite of everything else we do that opposes them. It is a game of hypocrisy – we all know that we are responsible for destroying the planet, yet we all know we have to participate in saving it.
I want to give an example to demonstrate my point on a larger scale. Governments all over the world, including our own, have signed agreements and set laws that protect our environment. Yet, we still engage in many practices that directly oppose them – such as not regulating the gray water that enters the bays at Villa and Calliaqua. Is it hypocritical for us to have signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, but yet turn a blind eye to that issue? Absolutely. Yet we don’t hurl personal insults at the Government about being imperfect, nor discredit the work they’ve done to establish various parks and reserves in our country that serve to protect our environment. Why? Because we understand that progress takes time, and we understand that they sign agreements such as those to set goals to better our island nation, and to hold us all accountable in the long term. We understand that nothing will ever be perfect, but when we know better, we try to do better. In this case of removing coral (or “dead” coral, if you insist), we know better.
So instead of resorting to the pathetic level of personal attacks against those of us trying to demand better, here’s my suggestion: Stop taking photos from the same vantage point on land, and go snorkeling in that bay. Take a close look at what’s there, and how people engage with it. Ask yourself if they remove that “rock”, will the sensitive, living coral around it likely survive, or will it die from the sediment that is inevitable from excavation? Who will decipher what can and cannot be removed during that excavation? Will that have a domino effect on surrounding coral and wildlife? How much of it will be affected? How will that affect people who depend on that area, such as fishermen? What about people who depend on our reefs to snorkel, or dive, or offer adventure tours? What about the people living on that coast? How will homes be affected by removing a natural shore break? What kind of erosion might occur from even removing the smallest pieces of “rock”? Is this worth the gamble? Are we going to be proud of this in 20 years?
These are the questions we want answers to. They are simple questions, and they are questions that affect us all, no matter who you are. It is not an elitist movement, but destroying pieces of our environment to create some idyllic little beach playground for tourists, where their toes don’t have to touch rocks or seagrass? That’s as elitist as it gets.
Someone who actually went into the water