Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Dominica workshop papers

The Ethical Dimensions of Coastal Zone Management: The Case of the Portland Bight Protected Area, Jamaica 

Peter Espeut


Historically, the philosophical foundation of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) is positivism and empiricism, which deny any role for ethics and morality in the search for knowledge. This approach to epistemology has been useful in separating belief from fact, especially in an age when the influence of religion on politics and society was substantial.  One only has to recall the difficulties Galileo and Copernicus and Darwin had with religious authorities over their scientific views to realize that science must be separate from faith and belief – however reasonable – if it is to be considered to have objectivity and validity.  The natural sciences study ‘things’, which are wholly other from the observer (objects) and can only be observed from the outside.  The natural scientist as a subject cannot interact with the object of his research directly, which preserves the objectivity of the observation. 

In the face of this, the social sciences (sociology, economics, politics) have had difficulty justifying their continued classification as sciences, since their subject matter (humanity) is sentient, and possesses culture and ethics.  Although Emile Durkheim argued that ‘social facts must be treated as “things”’ so that they can become the object of scientific study, one cannot simply equate the two realms.  Human beings hold opinions and values, which can be the object of social research, but humans hold those opinions and values as subjects in their own right, which causes methodological problems for pure natural scientists.  The social scientist may appear to be just as positivist and empiricist as the natural scientist, but the social researcher will have difficulty separating himself as human subject from the human object of his research because the very nature of the research involves inter-subjectivity, which is absent from the natural sciences.  And so social scientists have had to accept the classification that even though what they do is scientific, it is not ‘hard’ science, a term reserved for natural science alone.  Social science, then, is ‘second class’ science in the eyes of the natural scientist. 

Nevertheless, and despite their philosophical differences, there are many natural and social scientists who agree that ethics and morality have no place in their disciplines.  Ethics is the study of ‘the ought’, while both the natural sciences and social sciences study ‘the is’.  Even though norms and values may become the object of study, they must not interfere with the scientific method used to study them (which is value-free).  And so both the natural and social sciences are careful to distance themselves from questions of right and wrong, about assigning more or less value to one belief or another, and to separate the science (the knowledge itself) from its use in the real world. Historically both the natural and social sciences have officially and dogmatically eschewed ethics in an effort to shake off the influence of the Church and religion on their disciplines. 

However, if both groups of scientists are honest, there are concepts used in both the natural and social sciences, which are value-laden.  Having rejected the idea of having norms and values at all (to avoid taking on the norms and values of the dominant Church) science has adopted its own set of norms and values, which I hope I can demonstrate below. 

Value-laden Concepts in the Natural Sciences 

Remember that both the natural and the social sciences set themselves the task of description, saying what something is.  If it can be demonstrated that any natural or social science has begun to say what ought to be, then this will have proved that they have drifted into the realm of ethics, that they have incorporated value-laden (and therefore moral) concepts into the corpus of their theory. 

It is easier to show it for the social sciences, but let us first look at examples from the natural sciences.  Ecology is a natural science discipline, which studies the relationship between animals and plants, and the ecosystems within which they are located.  Ecosystems can be healthy or degraded, and all shades in between, and describing their exact status is the stuff of pure science.  Once the scientist suggests a preference for healthy ecosystems, and puts forward a strategy for conservation, ethical concepts have been let in the door.  Conservation is an overtly value-laden concept, demanding that certain choices be made between competing uses of the terrestrial, riparian, coastal, aquatic or marine environment. 

A concept related to ecosystem health is biodiversity, which refers to the types and numbers of animal and plant species present in an ecosystem.  Biodiversity may be adjudged high if the full range of animal and plant species are present in an ecosystem in quantities high enough for sustainability over time.  Again just describing the biodiversity state of an area is pure science, but when the scientists suggest that high biodiversity is to be preferred to low biodiversity, questions of value have been unmistakably introduced.  The premium placed on endemic species, unique to a large or small region, and the concern about reversing trends towards species extinction, have been raised as issues of environmental ethics requiring action from the state.  Over millennia, millions of species – some incipient – have become extinct as a result of natural selection after variation due to genetic recombination or mutation.  Extinction and speciation due to evolution are both natural processes, and describing what is happening can be value-free science.  Once the scientist decides to recommend measures to prevent species extinction, he has introduced the element of value into the equation and has become an activist. 

Fish stocks and therefore fish catches are declining across the world.  Fisheries biologists have developed tools such as the Surplus Production Model which seek to guide fisheries managers towards strategies for optimising either yield (MSY = maximum sustainable yield) or economic returns (MEY = maximum economic yield).  The recommendation for total allowable catch (TAC) is based on a judgement as to the relative weight to be given to MSY or MEY.  All of these determinations by scientists are value judgements. 

The very adoption of the concept of sustainability is value-laden.  The idea that fish catches or timber harvests should be at rates equal to or less than the rate of reproduction or regeneration is an ethical position.  It happens to be an ethical position supported by many (not by all), because it is a surrogate for long-term ecosystem health.  Nevertheless it represents the intrusion of ethical norms and values into the science of ecology

A final example closer to home should suffice.  Beaches erode and accrete naturally in an annual cycle, and understanding and quantifying this process is pure science, including a determination of the impact of coastal erosion on structures built on the coastline, and the impact of coastal structures on coastal erosion.  Other factors such as global warming may exacerbate the process, and understanding and measuring these effects is also pure science.  Even prescribing strategies based on the understanding of the processes that will promote erosion or accretion may be pure science, but once the scientist decides that coastal erosion or accretion is good or bad, he has crossed the line and has introduced concepts of value. 

There will be few (except certain purists) who will criticize scientists for introducing these value-laden concepts into their disciplines.  Indeed, scientists have received much praise and acclaim for performing ‘useful’ research. 

Value-laden Concepts in the Social Sciences 

The task of demonstrating that value-laden concepts are integral to the social sciences is easy, since there are so many.  The very concept of development – the preoccupation of all nations – contains many imbedded values such as advancement, improvement and progress.  The more limited concept of economic development has its specific definition of ‘increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP)’, which may be value-free, but broadening the idea of development to include concepts like sustainability introduces ethical issues. 

The concept of development also includes the idea that poverty, illiteracy and disease are not desirable, and innumerable social scientists of all disciplines have been enlisted in the process of planning for a human and social development where these conditions are minimised.  In decades past, this was unthinkable, not just because of the obviously ethical and moral content, but development theory before 1950 did not assert that development could be created or avoided.  In fact there was the view that there was an invisible hand working behind the scenes and that there were inexorable laws uplifting some and relegating others to backwardness.  Once development theory admitted the possibility of charting the course of national and local development, then the scientists doing the charting found themselves in the position of having to decide on the suite of items which would constitute ‘development’, a profoundly ethical and moral choice. 

The history of humanity demonstrates evolution in social and political institutions, from, for example, slavery to feudalism to democracy.  Different countries are at different points in the process, and there is definitely the feeling that some countries are more advanced than others based on their evolutionary stage.  The pattern variables of Talcott Parsons clearly posit that societies which distribute social rewards based on achievement are more advanced than those which distribute on the basis of ascription; and the like.  The social sciences definitely pass value judgments on societies with respect to their level of development

The judgment that democracy is the best form of government because of the role it gives to its citizens, is a value judgment.  The maxim ‘no taxation without representation’ is a moral prescript.  The principle of subsidiarity (that decisions which can be taken at a lower level should not be taken at a higher level) is a value judgment

What would the social sciences be like without the value-laden concepts discussed above?  Certainly much less useful. 

A Value-driven Approach to Natural Resource Management 

If it is agreed that there are many ethical statements already in scientific discourse – both natural and social – and that they enrich the discourse rather than impoverish it, the definition of the nature of science needs to be modified to openly accommodate this new dimension.  

Scientists, then, will be able to welcome moral ideas into their discipline, which means that discussion of the ethics of natural resource management or coastal zone management will become central rather than a sideshow.  The upshot of applying one set of ethical values rather than another, may also be studied.  Not every set of moral values will be consonant with the goals of natural resource management, and this must be openly discussed. 

For example, the logical outcome of holding anthropocentric values as dominant (requiring everything to be subject to the demands of economic development) might be environmental degradation, while the logical outcome of holding ecological values as dominant (forbidding any activity which damages the environment) might be economic stagnation and poverty.  If all political decisions were subject to some set of holistic values surrounding sustainable development, where both conservation and economic growth were simultaneous goals, then we might be able to achieve some consensus as to the way forward in human history. 

The ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI) platform of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has adopted a framework for evaluating the field projects it supports, which involves assessing how each project measures up to a suite of criteria which are overtly ethical, whether it uses that term or not.  The overarching concept is ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’, and the sixteen criteria for knowing whether a project evinces wisdom and sustainable development are the following:

      1. The project must have long-term benefits.
2. The project must provide for capacity building and institutional strengthening.
3. The project activities must be sustainable.
4. The capability to perform project activities must be transferred to locals.
5. The project activities must be interdisciplinary and intersectoral.
6. The project activities must incorporate participatory processes.
7. The project activities must provide for consensus building.
8. The project activities must include an effective and efficient communication process.
9. The project activities must be culturally respectful.
10. The project activities must take into account gender and/or sensitivity issues.
11. The project activities must strengthen local identities.
12. The project activities must shape national legal policy.
13. The project activities must encompass the regional dimension.
14. The project activities must provide for human rights.
15. The project activities must have been documented.
16. The project activities must have been evaluated.

(see Wise coastal practices for sustainable human development: work in progress January 2000 and November 2000)   

The process of evaluation, of deciding on a score representing the extent to which the project activities achieve each criterion of ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’, may be objective and scientific; but by virtue of the fact that each criterion is a value judgment of the project, suggesting that a particular situation is desirable and its opposite undesirable, the exercise is an ethical one. 

By developing these criteria and using them for evaluation, UNESCO-CSI is defining the norms and values, which should guide activities in the coastal zone.  In this sense, UNESCO-CSI is promoting a value-driven approach to coastal zone management.  These ethical criteria are concerned both about the condition of the natural resources (natural sciences) and the human resources (social sciences) – although it is weak on the former – and it draws a clear boundary encompassing the suite of activities UNESCO-CSI considers to fall under the umbrella of natural resource management in the coastal zone. 

The Portland Bight Protected Area: A Locus for Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development 

On the Caribbean island of Jamaica, the government has committed itself to creating fourteen parks and protected areas as a part of its natural resource management programme.  The Jamaican government has decided not to create a state agency to manage national parks and protected areas, but to delegate management responsibility to suitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  On Earth Day (April 22) 1999, Jamaica’s Minister of the Environment signed an Order creating the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) – by far Jamaica’s largest – and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation expects to be delegated management responsibility. 

The PBPA is 1,876 km2 in size – 520 km2 terrestrial (5% of Jamaica’s land area) and 1,356 km2 marine space (48% of Jamaica’s island shelf).  Falling within the civil parishes of Clarendon and St. Catherine, the PBPA is of major environmental importance.  It contains the largest relatively intact dry limestone forest left in Central America and the Caribbean (ca. 210 km2) with high plant and animal biodiversity; Jamaica’s largest remaining mangrove wetlands (ca. 82 km2); Jamaica’s largest concentration of sea turtle nesting sites; populations of rare and endangered wildlife including birds, crocodiles, iguanas, skinks, manatees and bats; and some of the healthiest coral reefs left on the island shelf. 

About 50,000 persons live within the boundaries of the PBPA, and the area is of major economic importance.  Located there are: two ports, two sugar estates, a bauxite-alumina plant, two power plants and a number of manufacturing enterprises (all with their respective discharges).  Woodcutting in the dry limestone forests and mangrove stands (for charcoal, fuel wood, fence posts, etc.) is another major economic activity, which has environmental implications.  Because of the large areas of sea grass meadows, mangrove wetlands and coral reefs in Portland Bight, the PBPA is the most fecund fishery on mainland Jamaica, supporting 3,000 of Jamaica’s 16,000 fishers.  There are eight fish landing sites within the PBPA, including Jamaica’s two largest (Old Harbour Bay and Rocky Point), each with over 1,000 fishers. 

The Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation is an environment and development NGO as much committed to human development as to conservation of the natural environment.  C-CAM believes that protected areas, in addition to their importance for biodiversity protection, are useful vehicles to foster all the facets of human development: social and economic advancement, and empowerment.  C-CAM’s management plan for the PBPA (approved by the Jamaican government) outlines how it expects to work towards the twin goals of natural resource conservation and human development with co-management as its main tool. 

Co-management cannot take place in a vacuum, and C-CAM has begun to midwife a series of stakeholder councils through which co-management will operate.  The Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC) formed in June 1995, has representatives of all the stakeholders in the fishing industry in the PBPA – including several government departments.  At its fiftieth monthly meeting in November 1999, a litany of its achievements was compiled by the members, including: the review of existing legislation, the drafting of fishing regulations to apply within the PBPA, fisheries management education on the fishing beaches, and the enforcement of existing legislation by about fifty Fisheries Inspectors appointed by Jamaica’s head of state from among local fisher-folk (including women).  The PBFMC has contributed significantly to the management plan for the PBPA mentioned above.  Other councils existing or to be formed include a watershed management council, a tourism council, a citizens’ council, and enforcement council and an industrial (pollution) council, each with their own roster of stakeholders.  To oversee the whole process, the Portland Bight Sustainable Development Council with delegates from all the other councils and the government, will be formed.

Neither human development nor environmental conservation are possible without the availability of the necessary information, and the PBPA Management Plan also calls for a series of biophysical and socioeconomic baseline surveys to support both management planning and evaluation of the management strategies employed.

The Ethical Dimensions of Coastal Zone Management within the Portland Bight Protected Area 

C-CAM is under no illusions: its activities in the PBPA have profound ethical content.  In their management plan mentioned above, they state their ethical position in a number of appendices.  First they state the relationship they perceive between the earth and humanity in ‘The Earth Rights Credo’.  Then they state their understanding of protected areas and their role in conservation and development in ‘The Socio-Biosphere: Man in Harmony with Nature’.  Since co-management is so important to achieve both conservation and development goals, this mechanism is explored in ‘Co-Management: An Optimal Framework for the Management of Socio-Biospheres’.  Finally, the concept which links development with the environment is explored in ‘Sustainable Development: a Tautology’. 

A detailed examination of all these documents is not possible in a short paper.  They have been attached for reference.  The C-CAM philosophy documents require little explanation as they speak for themselves.  They were plainly written for easy understanding. 

Listed below are some of the key ethical themes contained therein; some have already been mentioned above.

        Co-management of the natural resources of the PBPA.
The empowerment of local communities to manage their own affairs.
Development that is sustainable.
Optimisation of the use of the natural resources of the PBPA.
Interdisciplinarity, particularly between the natural and social sciences.
The training and empowerment of local leaders.
 Improvement in the quality of life of the residents.
Diversification of the local economy within the PBPA.
Respect for culture (contemporary, historic and prehistoric).
Gender equity.


It remains to be seen how the activities undertaken by C-CAM within the PBPA will measure up to the high ethical standards set by UNESCO-CSI.  Nevertheless, it cannot be gainsaid that the framework for the evaluation is ethical.  Indeed the task of encouraging ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ is fundamentally ethical, and properly so.  Both the natural and the social sciences need to redefine themselves to overtly include ethical concepts, since they are already there, unacknowledged. 

  1. The Earth Rights Credo


The Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation believes the planet Earth to be a composite living system requiring certain conditions to sustain man in an optimal environment.  Mankind is recognized as the ruling element in this living system and therefore has a natural duty of care to manage the system in a way, which guides its evolution along the road of sustainable development.  Humanity has been challenged to bring the Earth to its maximum realizable potential.  Mankind must respect the integrity of the living system, which is the planet Earth; in a real sense the Earth has rights.  The rights of humans should not supersede Earth rights, but rather, be aligned and in balance with them to ensure the survival, diversity, sustainability and harmony of the planet.  The pursuit of profit and the right of man to procreate does not supersede the right of the Earth to remain in biodiversity and free of danger from pollution.

  1. The Concept of a Socio-Biosphere


A socio-biosphere is a defined geographical area of land, water and atmosphere containing human, animal and plant organisms, which function as balanced and sustainable interactive socio-ecosystems.  Socio-biospheres should function harmoniously with adjacent socio-biospheres. 

The fundamental concept of a wildlife refuge or ecological sanctuary is that natural areas with their flora and fauna should be set apart from human society and economy.  Humans who visit to watch or study are at best tolerated; they are considered an intrusion. 

The fundamental concept of a nature park is that natural areas are set apart and managed for humans to visit.  The focus is on the natural beauty of the park and its creatures.  Humans are welcome, but nothing is to be taken but photographs, nothing is to be left but footprints. 

Areas where humans live and work are not usually considered suitable for environmental conservation and protection.  Some wildlife (e.g. crocodiles, snakes) are considered an intrusion into cities and towns with their residential, industrial and commercial centres; others (e.g. crows and hawks) are pests in rural areas with their agricultural and pastoral focus.  Settlement (e.g. housing, road building) and extractive activity (e.g. mining, tree cutting) are often seen as antithetical to environmental concerns. 

The fundamental concept of a biosphere is that, through planning and management, wildlife and human activity – domestic, economic and recreational – can co-exist within a prescribed area.  The most complete biospheres are those which contain aquatic and terrestrial areas, so that the wide and complex range of interactions between the flora and fauna of those ecosystems can be brought under the management and planning regime.  The most effective biosphere reserves cover large expanses of land, coastline and marine space, for there is a critical mass and variety of habitat and organisms, which must be present for the planning process to be effective.  The reserve must be large enough to approximate a closed system. 

The term biosphere, then, includes the presence of humanity, since human beings are animals who need a habitat, and who interact with each other and with the natural environment.  For emphasis, however, the term socio-biosphere is being proposed, since some would claim that humankind – being sentient – is a cut above the rest of animals.  Man is a social animal with a well-developed culture; because man is a major player in the environment, his culture needs to be consciously brought into the model. 

The key to the success of a socio-biosphere reserve is zoning.  Socio-biosphere reserves are heterogeneous, with different ecosystems and land use patterns, each of which may require a different management regime.  A socio-biosphere reserve should be divided into internally functionally similar zones, each of which may be subdivided into management units using practical criteria.  A management plan needs to be prepared for each management unit, which must fit into an overall zone management plan, which must fit into the overall biosphere management plan. 

The use of land and marine space needs to be planned.  The Biosphere Reserve should be zoned in terms of the types of usage, which will be permitted and encouraged in that zone.  For example, the marine space may be divided into shipping priority areas, fishing priority areas, recreation priority areas, fish sanctuaries, coral reef sanctuaries and aquaculture priority areas, each of which will have a different management plan.  Some areas will be managed as wilderness, others as residential or commercial or industrial areas.  The nature of each activity and its extent must conform to the principle of sustainability. 

The management plan for each zone should be prepared and implemented using the best planning and management tools and systems available.  Geographical Information Systems (GIS), for example, will be of immense value in this effort. 

Some of the land in the socio-biosphere reserve will be private and some will be owned by the government.  Whatever the tenure, all land, sea and air will be subject to the management regime defined by the zone and the type of ecosystem. 

No matter how large the Socio-Biosphere Reserve is, it will not be a closed system.  Adjacent socio-biospheres must be in harmonious interaction.

One of the types of management area in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification is the Biosphere Reserve.  This is an international designation, which like World Heritage Sites, are declared by UNESCO.  It is hoped that eventually the Portland Bight Protected Area will be declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, which would bring full recognition to its environmental importance.

  1. Co-management


Co-management (Participatory Democracy) is an approach towards natural resource management, which calls for a genuine partnership between stakeholders – including the government and the resource-users – in planning, implementing and monitoring the process of sustainable development. 

By definition people are a constitutive part of any Socio-Biosphere Reserve.  The activity of humans, therefore, is part of the natural scheme of things.  Of all the species, which interact in a socio-biosphere reserve, man alone is sentient and in a position to ensure that his interventions fall within the bounds of sustainability or unsustainability.  Therefore humans are the ruling element in this living system and have a natural duty of care to manage the system in a way, which guides its evolution along the road of sustainable development.

Even though humans are sentient, individuals do not usually possess all the information necessary to take the best management decisions.  Actions which benefit some individuals may impede others.  The best approach would seem to be collaborative, where sentient beings share information and agree on management measures which strike a balance between individual benefit and the common good.

Every human society has evolved some mechanism for achieving social goals.  Through chieftains and kings, we have evolved a mechanism called ‘The State’ to administer the affairs of society.  To the state has been given the responsibility and the power to manage matters that affect the society as a whole, which each household cannot address on its own.  This includes the conservation of natural resources such as forests, wetlands, birds and fish.  To achieve its goals, the state passes laws, raises taxes, hires staff and implements strategies.  The state as a management entity has existed under all socio/political/economic systems including feudalism, capitalism, democracy and communism; nevertheless, the state is now -- and has always been -- largely authoritarian in its approach to management.

If management was not needed, the state with all its undesirable attributes would not be accepted by society.  Were the society able to find less tyrannical methods, which provide the critical management functions now performed by government, it would happily do away with the state.  Presently, the tyranny of the state is preferred to the tyranny of disorder.

The model of state management of natural resources, which has come down to us, has not been very successful.  The state has sought to directly manage the environment, using its own staff and drafting its own plans.  This approach has largely failed, due to staff and cash shortages in the state sector, but mainly because of the lack of co-operation from the community at large, especially the users of the natural resources under management.  The cost of state management of the environment in the face of widespread flagrant abuse of the laws is prohibitive.  Another approach has to be found which is cheaper and which promises to be effective. 

When individuals feel their interests are not being represented, they tend to protest by withdrawing their support, or even resorting to sabotage.  Democracy as a political concept gained wide acceptance because of the tyranny of emperors and kings; it provided a mechanism by which autocrats could be regularly changed.  As a management concept, democracy has yet to come into its own.  Even in a political democracy, the approach by governments to management has largely excluded those who elected them.  Planning and implementation of plans is largely done by bureaucrats and functionaries who may or may not ‘consult’ with the public.  This approach has failed to achieve even the most bland natural resource management objectives and other requirements of sustainable development.

A common phrase in the parlance of development practitioners is ‘community-based management’.  It has its roots in the concept of ‘popular democracy’ (i.e. management directly by the people) and is often seen as anti-bureaucracy and anti-state, even anti-government.  Often the assumption is made that, left to themselves, freed from the fetters of a power-hungry bureaucracy, communities will take the right management decisions.  This view – where it exists – is somewhat romantic and unrealistic, and is just as likely to be unable to achieve planning and management for sustainable development as direct state management.

Scientists, local community members and the state have information useful for effective management towards sustainable development; no one has all the necessary information, and all have some useful data.  Perhaps members of the community need training in particular planning, assessment and management skills.  Possibly the community lacks some of the resources necessary for effective planning, assessment and management for sustainable development which the state or the private (business) sector may be able to source.  The community will need legal authority and the capacity to create and enforce sanctions, which only the state can supply.

The state is useful because it is a mechanism to trade off benefits and disadvantages between sectors and communities, for the common good.  In itself, the concept of a nation-state is useful and practical, and can facilitate development; it is the over-bearing, mal-distributing, inefficient state that is pathological.

Any sort of local management that fails to take into account the big picture (national and global issues) is not likely to produce sustainable development (the ‘think globally’ part of the famous slogan).  Further, any approach which seeks to take all power away from the state, is not likely to succeed.  Co-management does not eliminate the state, but renders it more immediately and fully transparent and accountable to local communities.

The C-CAM advocates co-management as the approach most likely to achieve sustainable development in socio-biosphere reserves.  By co-management is meant simply that those persons who have a direct stake in the health of the resources in the socio-biosphere (referred to as stakeholders) share the responsibility for planning and management towards sustainable development.  The primary stakeholders include the resource users and the government, but since in a real sense all humanity has a stake in the health of the resources, others may be included in the process.

The users – in whichever way – of each resource have a personal stake in the good management of natural areas.  Since they benefit from successful management and suffer from poor or no management, their views cannot be ignored.  A situation wherein the community alone manages, with no government participation, is radically different from co-management.

Governments are elected by the people to oversee the good management of the resources in the nation or state.  They cannot be expected to divest themselves of their mandate to manage natural resources, and so they must be full partners in any co-management regime.  The state is expected to spend tax dollars in this partnership effort, must be transparent in all its processes and must be accountable to those who elected them. 

If only one interest group has management responsibility, that faction may be one-sided in its approach.  Even where all the data is available, and the correct management conclusion is drawn, the interest group may still chose to act otherwise for selfish motives.  Some mechanism (e.g. a Management Council) needs to be put in place where delegates of all the stakeholders can sit together at one table to plan management strategies and take management decisions.  This will provide necessary checks and balances between interest groups and communities.

Representative democracy has weak corrective mechanisms.  The electorate has to pile up lists of grievances until it loses patience and removes the whole government in an election.  It then puts in another government and repeats the process.  This is a crude and inefficient corrective process, both because of the long delays in making the correction, and the sweeping approach as good policies may also be thrown out with the bad.

Participatory democracy (co-management) allows ordinary people to access the management process, detect deviations, and correct them incrementally as they occur.  It is a more refined, selective and evolutionary technique towards quality improvements in the management process.

Those with seats on the Council must genuinely represent a constituency of stakeholders, i.e., they must have a clear mandate from a definite group of people.  This implies that each stakeholder group must be organized in such a way as to take part in co-management through their delegate(s), responding to the deliberations of the Council.  Where stakeholders are un-organized or where organization is weak, then the formation and strengthening of stakeholder groups must precede the formation of a Management Council.

This arrangement may need to be brokered by some intermediate agency (an NGO such as the C-CAM).  The very goal of sustainability will be compromised if the NGO creates dependence upon itself among the stakeholders.  The broker institution must see to the emergence and strengthening of local co-management institutions such that the presence of the NGO becomes redundant.  Besides, no NGO can expect to exist forever, and concrete plans must be put in place for the stakeholder councils to be able to function in perpetuity.  Nevertheless, such broker institutions are necessary in the early stages.

Management decisions must be based on the best available information.  The Management Councils must seek to put on the table all scientific data and local community knowledge which might be relevant.

Co-management is not a part of the C-CAM approach just out of expedience: because it is cheaper and more likely to succeed in managing natural resources.  The C-CAM is an organization, which seeks to foster economic, social and political development (human development) in Jamaica, especially at the community level.  Through co-management, communities are empowered to participate in the planning, implementation and enforcement of measures to improve their standard of living and the health of their surroundings.  Co-management is a process, which deepens democracy, produces real government, and permits a holistic approach to sustainable development.

No matter how large a socio-biosphere reserve is, it cannot be a closed system.  Adjacent socio-biospheres must be in harmonious interaction.  There is scope for socio-biosphere management councils to collaborate across their boundaries, towards sustainable development at the regional, national and possibly even global levels.

  1. Sustainable Development  


‘There is no such thing as an underdeveloped country.  Underdevelopment is a symptom of undermanagement, and an underdeveloped country is really an undermanaged country’.

                                                               From Management, by Peter Drucker

Inherent in the nature of man is the urge to progress.  Concepts of progress differ between individuals, cultures, geographic boundaries and eras.  Near-term views of progress are often primitive and conditioned by relatively immediate survival requirements.  Long-term views are conditioned by personal philosophies and cosmologies, including religion, science, philanthropy, and may even include matters beyond the grave.

The concept of ‘development’ which emerged in the 1950s, was primarily economic in character, and was defined as the increase in economic growth (GDP) per capita.  It included a new idea: that this change could be induced or inhibited, and sent in particular directions by economic and social planning.  Thereafter, man has searched for the mix of strategies, the alchemy, which would lead to human progress and development.  This has led to movement away from the narrow economic definition; in current usage development implies change for the better in social, cultural, political, gender, technological and environmental spheres.  Retained is the possibility of achieving development through planning.

The notion of sustainability was not a part of the discourse on development until the 1970s.  Before then, the focus was on expanding production and achieving the maximum economic growth possible.  The rapid depletion of natural resources (especially fossil fuels and timber) and widespread degradation of the natural environment were factors, which led to the emergence of the concern for sustainability.

Mankind is endowed with a portfolio of assets over which he exerts a managing influence.  These resources include people, animals, plants, land, water, air, minerals, places, things, values, knowledge and technology.  Interactions (biological, social, etc.) between resources produce systems, which achieve synergies (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts).  These systems, which add value, themselves become part of the portfolio of assets to be managed.

Sustainable development is the continuous improvement of the portfolio of assets through prudent management practices.  Using accounting language one might say that when development is sustainable, society lives off the profit and interest from the portfolio of assets without depreciating the capital base of this portfolio, and preferably even increasing it.

In economic terms, sustainable development is dependent upon a nation or geographical region achieving its full productive potential, while at the same time enhancing the resource base upon which output must rest.  Sustainable development ensures at least the same potential economic opportunities for the future as are available today.  By this definition, harvesting of non-renewable resources (such as fossil fuels or bauxite) is unsustainable, as the resource, once extracted, is gone forever, and is unavailable to future generations.  Before these non-renewable resources are exhausted, some substitute (renewable or non-renewable) which performs the same function must be found.  It is hoped that eventually, sustainable alternatives to unsustainable industrial activity will be discovered, and research to this end is work towards sustainability.

Using sociological language, sustainable development may be defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (inter-generational equity).  Sustainable development is being fair to the future; it means progress today without reducing (but preferably enhancing) the capacity of future generations to progress; it is about leaving the next generation a similar or better resource endowment than which was inherited.  Sustainability matters because future generations matter.

The use of ‘needs’ rather than wants is intentional.  Real sustainable development focuses on the needs of the poor first, since in their struggle for survival they may do damage to the environment.  There must be a bias towards improving the position of the less advantaged.

Using biological language, sustainable development means harvesting animals and plants (renewable resources) at or below their rate of natural increase, maintaining maximum or optimal population levels.  This should affect industries, which impact negatively on the habitats of animals and plants, either by spatial encroachment (e.g. mining, agriculture, housing or urban development) or by adulteration (e.g. by any industry which produces effluent).  Where species are threatened or in danger of extinction, their rate of exploitation and of their habitats may well have to be zero.

Sustainable development is both goal and process.  It is a target to be attained, and once attained must be maintained over time.  So an important part of the target is establishing a process which will eventually achieve and then perpetuate sustainability.

Development is not sustainable if existing management institutions are unable to consistently optimise natural resources through planning, management and enforcement.  This may call for new management concepts and structures, including those which permit stakeholder participation in management.

Development is not fully sustainable if the effort does not generate the financial resources to maintain the existing management institutions over time.  Projects leading to sustainable development should have value in the open market, and should attract the necessary investment and venture capital for start up. The resources protected should have intrinsic value in the marketplace, which should be realizable.  Resource-users should pay user-fees (resource rents) to the management institutions, which protect the resource.  Through tourism, user-fees or other means, the natural resources themselves should be able to generate direct and indirect income to cover the cost of their protection in the long term.

Development is not sustainable if it does not contain mechanisms to disseminate the concept of sustainability across communities and countries and from generation to generation.

With such a strict definition of sustainable development, which manufacturing, farm or construction project could pass muster?  Won’t an insistence on sustainability lead to a head-on clash between investors (and the government) on one hand and environmentalists on the other?

Every new agricultural, construction and industrial project will impact negatively on the natural environment.  Clearly one cannot advocate a total halt to new projects, although it is possible to achieve economic growth through continuous quality improvements without physical expansion.  The urgent drive for immediate economic growth – even in the most impoverished third world countries – cannot override environmental concerns, for whatever the short-term gains, unsustainable development will reduce development potential for future generations.

The specific environmental impacts of each new project must be honestly and carefully assessed.  Guidelines for the conduct of these Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are well established in many countries.  What is not so clear is the point at which negative impacts – even after efforts at mitigation – are too severe for the project to be allowed to go ahead.  Further, where several development projects are proposed for the same general area, if separate EIAs are performed the cumulative impacts on the environment may be greater than the sum of the individual impacts.  Cumulative EIAs should be required.

A principle which is often invoked is that where substantial damage is done, the investors should be required to pay for environmental rehabilitation (as much as is possible) at their site, and/or at some other site (substitution).  Applied to surface bauxite mining, this principle is appealing; and do-able; removing topsoil, extracting the bauxite and then replacing the topsoil, returning the land to agriculture or settlement, is not such a difficult proposition.  The principle is not so appealing when applied to natural forests and wetland wilderness areas, which are not easily replaced or rehabilitated.  Where proper compensation cannot be made, the project must be considered unsustainable, and permits refused.

Another principle often invoked is that the consumer must be required to pay the full cost of the commodities they buy.  Where industrial waste is disposed of in rivers or oceans, the natural environment subsidizes the cost of these commodities.  Where open access resources such as fish and water resources are harvested free of charge, their prices are artificially low; a resource rent should be charged and applied to cover the costs of management.  Where forest resources are extracted, the harvester should be required to pay for re-afforestation, and the price of timber should reflect that charge.

Some may argue that a focus on sustainable development will lead us to adopt policies that will make the current generation worse off now, will depress economic growth and standards of living, with little certainty that we have avoided an unsustainable future for our children.  Indeed there can be no guarantee of success, but it is clear that some societies are non-sustainable because of national policies and the behaviour of its members.  Is it right for contemporary society to consume resources at a level, which will disadvantage future generations?  Is this potential trade-off between present and future well-being not collective selfishness?

There is little doubt that sustainable development is a moral principle.  The question is whether it is a ‘higher order’ moral principle that must be met first, regardless of the costs it might impose in terms of sacrificing other objectives; or whether it is one more moral principle which must vie for attention along with others, such as justice, concern for the poor, human freedom, etc.  Another question might be whether sustainable development is not really the resultant of justice, concern for the poor, and human freedom.  Can man be really free if he is not in a right relationship with his environment?  Must not freedom be balanced with responsibility?

Whether for animals or plants in the wild or for humans, there is an upper limit to the number of individuals of each species, which can be accommodated in any ecosystem/habitat.  This is the basis of the concept of carrying capacity.  In the case of animals in the wild, there are natural mechanisms, which limit population size [e.g. availability of food, or growth in number of predators (since more food is available)].  Except where species have no natural predators (e.g. the crocodile) no special management measures should therefore be necessary in the event of dramatic increases in population size of any species in the wild.

Humans have no persistent natural predator (except possibly other humans), and growth in human populations – and therefore in the demand for space, goods and services – will have environmental consequences.  No path with constant consumption per person may be permanently sustainable unless the rate of technological progress is large enough to offset the rate of population growth.  Technological progress increases the carrying capacity of the planet, and therefore is absolutely essential to its sustainability as long as the number of humans continues to increase.

There are some who argue that population control strategies must be put in place as an essential part of sustainable development policy.  It is well accepted that the most reliable method of reducing fertility and population growth is to increase the standard of living of the population in general and of women in particular.  Mean family size among the poor is higher than among the better off; one of the benefits of successful development efforts is a lower rate of population growth.  Since the industrial revolution, First World countries have observed falling population growth rates; many of these countries currently experience negative rates of natural increase, and depend upon immigration to complete their labour force, especially at the lower end.  Efforts to reduce population growth in underdeveloped countries are likely to fail, or at best, to have limited success.  Sustainable development is the best contraceptive.

So, sustainable development is a global planning concept whose principles extend into every facet of human behaviour.  Humans affect every animate and inanimate object on earth, and have multiple and conflicting impacts on the quality of everything on the globe.  This concept should be taught in schools and widely disseminated, and its realization should be the goal of all.

Apart from satisfying the acquisition of the material requirements of temporal existence, this planned environment must also endure indefinitely, and satisfy mankind’s hunger for things aesthetic, such as beauty, goodness and truth.  It is our belief that, because all rational humans seek progress, they will desire to see sustainable development achieved.  Thus sustainable development is a civilizing concept.

Four criteria are here advanced for evaluating environmental sustainability.  Large numbers of individuals of each species (quantity) are essential for ensuring species sustainability; and not just because of better odds against predators; a larger gene pool allows species more room to adapt to changes in the environment.  Greater species diversity (biodiversity) is valued more highly than less.  Animals and plants live together in groups or clusters (ecosystems), and depend on each other in ways, which we yet do not fully understand.  Each species performs functions for others, which defines its place in the ecosystem.  When species become extinct, holes are poked in this web of dependence.  As the web breaks down, more stress is placed on the species that remain to perform missing functions, and the variety of options available to them is reduced.  In the event of environmental stress, there will be fewer alternative paths to recovery.  The condition of individuals of each species (quality) is a good indicator of sustainability.  Animals and plants free from disease and with proper nutrition will reproduce effectively and better perform their ecological functions.  When ecosystems are on a sustainable path, the balance and synergy of relationships between the assets in the portfolio is at a maximum.

Presently, there are three principal stumbling blocks to achieving sustainable development.  The first is that the term is often used loosely, resulting in different and fairly subjective interpretations.  Second, there is no properly defined and generally accepted standard for determining when sustainability has been achieved, or when a course of action is on a sustainable path.  The third is partly caused by the first, and that is that the concept, by whatever definition, is understood and accepted by only a small minority.  Put in other words, at this time sustainable development as a planning tool and as a civilizing culture has limited value because of loose definitions, lack of objective standards and poor distribution.  Provision for distribution of the principles and methodology of sustainable development must be inherent in the planning concepts, which flow from the best definition of sustainable development.  Clearly then, the process begins with obtaining a useful definition which will be open to scrutiny and consequent evolution.  Through this medium, the C-CAM is outlining its own understanding of the concept and putting it on the table for debate.  We are also using it as our own standard for pursuing our institutional objectives.

Can there be something called development that is not sustainable?  We think not.  If it is not sustainable, then it is not development.  The phrase ‘sustainable development’, then, is a tautology.

Glossary of Terms

Biodiversity The types and numbers of animal and plant species present in an ecosystem.
Conservation The preservation, management and care of natural and cultural resources so as to main them in as healthy condition as possible.
Development Change leading to advancement, improvement or progress.
Ecology The study of the relationships and interactions between living organisms in their natural or developed environment.
Empiricism The philosophical view that all knowledge is derived only from the experience of the senses.  Therefore knowledge can be acquired only through the application of observation and experiment rather than theory.
Epistemology The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, in particular its foundations, scope and validity.
Ethics A system of moral principles which define appropriate conduct for an individual or group; the study of moral standards and how they affect behaviour.
Morality Relating to issues of right or wrong and to how individuals should behave.  Based on what someone’s conscience suggests is right or wrong rather than on what the law says should be done.
Objective Free of any bias or prejudice caused by personal feelings; based on facts rather than on thoughts or opinions.
Positivism The philosophical view that knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation rather than through metaphysics and theology.
Progress Gradual development or improvement in something.
Value judgement A judgement of the worth, appropriateness or importance of someone or something made on the basis of personal beliefs, opinions or prejudices rather than facts.



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