Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Will the cheerleaders please sit down?

Every academic field has its cheerleaders, its innovators, and...everybody else. The cheerleaders make me tired. In my particular field, Coastal Management in developing world contexts, the cheerleaders incessantly cry for more community involvement, "capacity building," and empowerment. Their greatest enemies are the usual greedy corporations and power-hungry politicians. Most recently I heard these two groups called a "nexus" which to me sounds suspiciously similar to "axis." I thought (hoped) we were finished with those.

Its not so much that I disagree with this analysis. Corporations are greedy. Politicians are power-hungry. And local communities must be meaningfully involved in managing their resources. My problem is that everybody already knows these things and harping on them hasn't made much difference.

Can we please change the conversation, think up some new ideas or approach the challenges of coastal management from a different angle?

Here is one suggestion, sufficiently provocative, but (I think) worth at least five minutes of consideration. What if we were open to the possibility that a sustainable coastal management program might not require the development of strong democratic principles?