News in this era has really just become bad news. Conventional media barely speaks about the wonders that occur on our planet all the time. Neuroscientists think that being stressed by bad news attracts more bad news in what appears to be a negative feedback loop of tragedies. Additionally, in evolutionary terms, there is very little to learn from the failures of life forms and much to learn from what has been successful so that today we can see the complex mosaic of life that persists on Earth. How then are we going to learn to create an intelligent society if we only document our mistakes?
A Sea of Hope is the history of a journey to contrasting societies around the world that are bringing good news in a planet that is losing its natural ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. This is the website of the recently published book by Taurus (Penguin-Random House) , so readers of the book can see what these territories look like and become inspired to share their story of hope.
The societies included in this book bring some lessons to the world and show how preserving our natural capital brings far more social benefits than destroying it. The people who are constructing these stories have a different understanding of “progress” than the majority of us. They have an inspiring way of looking at how we should produce wealth, which includes all the benefits we receive and have received “for free” from nature that have sustained our unique culture for millennia. This is the reason behind the name of the website and book, these people are “A Sea of Hope”.
Come and take a journey with us by clicking on the links below for each society:
• Isla Natividad, off the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico.
• Galicia, Spain
• The Coast of California
o Who are we?
o •Tell us your story of hope
Isla Natividad is a 5 km long island located in front of the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula. In the mid 1930s a small community created a fishing cooperative, settled on the island and have lived in prosperous and peaceful way ever since. This fishing village is surrounded by one of the world’s most productive ecosystems: Kelp Forests. The fascinating environment created by these giant aquatic plants caught Darwin’s attention in such a way that he compared their productivity with the tropical forest he visited in South America. He was right; the region where these underwater plants subsist belongs to what today has been called “The Marine Serengeti”.
The way in which the cooperative has responsibly managed its collective resources and responded to the disturbances that climate change has caused, illustrates the governance conditions that we need to have on a global level to manage common pool resources, such as the atmosphere or our planetary biodiversity. This history begins to address the challenge that we have as a global community to be able to better incorporate ourselves as a species into the Earth’s ecological processes.
Together with other European and Scandinavian nations, Iceland ranks among the top ten happiest places to live in the world. However, in contrast to other European nations, most of which have brutal pasts as colonizers, Iceland was a Danish colony until 1944 when they gained their independence. Some grandparents of the people who today live in one of the most prosperous and equal countries, spent their childhood living in houses built with sun-dried bricks and remember having taken advantage of the whales beached on their shores as a source of protein.
How did they become one of the most educated nations in the world with an excellent standard of living in only 60 years? Iceland has a recipe that contains three main ingredients: 1) through a meticulous management of their fisheries they have allowed fish stocks to remain healthy; 2) through a system regulated by transferable quotas, fishers have deeds to these quotas that can even be used as collateral for credits to improve their fishing facilities, but the property has certain rules preventing the consolidation of the quota remaining in just a few hands; 3) quotas are determined by an autonomous scientific group, which ensures that no attempt is made to overfish their populations for political reasons.
The story of Iceland helps to make the point of how market instruments are good tools for sustainable development if and when the state plays its role of regulating its potential failures.
Collecting shellfish in the intertidal zone, a traditional practice carried out by Galician women for ages, together with their profound knowledge of agriculture, has allowed these coastal people to create a very unique system of mariculture. Mariculture is based on the natural productivity of the Spanish estuaries, but in a way, it has also taken advantage of the productivity increased by human activities on land. By concentrating on just producing plankton feeders and without even noticing how remarkable their practices are, the “mariscadoras” from the coast of Galicia, have created an inspiring production system that prevents coastal areas from hypoxia, a plague that is suffocating coastal estuaries all over the world.
With their mariculture practices, the Galician Mariscadoras have restored and even improved what populations of filter-feeder organisms used to do in estuaries, in other words, they have regenerated the ecological functions that have evolved in these landscapes over millennia, inspiring us to do the same in other ecosystems of the world.
The aquaculture practices of the Galician Mariscadoras invite us to reflect on the importance of promoting circular economies, in which the waste that is generated by our activities can be part of other economic processes, thus creating more inclusive economies, capable of absorbing the waste generated and in turn combating one of the worst practices of our civilization: the generation of garbage and pollution.
An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, at the end of the 1960s sparked a strong citizen movement that ended up fiercely protecting Californians’ right to be able to view the sea and have access to beaches as a public good. The story of how Californians defended the coast and how they created mechanisms for public participation so that no government could ever come with the story that they needed to destroy their coasts in the name of economic development, is truly legendary and inspiring.
If it were a country by itself, California would be the fifth largest economy in the world; it also has the longest coastal path in the world, and its citizens deeply and inclusively enjoy their contact with the sea. Today many of them work to honour life in the oceans and they have created true tributes to marine life, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
On this part of the journey we also explore all the benefits in terms of physical and mental health, as well as the reduction of medical costs that contact with nature provides us.
Denmark was a country without oil reserves that was challenged by the high prices of this fuel back in the 1970s. This was enough motivation for them to become pioneers in the production of wind power, both for developing the technology and implementing it locally. In contrast to other places in the world, like Spain, the US or Latin America, where wind power companies are imposing huge wind turbines in areas affecting local people and providing few benefits, in the Danish model, the shareholders are the villagers from rural areas.
The Danish story of energy production challenges the belief that reducing C02 emissions is accompanied by a reduction in economic growth. Over the last 40-year transition period, Denmark has constantly grown from an economic perspective. What’s more interesting, their clean energy industry has boosted their local economy, especially in rural areas. How did they manage to achieve something that for the rest of the world seems almost impossible? By a combination of governmental policies, subsidizing the production of green technology and the people’s will to develop their own wind energy cooperatives.
In this section of the trip we will also review the governance conditions on a global scale necessary to stop climate change and the reasons why the agreements that have been signed so many times have not managed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Due to its colonial history, land ownership on the Fiji Islands remained largely in the hands of indigenous communities. This has allowed them to preserve their very particular culture and their exceptional way of connecting with nature. Their concept of “Vanua” implies an interconnection between the self, their community and nature. For them, if there is no harmony between these three fundamental aspects of their existence, they cannot be at peace. Their concept of well-being challenges us to question what development is and what it is not.
Because they have been able to preserve the ownership of the land and the coral reefs, they enjoy a thriving subsistence economy in which they produce almost everything they consume. For expenses such as sending their children to university or building a school, they have established very interesting conservation agreements for some parts of their territory in exchange for direct payments for conservation. For example, for more than two decades, the community of Kuabalau has protected one of the top diving sites and most preserved coral reefs in the world in exchange for a diving tag fee to enter into the Namena Marine Reserve that goes directly back to the community.
The way Fijians live inspires one to reflect upon whether we should go back to producing locally, buying locally and rebuilding our lost community life, instead of accumulating money to be able to afford our unavoidable, and often lonely, old age.
Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo (Author); a marine biologist with a Ph.D. in environmental economics has dedicated her academic life to understanding the conditions that allow a society to preserve everything it receives from nature for free. In 2011, she was awarded the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation which allowed her to develop the project for the book A Sea of Hope. She currently works as a Professor at ECOSUR , a Mexican research center aimed at promoting sustainable development on the southern border of Mexico, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.
Contact: [email protected].
Ann Marie Waller (Photographer); A photographer and passionate traveller, Annie has documented the way of life of people in India, Nepal, and Mexico. Her work has been presented in different galleries in Mexico. In A Sea of Hope, Annie took the photographs for the project.
Contact: [email protected].