Stewardship vs. Conservation

This post is also available in: Dutch, Papiamentu.

It happens that someone uses one specific word in a speech which inspires you to write about, and elaborate on that topic. This time it is the word stewardship. In a world where there exists a deafening cry for nature conservation it is important to reflect on what certain terminology actually implies.

The word conservation is defined in the dictionary as efforts to preserve something in its original state. Stewardship, however, is about implementing responsible management of what is entrusted to the steward. This also means that the steward should be held accountable for his management decisions on a regular basis.

Development might be necessary, but not at all costs!

Development is a crucial factor for the survival of a society. An increasing population size results in increased industrial activities in order to maintain that society. More and more available land is being transformed to allow for business activities. This is a logical process that should be given its proper space. This is an important reason why the implication of conservation does not picture a realistic scenario. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that most development is not executed in a responsible manner.

Driven by greed mankind takes more space and natural resources than what is necessary to survive. Mankind also does nothing or very little to compensate for the loss caused by its actions. This irresponsible behavior results in  environmental degradation to the point that humanity might not survive. It is very naive to embrace the attitude of “I’m alive today, tomorrow will take care of itself.” Remember that tomorrow you might still be here.

If we study the effects of such irresponsible behavior towards nature at global, country and island levels it is obvious that a decrease in surface area is directly linked to an increase in impacts. While some effects can be considered as negligible on a global scale, islands are often violently affected by the same effects. A tsunami lends itself as a good example to illustrate this. The collision between two oceanic tectonic plates might cause the formation of a massive wave that has the potential to inflict much damage. If this wave never reaches land, then the effects are considered negligible (globally). If this wave reaches the coastline of a country, then only the area around that stretch of coastline faces impacts (country level). The outcome will be even worse when a wave reaches the coast of an island. The effects will be noticeable all over the island.

When developing an island without prior careful planning, a situation is created which sooner or later results in an imbalance between developed areas and the environment on an island. I specifically chose to use the word environment here, because humans not only need nature, in the form of plants and animals, to survive but also decent air, soil and water quality. The developments on an island also affect these elements. These elements are rarely discussed, however, because their deterioration is not visible to the naked eye.

Complex ecological relationships should not be tampered with.

When the development of a particular area is in the planning stages, the first step is always to calculate whether sufficient resources are available to complete the project within the stipulated time frame. It would be of great value if the effects of the proposed activity on the environment would weigh as heavily as the financial aspects. Only then it would become clear where and how much should be compensated if a certain activity should prove to be desirable / profitable to execute.

Apart from the calculations for each activity, one should also assess whether the activity is of added value for the island as a whole. Identify urban areas, create space for agriculture and industrial activities and give nature and natural processes enough space to function unimpeded. This zoning strategy should be legally defined, implemented and respected. It is not logical that the unique and fragile nature on the island should constantly have to make way for construction while numerous buildings, which are currently in a deplorable state, could be replaced by new construction. Be responsible in thought and action. Be an exemplary steward. Your own children might well hold you accountable ..!