I've been struggling putting to paper all of my thoughts regarding the proposed marine monument. The reasons are many. The power keeps going out for one – another 3 hours today! A four month old and a two year old is also a factor! Daddy hood is exhausting and time consuming. Greatly rewarding but, in general it doesn't leave a lot of time to hide away and get into the writing groove and that's what it takes for me. Partly because I'm not very good at it and partly because I always feel the need to wrap my head around the big picture, digest it, find out what I don't know, (from people and sources that do know) and then formulate my own opinion. The biggest obstacle in this case however, is clearly the complexity of the issues at hand including the personalities, politics, distrust, greed and emotions that come along with them.
On the other hand conversation is a completely different story for me. I've shared my thoughts with many, many people over the past 2 or 3 weeks. Whether it was the revolving door at our booth during the Flame Tree Arts Festival or as a result of the countless meetings, presentations and sales calls I've made since getting back from Canada. In turn people I've talked to share their own thoughts and concerns for me to digest. The cross section of individuals providing the dialogue runs the spectrum. From conservationists, commercial fisherman, artists, professional types like lawyers and doctors, business and political leaders (including those charged with guiding our tourism industry) to the delivery clerks and receptionists at Joeten and hotel gift shops.
The overwhelming feeling I get is that everyone, including those currently opposed, can see the many benefits that could come from keeping the proposal on the table regardless of the final outcome. It is true that nearly everyone also believes they require more information to make a decision one way or another. Of course there are a few people out there who would like to see the concept die before it’s given a chance to see the light of day. As is always the case in life some folks tend to put their own personal agendas ahead of the greater good so it’s always important to consider the motives behind the rhetoric.
Each morning as I read the papers and blogs discussing this topic my own article gets bigger and bigger. With letters to the editors pouring in at this crucial time I realize how important it is to get my own thoughts on paper. This in part comes from the fact that few I’ve talked to disagree with my position and because I know most of these people are unlikely to take the time to make their own opinions heard. It’s also about the kids. Sitting back and doing nothing is not the kind of footsteps I want mine to grow up following in.
So to all those that are so opposed to opening up a dialogue and moving forward with the process I ask you, what is the rush? What is the rush to kill this thing before it even gets started? Why not allow the process to continue and examine the proposal in full while taking advantage of the opportunities being presented. Think about it. Even if it is ultimately rejected everyone, whether for or against, would gain something from the economic and environmental studies alone not to mention the proposed media expedition.
Could you imagine how much MVA and our tourism industry would benefit from having images, both topside and underwater of these Northern Islands - at no cost to them! Of course this does not even consider the amount of positive international press that would be gained should the monument become reality. It is solely based on MVA developing collaterals designed to sell the Marianas as a destination in future marketing campaigns.
What about the scientists at DEQ, CRM, and DFW? Even if the studies were biased (as studies of this nature often are) wouldn’t there be at least some useful information that these professionals could use. Again, at no cost to them or the taxpayer!
I’m also fully aware that the time frame argument goes the other way. What’s the rush to do this now? Hawaii had 7 years why do we have to decide this before Bush leaves office? Won’t there be another chance?
As luck should have it just as I was beginning to write some thoughts to these excellent questions I received Ruth Tighe’s “On My Mind”. Once again Ruth points out exactly what I was thinking so rather than try and rephrase it I give you what she wrote today.
Let me try to dispel some more of the misgivings. There is concern that not enough time has been provided for a thorough discussion, that people feel pressured. It is true that not enough information has been made readily available. Much has been there, but one has had to dig for it. But can the issue be postponed? Will the opportunity still exist months or years from now? In theory, yes. In actuality, I doubt it.
What we have, at the moment, is an out-going president who wants to add a jewel to his crown, so to speak; a respected, moneyed, international non-profit dedicated to the environment willing to underwrite costs; and a site not yet spoiled by greedy commercial fishing interests. Will those three factors occur simultaneously again? Not likely.
There is concern that the declaration of a monument through the Antiquities Act is the wrong mechanism. The alternative is a declaration by an act of Congress. Don't we all know how long that can take? How hazardous, risky, the route is? How many detours and false trails, how much excess and unwanted baggage, that can bring with it?
It may seem backward, but in this case, as I understand it, the time for negotiation comes afterwards. The President declares a monument, and the rules and regulations follow. And that's where the CNMI will have its opportunity to define what it will or will not accept.
Ultimately our leaders and the people of the CNMI may determine the proposal is not right at this time (or even in 6 months time). Should this be our position at the 11th hour even President Bush wouldn’t run this down our throats. He's already unpopular enough. Instead he'll ultimately pick somewhere that has welcomed the idea with open arms from the beginning. In the mean time what is the harm in working with Pew and the federal government over the next few months to get as much out of the process as we can?
Is it fear? Fear that if all the information is allowed to get into the hands of the people that the concept of rejecting the proposal will become too hard to swallow? If that’s the case I guess I can understand why a few, including some powerful types, might want to see this die now!
What a shame that would be.