1

People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.

2

Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution

3

Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image
Menu
Facebook Twitter YouTube FlickR

Climate change must no longer be viewed as a “tragedy of the commons”, say researchers from the University of Exeter and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

December marks the 50th anniversary of the paper that popularized the concept of tragedy of the commons: it argued that individuals will always take advantage of a common resource and so degrade it. A new paper argues that the theory limits the way climate change is viewed.

“New findings about how people understand and act suggest that climate change will more likely be solved by appealing to moral arguments rather than purely scientific ones,” said Professor Katrina Brown, one of the paper’s authors.

Professor Brown and Professor Neil Adger, both from the University of Exeter, and Professor Joshua Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, say that in order to make urgently needed progress in addressing climate change, governments need to promote climate change as a moral issue. And policy needs acknowledge that politicians often make their decisions based on reputation.

“Doing the right thing matters to people, but not everyone agrees what the right thing is. Some people emphasize fairness, others duty and patriotism. We need to appeal to the full range of these values,” said Professor Cinner, co-author of the new paper in the journal Global Environmental Change.

They argue new ways of speaking about climate change that focus on the wide variety values and priorities of people with conservative and liberal views should be harnessed to encourage more concern and action on climate change.

American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin wrote his paper “The tragedy of the commons” in 1968.

Lead author, Professor Brown, said: “Hardin’s theory has been very influential. It has been used to design global co-operation on climate change such as the Paris Agreement. But there is a rapidly closing window to transform the economy and avoid climate catastrophe.

“New social science points the way to political mobilization based on sense of duty, respect for nature and others, and solidarity. These are now more relevant and more likely to win the day.”

“Addressing climate change requires building inclusive moral frames, and fundamental changes in governance systems to better manage the associated risks.”

Their paper is entitled: “Moving climate change beyond the tragedy of the commons.”

Citation: Brown, K, Adger, WN, & Cinner, JE (2019) Moving climate change beyond the tragedy of the commons. Global Environmental Change 54: 61-63. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.11.009

For More Information:

University of Exeter, UK
Press Office
P: +44 (0)1392 724828
E: pressoffice@exeter.ac.uk

Catherine Naum, Communications Manager
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Townsville, QLD Australia
P: +61 7 4781 6067
E: catherine.naum1@jcu.edu.au

 

Who cares about the Great Barrier Reef? Many people, and according to a paper published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, some of the most passionately connected  individuals can come from far away places, across the globe.

The study, led by Dr. Georgina Gurney of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University, involved interviews with more than 5,000 people from 40 countries and found that where you live, doesn’t necessarily determine what you care about.  In fact, the data suggests that people living near or far from the Reef can develop equally strong feelings of attachment to the large and iconic World Heritage site.

This is good news for the Reef. Blighted by bleaching, the Great Barrier Reef needs all the help it can get. The findings published today suggest that resource managers should draw on the support of the global community, not only locals living adjacent to the Reef, when engaging the public.

“It’s widely acknowledged that successful environmental management requires strong community engagement and support, but current approaches tend to only target locals. Our findings reveal that this view is too narrow,” says Dr Gurney.

For the many ecosystems that are increasingly affected by global-scale threats, such as climate change, these results are empowering.

“We need to look beyond our backyards for solutions to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Climate change, for example, is one of the biggest threats to the Reef and tackling it requires the support of the global community, not only those living close to the Reef.”

The study redefines the meaning of ‘community’ and, in doing so, identifies four new sub-communities, each with a different form of attachment to the Reef.

“Our study includes interviews with a diverse group of people – from fishers to international tourists. We found there are generally four types of communities who express ‘attachment’ for the Great Barrier Reef,” says co-author, Professor Neil Adger of the University of Exeter, U.K. “For example, we identified an ‘Armchair Enthusiast’ community. This group of individuals unexpectedly exhibits strong emotional bonds with the Reef, despite the fact that many live outside the Reef region and even outside of Australia.”

The authors say that the evidence suggests new types of bonds between people and iconic natural places are emerging that transcend traditional geographic boundaries. If targeted effectively, these bonds may be useful in building the transnational support required for successfully protecting the Reef.

“Modern-day problems, need modern-day solutions,” says co-author Dr Nadine Marshall of the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO). “Addressing global-scale threats requires engaging people from all over the world who care about the Reef through modern communication channels, such as social media.”

“Our results show that declines in the Reef’s health may affect people across the globe. So, we suggest that resource managers consider the untapped potential of emerging transnational communities to build broad public support for protecting the Reef.”

The paper “Redefining community based on place attachment in a connected world” is now available online.

Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) at James Cook University are engaging social science to help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental problems.

Dr Christina Hicks, an interdisciplinary social science fellow at the ARC CoECRS, holds a joint position with the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University in the USA.

Dr Hicks says more powerful economic interests, such as tourism, currently drive coral reef management. Little thought is given to community needs such as food or wellbeing. This results in conflict.

Dr Hicks explains to improve long-term coral reef management, “human values need to be considered in decision-making.”

Dr Nick Graham, a senior research fellow at the ARC CoECRS, adds that humans play an essential role in ecology, but different people have different priorities. He says these priorities need to be considered when managing natural environments.

For example, in a recent co-authored paper for the journal Global Environmental Change, Dr Hicks and Dr Graham, along with Dr Joshua Cinner, measured and compared how managers, scientists and fishers prioritised specific benefits from coral reef ecosystems. This in effect highlighted key areas of agreement and conflict between the three different stakeholder groups.

Dr Graham says the lack of ‘ownership’ of reef resources for fishers, who depend on fish for their food and livelihoods, underlies a main area of conflict. But the paper also indicated that managers might be well placed to play a brokering role in disagreements.

“Communities that are engaged and recognised are more likely to trust and support their management agencies,” adds Dr Hicks. She explains that governments who consult local communities in order to develop co-management plans generally reduce conflict and see increased livelihood as well as ecological benefits (such as a rise in fish stocks) in their area.

Examples of successful co-management arrangements exist in coral-reef nations such as Papua New Guinea and Kenya.

Synergies and tradeoffs in how managers, scientists, and fishers value coral reef ecosystem services’ by Christina C. Hicks, Nicholas A.J. Graham and Joshua E. Cinner appears in Global Environmental Change: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378013001349

Contacts:
Dr Christina Hicks, +61 7 4781 6072, 0466 437 490
Dr Nicholas Graham, +61 7 4781 6291, 0466 432 188
Prof David Yellowlees, ARC CoECRS, +61 7 4781 6249
Melissa Lyne, media liaison, 0415 514 328, melissa.lyne@gmail.com

Seminars

More
Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

Partner Partner Partner Partner
Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au