Who speaks for your community’s coast? Do you know who these advocates are and how they stand up for your coast?
If you are concerned about the coast and don’t know the answers to these questions, it is imperative you dig a little deeper to find out more.
In the ideal, there should be an array of advocates working on behalf of healthy coastlines and sound coastal management – because there are a lot of interests to be represented where the land meets the water, due to the range of economic and ecological efforts at play there. Among the groups you should expect to see at the table:
As you will note, this is a diverse collection of coastal interests, where people can easily find themselves in more than one group. Each group can also have both common and divergent interests with any of the others – and that’s what makes engaging the entire array of stakeholders all the more valuable for a healthy coast. With a range of interests at the table, the discussion should be balanced and more effective for the whole – meaning better for the overall health of the coast.
When coastal advocacy represents only a few of these stakeholder groups, the discourse is unbalanced and the outcome can be harmful (or, at least, less beneficial) for the coast – and, ultimately, for all the groups listed here. A purely business focus for coastal management may eventually bring ecological harm… and a sick coast eventually infects the commercial interests by driving people away or necessitating expensive and extensive restoration to return it to health.
Similarly, a focus on property interests to the exclusion of recreational opportunities can undercut both the political will and the necessary financial resources to protect coastal properties effectively. And when you delve into an issue such as storm protection, each stakeholder will have a slightly different focus on the best approach driven by their unique interests.
The key to effective coastal advocacy is to ensure you have a broad range of interests working on coastal protection and preservation, that they are willing to work together to keep your coast healthy and that their individual interests are somehow heard and reflected in any final outcome to guide coastal management.
If you don’t see this balance in your community’s coastal advocates, ask why their voices are missing and explain to the powers that be what this imbalance can mean to a healthy coast. And if that means you end up having to become a coastal advocate yourself… well, bone up on the facts, keep your mind open and work to make your coast a better place.
Because if your coastal concerns aren’t being addressed, you’d better step up to advocate for them yourself – because your coast needs engaged and energetic supporters to make its future bright.