After threats to the natural environment in Cabo Pulmo from commercial fishing and the proposed construction of a resort by Spanish developers, local community members and NGOs were able to stop the destruction of their ocean resources by advocating for a marine preserve. This impressive example of local activism has not only moved Overbrook, it has also inspired Jay Naidoo to write an article about the preserve and the groups that advocated for it.Jay Naidoo has been involved with social justice movements both in his current position as the Chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and previously as the head of COSATU (Coalition of South African Trade Unions) in the years leading up to the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. Mr. Naidoo, along with Overbrook Board Member Vincent McGee, visited this marine preserve as part of a group organized by Martin Goebel of Sustainable Northwest, and heard the local community advocates’ story of this remarkable campaign to protect this area.
This important narrative demonstrated a community successfully determining the type of development they wanted for themselves, particularly important given the existence of many such communities around the world without the experience of being heard. And, as a result, they have been able to preserve their local environment and ecosystems that are important to them, including recent outcomes like the return of coral and fish in great numbers. Despite initial challenges such as poor cooperation among NGOs, opposition from commercial interests and differing local visions for the marine area, this movement was able to succeed in creating the largest preserve in Mexico even in the face of powerful economic interests promoting the development projects. Reflecting on this visit, Mr. Naidoo draws upon his experience in South Africa when he argues that meaningful environmental or social changes that will positively affect lower income or marginalized communities must come from the grassroots rather than democratic laws or governments. He writes:
As the small community of Cabo Pulmo and others across the world know, there are very few in power that can be trusted to carry the interests of the people, especially the poor. And that is the lesson of modern democracy… A new apartheid has reared its head, violently, and we need to unite our communities in a shared solidarity of networks that recognise our interconnectedness to fight back. We need to link the community of Cabo Pulmo to those in Lake Turkana, in Kenya, where the fish are dying because of the impact of climate change. We need to connect the shack dwellers of Mexico City to those of Diepsloot outside Johannesburg and Mumbai in India.
I encourage you to read the article, which is published at the Daily Maverick and is accessible by click here. Mr. Naidoo does a terrific job explaining this case study and how the success in the Cabo Pulmo conservation efforts can help others to become active agents in local decisions regarding development, social structures and conservation. In the past, Overbrook has supported Pronatura Noroeste A.C. for its work to help conservation in Cabo Pulmo, in large part because our Board and Staff recognized the importance of supporting community and NGO partnerships that have the power to work together to achieve such marine conservation victories. As Mr. Naidoo suggests, Overbrook staff hopes that successful local models can be replicated across the world.