Agenda 21, Chapter 40 Information For Decision-making

40.1 In sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense. That includes data, information, appropriately packaged experience and knowledge. The need for information arises at all levels, from that of senior decision makers at the national and international levels to the grass-roots and individual levels. The following two programme areas need to be implemented to ensure that decisions are based increasingly on sound information:

(a) Bridging the data gap;

(b) Improving information availability.

Community Environmental Research in the Pacific Islands

Special Science Community Alert: Researchers urgently needed to investigate super corals in New Caledonia. Do these super resistant corals offer hope for the future of coral reefs? Click Here to start your investigation..

[NOTE 2018: This is a legacy website created in 1999 (repackaged in 2011) providing information that remains relevant to social and environmental agents of change acting in the Pacific Islands. Tellus Consultants team members have either retired or are involved in other activities. You can contact Richard on Mastodon ]

[[Special article on the Crown of Thorns Starfish Acanthaster planci]]

People + Science = Action

If you are a scientist, consultant, or someone in an NGO or international organization striving to get some real progress on environmental issues, if you have been wondering what happened to Agenda 21, and why there is such a poverty of action on real environmental issues, this is the time to think about getting help and you've come to the right web site to start.

The Tellus Consultant team members believe that expertise and knowledge isn't much good at changing the world if nobody knows or cares about the information.

We also believe that the process of doing research, especially in the great outdoors, changes people. Richard Stoll, who has done a wide range of scientific projects in the Pacific islands over the past 20 years, told me he felt the most effective moments of his career came when he was leading people on fishing expeditions, out in the wilderness. Something happens, inside us when we look very closely, or very broadly, at mother nature.

I agree. I conducted Earthwatch expeditions in island environments for nearly 20 years and have no doubt that when people really get involved in field science, they become dedicated to whatever it is they study - giant clams, coral reefs, octopus, butterflies, rainforests, rivers, deserts - whatever. Earthwatch was one of the first organizations to link scientists with volunteer field researchers. They started out in the mid 70's as "Educational Expeditions International." Today, many universities, government agencies (like the Park Service), and "ecotourism" enterprises bring people together with scientists for field research, but Earthwatch remains tops in the field.

This is great stuff, and everyone who goes along on an expedition comes back a changed person, including the scientist leading the team. But what does this have to do with Agenda 21 and our global environmental issues? We all realize that environmental problems are caused by individual habit patterns; over breeding, overconsumption, littering, polluting, over-harvesting rain forest trees, eradicating oceans full of fish, you name it, people are doing it. Changing other people's behaviour is an impossible task. People have to change their own behaviour. Maybe, I thought, we could apply the Earthwatch principle to the educational system.

Are we imprinted on nature between the ages of 5 and 10?

Some friends of mine and I started a project called Seakeepers for Schools in New Zealand. The idea was to involve school children in doing field research. I was inspired by Vice President Al Gore's idea of a new "Mission to Planet Earth."

I propose a program involving as many countries as possible that will use schoolteachers and their students to monitor the entire earth daily, or at least those portions of the land area that can be covered by the participating nations.

The virtue of involving children from all over the world in a truly global Mission to Planet Earth is, then, threefold. First, the information is greatly needed. Second, the goals of environmental education could hardly be better served than by actually involving students in the process of collecting the data. And, third, the program might build a commitment to rescue the global environment among the young people involved.

Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, 1993. p. 357

Perhaps, our group thought, we might interest scientists and teachers and students in working together on field research just by introducing them to each other. So the Seakeepers for Schools project, funded by the Telecom (NZ) Education Foundation, introduced people who were dedicated to the sea to more than 1,250 New Zealand schools.

In the process of setting this up, we made a very important discovery. The Seakeepers themselves, the people who had dedicated their lives to looking after oceans, estuaries and streams, inevitably had a deeply moving nature experience when they were between 5 and 10 years old. Professor Emeritus John Morton (past head of the Biology Department at the University of Auckland and one of the world's great experts on intertidal ecology and taxonomy) said he clearly remembered the moment that pivoted his life into natural sciences. He was 5 years old, walking with his dad on a rocky beach at low tide. He turned over a rock and a little crab ran out. He studied the strange little creature. He knew it was a crab but had never seen one like this one before. He asked his dad what it was. His father didn't know. That was the moment. It was the first time he had asked his father a question that this grand font of wisdom could not answer. It began his life-long interest in identifying and studying intertidal sea life.

I asked all of the 32 Seakeepers the same question, "can you remember what it was that made you take up this bizarre career?" Many of them had to think about it, often feeling that somehow they had always had an interest in the subject. "Not when you were two years old," I'd reply. Without fail there was an incident, an imprinting, and it changed them forever. This imprinting period is between 5 and 10. It is a profound moment when we suddenly look outward from ourselves (after our shocking self-centeredness between birth and 4 years old) and see the larger world, or some fraction of it, as the marvel that it truly is. We need to facilitate this moment of wonder by making opportunities for young children to bond with nature.

The most successful environmental education program I know

Renato Ramsay was a high school teacher who got people involved in one of the best public action programs ever. When I heard about Streamwatch I could not imagine a better project. I called Renato and asked him to tell me how he "did it." Since then I have spent many hours talking with Renato (who is a Tellus Consultant ) about the process of creating a successful, large scale public involvement project. Streamwatch now has a 4 million dollar a year budget in New South Wales, Australia. Every other Australian state has begun a similar and inter-linked project (see for example the Victoria Waterwatch project). These programs merged into a National Waterwatch programme. There are thousands of schools and tens of thousands of Australians who are actively conducting water quality surveys in rivers, creeks, streams, and lakes all around Australia. In 1995, some 20,000 people did a snapshot of the Australian national water quality in one week. These people KNOW about water quality and are active in cleaning up and protecting waterways. The students who participate in a Streamwatch course (it is on the high school curriculum in NSW) will never look at a river again without considering its health. These people are changed, and the change came not from public information campaigns or government leaflets or laws and official conferences. They were changed by the detective process of doing research; by the touch and feel and smell of their waterways as the students did the investigations.

So how did Renato do it? He had some terrific ideas and is a great organizer. One of the first things he did after a trial of the project with a Sydney high school was to get Streamwatch put into the NSW Science curriculum. That was important. Most of the Streamwatch work involves "training trainers," giving the educators and coordinators the necessary group skills and scientific knowledge to train more people to organize schools and community groups for taking water quality measurements. He had a reasonable budget from the Sydney Water Corporation, he had a tightly focused project, he focused on training trainers, but what is most important is that he is a very nice guy. People like Renato. He makes you feel respected, because, quite simply, Renato respects other people. He provides opportunities to people to lend a hand. And that's the key. Renato didn't do it, a whole lot of people did it, each taking their own initiative but staying in touch, making sure the data is good and is collected using the same methods and materials so it can be compared with any other water quality data in Australia.

This points to the essence of what participatory research is all about. Respecting other's abilities. Renato was willing to accept the idea that a high school student is perfectly capable of taking high quality, meaningful scientific measurements, given some training and supervision. Most scientists are not willing to accept such an idea - at first. Renato was willing to accept the idea that people really do care about the health of the streams and want to do something constructive to help our planet recover. Again, most professionals think people don't care, are not trained, and are the source - not the solution - of our environmental problems.

There are other, and older, programs that link school children and community groups with water quality studies. The best known is GREEN, The Global Rivers Environment Education Network. The project began in the US and is popular in many other countries. The GREEN teams do some terrific activities, interesting enough to be on national and international news from time to time. While the volunteer science movement is large and growing in the US, its my impression that the ties to government and commerce are a bit weak. Al Gore's inspired program, now called GLOBE, is growing rapidly and is starting lots of projects - like SParCE. that are reaching out to the Pacific islands. And GLOBE seems to have closer links to government and policy issues.

The Australian Waterwatch project really excels at cooperation and partnership. The effort spans national and state governments, private water boards, schools, and community groups. It's that kind of partnership that the Tellus Consultants team believes can make a real difference to environmental improvement in the Pacific islands.

A fashionable trend in Aid Circles

Throughout the Pacific islands, Participatory Research, Action Research, Participatory Rural Assessment (PRA), and Community Participation, are hot items. Examples of "Bridging the Gap" between Government and Communities are becoming more common. Regional organizations are promoting workshops and conferences on it, Government officers are learning about being Facilitators, and international organizations are realizing that the Agenda 21 insistence on participation of the community is, after all, pretty important.

But as with all things, there are winners and losers. The participatory examples presented in this web site are, for the most part, one-shot projects funded and run by foreigners. They are neither home grown nor very well understood. Problems abound. One government planner in Vanuatu told me they have yet to see any community plans that were at all useful to the national planning office. A UNDP review of the participatory land survey project in Vanuatu was a litany of disasters. The deluge of participatory projects in the Pacific islands has a very real chance of turning into a drizzle. I spoke with the head of one forestry program who felt that they were (thankfully) beyond the participatory phase. After a little more questioning, it turned out they were actually just getting started. What they were past was the jargon and the routine of PRA. They had reached the stage where their extension agents were just being nicer, more open, and concerned about the people in the communities. Making a real change means forging real partnerships between government and community teams, and GIVING THEM BOTH SOMETHING TO DO.

That's where science comes in.

Anyone with long experience in the Pacific region will quickly see how participatory techniques fit in well with the strengths and weaknesses of the island system (SWOT analysis). There are also some serious problems;

  • Social, political and economic constraints to information flow in Oceania.

  • Many (most?) scientists don't want to get involved with other people and are not trained in group interaction processes.

  • Communities have good guys and bad guys, and the bad guys always seem to grab onto any project that looks like it might be to their advantage.

  • Governments, scientists, and communities in the Pacific islands have been trained since childhood in dependency . Motivation for involvement is directly proportional to the amount of money available, and when something new is to be tried, foreign "experts" paid by somebody else, are called in to try it.

Act Locally, Think Globally

Think Globally, Act Locally is the essence of the scientific spirit. Science untangles the threads that create the tapestry of our living world and tries to work out how the treads merge in the overall ecological networks creating and maintaining us and our thoughts. I believe it is also the spirit needed to reverse the steady downward spiral of our world's health.

When scientists investigate the global patterns of ecological processes, they investigate our individual and collective interactions with the environment. International organizations and government agencies use the scientific information to arrive at policies, laws, and regulations to control the way we use of natural resources. Or at least that is the general idea. In practice, it runs into some major problems. There are many parallels between environmental problems and other behaviour disorders, like alcoholism. Getting addicts to change their behaviour is never an easy task.

Doctors can do diagnostic tests on addicts forever and hospitals can treat addicts endlessly without getting them to change their self-destructive habits.

Information - a wide range of it - really is needed to manage our use of this living planet. Assessment, evaluation and monitoring are all part of any management process. But it is not the scientists or the politicians who need to do the management, it is the people who USE the resources, the people who pollute their own environment, who, in the end, make the key decisions on how they will use - or abuse - the living systems. Again, using our addict parallel, it is important that the addict be able to self-test the effects of their addiction on their family, social and working environment. Just putting out posters and pamphlets on the perils of addictions or preaching about it does not, never has, changed an addicts behaviour; because true addicts don't believe they are addicts.

Information is not enough

The Solomon Island Development Trust is one of the largest and best organized NGO's in the Pacific islands. They produce a wide range of publications in Pidgin, and have teams of trained local people who travel from village to village with information, plays, songs, and advice on the whole spectrum of environmental issues. They are really good at getting the information out to the people.

In 1995, after ten years of dedicated work, they asked a foreign consultant firm to conduct an audit of their performance. The audit revealed that their programme was extremely efficient at informing the village people throughout the Solomon Islands on environmental and social issues. Rural people almost everywhere knew about the SIDT, had attended the village meetings, enjoyed the experience, and could answer complex questions about rainforest ecology, population issues, and gardening.

But when asked if they had actually changed their actions or knew of changes in the village situation that came from the environmental knowledge almost all the people interviewed said no.

"Information is not enough," said John Roughan, one of the founders and advisor to the 12 year old Solomon Island Development Trust. "We need to get people to change their behaviour and just informing them has not worked."

Getting an addict to "see" the effects of addiction is not an easy task. The addict is already aware on some level of the effects but tucks this information down deep under many layers of self-justification. We are all good at excusing our own bad habits, and when a bad habit actually is our way of making money (as by clear-cutting a rain forest or dumping pesticides over an export crop of pumpkins) excuses are even easier to dream up. We need to reality-test. We need to measure and examine. And sometimes we need to come at these understandings sideways, so the addicted part of us does not realize it is being threatened.

That's why projects like Streamwatch, or the Giant Clam Sanctuary Project, or any field research project involving people who are addicted to bad environmental behaviour, are so valuable. Rivers are like the arteries of the earth. Whatever dumb things we do to the land is quickly measurable in the rivers. Just as doctors can detect alcohol levels in blood, researchers can detect the impact of poor agricultural, forestry, or mining practices in the streams. When the addict takes the time to learn to detect the impact and the social process of correcting the problem has begun.

WHY people become involved in a project is perhaps the most critical phase of any project. This is so important I've included motivation on the list of the top 10 tips for successful environmental improvement projects.

Agenda 21 repeatedly calls for the involvement of all concerned parties in the research, evaluation, monitoring and policy making processes. We need to follow that advice.

A real need

In the Pacific islands, information is often nonexistent, blurred, or hidden, resulting in false assumptions about what resources are available, how they will withstand the pressures of use, what the resource users want or don’t want, and what markets are or are not actually available. The improbable number of conflicts in resource policy and planning in the Pacific islands are a chaotic manifestation of the poor flow of information from the resource base through the people who use the resources to the entire network of local, national and regional governmental systems.

Even though Agenda 21 refers to the need to involve all interested parties in policy and planning processes in almost every chapter, few international, regional or national organizations and even fewer scientists have managed to form meaningful interactions with people outside their own narrow specialities. The problem is that most international agencies are decidedly autocratic and the colonial-styled governments of the Pacific Island countries grew from a non-participatory seed. Even the older traditional governing systems of the Pacific islands tended to segregate information availability and participation in decision making. So while the need for broad community participation is recognized as a good idea, very few scientists, UN agencies, or government personnel are trained in how to accomplish this, nor inclined to share their information or control. Scientists and technical professionals often feel participatory activities are a threat; to their own funding, their prestige, and the quality of their research. Government officers often view the "public" as the problem, not the solution, and public (Non Government Organizations) as an infringement on their own authority.

But when scientists and professional technicians involve schools and communities in their research they experience just the opposite to their fears. Their prestige grows - maybe not admiration from their esteemed colleagues with whom they argue and fight at every opportunity - but with the children and people who work with them in the field. Their research quality improves, because they are forced to think very carefully about quality control and how to do the field research using people outside their own field (who may themselves be scientifically trained). In addition, if they are successful in getting people involved, they are suddenly in a position to gather more data from a wider area at less cost than ever before. And best of all, the people and communities and governments who participate actually want the results of the data. The scientists go from collecting a meagre amount of information at great cost that nobody is interested in, to collecting huge amounts of data at low cost that everyone is interested in.

And the best part is that people are more likely to act on information they collect and help analyse themselves.

To start, please click here to have a look at the information problems facing the Pacific Island communities.


NOTE: This is a legacy website created in 1999 (repackaged in 2011) providing information that remains relevant to social and environmental agents of change acting in the Pacific Islands.

Tellus Consultants team members have either retired or are involved in other activities.









Extraneous comments on sustainable tourism in the Pacific Islands


New Caledonia and Vanuatu Tourism Development

Tellus Consultants has been instrumental in assisting Vanuatu and New Caledonia with improving sustainable tourism.

Tourism Guide to Vanuatu Vacations

Using advanced satellite and aerial mapping techniques Dr. Richard Chesher has created a Vanuatu Travel Guideand online planner to assist with promoting this small south Pacific destination throughout the world. The Rocket Guide to Vanuatu has satellite image maps of the entire country with a highly interactive navigation system that allows prospective visitors to Vanuatu - or Travel agents that specialise in Vanuatu or travel writers - to quickly survey all the tourism features of every island in Vanuatu.

The user can click on an island to zoom in for a closer look and then point to the names of vanuatu hotels and vanuatu resorts to instantly see summary information and the location of each facility. The guide is perfect for people who wish to plan their vanuatu holiday with detailed information .

Prospective visitors can find tourism vanuatu information on flights to vanuatu, activities vanuatu, vanuatu diving, vanuatu fishing, vanuatu weddings. There is even up to the minute information on">vanuatu weather with long range forecasts and climate information. Users can get information on how to call Vanuatu - with the local time in Vanuatu, Vanuatu holidays and office hours,Vanuatu car rental, buses and taxis, Vanuatu conference venues, Restaurants in Vanuatu,

The development team also put over a thousand professional level photographs of all aspects of Vanuatu tourism on line available for free download. These Vanuatu image libraries include Vanuatu Photos , and Vanuatu Accommodation Photos .

Cruising Guide to Vanuatu

The team also used the same technology to produce a satellite image based Cruising guide to Vanuatu. This guide provides visiting cruising yachts to Vanuatu with extremely precise and critical information on vanuatu ports of entry, vanuatu marina, vanuatu moorings, yacht services vanuatu, superyacht services vanuatu,

The cruising guide vanuatu provides boat maps vanuatu and nautical maps vanuatu using detailed hi resolution aerial photographs of the vanuatu anchorages with overlays showing depths, dangers, routes with GPS points and other interesting information about the anchorages.

New Caledonia Travel Guide, Annuaire de Tourisme Nouvelle Caledonie

Sustainable tourism in new caledonia - or nouvelle caledonie as it is called in French has been an increasingly important part of the New Caledonia economy over the past few years, especially in rural areas. La nouvelle calédonie is located just 780 nautical miles east of Brisbane, Australia. Visiting superyachts use the services of Noumea Ocean Yacht Agent.

The New Caledonia Lagoon is the largest lagoon in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. New Caledonia is also one of the most photogenic South Pacific Islands, have a look at some of the images and photos of New Caledonia.

Tellus Consultants produced a virtual new caledonia map ( or carte nouvelle caledonie ) with satellite imagery of New Caledonia. But the CD Rom travel guide to New Caledonia is far more than just a map. It is a virtual atlas of tourism information about New Caledonia with over 700 tourism features located precisely on the satellite and aerial images. You can, for example, find any new caledonia hotel with just two clicks, plus there is a summary about new caledonia hotels and resorts that helps anyone plan a new caledonia vacation. It's not easy to plan new caledonia vacations - especially for people who don't speak French.

English speaking Travel agents and people planning to set up new caledonia holidays often find the French websites about New Caledonia are in French and those which are not tend to concentrate solely on Noumea new caledonia - and especially hotels in Anse Vata noumea new caledonia. Travel to new caledonia begins with finding out about flights to new caledonia and then, if the traveller wants to go beyond Noumea, also finding out about domestic flights in New Caledonia. New Caledonia visas are not required for most tourists, but it's best to check to be sure because travellers from some countries (like the US) - can only stay in New Caledonia for 30 days without getting a tourist visa before arriving.

The first step in planning a New Caledonia Vacation is deciding what KIND of a vacation you would like. There are several possibilities.

Anse Vata, in Noumea, is the International travel centre of New Caledonia. This is where you'll find the big Noumea hotels and resorts, fine restaurants, and a zillion things to do. Within a very small area - you can stroll along the waterfront promenade from Le Meridien to Le Mocambo in about 15 minutes and within this area are all the major hotels, all the New Caledonia conference venues, the majority of the New Caledonia restaurants, the best beaches, the Aquarium, shopping malls, Noumea weddings coordinators, new caledonia tours agencies, and casinos.

Noumea is also the gateway to the world's largest lagoon and second largest Barrier Reef. New Caledonia fishing boats,
New Caledonia boat rentals, yacht charters and boat trips
, new caledonia diving trips, are all organized in Noumea and all of the details on how to do this and who to contact are on the Rocket Guide to New Caledonia.

But there is so much more to New Caledonia than Noumea and any visitor to New Caledonia should consider a short 20 minute domestic flight to the Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines). Isle of Pines New Caledonia hotels, resorts and other accommodation range from very expensive to camping. The Rocket Guide to New Caledonia shows all the accommodation of Isle of Pines on high resolution photographs, both from the air and on the ground - including 3D virtual reality tours of many of the resorts.

The Loyalty Islands are only a 40 minute domestic flight from Magenta airport in Noumea. There are three Loyalty Islands, Ouvea, Lifou, and Mare. Lifou is actually larger than the island of Tahiti and has only a couple of thousand people living on it. These are great holiday destinations and well worth a visit.

One excellent and relatively inexpensive way to discover vanuatu is Fly/Drive New Caledonia holidays essentially a round the island tour of Grande Terre - where the first stop is a new caledonia car rental agency. Or perhaps a new caledonia tours agency to arrange a round-the-island safari. Rental car new caledonia are only slightly more expensive than in Australia, so fly/drive vacations combined with camping, is the least expensive (and often the most rewarding) way to travel to new caledonia. The Rocket Guide to Vanuatu CD has a special Fly/Drive holiday section with road maps, camping sites and New Caledonia accommodation, hotels and resorts on Grande Terre outside of Noumea.

On the Rocket Guide website you can even check on the long term new caledonia weather forecasts - because the weather in new caledonia makes all the difference between a good vacation and a great vacation.

New Caledonia travel info is available at travel information points throughout New Caledonia. You can quickly get information on most of the essential things you need to know for a New Caledonia holiday - such as the current rate of exchange of new caledonia money, the local new caledonia time and business hours, information on New Caledonia Internet cafés and New Caledonia Mobile phones - GSM New Caledonia,

There are a wealth of activities for visitors to New Caledonia - the French people of New Caledonia adore sports of all kinds and are very active. Which means that visitors will find all the facilities they could wish to enjoy themselves. For some sporting ideas see Sporting Events New Caledonia,New Caledonia Horseback Riding and New Caledonia golf courses.

The Rocket Guide to New Caledonia online photo libraries offer the following libraries of professional stock photo images (available for free downloading) - New Caledonia cultural photos, New Caledonia Wildlife, the New Caledonia Lagoon, New Caledonia museums and sights,

Cruising guide to New Caledonia - Guide Nautique Nouvelle Caledonie

The satellite image approach to understanding New Caledonia is especially useful to people who wish to visit New Caledonia aboard cruising yachts of people who with to charter a yacht in New Caledonia. The New Caledonia cruising guide shows detailed information on new caledonia anchorages new caledonia marinas,noumea yacht services, yacht charter noumea, superyacht services new caledonia, new caledonia weather and new caledonia ports.

High resolution satellite and aerial photography provide detailed nautical charts of new caledonia. These nautical maps of new caledonia
create a unique sailing guide for new caledonia that opens new possibilities for new caledonia yachting and yacht charter new caledonia .

The guide is in both English and French, with information on location bateau nouvelle caledonie, location bateau noumea, mouillages nouvelle caledonie, guide mouillage nouvelle caledonie

These activities tie in closely with other productions including

island cruising, south pacific cruising, and other south pacific adventures.