A sea to see

One of my favourite tangents. “One question that surfaces while looking out to sea, is as our salty sea holds 95% of the world’s water, what percentage of the world’s beauty does the sea hold?”


On a beautiful clear day looking out towards the sea’s perfectly leveled horizon, atmospheric refraction draws thoughts, as an essence glows out to sea. This radiance is what attracts one’s attentiveness from dawn, throughout day, to dust and night, which is essentially a function of radiation incident on the surface – the absorption and scattering of light. And just how we’ve learnt to love light and sense beauty, the sea and its radiance leaves a lasting impression, a radiance of attraction.

The flecks of gold and silver glitter on the sea’s surface, is yet another function of sciences beauty and a drawcard for pondering thoughts. Given such, it is of no surprise that the sparkling glitter appearance is actually called sun glitter. As an instantaneous flash of sunlight hits the surface at a right angle, flecks of sun glitter reflects back. The total individual sun glints therefore, sprinkles floating glitter…

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Who’s listening? Who’s not listening?

Pondering out to sea

Me, pondering out to sea

I am diving deeper and deeper each day into the world of humanities, as my beach happiness research journey is unveiling the vast knowledges that contribute and could contribute to the everyday governance of beaches.

If you didn’t know, the coast has many layers of policy and planning frameworks that are suppose to integrate the social, environmental and economic elements that are meaningful to communities and services the needs of the coast. Basically provide a way to manage and celebrate the human and nonhuman elements that make coasts special, vibrant and unique. Though, due to the quantifiable nature and output of short term answers, the ‘powerful knowledge coalition’ of the environmental sciences and economics drive the coastal policy agenda in pursuit of environmental sustainable development (1). Meaning coastal policy is largely circumscribed by the ‘hard’ sciences, leaving humanities and cultural studies out of the integrated pie (1).

Now I don’t think this is entirely a bad approach. Rather falls short (too short) to encompass the real diversity of knowledge coasts’ have to offer (1). I expect some of my peers to debate otherwise, but current coastal community participation in coastal management is not and can not solely be the social element integrated coastal zone management suggests. As current approaches to such participation is still framed by the ‘powerful knowledge coalition’ (1).

Trust me, when I figured this out I was stunned into silence and found myself questioning everything – every award, outcome and relationship I have achieved in just over half a decade for my coast. Again, I don’t think current approaches to coastal community participation is bad… rather falls short (too short) of what can and needs to be achieved. I have been debating this internally with my culture – the ‘hard’ sciences – without much success, and most of the time seen as a trouble maker… or ‘out there’. No wonder I am jumping ships to discover the world of humanities.

Now this leads into my next argument. That we need to freshen up our approaches to coastal management, in it’s entirety, by shifting focus from short term quantified outputs and decisions based on market values to cultural and social indicators that entwine the very essence of the coast (1). But this can only be achieved when the bureaucrats of the coast fly the white flag and acknowledge community knowledge to breakdown the battle between the science expert vs the community expert – a battle that continues to bear sour fruits.

Wow, I think I can finally breathe. Or take another breath.

Foxwell-Norton (2013), beautifully critiques the framework that governs Australia’s beaches and debates for community knowledge to be a cornerstone theme of coastal policy (1). Her research clearly defines the limitation being at the ‘coalface’ engagement divide – didn’t I say battle? – between the science experts and the community experts (1). For instance, while one bureaucrat questions the definition of ‘expert’, as they believe community efforts don’t have much expertise based on what comes across their desk (1). The community in question prove their expertise with having walked the shores for over 30 years and the ability to mind-map the dynamics of the sediment transport (1). Obviously cultural tensions on what constitutes ‘expert knowledge’ are constricting valuable outcomes for the coast (1).

Now I have only recently come to think that the issue here largely resides in the coastal community participation model framed by the ‘hard’ sciences – and I’m one of those contributing authors. Even I’ve framed the limiting model to the bible and the only way to engage community in coastal management, as where there is an issue or need to share ‘hard’ science, we see this model as a cost effective one-way approach to instil expert knowledge in the community – but hey, when the community come back to comment or suggest an idea they are deemed as non-expert, therefore, silenced… and then the tangent continues.

Thus, I think the engagement spectrum that the ‘hard’ sciences offer in an attempt to integrate social values for coastal management needs to be flipped. As participation is not a one-way approach, you can’t have coastal community participation on its own. Clearly this opens up a whole new engagement spectrum where the community could be driving coastal ‘expert’ (those deemed as experts in current models) participation. Maybe this is where humanities and cultural studies could play a practical role in coastal management? – as the field suggests (1).

1. Foxwell-Norton, K. (2013) Communication, culture, community and country: the lost seas of environmental policy, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Vol. 27 (2), pp: 267–282.

A line in the sand

Source - Oxford Dictionary

Source – Oxford Dictionary

I feel out of character due to the number of decisions I have been making lately. At the same time sense two worlds colliding, marinating magnificent research I hope.

My journey into the world of humanities has begun and it is rocking my science ship that’s for sure. Curiosity is becoming an understatement as I am finding myself questioning every thought, idea and moral. Is this for science or is this for humanity? Which angle could create a better outcome for the planet and its people? – are just some of the questions racing through my mind.

And now all of sudden I am seeing lines in the sand – everywhere.

I was discussing my research with my amazing supervisor Kerrie Foxwell last week and showing her my progress by drawing models of my thoughts and possibilities. She stopped me.

“No pie graphs, no models, no numbers”, she said.

“What? Really? But what about…”, I replied.

That’s because there are no lines in humanities and my thoughts, ideas and morals are certainly not constrained by boundaries. I think I have found home.

The thing is all these lines I am now seeing are the limitations to coastal management. You see, coastal management was designed by drawing lines in the sand, as once decisions are made they are almost irreversible. These lines form a framework designed by the environmental sciences and market values – which actually halt any potential or creativity to integrate real culture and social systems (i.e. where there is culture or social activity it is usually driven by the environmental sciences and market values) …

This is why I have drawn a line in the said – to research the coast from the other side, where humanities is real, noticed and celebrated.

Give me a year to flesh this out more and a decade (if we can wait) for social and cultural indicators to be the drivers of coastal management.

Honours here we come.