Widely resented yet neglected: latent environmental problems : The case of an invasive alien vine on Saba and Statia
The invasive alien Coralita vine (Antigonon leptopus) overgrows large parts of Saba and St. Eustatius, posing a threat to agriculture and the unique nature areas. This dissertation seeks to understand why there is policy and management inertia regarding the vine, despite it being widely considered a nuisance, and how the inertia could be overcome. Part of the explanation is sought in the polycentric governance arrangement of the islands and the Netherlands, and uncertainty about division of responsibilities and mandates within. Another part is the “latent” character of the Coralita problem, given the limited threat it poses to local livelihoods, and the uncertainties regarding its impacts. Thus, locals are inhibited from articulating an opinion as well. Next to that, Coralita is nested inside daily practices of declining agriculture, free-roaming goats and large stretches of land laying fallow. To overcome the inertia, an adjusted version of participatory action research is developed, centered on addressing a manifest problem (limited agriculture), and as a corollary the latent problem of Coralita. To elicit locals’ latent problem perceptions, a combination of Q methodology and landscape values is developed and applied. An analysis of newspaper articles and scientific publications regarding thirteen invasive alien species in the Netherlands, tentatively confirmed a manifest problem status to be something to strive for: it coincides with less inertia, but also more conflict. The dissertation ends with a scientific synthesis, and practice-oriented recommendations for Coralita management on both islands.