Conservation is predicated on local support, and if scientists and resource managers wish to develop effective programs the cultural values and perceptions of surrounding communities need to be considered. As a result, researchers have shifted their attention to ethnography as a means to improve human-environment interactions and garner support for conservation. Bonaire serves as an ideal study site to explore the intricate relationship between cultural perception and environmental programs. Despite being a leader in conservation, current waste management programs greatly undermine island-wide environmental efforts and few successful solutions to address this discrepancy have been suggested. This study explored the cultural perceptions held by different subgroups on Bonaire (i.e. NGOs, divers, and conventional households) and provides valuable insight into how the community views environmental health and current management practices. Ethnographic methods were used to examine how three subgroups perceive environmental degradation, major factors contributing to ecological degradation, current management, and possible solutions, both individual and collective. Overall, 85% of all respondents identified environmental degradation as a problem on Bonaire. Salience values demonstrated that, overall, subgroups considered ‘humans’, ‘sewage’ and ‘garbage’ as the top environmental threats. Additionally, nearly all participants expressed a negative perception of management. Not only does this research highlight a general awareness of environmental issues by Bonaireans, but it also reveals that there exists a widespread feeling of support for conservation. It is imperative that the ideological and cultural differences identified through this research are noted and incorporated into future management plans.
This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XV (Spring 2014)19: 66-78 from CIEE Bonaire.