The Hope Spot initiative in South Africa - Ikhaya lethemba (The Home of Hope) - addresses critically important South African issues and is totally inclusive, aiming to harness the power of people by involving them in positive action.
In South Africa, where so many impoverished people depend upon the seas for their livelihoods and where so many people would like to make a difference, but are unsure what to do, the Hope Spots can provide answers. In South Africa, the focus is more on the human needs and their role in providing a healthier environment for themselves than on simply conservation, hence the term Ikhaya lethemba.
While Hope Spots can be pristine areas, few are. In fact people have a smaller role to play in pristine areas than they do if they are challenged with a degraded area. Being part of a campaign to improve a degraded area, where the improvements are readily monitored and measured can be rewarding. In a pristine area the role of people is to promote pride and appreciation, use the area for educational purposes and for sound research, and to monitor effects of global warming and more.
To harness the power of people there is a need to promote awareness, education and importantly, involve as many people as possible in positive actions. Through such activities people better understand, begin to care and know. Once people care, communities of caring people develop and a positive ethic of caring action develops.
Whereas many protected areas discourage public involvement, Hope Spots in South Africa are geared to involving the public, especially children, clubs, societies, NGOs who will work with the authorities to make their areas special places of fun, hope, education, conservation, tourism and sustainable angling and fishing.
Another goal of Hope Spots is to involve people in order to establish a better understanding of the environment. Projects within the Hope Spots will bridge the gap between researchers in a manner that makes information and knowledge available to all as fostering an understanding and love for the creatures in the Hope Spot and the seas will lead to caring. In addition, citizen science will be promoted so that members of the public can work with researchers, and in some cases once trained work alone, to help create knowledge in citizen science programmes. So the public will be part of important research and make valuable contributions.
As part of her TED Award speech, Dr Sylvia Earle had to provide a wish for the planet. Hers was as follows:
“I wish you would use all means at your disposal to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”
South African Hope Spot committees are currently hard at work to make Sylvia's dream come true.