What could possibly go wrong? is a question that comes up in my personal life frequently, though not as a genuine query. It’s a useful way to tag the dumb commitments I make to uncertain courses of action. For example, I employed it once on an after-dark stroll through San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Another time as I jumped on the back of a Moroccan stranger’s motorcycle after he asked me if I wanted to see where the donkeys and camels meet. And more recently, as Shaun and I walked down deserted side streets of Suva at midnight on our way to the Deep Sea Nightclub, the one down by the docks that locals dis-affectionately call a “night club for thieves.”
Fortune favors the bold.
What could possibly go wrong? is a question that comes up in my professional life as well, though in these instances in earnest. My research the last two months has explored the ways that deep-sea mining could possibly go wrong in the Pacific. There are obvious concerns about impact on benthic and deep-pelagic ecosystems, but there are concerns higher up the water column, and above sea level as well. The sudden accessibility of deep-sea mineral deposits may transform what were once considered resource-poor, small-island developing counties, into very well-endowed, resource-rich, large-ocean states. If deep-sea development projects are advanced on a fast-track without regionally harmonized regulation, strong institutions with the administrative and technical capacity to ensure compliance, or thoughtful fiscal policy to sustainably manage the wealth generated, the minerals may do less to improve the lives of Pacific Islanders than to bind government revenue streams to a volatile commodities market and blight the countries with Dutch disease. The saga of phosphate mining in Nauru is a bizarre case study of mining gone wrong in the Pacific that would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Fortune favours the bold, but prudence is the better part of valor.
But good news for deep-sea conservationists: Nautilus Minerals Inc., the leader in the deep-sea mining industry, recently announced that it has not been able, and may never be able, to secure the financing needed to build its production support vessel. This at the very least delays Nautilus’ project schedule in Papua New Guinea and buys conservationists some time to get leaders to focus on and prioritize this issue.
Which is what IUCN Oceania plans to do. We’ve postponed the leaders’ forum that was originally to be scheduled around the launch of our paper. The timing just wasn’t right for an August event. But the pressure removed from needing a perfect polished paper two weeks ago has freed up some of my time for things like sanding the bottom paint off the Uto Ni Yalo, as well as the skin off my knuckles.
Our plan was to weasel our way on board and get a sail out of her, but we were deemed “not useful as crew.” We ended up drinking beers on a different boat, the S.V. Moana.
Shaun and I took a Thursday off to participate on a panel of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers speaking about our experiences reintegrating back into American Life after Peace Corps, a unique time in life when 7-11 nachos seem like haute cuisine and magically pair just as well with either Rolling Rock or Four Loko, and being mistaken for an employee at a Goodwill can send you spiralling into a panic attack.
We also visited Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. I was able to share the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the park that I prepared in Dr. Langholz’s conservation biology class. The rangers charged us the local rate, saving us 2 dollars American each.
The Deep Sea Nightclub was great, by the way. I’d recommend it to anyone who can claim zero dependents on their tax return, who doesn’t have anything of value anywhere, and who has very little left to live for. We were immediately greeted by the manager, a rotund, sweaty man with a microphone which he used to shout over the island remixes rattling the club’s windows in their frames. After he learned our names, he incorporated “Deep Sea Suva thanks Josh and Shaun from the UN!” into his shouting regime (we tell people we work at the UN). He gave us the opportunity to address the seven other people in the club, but I found myself tongue tied. Shaun elected to speak through music, inserting himself into the DJ booth and blasting the club with his favorite SoPac jam, Wiki Wiki. We’ve never been back, though we probably should.
What could possibly go wrong?