Advantages, Disadvantages, and Safety
It was a pleasure to meet with the Hon. Grlyn McGill, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Chief Agricultural Officer, the Permanent Secretary, and others in the Ministry concerned about restoring damaged coral reefs and fisheries in the Grenadines, especially Ashton Harbour in Union Island. As noted at that meeting, before a pilot project using new methods could be considered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, it was important to evaluate a full listing of all known environmental advantages and disadvantages of the Biorock or Mineral Accretion method. These are fully explained on a case by case basis within a large number of project reports and articles that are already available on the GCRA web site. As these are so numerous that they would take a long time to find and read, I have summarized them below.
1. Faster growth rate of coral. The Biorockô process is the only coral reef restoration technology that acts to directly increase the pH at the surface of the growing limestone structure and corals on them. This causes limestone minerals to grow out of seawater where this would not happen by itself, and allows corals to grow their limestone skeletons much faster than usual. Corals normally have to spend a large part of their metabolic energy reserves creating high pH conditions internally in order to grow their skeleton, but the Biorockô process provides these essential conditions for free, leaving the coral with much more energy for tissue growth, reproduction, and resisting environmental stress. Corals growing with the Biorockô process grow several times faster than normal. The specific growth enhancement depends on the species and the specific operating conditions. Typically these are such that the coral is growing 2-5 times faster than normal, but much higher rates, up to 10 times faster, have been reached. Staghorn corals, which normally grow 15 cm per year under good conditions, grew 10 cm in just 10 weeks. Finger corals in a highly polluted environment grew about 5 times faster than normal. Large head corals appear to grow around 2-5 times faster as well, but there are big differences between species. Because the corals receiving the benefits of the Biorockô process become so healthy, their polyps are expanded more often, they are more brightly colored, they branch more densely, and show more fully developed colony form, just as trees that are watered and fertilized are taller, greener, have more leaves, and branch more densely than genetically identical controls. Microscopic examination of tissues and skeletons of corals grown on Biorockô structures, and comparison with genetically identical controls, have been independently carried out by Raymond L. Hayes, Professor of Anatomy and Dean of Medical Education at Howard University Medical College, a specialist in coral cell biology, and by James Cervino, of the Biology Department at the University of South Carolina, a specialist in coral diseases (appendix). These show no abnormalities, despite (or perhaps because of) their distinctly healthier conditions. These are the result of the direct electrical current (DC) applied at low voltage. When the current is shut off the corals gradually become paler in color like the corals in the surrounding reef, and when the current is turned back on again, the coral visibly brightens within days. Coral growers in aquariums achieve the same result by putting chemicals in the water to increase the pH, but this is impossible in the ocean. Because the Biorockô process increases the pH only at the growing limestone surface in close proximity to the coral, not in the overlying water, it is far more efficient, and will probably never be excelled as a method of increasing coral growth in the field.
2. Increased coral settlement. The Biorockô process grows limestone rock that is predominantly made of the mineral aragonite, the same mineral that makes up the skeletons of coral and most coral reef rock and sand. Young corals prefer to settle on clean limestone surfaces, and settle on it when they will not settle on exotic materials such as steel, concrete made with hydraulic cement, plastics, or rubber tires. Coral normally settle on those exotic materials only after these have been overgrowing by the thin limestone skeletons of encrusting red algae. This process can take many years, as toxic chemicals must first be leached from the surface of these materials before the red algae will grow over it. In contrast, juvenile corals settle on Biorockô materials at high density. For example, on a Biorockô structure inside a highly polluted bay in Jamaica where no natural coral settlement was taking place, one juvenile coral was observed every 0.7 square centimeters. Under normal conditions where coral growth is being maximized, the growth rate of the Biorockô materials is so high that the juvenile corals, which are only a millimeter across, are overgrown and absorbed by the growing material. However it is easy to greatly increase rates of young coral settlement by simply growing the substrate quickly, then turning down the current to very low levels to allow high settlement and initial growth, and then turning up the current again to increase their growth after they are sufficiently developed.
3. Increased coral reproduction. Corals on Biorockô structures have more energy for reproduction than normal corals, because they don't have to use up so much energy growing their skeleton. These corals are often seen with the unusual colors around the mouth of the polyp that indicate that the coral is about to reproduce. They are therefore likely to become significant sources of new corals for nearby reefs. In the Caribbean, where many major reef building coral species have undergone total or devastating reproductive failure in the last 20 years. This may prove essential to renovate populations of the most important reef building coral species that are slowly dying off without being replaced.
4. Increased survival of coral under adverse environmental conditions. Corals growing on Biorockô structures are healthier and have much more energy for resisting environmental stress, and so are able to survive stresses that kill neighboring corals. As environmental stresses from global climate change and increasing pollution increase, corals on mineral accretion structures are increasingly likely to be the only survivors. This makes them Coral Arks for preserving species from extinction from global change, and for maintaining the ecosystem services (fisheries, tourism, shore protection, biodiversity) that healthy coral reefs provide for over 100 countries. In the future in many places they may become the only corals left.
5. Ability to restore coral growth under "impossible" conditions. In the Maldives in 1998 only 1-5% of corals survived heatstroke caused by global warming, but in the same habitats, 50-80% of the corals on Biorockô structures survived. The surviving corals then proliferated and so completely covered the structure that the underlying framework can no longer be seen. This reef allows tourists to see a reef that is 100% coral covered, while no natural reef remaining in the country has more than 5% live coral. In Jamaica corals were grown at 3-5 times faster than normal in a bay where all the surrounding corals had been killed by overgrowth of weedy algae over-fertilized by nutrient pollution. Hundreds of juvenile corals spontaneously settled on a Biorockô structure in this area, although no natural coral settlement took place on the adjacent reef. These benefits were directly due to the weak electrical current applied. When the current was cut off the weedy algae invaded the structures and killed all the corals.
6. Faster growth of clams, oysters, and mussels. Oysters, Clams, Mussels, Barnacles, and all attached organisms with limestone shells are observed to spontaneously settle on Biorockô structures and grow at much faster than normal rates. Early experimental structures were quickly completely covered by layers of oysters that grew to adult size in months, and were observed to be spawning continuously. The method is now being developed for oyster mariculture in the United States and for pearl oyster cultivation in Indonesia, but also has applications for mussels, abalone, and many other species of economically valuable shellfish. Vast sums are now being spent to try to restore oyster reefs that have been completely destroyed by over-harvesting around the world, but these have been failures. Biorockô technology is likely to prove the only method capable of restoring these important economic resources, as well as the irreplaceable ecological services they provide by filtering the water and allowing more light to reach the bottom and supporting the food chain of bottom-dwelling fish and crabs.
7. Faster growth of sand-producing algae. Limestone-producing algae are the major suppliers of sand on white sand beaches, but in many places sand supplies are disappearing as the "good" sand-producing algae are being smothered and killed by "bad" soft weedy algae whose excessive growth is triggered by increasing nutrient pollution. Dense growth of sand-producing algae is observed around Biorockô structures, increasing sand supplies to the shore. This benefit is uniquely provided by the Biorockô process. When the current is cut off, soft weedy algae overgrow and kill the beneficial ones.
8. Increased densities of lobsters. When Biorockô substrate is used to build suitable size and shape shelters, spiny lobsters crowd into them in high densities. The method has been used to create lobster habitat in Jamaica, Panama, and Mexico, and large scale programs are planned with local fishermen in several countries to increase depleted local lobster populations. The method is likely to be superior to the highly successful Cuban Casita method of greatly increasing lobster populations because mineral accretion structures are able to provide not only shelter for lobsters, but also support the growth of the barnacles and clams they eat.
9. Increased densities of resident fish. Biorockô structures quickly build up astonishing schools of permanent resident fish that swarm in and around them in clouds, making them highly attractive to tourists. Many structures are observed to be doubling their fish populations every six months and no slow down of this increase has been noted. Especially high densities of plankton feeding fish that shelter in live coral branches are found, such as blue chromis and pseudanthias, as well as damselfish of many kinds. These populations are rapidly reproducing, with individuals of all sizes from the smallest to the largest. As reefs have continued to deteriorate, most of these fishes, which refuse to live in dead coral, vanish from the reefs. Following the massive coral mortality in the Indian Ocean in 1998 caused by global warming, populations of many fish species vanished or severely declined in nearby reefs but continued to grow on Biorockô structures, including plankton feeders, butterflyfish, and triggerfish. These structures are therefore acting as Coral Reef Arks to save species from local extinction. In the Maldives Giant Moray Eels and other fish migrate between structures and spend almost no time in neighboring reefs, apparently finding that Biorockô reefs provide superior shelter and food.
10. Increased densities of migratory fish. Large schools of migratory fish are also observed to crowd into Biorockô structures, often so densely that one cannot see across them. Different species school during the daytime and at night. They appear to find these structures superior habitat during their resting stages, and then migrate out into surrounding reef territories to feed. Species doing this include snappers, triggerfish, sweeetlips, grunts, emperors, fusiliers, moray eels, stingrays, parrotfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish, and many other groups. Biorockô structures are also favored by cleaning shrimps and fish, with the result that fish migrate to them to be cleaned. The large variety of species and docile behavior of the fish lined up to be cleaned make these structures especially good places to observe fish behavior, making them very popular with snorkelers and divers. The large populations of fishes that build up in these structures is causing fishermen in many countries to develop programs to build such structures on a large scale to restore badly depleted fish stocks. By growing superior fish habitat in degraded reefs, fishermen can selectively increase populations of fishes of selected kinds, and begin the necessary transition to sustainable reef and fish farming instead of hunting the wild fish to local extinction. Unlike conventional fish farming in developed countries, this does not involve single species crowded at high densities and fed artificial feed, which promotes disease and pollution, and often releases exotic genetic strains that can overwhelm local populations. Instead the Biorockô method improves environmental quality and natural food supplies, increasing the carrying capacity of the habitat for many species without adding exotic strains or feeds.
11. Increased densities of juvenile fish. Extremely high densities of juvenile fishes of many kinds are observed in and around Biorockô structures and within the branches of corals receiving direct current. These densities are noticeably higher than in surrounding reefs. If current is shut off, the numbers of juvenile fish decrease, and when the current is turned back on again they return. It is clear that they find these conditions superior habitat in which they choose to aggregate. Further work is needed to determine exactly why they are attracted, and to optimize conditions to use these structures as a management tool to increase and restore fish stocks.
12. Increased shore protection, turning eroding beaches into growing ones. As Biorockô structures grow limestone minerals they become stronger (three times the compression strength of concrete is typical) and as corals grow on them they act to slow down the speed of waves passing through them, reducing wave energy at the shore line and its capacity to erode beaches. In the Maldives a structure built next to a severely eroding beach proved so successful at reducing wave energy that within two years the beach had stopped eroding and began to grow, forming a sand bar pointing straight to the structure. As the structures grow upward at a rate of several centimeters per year, about 10 times the rate of global sea level rise, they are capable of protecting low-lying islands from washing away and disappearing due to global climate change. Eroding long-shore currents can be slowed or arrested by Biorockô structures, turning beach loss into beach growth since quieter waters foster sand accumulation as sediments fall out of suspension. Broader beaches are turtle nesting habitat, small clams living in them provide food for shore birds, and broader beaches act to filter and purify ground waters percolating through them into the sea.
13. Increased strength with time. Biorockô structures get stronger and more massive with age. Surprisingly, we have not yet observed any slowing down of their growth as long as electric current is applied. While a new structure is initially relatively weak, and potentially can be damaged by severe storms, it becomes so strong and cements itself to underlying bedrock or sand/gravel substrates that it becomes as permanent as a natural reef. No other marine construction material has the property of getting stronger with age. On the contrary, all have their maximum strength when brand new and quickly become weaker with age as steel rusts, metals corrode, concrete cracks, erosion takes it toll, and foundations are undermined and collapse, requiring very expensive and never-ending repairs and replacement. Not only are Biorockô structures cheaper to build, they have very low maintenance and minimal repair costs.
14. Self-repair. If Biorockô structures are physically damaged, for instance by storms, floating debris, boats, or vandalism, the damaged portions are quickly repaired as Biorockô material preferentially fills in the cracked or broken portions when electricity is applied. Damaged structures that have been without power for a up to a year have been quickly repaired by reconnecting them, and fish filled them up again within days. Only a very low maintenance charge is needed to facilitate self-repair and to completely prevent any rusting of the underlying steel framework. This is due to the cathodic protection of the steel provided by the direct current. After years in sea water the steel remains as shiny as new without any rust whatsoever. In fact rust on steel is converted back to iron. Rusty structures that are red when first placed in the water quickly turn grey and black as the rust converts to iron due to the electrical current, then white as limestone grows on it. No other material or building technology used in the sea has this self-repair property.
15. Production of materials and energy. Because solid limestone structures and components can be grown in any size and shape, the method can be used to produce building materials in the form of prefabricated walls, roofs, building blocks, etc. The cost of the electricity used to produce such materials should be less than the cost of the comparable volume of conventional concrete building materials. Growing construction materials in the sea could completely eliminate the environmentally destructive mining of coral reefs for limestone blocks and for sand and gravel additives to mix into concrete, which has eliminated whole reefs and caused serious coastal erosion in many countries. Mining of corals for quicklime and to produce dietary calcium pills could be replaced by Biorockô materials, which have superior calcium to magnesium ratios for dietary supplements compared to coral skeletons. At the same time, if done on an industrial scale, the hydrogen produced by the process could be trapped, to produce a non-polluting fuel. Many countries, especially in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, could use this process by utilizing untapped tidal and ocean current energy resources to protect their coastlines against rising sea level, provide construction materials, and become self-sufficient in energy or even energy exporters. Currently many island nations spend around half their foreign exchange earnings importing diesel and other hydrocarbon fuels for power plants and vehicles.
16. Superior Biorockô engineering properties. Biorockô materials consist of the minerals aragonite, calcite, and brucite which are derived from seawater by electrolysis. Density is 1.8 - 2.2 g/cm3, porosity on average 20 Vol-% and average strength in compression 72 N/mm2, with a peak value of 80 N/mm2. The superior strength is illustrated by comparisons with normal concrete (25 N/mm2), limestone bricks (12 - 28 N/mm2), and foamed concrete blocks (14 N/mm2). Testing of Biorockô material was performed by the Institute for Building with Concrete, Building Materials, and Physics of Construction, at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
17. All marine organisms attracted. All forms of coral reef life, both attached and free swimming, choose to settle on or migrate to Biorockô structures. Even though only corals are normally transplanted, a complete coral reef ecosystem is quickly generated. No form of life has been observed to avoid the structures, even moray eels and sting rays have become permanent residents, turtles and sharks have been seen in them, and dolphins and dugongs have been observed nearby. This feature is unique to the Biorockô method of reef restoration, because all other "artificial reefs" such as sunken ships, planes, cars, rubber tires, concrete blocks and structures, fly ash, and trash are made of exotic materials and few if any reef building corals settle on them. Those structures of exotic materials are colonized mainly be stinging hydroids, sponges, and non-reef building soft corals. While prolific marine life can result with time, no marine ecologist would confuse these with a real coral reef. Biorockô is the only restoration method known that generates real coral reef ecosystems.
18. Changed ecological balances. By creating high pH conditions that favor the growth and survival of reef-building corals and clams, and other organisms with limestone shells and skeletons, the ecological balance is shifted in their favor over the weedy algae that are smothering reefs near nutrient sources worldwide. This allows reefs to be maintained or restored even in polluted waters or climatically stressed waters where this would not be possible otherwise.
19. Rubble stabilization. Biorockô methods can be used to grow cheap lightweight meshes over rock rubble bottom, stabilizing them and allowing corals to start growing again. This is the best and least expensive method to restore reefs that have been damaged by boat groundings, fisheries explosives, or fishing with poisons.
20. Coral rescue, Corals used for transplantation are derived almost entirely from broken and damaged corals in nearby reefs that would soon die if they were not rescued. Broken pieces less than half a centimeter across have grown into large healthy colonies. Corals used for transplantation are exclusively derived from local populations.
21. Restoration without transplantation. While all other reef restoration methods require the transplantation of broken coral fragments, Biorockô methods are unique in that they can also be adapted to speed up the growth of corals in-situ without transplantation, which will prove to be the cheapest form of reef restoration. Ongoing projects bear positive results that will contribute to new methods of large scale reef restoration with minimal costs.
22. Auto-removal. If for some unimaginable reason one wishes to get rid of an Biorockô reef one can merely switch the leads from the charger, reversing electrical polarity. The limestone will dissolve, the corals will fall off, the fish and shellfish will go away, and the steel framework will quickly rust and disappear. No other reef restoration or shoreline protection method has this property. To date such removal has not been needed, because in no place where these projects have been carried out have people complained about having too many corals and fish! In fact, all have asked for more such projects.
23. Creation of ecotourism attractions in proximity to hotels. Around the world, few hotels are now left that have prime snorkeling habitat directly in front of their shore. Now most hotels are now forced to take guests hours by boat in order to see corals and fish. Biorockô technology allows snorkeling reefs to be grown directly in front of hotels, using less energy than they use to light their beach. These also act to restore fish populations in nearby reefs. Hotels and dive shops in the Maldives, Indonesia, and Panama now advertise themselves on the web and in brochures based on Biorockô reef restoration projects. These are a tremendous attraction for guests, since environmentally conscious tourists want to support environmental restoration, and go out of their way to support hotels doing so.
24. Ideally suited to sustainable energy. The low voltages and currents needed are easily supplied by sustainable energy sources. While alternating current can be converted to direct current to power Biorockô reefs, this involves some energy loss in transformation, and if the electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere which causes greenhouse warming, the major killer of corals worldwide. In contrast, sustainable energy sources like solar powers, windmills, and tidal turbines are ideally suited to produce direct current at suitable voltages without causing global warming. We use solar panels or windmills to power projects in remote islands and even in the high seas, and are planning to apply tidal energy turbines to make power directly on site.
25. Applicable in all marine habitats. Although the technology has been primarily used for coral reef restoration, it can be applied in any marine environment. Biorockô materials have been successfully produced in the deep sea and in Arctic waters. Breakwaters can be grown in muddy waters where corals can't grow. In waters too cold for corals, prolific growth of oysters, clams, barnacles, and other shelled organisms are obtained. Projects are currently underway to use the method to culture oysters and restore oyster reefs. The process works in cold water, but is slower than in the tropics. The only limitation is that salt water is needed to provide the dissolved limestone and provide suitable conductivity. Growth is lower in brackish water, and minimal in fresh water.
26. Worldwide recognition of the method. Ongoing projects, now operating in nine countries, have won 1) the Maldives Environment Award, 2) the KONAS Award for best Indonesian community-based coastal zone management project, 3) the SKAL Award for best underwater ecotourism project in the world, and 4) the Theodore M. Sperry Award for Pioneers and Innovators from the Society for Ecological Restoration (the only marine project ever to have done so).
1. Possible overcharging. We are careful not to electrically overcharge, as excessive charging can negate the benefits (like so many good things, they can be done to excess). Unfortunately most people imitating the method without proper training have grossly overcharged their corals. This results in weaker mineral accretion dominated by the soft magnesium hydroxide minerals instead of hard limestone minerals. Materials we grow typically have a compressive strength of 80 Newtons per square millimeter, or around three times the strength of ordinary concrete, but if overcharged the accretion materials are soft instead and can break and fall off. In one case corals were made to grow ten times faster than normal, but had weak skeletons, eventually breaking under their own weight. We advise users of the method not to speed up coral growth rates more than 3-5 times, as under these conditions corals grow normally strong skeletons. Another experimenter who seriously overcharged was unable to get corals to grow or attach, and complained that fish knocked them off! A third group who seriously overcharged found that transplanted corals grew fatter and had 50% less mortality than controls, but grew no taller. Some of these imitators have used anodes made of materials that break down and release toxic materials to sea water, such as lead, copper, zinc or silver. We use only completely inert titanium, designed to be permanent in sea water. These disadvantages are easily prevented by not overcharging and using correctly specified materials and operating conditions.
2. Anode. In contrast to the elevated pH conditions at the cathode reef structure that promotes marine life, the surface of the anode is acidic and highly oxidizing, and nothing grows on it. The anode is much smaller than the cathode, so the area affected is very minor. The negative effects of the anode are neutralized within a few millimeters of its surface, and organisms grow normally beyond this. If the anode is overcharged, not only acidity and oxygen but also chlorine gas can be produced. This reacts very quickly with sea water, turning into harmless ordinary chloride, the major salt in the ocean. The sterility of the anode can in fact be turned into an advantage. In the Pacific and Indian Ocean large amounts of corals are eaten by a snail (Drupella) and a starfish (Acanthaster or crown of thorns), which fortunately do not occur in the Caribbean. Drupella has such a hard shell it cannot be crushed even with large pliers, and Acanthaster is covered with long toxic spines that can be deadly to humans. Getting rid of these pests is an important and difficult task. We get rid of them quickly and easily by simply placing them under the anode, the starfish with spines pointing up into the anode mesh so it is trapped and cannot escape (but if put in upside down it uses its tube feet to walk out as fast as it can).
3. Changed ecological balances. Although as noted above, the shift in ecological balance towards the limestone producing organisms is a tremendous benefit in almost all cases, the degree to which a given species accelerates its growth depends a great deal on the species, as well as on the operating conditions. Because some organisms respond much more than others, this establishes a different balance of organisms. It is possible that in some rare cases this may not be desirable, for example if weedy organisms or pests proliferate. Some structures in the Maldives and Indonesia have developed growths of encrusting purple or red sponges, and some of these have overgrown corals, but they have not spread off the structures. Biorockô structures full of healthy rapidly growing corals which are placed in largely dead reefs can attract and concentrate coral-eating pests, such as the snail Drupella and the crown of thorns starfish in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, or the fire worm (Hermodice carunculata) in the Caribbean. These are best removed, on the same principle as one would remove weeds, slugs, and insect pests from one's garden to get the best yields of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The optimum results come with care, just as fertilizing an empty field and not taking care of it will produce a bumper crop of weeds rather than roses.
The voltages and currents used are very low, completely safe, and spread out over large volumes of sea water. Even if one deliberately shorts out the anode and cathode through one's body by holding on to both while the current is flowing, one normally cannot feel anything, or at most a mild tingling if one has open cuts on the hand. There have been no negative safety effects observed to human beings or any form of marine life in 30 years of work using the Biorockô method. No toxic materials are used: the cathodes are ordinary construction steel, which has been used safely in sea water for hundreds of years, and the anodes are made of completely safe and inert titanium. Titanium is so inert that it is used by geochemists as the index element for immobile elements in sea water. No marine organism has been observed to avoid the structures; instead all seem to be attracted. Known dangerous effects of electricity in sea water are limited to 60 cycle alternating current at high voltages, which can cause human hearts to go into fibrillation because it is close to the natural heart uncontrolled nerve stimulation frequency. High voltage alternating current power lines have been widely claimed to cause cancer, but exhaustive research over decades has completely rejected this possibility. No such effects have ever been reported to take place with low voltage direct current. Human beings and marine organisms have been routinely exposed to similar conditions for many decades from battery operated equipment, such as wristwatches, flashlights, and all forms of battery powered radios, CD players, cameras, instruments, vehicles, and marine craft, but no negative health impact has ever been documented from such electrical currents or fields. In fact similar direct electrical currents have long been used clinically to speed up healing of broken bones in humans. Clearly this would not be done if any adverse effects were known. Jokes are often made about "electrocuting corals", "Frankenstein" corals, or putting "Danger - high voltage" signs up to keep people from damaging the corals or stealing the chargers or solar panels. The funniest one is that corals would "mutate", get cancer, and overgrow reefs and islands! These jokes belong in the realm of fantasy or humor, not science.
The benefits obtained with this method are enormous and far reaching, and either far greater than any other form of reef restoration or are unique to it, while also providing unsurpassed advantages with regard to fisheries restoration and shore protection. In contrast the disadvantages are minor, limited to negligible volumes, and easily controlled, even in the case of extreme electrical overcharging. The techniques are simple to learn, cost-effective, and superior to alternative methods or doing nothing to restore damaged coral reefs and fisheries, or to protecting eroding shores and beaches. There is no limit to the size of projects that can be done.
We appreciate your concerns and hope that this has addressed them. I'd like to add, as the former Senior Scientific Affairs Officer at the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development, that I fully share your concerns about the importance of developing countries carefully assessing new technology applications in their countries and insisting on the fullest local training and participation. I have worked on coral reef projects in most island nations in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, as well as many continental developing countries. Many countries, including sadly my own home island of Jamaica, have insufficient safeguards, with the result that knowledge is not effectively transmitted locally and does not contribute sufficiently to increasing local skills, building endogenous capacity, or solving problems on a local basis. These countries are repeatedly exploited by fly-by-night foreign opportunists ("ginnals" or "samfie-man-dem" as we say in Jamaica, perhaps you have similar expressions). On the opposite extreme, some countries start from the suspicious point of view that ALL outsiders are simply trying to cheat them, based on sad but very real past experience of SOME, and make it as hard as possible for them to obtain permission to do anything. This risks rejecting opportunities that could in fact be valuable to the host country, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Simply to dive in the Lakshadweep Islands of India I had to get written permission from the Governor and from the Minister of the Environment in Delhi, and I watched a colleague nearly get thrown in jail for trying to examine organisms of purely scientific interest. In Brazil I was granted official permission to work anywhere on the effects of Amazon deforestation on the chemistry of the atmosphere, but most of the world's top specialists in the field were denied permission to do any work whatsoever. While there is no doubt that most of them did not start from the perspective of Brazil's best interests, I can't help feeling that Brazil lost many potential opportunities for developing knowledge that would have been useful in local hands. In a world that is changing so rapidly, we need to be sure that all our people have the fullest access to the latest ideas and the opportunity to experiment with them to solve their own problems, or we will fall increasingly further behind. It is in this spirit that we seek to do a small pilot project so that people in Saint Vincent in the Grenadines can learn the new concepts and methods, and decide if they are a useful tool for them to use in improving their own conditions. If so, we will be delighted to help them in any way we can, as we are now doing in many islands around the globe.
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