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A Vision of Sustainability from under the Rising Seas
Monthly Feature, August, 2017.
By Evan Claggett and Hannah Yi
A Vision of Sustainability from under the Rising Seas
Monthly Feature, August, 2017.
By Evan Claggett and Hannah Yi


A version of this essay originally appeared in Volume XXI of Physis: Journal of Marine Science


After the final no there comes a yes, and on that yes the future world depends. -Wallace Stevens

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   The coral Undaria agaricites.

Humans have always strived to understand what we do not know. This thirst for knowledge has manifested into a need to conquer the natural world that surrounds us. We have been successful, but at what cost? Humans have finally reached the point where our combined effects as a species on this planet are palpable: our fisheries have been exhausted, our atmosphere altered beyond natural bounds, wetlands have been permanently lost, and our polar icecaps have begun to see their final days. When does the world finally say yes to a sustainable future?

The word physis is derived from Greek, meaning the phenomenon and processes that aid in nature’s ability to heal itself. Throughout history, humankind as a species has believed that the resources provided by the surrounding landscape were inexhaustible. Presently, we have begun to realize that we have built an insidious house of cards below us – one more move and it crumbles. We can no longer assume that nature’s ability to heal itself overcomes our destructive way of life. Our focus as a species must shift from one of selfish exploitation to one geared towards reparations. The question that always seems to impede our progress towards a more sustainable future remains: where do we even begin? We believe that through science, research, and advancements in technology, humans can begin to better understand the effect our species has on the planet. Our understanding cannot be a superficial one, rather it must be profound. With this wisdom, we might be able to penetrate and change the ambivalence our society has towards maintaining and returning to the natural state of the world’s ecosystems, to ones that are healthy and able to heal themselves.

Much like Sisyphus, a man condemned to a life of pushing a large boulder to the top of a mountain - just to watch it fall hopelessly back to the bottom - our scientific efforts seem futile at times. Progress is met with backlash, and ignorance seems to drive the path our society follows. And presently, faith in a brighter tomorrow seems to be fading dimmer. Still, hope remains and our community has shown resilience through these trying times. The March for Science in April, 2017 showcased our resistance to being silenced. The job we have ahead of us, though daunting, is one we must continue and must be sustained by the next generation of scientists.

We, along with five other undergraduate science students, recently participated in a tropical marine ecology course that culminated in the publication of Volume XXI of Physis in which we report the results of our research in the marine ecosystems surrounding the island of Bonaire. The students authoring papers in this publication firmly believe that we all have individual roles to play to ensure our planet not only survives human impacts, but thrives. By continuing to expand our knowledge of the natural world, we hope to instill deeper appreciation for conservation and sustainability in current and future generations. We hope that as society begins to place greater value on sustainability, humankind’s insatiable quest for knowledge will continue to drive us in a way that will benefit not only our species, but all those that share this world.






Image Evan Claggett is a senior majoring in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University where he is a member of the tennis club, dive club, and outdoor adventure club. His academic interests include conservation biology and coral reef ecology. Evan would like to continue research diving in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific.

Image Hannah Yi is a senior at Brown University where she is captain of the women's varsity rugby team. She has recently been studying spatio-temporal behavioral patterns in mako sharks at the University of Rhode Island and plans to continue pursuing shark research and eventually get her Ph.D. She likes diving, hiking, and being outdoors.