Is ‘hope’ helpful or a hinderance? Implications for coastal governance

Carmen E. Elrick-Barr, Tim F. Smith, Dana C. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Projected population growth and climate change paint an increasingly bleak picture for many coastal communities and their already threatened ecosystems. Yet, coastal managers and residents provide expressions of hope. In this short communication we reflect on the findings of a four-year research project examining coastal governance in rapidly growing Australian coastal communities. Practitioners shared their perspectives on current coastal governance approaches and were hopeful that sought-after goals would be achieved. However, hopefulness contrasts with self-reported barriers to change and limited evidence of transformative action. Thus, we ask whether hopefulness is misplaced, and a barrier to change, or whether hope remains a necessary precursor to transformative action. We find it is both: hope can provide a vision for a resilient future and a beacon towards the challenge of creating novel, exciting, and equitable futures. Yet, hope is insufficient unless accompanied by actions for resilient social and ecological communities. Hope without action is baseless and exacerbates vulnerability by limiting proactive responses, squandering valuable time, and further weakening systems. The findings have relevance in responding to global environmental challenges by distinguishing between ‘hope that helps’ versus ‘hope that hinders’ in the governance of complex systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106953
Number of pages5
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Early online dateDec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


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