After controlling for a host of demographic and economic factors, Johnson and her co-author, Dan Saunders, were able to isolate the relationship between interviewees' financial patience and attitudes toward conservation. The one strong correlation they discovered was this: Individuals who were less patient were also less supportive of marine reserves.
The study's other findings—that fishermen and SCUBA divers have different time preferences and different attitudes toward conservation, and that it matters whether one lives on Curacao or Bonaire—are best considered in context of the interviewees' socio-cultural-economic backgrounds.
Overall, the fishermen demonstrated slightly less financial patience than the divers. And the divers were more supportive of all conservation measures—not just the marine reserves—than the fishermen. Both groups depend on the ocean for their income, but in different ways and to different degrees. The fishermen make money by taking fish out of the ocean. The divers make money by taking tourists to look at the fish in the ocean. The divers tend to be young, unmarried, white, non-native (many of them are Dutch), financially secure—they may only be diving part-time, for fun, they may have support from their parents, and they rarely have children of their own—and have less personal and family history in their field than fishers. In contrast, the fishermen are older, they're Antillean, they're heads of families, they depend on fishing to support their families, "and are just in a very different financial situation," says Johnson. They have less access to credit and are "less likely to even have a friend who would loan them 50 bucks—and if they did, that friend would often charge them interest!" For these reasons, she wasn't surprised that the fishermen were less patient.
Residents of Curacao and Bonaire also have different relationships with the sea. Bonaire has a long history of marine preservation, including a national marine park that was established in 1979. Curacao has not yet established a similar conservation zone. And Bonaire depends, economically, much more on diving tourism than Curacao.
Johnson and Saunders found that, on Bonaire, there was much more support for conservation measures among both fishermen and divers. Johnson attributes this to the presence of the marine park and a concept called "conservation inertia." The residents of Bonaire have had the chance to witness the benefits of having a marine park. They've already gone through the process of making a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain. It's hard to get people to make a sacrifice like that for the first time, to say, "Okay, we'll give up this fishing area, and we know it might cause some economic pain briefly but we will see the benefits soon." However, says Johnson, because of conservation inertia, "once people get over that first hurdle, and they feel in their pockets the benefits of conservation—whether that's more tourists coming or more fish—they're more likely to support similar measures in the future."