[Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??
riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Fri Dec 21 18:25:48 EST 2007
First of all: Merry Christmas to all.
I have followed with some interest and some sadness the discussion as
to what scientists can do. I think the answer to that question is "not
much", and that most of us have already made as great or as little an
impact as we are liable to. I am reading Friedman's "The World is
Flat", a scary and entertaining book in which he leads us to the edge
of the precipice over which Western society is about to tumble. Among
the many great quotes is this, from a venture capitalist who invests in
high-technology(p. 179): "You talk to the leadership in China, and they
are all engineers and they understand what is going on immediately.
The Americans don't because they are all lawyers." So communicating
the importance of environmental decisions will always be an uphill
This battle will be won or lost depending on the impression we have
made on the generation coming after us. For most of us: if we have
regularly gone into public schools and high schools to communicate the
beauty and the wonder and the fragility of our favorite ecosystem we
will have done a great deal. I dare say that books such as Cheryl
Woodley just discussed will do more good in the long run than papers in
Nature [especially mine]. We on this list are preaching to the choir
and we need to reach the congregation.
In light of this general subject, Al's comments on the Australian
example require some clarification-this is not carpooling as some of us
know carpooling. Al works closely with Australian colleagues, and was
defending his constituency as it were. Here is some history, as it was
explained to me.
Many many years ago, there was a plan for an Australian Institute of
Marine science. The plans called for this to be established in Cairns.
At the last minute, the government of the time became worried about
losing the seat in South Townsville in an upcoming election, so they
moved AIMS to a site 40-odd kilometers south of the city of Townsville.
[They lost the seat anyway.]
Some prospective employees were upset by this decision, feeling that
Cairns was a nicer place to live than Townsville. Some of them refused
to move. The government came up with an incentive plan: they would buy
commuter cars for every five employees. In short, the total number of
vehicles in Townsville is several dozen higher than it need be. A more
sensible solution would have been to establish a small fleet of buses
[perhaps running on biodiesel from wallaby poop?], but the employees
would have none of this.
So as I say, this is not carpooling as some of us know carpooling.
This is an employee perk that generates more CO2 than necessary.
As far as Australia being way ahead of the curve already: it is true
that Australia is home to many fine coral reef scientists who have
advanced our understanding of the system immeasurably. After several
decades of ignoring environmental issues, AIMS has now established
itself as a powerhouse. But Australia as a nation enjoys the dubious
status of being a member of the Big Three, along with the USA and
Canada: countries with enormously high energy consumption and
greenhouse gas production whose governments seem inclined to do little.
So in this regard Australians are no better than Canadians-and I bet
it costs more to heat our houses.
All the best of the season to you, and may your major carbon dioxide
emissions come after a large dinner.
On Wed, 19 Dec 2007 10:12:50 -0500
Alan E Strong <Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov> wrote:
> This is, of course, a generational issue and sadly there are no
> "quick fixes" here...what anyone group/nation does over the next few
> years won't be realized in our reefs/globally for decades -- talk to
> an atmospheric chemist if you do not understand -- the experiment is
> underway unfortunately! All we can do is slow these trends down as
> we apply "the brakes"....and we must do all we can [afford]!! My
> fear is that we will tend to get even more skeptical in our
> impatience for the "quick fix."
> To be aware of the improvements we make along the way will take
> careful monitoring at key sites.
> We also must improve our management efforts to maximize recovery and
> keep those dire consequences of climate change as minimal as
> As per the Aussie shuttle issue to their marine science
> institution....they are way ahead of the curve already!
> These cars are NOT individual cars but car pools of filled cars...3-5
> persons per car that are maintained by the institute. If only the
> rest of us could either make more use of shuttle carpools,
> telecommuting, such as they have employed for years, we would all be
> better off....make more use of trains [rather than large
> Paul Muir said the following on 12/18/2007 11:35 PM:
> > What can scientists do? Perhaps a little more!
> > Here's an amusing example: a certain Australian marine science
> > institution (that shall remain nameless!) which issues dire
> > about the impacts of climate change. Situated approx 50km from the
> > where most of its staff live they use a fleet of around 50 large
> > government cars to make the return trip each day. Any suggestions
> > they would reduce greenhouse gases and costs by using a couple of
> > coaches instead are met with howls of protest and intricate
> > that suggest that it would somehow cost more!
> > _______________________________________________
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> **** <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* <>< ******* Alan E. Strong,
> NOAA Coral Reef Watch, Senior Consultant
> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
> NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
> e-mail: Alan.E.Strong at noaa.gov
> url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov
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