[Coral-List] Sarcasm, disagreements, etc.

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 5 12:29:11 EST 2010


It looks like you are about to come to terms by re-examining the scope, magnitude
and role of the Coral-List. In doing so, perhaps you will end up redefining it's essence.
Numerous comments reveal a polarized list membership whose opposing perspectives resemble
the ideological divide that characterizes our populace at large. That is understandable
since many studies have revealed that attitudes towards issues we've examined 
(like climate change and offshore oil exploration) often fall along ideological lines.

It appears that some listers want the list to limit it's function and avoid topics
that might lead to contentious debate. Still others (me, among them) find value 
within these exchanges. Perhaps you are getting a glimpse of the difficulties involved
in governing under today's political realities. It is not an enviable task and I imagine
your decision will require much introspection.

I would simply suggest that you consider measuring your response by considering Coral
List's constitutional format. The list seems to define itself through a concise and
comprehensive mission statement. "The purpose of the Coral-List listserver is to provide
a forum for Internet discussions and announcements pertaining to coral reef ecosystem
research, conservation, and education. The list is primarily for use by coral reef 
ecosystem researchers, scientists and educators, but is of course open to everybody."
Included among the list of "appropriate" coral reef ecosystem related subjects for
discussion are "climate change" and "controversial topics in reef ecology".

My interpretation of the above described design of the Coral-List would assume that it 
would in fact encourage what some critics have described as digressions or useless 
excursions off topic. (How myopic does one have to be to describe climate change or oil
spills as unrelated to coral reef ecology?) But why are these discussions beyond the
mundane considered problematic? I can point to a number of such exchanges that have proven 
to be informative, educational and enlightening. I have certainly learned much through 
the observable interplay of the scientific community that helps me to better understand 
the impediments to what I see as vital and necessary policy shifts on a myriad of critical
issues affecting our marine ecosystems.

It is in this light that I hope you will resist the impulse to curtail an important function 
of the list and keep it's spirit broad and inclusive.


Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society
that is incapable of exercising real discretion.--Henry Steele Commager 


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