[Coral-List] vehicle emissions, lifestyle changes and global warming

Silvia Pinca milviapin at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 5 19:58:01 EST 2006

  I think the real trick is, as you put it:
  "how do we change the mindset of an entire nation ( but dont' think U.S. is the ONLY one! suvs are getting popular in Europe as well) from one of spending all their disposable income on unnecessary luxuries to one of moderation and conservation?"
  Is this the job of scientists or of educators? Can scientists become educators of the layman since they are the ones who feels and SEE how HOT the problem really is? I think that once we pass the ball to educators (after having done all our measurements and experiements and written the reports) the passion and urgency gets lost or consumed and the message looses its power and efficiency. I think that scientists could get more involved in finding the most effective ways to change people mind set from the selfish, commodity-oriented, careless being one to a global (or at least generational) concerned one. Can we - or some of us - research on how to deliver the important message, how to spread it, how to sensibilize other human beings with the same urgency and dedication as the one spent in finding the chemical reactions in coral bleaching?

Mark Tupper <mtupper at picrc.org> wrote:
  Hi listers,

I think James, Jeff and Alina are right on the money when they talk about 
vehicle emissions and today's "bigger is better" SUV mindset. I doubt that 
the public has any realization of the degree to which vehicle emissions 
contribute to greenhouse gases. A quote from the California Cars Initiative: 
"In California, transportation accounts for over 40% of greenhouse gas 
emissions. Nationally the number is around 33%. Globally it's 20% and rising 
fast, especially as car-starved China, India and Russia add to their 
fleets." So, if we can agree that global warming and climate change are 
adversely affecting coral reefs, then vehicle emissions are one of the major 
culprits. But have governments or the auto industry made any attempt to 
educate the public on this issue? If so, I must have missed it...

This is one of the most challenging problems our environment faces, given 
the long history of our deep-rooted "car culture" lifestyle in North 
America. It's amazing to me that with sky-high gas prices unlikely to change 
while there is continuing war in the Middle East, people still want to buy 
the biggest, most expensive SUV they can. For example, in the last decade, 
Hummer went from a cottage industry aimed at producing exclusive (and 
enormous) vehicles for celebrities, to a major automaker producing over 
100,000 SUVs per year. And as Jeff said, how many of those are ever taken 
off-road? And while DaimlerChrysler has been touting their advances in PHEV 
technology (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can get 100+ mpg), they 
were busy reviving the 425 horsepower Hemi engine and stuffing it into 
4-door family sedans, and then developing a 500 horsepower V-10 for their 
SUVs and pickup trucks. Do soccer moms really need to go 0-60 in under 5 
seconds and cruise the highway at over 170 mph, which just 10 years ago 
could only be done with a $200,000 exotic sports car? No. It would be 
illegal anyway. Has DaimlerChrysler sold any mass-produced PHEVs yet? No. 
Why not? Because hybrids are for nerdy enviro-geeks like us. Nobody else 
would pay the premium price charged for them when they could get a "real" 
car for less. In North America's car culture, big and powerful is sexy; 
small and efficient is lame.

Sorry if this post seems too much about vehicles and not enough about coral 
reefs, but I'm trying to address one of the root causes of coral reef 
decline. We might say that greenhouse gases and resulting thermal stress are 
a root cause of decline but they aren't the ultimate cause. They are a 
symptom generated by human activities - a symptom that happens to trigger 
its own set of secondary symptoms, including coral bleaching and disease. In 
addressing the ultimate cause, the question is, how do we change the mindset 
of an entire nation from one of spending all their disposable income on 
unnecessary luxuries to one of moderation and conservation?


Dr. Mark H Tupper, Senior Scientist
Palau International Coral Reef Center
PO Box 7086, Koror, Palau 96940
tel (680) 488-6950; fax (680) 488-6951


Adjunct Research Associate
University of Guam Marine Laboratory
UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam 96923, USA
tel (671) 735-2375; fax (671) 734-6767 

Coral-List mailing list
Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

Silvia Pinca, Ph.D. 
NRAS - Marshall Islands 
Nature Resources Assessment Surveys 
Research and Education for Conservation 
spinca at nras-conservation.org 

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