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

Michael Borger michaelborger at gmail.com
Wed Mar 8 10:48:34 EST 2006


You bring up an interesting point.  It would be great for the scientists of
the world to be able to successfully convey the deeply-rooted feelings of
passion and urgency of their fields to the general public instead of letting
the message get watered down through communication channels.  However, it is
a fine line that has to be walked between scientist and advocate.  When a
scientist starts 'preaching policy' or actively advocating certain actions,
especially contentious ones, s/he risks a hit to their credibility and may
no longer be seen as independetly objective.  What's at risk, then, is the
public TRUST in the truth behind the scientific conclusions.  The public is
therefore more likely to CHOOSE whether or how much to believe the
conclusions and, therefore, whether to take any action of their own to help
combat them.  Contrast that with the generally universal acceptance by the
public of strictly independent and objective scientific observations without
policy/action recommendations attached.

My point is not that one should or shouldn't take a stand on timely,
important issues such as reef conservation.  If anything, I would say that
times have indeed reached the point where the risk to credibility is one
worth taking, almost necessarily.  I would love nothing more than to see the
sense of urgency shared between scientists, students and the general public
in order to foster better and more widespread responsible natural resource
use.  I'm merely saying that the METHOD by which it's conveyed is a delicate
decision and extremely important in order to maintain trust and credibility.

Perhaps more funding/opportunities and encouragement for educators to take
part in situ in worldwide research between school years would reduce the
'watering down of the message' and bring their students closer to the issues
at hand.  Or other projects like the JASON project by Dr. Ballard that
attempt, in a different way, to do the same thing.

Michael Borger

On 3/5/06, Silvia Pinca <milviapin at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Mark,
> 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?
> cheers
> silvia
> 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
> 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?
> Cheers,
> Mark
> 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
> and
> 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
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> Silvia Pinca, Ph.D.
> NRAS - Marshall Islands
> Nature Resources Assessment Surveys
> Research and Education for Conservation
> spinca at nras-conservation.org
> www.nras-conservation.org
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