[Coral-List] Coral reefs on TV; great!...the message wrong!. (Camilo Mora)

fretwelc at nova.edu fretwelc at nova.edu
Fri Jun 20 18:55:07 EDT 2008

   Tuesday evening at ICRS there are many options for attendees. In a  
perfect world, I would hope that more of our colleagues who do have  
the scientific background and do understand the complex network of  
disciplines that we blithefully refer to as "coral reef science" would  
invest a couple of hours of their professional lives from 6:15 to 9  
p.m. Tuesday to participate in SeaWeb's interactive discussion/debate  
between journalists and scientists (followed by hors d'oevres and  
drinks!). It could be an important first step - for both sides.

   *  So many scientists either don't feel any responsibility to talk  
to the media, or worse yet, feel that they were "burned" when they  
did, so now refuse to chance a repeat.

   *  As hot topics come up, reporters need dependable sources, and  
one on each side of a story.  Many journalists might not understand  
why a scientist is unhappy with the final piece.

   *  Scientists know how inexact coral reef science is; it is likely  
that we don't know as much as we have yet to learn. Details make it  
possible to specify and interpret what we know in terms of what we  

   * Reporters need to be brief and be able to simplify their story so  
the public can process and use the information.

   * Scientists are sometimes surprised when policy or funding  
agencies seem to be following outdated knowledge, as new work is  
either being written or under review.

   Possible solution: earnest and honest communication between  
journalists and scientists. In this age of swift electronic  
communications, the longer this is postponed, the further behind our  
civil society's knowledge becomes, and the deeper the crisis for our  
coral reefs.

   Any new idea bears repeating, over and over and over again, until  
it is acknowledged, understood, believed, and accepted. That's not one  
hearing in Capitol Hill. That's not just one story in Science or  
Nature. That's many, many stories on TV, newspapers, radio, magazines,  
blogs, and other of the constantly expanding social networking media.  
That's when it becomes so ingrained in society that medical series on  
TV are replaced by series taking place in marine labs; where films  
don't take place on Wall Street, but in marine preserves.

   I hope you can help raise this kind of awareness. Please help make  
it happen. Start by participating in the special session Tuesday  

   On behalf of the future, thank you!


   Carol Fretwell

   NEW email: fretwellc at bellsouth.net[1]

   ----- Original Message ----- From: "Camilo Mora"  
<moracamilo at walla.com[2]>To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov[3]>Sent:  
Thursday, June 19, 2008 8:12 PMSubject: [Coral-List] Coral reefs on  
TV; great!...the message wrong!. (Camilo Mora)

   Few will disagree on the importance of broadcasting a SCIENTIFIC  
coral reef symposium. However, I wonder what do we expect with that?.  
Do we expect the general public to assist to the meeting? Do we want  
them to be aware of the meeting and if so what is the importance of  
that?. I doubt a person from the general public will pay over $500  
dollars to assists a series of presentations that only have meaning to  
the presenter and few others in the auditorium studying that  
particular topic. And I certainly doubt that this may come out as a  
topic of  conversation in a family or friends reunion. Hey Dad there  
is a coral reef meeting in Florida. Uhhh... that is great  
son....????do you picture this conversation?

   I prefer to think that we want people to be aware of coral reefs,  
and not surprise you see nice video clicks about how diverse, pretty  
and cool coral reefs are . However, as a scientific community we have  
to go beyond that. Letting people know about coral reefs is an  
overrated task. "Finding Nemo" probably makes a hell of a favor in  
that regards already (Although it will be interesting to see if there  
was an increase in the international demand of clown fish.....).

   Now being serious...future broadcasts (whatever way they take: TV,  
press, radio, etc) really have to start saying how bad things are in  
coral reefs and we have to start getting people thinking about how the  
little things they do really matter when one add them 6.5  
billion times (i.e. the estimated size of the human population today).  
I know people may change the channel when they hear a negative message  
but we have to keep repeating the message until they hear. If a person  
has cancer you can not really tell him how pretty the world is. What  
you really have to do is to say how bad it is, how bad it can get, and  
what has to be done about it. If the person opts not to hear, well it  
will be up him to die of cancer, but at least you know you did your  
part. Repeating a negative and dramatic message was the strategy taken  
by scientists dealing with climate change, and see where they are now.  
Even presidential nominees include climate change as one of their main  

   It will be up to us delivering a message that will make a  
difference. We have to move beyond saying that coral reefs are pretty  
to saying that they will not be there tomorrow if we do not do  
something today.


   Camilo Mora, Ph.D. 

   SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography

   University of California San Diego

   San Diego, USA

   Phone: (858) 822 1642


   Department of Biology

   Dalhouisie University

   Halifax, Canada

   Phone: (902) 494 3910

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