[Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

John Bruno jbruno at unc.edu
Wed Oct 28 11:07:22 EDT 2009

Curtis, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.  You  
clearly have some pent up distain for scientists.

I frequently see and hear such general loathing of science and  
scientists from skeptics and the public in general.  More evidence of  
the success of the well-documeted "Republican war on science".

I don't see any pedestals from where I am sitting (in a grungy coffee  
shop).  Cross-collaboration, fund-sharing and mutual respect and  
bidirectional information flow are the norm in coral reef science, at  
least in my experience.   Perhaps you didn't attend the last ICRS, but  
all that and much more was beyond obvious.  I, just for example, just  
co-wrote a proposal to do very applied reef fisheries ecology with Mel  
(and we are collaborating on a variety of MPA-related projects in  
Belize), co-authored a paper with two colleagues from TNC, another  
with colleagues at NOAA and AIMS, and just submitted another proposal  
spearheaded by WCS.   I can barely keep tract of all my NGO, federal  
agency and academic collaborators around the world. Maybe this isn't  
the way things always were in the field, but now, we are in large  
part, working in a pretty coordinated way.

Even if you were right, I don't see how the recently documented shift  
in public opinion about AGW could be attributable to a failure to  
"share funding" (as if there is so much sloshing around...), work  
together, etc.


> John - Seems it's going to be a long hard fall from that big high  
> pedestal
> that scientists, researchers, and academic types have placed  
> themselves on
> in recent years.  Instead of embracing advocates and conservationists,
> sharing funding, and working together to solve resource problems of  
> mutual
> concern, the disdain from "above" has been obvious and a huge  
> roadblock to
> reacting quickly to major issues. And this disdain will now be a  
> roadblock
> to pushing government to implement new and aggressive site-specific
> management initiatives to take up the slack during this critical  
> period when
> new stressors and impacts are overwhelming natural systems.
> Good luck.
> Curtis Kruer
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of John  
> Bruno
> Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 5:18 AM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Melanie McField
> Cc: Richard B. Aronson
> Subject: [Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change
> Thank you Mel.  I really like your ideas about communicating threats
> to reefs.
> But I think the ISRS may in fact be precisely an advocacy
> organization.  The first objective of the ISRS constitution is:
> "Promoting the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge
> and understanding of coral reefs", i.e., the purpose of the society is
> to advocate for (as in disseminate) our science.  There is no
> professional, ethical or practical reason to be shy about
> communicating our science, what we know about coral reefs, to the
> public.  And I think this includes direct communications to
> individuals and other organizations that get the facts about coral
> reefs and climate change wrong.
> We cannot rely on environmental advocacy NGOs to communicate the
> science of coral reefs, particularly at high administrative levels and
> in the international media because in most cases they lack the
> scientific credibility and expertise.
> ---
> "As one who lives 'on the fence' between science and advocacy, I can
> say it is a precarious position, but one we as a society (ISRS) are
> trying to carefully navigate."
> What environmental scientist doesn't live "on the fence" between
> science and advocacy?  Or maybe more accurately; does such a fence or
> delineation even exist?  Communicating what we know about our subject
> is part of the job of any scientist, not an optional side-project.
> Communicating the results of ones findings is a fundamental component
> of science (or as my friend Sal Genovese likes to say, "if you don't
> publish it, it isn't science").  Personally, I don't find explaining
> science, i.e., educating people, at all precarious.  Even as an
> academic scientists this, i.e., advocacy, is literally part of my job
> description.
> Don Strong, the renowned ecologist and editor of Ecology, recently
> published an essay on the role of scientists and scientific societies
> in  environmental advocacy or "environmentalism" (Strong 2008-email me
> if you want a PDF of this):
> "Whereas ecology is science and environmentalism sometimes is and
> sometimes isn't, the latter is necessary for the former. We ecologists
> have the same relationship to the subject of our studies as do art
> historians and archeologists to theirs. There is no opprobrium upon
> artists and archeologists advocating for the preservation of art and
> antiquities. Protection of the environment – environmentalism – is
> advocacy of what we study. Why should we not advocate for protection
> of the environment in our professional capacity?...The negative
> branding of environmentalism comes from groups that are part and
> parcel of the notorious war on science. They are dedicated to denying
> the environmental degradation that ecologists are documenting every
> day. Some of the most prominent of these groups are discussed by
> Jaques et al. in a review entitled, The organization of denial:
> conservative think tanks and environmental skepticism (Environ Pol
> 2008; 17: 349–85). The authors document the concerted anti-
> environmentalism and complete disregard of these groups for anything
> connected with the environment. Jaques et al. describe the substantial
> financial backing, broad reach, and scores of authors that have been
> encouraged to spread disinformation regarding scientific findings –
> particularly about global warming – by conservative think tanks. The
> authors argue that these powerful entities seek to interfere with the
> scientific communication that is the basis of society's understanding
> of environmental issues."
> Donald R Strong (2008) Ecologists and environmentalism. Frontiers in
> Ecology and the Environment: Vol. 6, No. 7, pp. 347-347.
> doi: 10.1890/1540-9295(2008)6[347:EAE]2.0.CO;2
> In regard to our media outreach concurrent with the 2008 ICRS, I
> agree; with the help of SeaWed and others the society did a splendid
> job.  But that was nearly 18 months ago.  This debate is moving too
> fast for us to only jump in every four years.
> I guess what I am thinking about is a more focused effort on the major
> sources of disinformation; print media, cable news, talk radio, etc.
> relating specifically to climate change.  The weakness of some of the
> outreach efforts during the last international Year Of The Reef and
> the last ICRS was that far too many problems were being communicated
> simultaneously.  I realize there are countless threats to reefs.  But
> most of these are not being contested in a coordinated way.  We are
> not hearing widespread denial about overfishing, coastal development,
> nutrient pollution, etc in the media in the way that the public is
> being misinformed about climate change when they are told it isn't
> happening.  In fact, some big oil-funded think tanks such as
> CO2Science are making the case that reef loss and even bleaching are
> caused solely by runoff/water quality
> (http://www.co2science.org/subject/c/bleachinggeneral.php
> ), disease (http://www.co2science.org/subject/c/bleachingdisease.php),
> etc and not by temperature per se
> (http://www.co2science.org/subject/c/bleachingtemp.php
> ).  And see their screeds against the science of coral reefs and
> climate change here:  http://www.co2science.org/subject/c/calcification.php
> Again, to be clear, I am not criticizing the ISRS or its officers-I
> think both are wonderful!  Nor am I suggesting we/it aren't doing
> anything.  So there isn't cause for anyone to get defense about this.
> I am only suggesting some additional actions we, or more precisely the
> Society or at least it's elected officials, might take on our behalf.
> Sincerely, John
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