[Coral-List] THE FROG AND GRANDMA'S FRYING PAN RE: Public perceptions about climate change

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 28 12:31:45 EDT 2009

Dear Coral-Listers,there are more scientists alive today doing research, than the sum of all scientists that have ever lived in this planet. 
Imagine the power we could have if each and everyone of us speaks, as scientists, about global climate change. And we talk to EVERY PERSON we meet in our daily lives, regardless of what college degrees they have. 
What a formidable force!
Yet, in the most life-changing event of the combined history of our species, we, the scientists, fail. 
It is obvious that we are not doing enough. That the ivory tower does not work. I have commented on this issue in past Coral-list posting, and will not insist again at this point.
And now that I have ruffled some feathers, here is a little story I posted in Ecolog-List, I would like to share with you. 
>From my post in Ecolog-L
Our species is ill-prepared for radical environmental change, and we prefer to believe that nothing will ever change in our lives: we will always remain young, our partner will love us forever, and of course, there will be no global climate change. Even when evidence is strong (wrinkles, cheating, and yes... the ice is melting), we want to believe otherwise.Compounding to these facts of life, we face the virulent disease of shortening headlines in the media. So, in an effort to dumb-down the suspected complexities of science, words are cut, and simplifications are made. We arrive to aberrations such as "man descent from monkeys", when in fact the correct but word hungry statement is "humans and apes share common ancestry". 
Anthropogenic (=human-caused) global climate change manifests in (mostly) non linear, diverse processes. Meaning, we are slow to see the changes, the changes are many and apparently not connected, and once the change occurs, it is massive and catastrophic. Heating up the oceans takes time....To illustrate, I like to use the fable of the frog in grandma's frying pan. This fable is common in Hispanic culture, and I'm sure it comes from somewhere else. It was well illustrated in Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth" documentary. And I re-visit the fable here, with a slight modification.Consider a frog, inside grandma's frying pan. The pan is full of cold water and the frog is rather happy. Grandma has a PhD in Oceanography, and she decided to conduct an experiment to evaluate the effect of water's specific heat capacity in biological systems. To secure funding for her experiments, she wisely chose a rather simple title for her (now awarded) grant proposal: "How to boil a frog". In her hypothesis section, she explains that due to the heat capacity of water, frog boiling can be accomplished with minimal stress (for the frog that is), by immersing the frog in cold water, and slowly reaching the target of 100 C. As the experiment develops, the frog thinks it's getting warmer, but keeps thinking it can never get too warm, because maximum warming to the point of life-threatening status has never occurred in all her frog-years. Unlike Al Gore's film, no helpful hand rescues the frog. To her horror, and just before the water breaks into a boil, the unfortunate amphibian discovers only too late, how fast things change in a non-linear system.We are all frogs in a warming pan. Will someone please listen and put down the fire?Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.  http://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres 

> From: szmanta at uncw.edu
> To: jbruno at unc.edu; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2009 07:48:16 -0400
> CC: raronson at fit.edu
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change
> One more comment:  if our newspapers, TV and people in general spent 1/2 the space and/or time on science articles and study as they do on sports, we would be a different society...
> **********************************************
> Dr. Alina M. Szmant
> Professor of Marine Biology
> Coral Reef Research Program, Center for Marine Science
> University of North Carolina Wilmington
> 5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane
> Wilmington NC 28409
> Tel:  (910)962-2362; fax: (910)962-2410;  cell:  (910)200-3913
> http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
> **********************************************


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