[Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Fri Oct 30 03:00:09 EDT 2009

Thanks for the very interesting observations, Mark!!
    I work in American Samoa, which has a population of about 65,000 people. 
I've often heard it said that we are so small that anything we do will have 
no effect.  I've also heard it said that the small island nations that will 
suffer the most are the least to blame.
    After thinking about it, I realized that any group of 65,000 people 
anywhere in the world can say the same thing- oh we are so small that 
anything we do will have almost no effect.  Any other group of a small size 
can say the same thing, a city block in any big city or a small town or 
village in the countryside anywhere.
     If we all say that, we will not avoid some pretty nasty climate change. 
Kiss our reefs (as we know them)  goodby.  So we all have to do our part, no 
matter how small an island, village, or block in a city.  Let's get to work 
on it.
     (And 3 cheers for the priest giving a sermon on it in church!  Many 
people listen to their religious leaders.  That's a real leader.  Aren't we 
supposed to be good stewards, entrusted with the earth, to take good care of 
it for future generations?  We aren't doing very well.)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tupper, Mark (WorldFish)" <M.Tupper at CGIAR.ORG>
To: "Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu>; "John Bruno" <jbruno at unc.edu>; 
<coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Cc: "Richard B. Aronson" <raronson at fit.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 1:12 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

Dear All,

It's interesting that here in the Philippines, inhabitants of some of the 
smaller island provinces (e.g. Bohol, Camiguin, Calamianes Islands, etc.) 
generally believe strongly in climate change and sea level rise. Many of 
them claim that their waterfront properties have been altered already by 
rising sea level, and many fishermen also believe that increasing sea 
surface temperatures have changed migratory behavior of their target fish 
stocks, particularly yellowfin tuna. Of note is that these opinions 
generally belonged to people with 10 years or less of formal education and 
very little exposure to media coverage of climate change. One group I talked 
to in Camiguin said that the first time they heard it about global warming 
in a formal sense was when their priest gave a sermon about it in church. 
They further said that after hearing the sermon, they finally had a name and 
a cause for something they had known was happening for many years.

Unfortunately, as I sat there with them discussing the problems of carbon 
emission, which they blame on "city folk" in Manila, the USA, and China, 
piles of garbage outside every door in Camiguin were burning, causing a 
thick haze that made an otherwise fairly pristine island look like Los 
Angeles. When I asked them if 14,000 homes burning trash on a small island 
might be a bad idea, their response was yes it was bad for the air, but the 
island was too small to contribute to global climate change. So, they would 
continue to burn their trash until a proper garbage collection and disposal 
program was implemented, as they wanted their island to remain clean and 
litter-free. In this case, the issue is not about belief in climate change. 
It's just that climate change is "Somebody Else's Problem".


Dr. Mark Tupper
Scientist - Coral Reefs and Reef Fisheries
The WorldFish Center
Los Baños, Laguna, PHILIPPINES
Tel +632 580-5659 (2889) GMT +8
Mobile: +63 917-524-0864
Reducing poverty and hunger by improving fisheries and aquaculture.

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Szmant, Alina
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:44 PM
To: John Bruno; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Cc: Richard B. Aronson
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Public perceptions about climate change

In my opinion, we also have another broader question:  scientific illiteracy 
in the US.  That is one reason we have such an issue with the process of 
evolution, with the credibility about vacines, etc.  I heard a nurse on TV 
doubt the efficacy of the (any) flu vacine, and another person saying that 
the vacines were a product of the US government trying to control the 
people.  With that kind of general ignorance, and mistrust of everything 
government, climate change is just of many issues that the American public 
has difficulty understanding.  In my opinion, we are doomed...

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

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