[Coral-List] So what is the wider value of the list?

Julian @ Reefcheck Malaysia julian at reefcheck.org.my
Mon Dec 6 11:56:17 EST 2010

Dear Jim

>From a non-coral reef scientist but interested observer (I recall someone
recently suggested we should include our...ah...affiliations...up-front....)

As a relative newcomer to the List, I have found the recent "vigorous"
exchange of ideas by turns informative, educational, belittling,
enlightening, time consuming, frustrating, irrelevant and...thought
provoking. And I feel strongly about it. So if you real scientists find us
non-scientists a burden, I apologise, but please bear with us.

I don't doubt, Jim, that you devote what you perhaps think a
disproportionate amount of time to monitoring this list. But I say: long may
it continue! (and maybe get some help...)

As the General Manager (whatever that means) of Reef Check Malaysia, I now
find myself working with: the Department of Marine Parks; State governments;
resort and dive operators in coral reef areas; corporate sponsors;
academics...and others. What brings us together? Coral reefs. What separates
us? Coral reefs!

Here is an example. For the last several months I have been involved in an
on-going debate with a coral reef scientist at a local university (name
withheld to spare blushes). The topic? Science vs Management. He wants to do
science; I now understand that. I need solutions in real time in the real
world. He now understands that. Having reached that understanding, NOW we
can work together to bridge that gap. Tedious? Time consuming? YES. Worth
the time? Darn right.

Together we have recently embarked on a small scale reef rehabilitation
project. His goal? Scientific paper on methods, results, etc., with a view
to replicating the project in other suitable areas. Mine? Tourism product
and community education exercise...and replicate the project in other
suitable areas. 

Mutually exclusive? Hell no. It's really exciting!

To the average person, "Science" seems to take a long time; local
communities want answers now. Nonetheless, we have been slowly reaching an
understanding, he and I. And it is partly informed by the debates I see on
the coral list. Does the GOM oil spill concern us in Malaysia? Directly, of
course not. BUT...what about what people are saying about the precision of
the science involved in detecting impacts; what is resilience...how do we
measure impacts in different ecosystems at different distances...and should
we, as people interested in conserving coral reefs, get political???

What coral list does for me is to bridge a gap and give me tools and
information to balance the various pressures from - and on - the various
stakeholders I deal with. The Marine Parks Department wants scientific
answers that don't exist. The scientists want to do more research. The
resort operators want to know what they do with dying coral reefs and
declining reef fish populations.

I feel strongly that if we don't debate these issues, and let people see
what ELSE is going on behind the science, then we will lose an important
link between the "users" and the scientists.

Maybe the world has changed in the last few years. Maybe it was only
recently that we started to recognise we have a problem big enough for
laypeople like me to want to start to talk to scientists and find some
solutions. Maybe we feel we have something to offer. Maybe that is another
change we need to get used to. 

Not a scientific argument, I know. But sometimes stuff ain't.

Julian Hyde
General Manager
Reef Check Malaysia Bhd
03 2161 5948
Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rcmalaysia

"The bottom line of the Millenium Asessment findings is that human actions
are depleting Earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the
environment that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future
generations can no longer be taken for granted."

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Jim Hendee
Sent: Monday, 6 December, 2010 10:44 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Sarcasm, disagreements, etc.

I take notice and a tiny bit of umbrage at your epigrammatic quote. 
"Censorship always defeats...etc."  Nobody said anything about
censorship as it relates to "sensitive" topics.  My concern is drifting
"off topic" and personal barbs.  Everybody knows that in nature
everything is connected to everything, but this is a "coral" list, not a
coral/politics/nasty-gram/engineering/peripheral-issues list.  I hope
everybody agrees that I've tried to let this be as free-wheeling as
possible...up to a point.  Defining that point is necessarily arbitrary
when one guy makes the decision, but I feel like I try to be
open-minded.  I also have to follow the NOAA, Dept. Commerce, and U.S.G.
guidelines, too.  Common courtesy should be part of these discussions, too.

However, to be more even-handed, I have asked to have others (within
NOAA) occasionally moderate this list, but no takers.  I wonder why...

On 12/5/10 12:29 PM, Steve Mussman wrote:
> Jim,
> It looks like you are about to come to terms by re-examining the scope,
> and role of the Coral-List. In doing so, perhaps you will end up
redefining it's essence.
> Numerous comments reveal a polarized list membership whose opposing
perspectives resemble
> the ideological divide that characterizes our populace at large. That is
> since many studies have revealed that attitudes towards issues we've
> (like climate change and offshore oil exploration) often fall along
ideological lines.
> It appears that some listers want the list to limit it's function and
avoid topics
> that might lead to contentious debate. Still others (me, among them) find
> within these exchanges. Perhaps you are getting a glimpse of the
difficulties involved
> in governing under today's political realities. It is not an enviable task
and I imagine
> your decision will require much introspection.
> I would simply suggest that you consider measuring your response by
considering Coral
> List's constitutional format. The list seems to define itself through a
concise and
> comprehensive mission statement. "The purpose of the Coral-List listserver
is to provide
> a forum for Internet discussions and announcements pertaining to coral
reef ecosystem
> research, conservation, and education. The list is primarily for use by
coral reef 
> ecosystem researchers, scientists and educators, but is of course open to
> Included among the list of "appropriate" coral reef ecosystem related
subjects for
> discussion are "climate change" and "controversial topics in reef
> My interpretation of the above described design of the Coral-List would
assume that it 
> would in fact encourage what some critics have described as digressions or
> excursions off topic. (How myopic does one have to be to describe climate
change or oil
> spills as unrelated to coral reef ecology?) But why are these discussions
beyond the
> mundane considered problematic? I can point to a number of such exchanges
that have proven 
> to be informative, educational and enlightening. I have certainly learned
much through 
> the observable interplay of the scientific community that helps me to
better understand 
> the impediments to what I see as vital and necessary policy shifts on a
myriad of critical
> issues affecting our marine ecosystems.
> It is in this light that I hope you will resist the impulse to curtail an
important function 
> of the list and keep it's spirit broad and inclusive.
>   Steve
> Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the
kind of society
> that is incapable of exercising real discretion.--Henry Steele Commager 
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