[Coral-List] "sarcasm, endless disagreements, personal attacks..."

RainbowWarriorsInternational southern_caribbean at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 13 21:32:11 EST 2010

The bottom-up approach is not equivalent to socialism, and neither is "think globally act locally".

The latter was borrowed from the environmental movement which is labeled "leftist", and thus socialist. And the bottom-up approach is seen as threatening to the basic tenets of unbridled capitalism, hence same labeling.

Accountability is the key word here, EIAs serve to prevent environmental damage, if they are not used, accountability becomes an inevitable issue when environmental damage is concerned. Same goes for crashing the financial markets in 2008 or the recent Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, or the toxic waste spill in Hungary.

Neither democratic countries using a rule of law system based on the trias politica or socialist countries which have additional powers such as the "civilian power' or "moral power" defined in their constitutions, seem to be able to capture this bottom-up approach adequately.

And religion, although a good moral compass at best cannot ever match good science in combination with common sense and hard learned experience, whether at the local or global level.

And we may draw inspiration and hope from the fact that in the recently finished climate change talks in Cancun, the rise in influence of small island developing states like Kiribati, the president of which island state was given the floor by the UNFCCC itself during an important event, was seen as indicative of a change in "best practice" principles usage.

Kiribati organized the Tarawa Climate Change Conference beginning of November 2010, where a Ambo Declaration was defined, which is full of typical Pacific islander language reflecting this bottom-up approach.

Somehow this bottom-up approach is making inroads, and for now it is not being labeled leftist or rightist but tacitly being equated to this hard science coupled to common sense and hard learned experience approach.

It took some Pacific island nations dishing out marine science issues (sea level rise, marine resources depletion, ecosystem services disruption etc.) to hit home.

The Ecosystem Based Management of MPAs "meets" local sustainable fishing and harvesting of terrestrial and marine resources with a dollop of stakeholder participation and conflict-resolution procedures is what we need to look at.

In this context both the comments made about engineers and scientists and locals by Sabatini and Risk make sense.

It gives new meaning to (1) the old adage "small is beautiful" (small scale, narrow focus), and also to (2) changing the world in small steps.

Because overcoming resistance to change and doing good science are both about the same two things (1 and 2).

Milton Ponson, President
Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation
(Rainbow Warriors International) Tel. +297 568 5908
PO Box 1154, Oranjestad 
Aruba, Dutch Caribbean 
Email: southern_caribbean at yahoo.com    http://www.rainbowwarriors.net

To unite humanity in a global society dedicated to a sustainable way of life

--- On Mon, 12/13/10, Gino Sabatini <ginosabatini at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Gino Sabatini <ginosabatini at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] "sarcasm, endless disagreements, personal attacks...."
To: "Michael Risk" <riskmj at mcmaster.ca>, "Jim Hendee" <jim.hendee at noaa.gov>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Date: Monday, December 13, 2010, 8:30 AM

I’ve just returned from an 18 month stay in Riyadh. My first time in Saudi was 
between 2001-04. I’ve also briefly worked in Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi… I 
haven`t worked in Iran... yet!  My experience in that part of the world is that 
most regulatory agencies, even on a good day, are simply incompetent, and env 
awareness is quasi non-existent.  In fact in Saudi Arabia, Aramco (the largest 
oil company in the world, and now also tasked by the Saudi gov to manage many 
other construction developments) is not held to submit their EIAs to any of the 
regulatory agencies… if I state the reason here, it might be very insulting to 
many.   In fact, from living & working in that region I`ve found those societies 
to be very similar to American society in that both are religious, rich, and by 
and large, ignorant. 

I don’t think religion, or scientific hard-headedness, has anything to do with 
trying to arrive at any consensus on the env degradation societies are causing 
(which I believe is what your posting is really about) ; scientist are having 
trouble elucidating  the ‘degree’ of env degradation society is causing.  I 
agree sometimes it’s so exhausting, I prefer working with engineers; as a 
consultant I generally like their yes/no attitude toward env issues.
I much more appreciate (and prefer) the way Jared Diamond presents a potential 
solution for societal awareness of env degradation in his seminal book 
`Collapse` (2005).  In that book Diamond clearly shows how env degradation 
played an important trigger in the disappearance of many cultures/societies such 
as those of Easter Island, the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, Anasazi, the Vikings of 
Greenland, etc.  He argues that those cultures  that have survived (in the South 
Pacific Islands for example, and coincidentally or not he uses ecologic 
vocabulary) have done so because they adopted and practice, knowingly or not, a 
“bottom-up” governing approach, rather than a “top-down” approach as is the case 
in our societies.  Our cities or countries however might be too large to 
effectively permit a bottom-up approach, however it has been shown (Birkeland, 
2007) that within small-scale communities we are capable of cooperation and 
protecting natural resources.   On a larger scale, Jameson (2008) suggests “Our 
every day experience in the United States (and in many other countries) informs 
us that the state of our governance, where wealthy business and special 
interests use campaign financing, lobbying, and media control to manipulate 
government policy and public perceptions is not a viable system for conserving 
coral reefs or for sustainable living because it is predicated on the fact that; 
He who owns the political trump card wins (i.e., gets the corporate tax break, 
the favourable legislation, the permit to pollute, or the favourable blind eye). 
 It is a great system for creating corporate profit and socializing expense at 
global cost, but it does not produce clean air and water in natural environments 
or enhance biodiversity.  Growing marine dead zones at the mouths of our major 
rivers are just one big indication of the failure of the best system of 
government money can buy under which we operate in the United States.”  
Indeed, Diamond also points out that lack of accountability by ‘those in charge’ 
and the privatization of profit, while socializing losses (he uses the mining 
industry in Montana as poster-boy example), is one of the major causes why env 
degradation is allowed to continue.  

There is much to be said about the ‘think globally, act locally” dictum… i.e. 
Bottom-up government. But this unfortunately is seen by many as that great 
taboo… socialism.   

Gino Sabatini
Marine Science Consultant
Montreal, Canada.
Birkeland, C (2007). Pacific islanders' awareness of responsibility. 
Reef Encounter 34: 34-35

Jameson, SC (2008). Reefs in trouble the real root cause.
Marine Pollution Bulletin 56(9):1513-1514

From: Michael Risk <riskmj at mcmaster.ca>
To: Jim Hendee <jim.hendee at noaa.gov>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Fri, December 10, 2010 9:46:32 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] "sarcasm, endless disagreements, personal attacks...."

Hi Jim, fellow coral-listers.

I have just returned from a coastal conference in Iran, from which I watched the 
postings to coral-list with falling spirits and rising gorge. A couple of events 
in Iran serve as microcosms which reinforce my belief that the coral reef 
community will not be able to gather itself together in time to be effective in 
preventing the extinction of our chosen ecosystem.

Conferences in Iran begin and end with poetry readings, usually from Persia’s 
glorious history. At this conference, Mohamad Reza Shokri (ex-UBC) presented the 
results of transplantation of more than 4,000 coral colonies in Chabahar Bay.

I had been to Chabahar four years previous, and had noted the presence of corals 
there that were progressively being buried by sediment from development 
activities. I naively said (little did I know!), well boys, those corals will 
die-if you don’t get them out of here.

A team from a local university, with a very small budget, went in a year later. 
They were able to achieve success rates of >90% survival two years after. They 
transplanted Porites colonies up to 3m diameter. That is not a typo-3m.

There are a number of complex reasons why this sort of activity is not more 
general in the “developed” world, but one of these is the role of religion. 
Islam teaches that there is no firm dividing line between the individual and the 
environment, and that it is the God-given/Allah-mandated responsibility of each 
individual to care for and respect their surroundings.

In the West, the religious right has forgotten that the root of “conservative” 
is “conserve.” Those who wish to be guided by the Bible would do well to 
remember there is a critical mis-translation in the Aramaic-to-Hebrew-to English 
process. In the first chapter of Genesis, we are not given “dominion over” but 
“custody of.” Makes a big difference.

The second example comes from a case the previous year. Iran wanted to develop 
the world’s largest gas field, the Pars Field, offshore in the Persian Gulf. 
They negotiated a huge loan from the EU, one of the conditions of which was an 
environmental protection clause. Baseline surveys were done and an EIA approved.

In due course the Iranians set about developing this field, drilling, laying 
pipelines, etc. After a year or so a European delegation visited-and it all hit 
the fan. The Iranians had laid pipelines across coral reefs, and were dredging, 
creating vast plumes of sediment. The EU held up the funding, development 
stopped, both sides sat around glaring at each other.

I was brought in to mediate the dispute, which was an unfamiliar role for me. 
The Iranians pointed out, quite rightly, that the initial baseline surveys had 
completely missed those inshore reefs (hard to believe-there are km of them) so 
how were they to know? We agreed that the corals already sent to coral heaven by 
pipelines and dredging were gone forever, so we concentrated on protecting those 
that were left. The major threat was sediment stress. I wrote up a set of 
recommendations, which were agreed to by both sides within a matter of a few 

I said, SPM values should at no time exceed 10 mg/l. A calibration curve was 
worked out between SPM and NTU’s (one of the MANY reasons NTU’s need to be 
abandoned is the need for site-specific correlations). Every day, an independent 
contractor goes out in a small boat and takes water samples. If the values 
exceed 10mg/l, all operations shut down until the water clears.

I have NEVER heard of a similar arrangement in the West. The arrangement I 
suggested for the Gulf would never have been accepted-I can hear the howls from 
my colleagues right now:

-you didn’t use my method/instrument/brother-in-law.

-why 10? Why not 20? Let’s do a study.

-every reef is different.

-It’s not sediment, it’s grazing.

-we need more work on the subject-let’s form a committee and write a Mission 

So this would never have worked in the West because of bureaucratic inertia and 
the competing clamour of voices of “experts.”

CIDA is Canada’s foreign development agency. They employ about 1500 people in 
Ottawa, and hand out $zillions. Of those 1500 employees, there is NOT ONE 
scientist or engineer. I asked a CIDA maven some years ago why this was the 
case, and his answer is illustrative:

“We used to have several scientists. Every time we asked two of them for an 
answer, we got three answers. They could never agree.”

The culture we have created inculcates in us the desire to challenge. The reward 
system encourages us to publish “new” stuff, which means that there is no 
scientific endeavour so littered with the debris of re-invented wheels as coral 
reef science. (How many different coral reef monitoring schemes are out there? 
The basic process was outlined in 1972.) We are culturally unable to agree, and 
to coalesce behind and support simple concepts. Perhaps it is time for me to 
rest my case…


Dr. Michael J Risk
Professor of Biology and Geology

On 2010-12-01, at 8:44 AM, Jim Hendee wrote:

> I usually don't forward messages, rather encourage direct submission,
> but this one is special.
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject:     Re: [Coral-List] More La Ninia
> Date:     Wed, 01 Dec 2010 08:13:09 -0500
> From:     
> To:     Jim Hendee <Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov>
> Good morning Jim, I assume you are the editor/manager of the list?  I am 
>writing to you directly, not the list.  I am a coastal engineer, also subscriber 
>to the coastal list sponsored by UDEL.  Earlier this year, I joined coral list, 
>as I have become more involved in artificial reef design, am working more 
>closely with marine biologists...Basically I joined coral list hoping to gain 
>insight/knowledge, and to experience the same type benefits demonstrated by the 
>coastal list.
> What a stark contrast between the two lists.  Where the coastal list provides 
>single threaded, concise announcements/responses, such as information on 
>upcoming events, data, employment opps/resumes, projects, research (is there a 
>paper or research on xyz, if so please share info on subject, etc.), it is not 
>an open forum for sarcasm, endless disagreements, personal attacks, belittling 
>others, questioning their knowledge or lack thereof, questioning the motives of 
>the US Govt in the aftermath of the oil spill, etc....
> My experience with the coral list, unfortunately, has been deeply disappointing 
>and inadvertantly humorous, but in a pitiful way, only a handful of the 20+ 
>daily posts (which I assume are edited for content/appropriateness?) are 
>actually informative (from my perspective).  As an engineer (believe it or not, 
>some of us coastal engineers are also lumped into the tree hugger category), it 
>is precisely this type of preconceived behavior/reputation among environmental 
>professionals that discourages and actually frightens other professionals within 
>the coastal industry of possible project derailment and delays. 
> I sincerely hope you will consider re-evaluating the purpose and functions of 
>the list, and encourage those who disagree/insult repeatedly to take it up 
>between themselves, off list..  Unless the purpose of the list is in fact this 
>sort of thing (ongoing debates), then I will remove myself from the coral debate 
>list, as I have gained very little insight, a few chuckles, and mostly junk 
> If you agree with me and wish to post this (which will probably receive the 
>same type of insulting backlash), please do so anonymously, remove my name/email 
>address if it might help you in your efforts to reign in the list.  In my 
>opinion, its in a perpetual state of spirally out of control.
> Thanks for listening,
> ...anonymous...
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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