[Coral-List] Striking a balance

Magnus Johnson m.johnson at hull.ac.uk
Tue Dec 18 08:38:43 EST 2012

And while you are trying to funnel that Brownian motion, inject a
healthy dose or cynicism/reality via "Conservation Refugees" by Dowie
and Mac Chapins thought provoking article:

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Dennis
Sent: 17 December 2012 23:36
To: Steve Mussman
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Striking a balance


(un?)fortunately, the one thing my students have no shortage of it's
zeal and energy. My problem will probably be to get them to come back
from the "save the reefs" rallies long enough to come to class.
Actually, they keep me excited about this things (and I'm very much
looking forward to the dialog that will unfold next semester). My job is
to make all that activity and energy look less like brownian motion and
more like orderly progress.

I've read about 20 more books and articles on fracking and the
economics, policy and social justice of carbon accounting than I'd like,
so  words of wisdom from an eight-legged Yoda may be just the ticket.



On Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 5:57 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>

> Dennis,
>          I'm not suggesting that these reactions are particularly 
> insightful, but I would encourage you to do whatever you can to 
> nurture hope among your students and to let them know that there is 
> still a window of opportunity for effective change.
>    - Reefs are not more important than other ecosystems. They just
>    to react as precursors to the impacts of still other broad-based
>    anthropogenic planetary threats.
>    - Investing our intellectual, political and physical capital in an
>    effort to save them would be just one beneficial consequence of an
>    strategy designed to address the broader issues of overpopulation,
>    deforestation, continued reliance on fossil fuels, etc.  Coral
reefs don't
>    have to be the driver of how we deal with climate change, but they
>    certainly benefit from an effective approach if one can be enacted.
>    - Some other pertinent questions to pose to your classes come from
>    James Hansen's writings: What has been the role of special
interests in
>    delaying action on climate change and do scientists have an
obligation to
>    involve themselves in policy making if they believe they have
>    determined cause and effect?
>    - How do we get the captains of industry to push aside their focus
>    short-term profits and instead redirect their energy towards
playing a
>    major role in developing climate change solutions and designing the
>    infrastructure of the future?
>    - Only if none of these questions has moved them from their eat,
>    and be merry mindset, would I suggest that they ponder a few other
>    Hansen's concepts.  Assuming we continue along our present path
until we
>    have consumed our planet's remaining reserves of oil, gas and coal;
>    would they explain our failure to uphold our obligation to preserve
>    planet for future generations? And . . . How would they imagine
>    societies will react when and if science determines that we are
>    with a Venus Syndrome scenario?
> In a book entitled Learning from the Octopus, the ecologist/author 
> points out that reform is almost always confronted with enormous 
> institutional resistance. He refers to Machiavelli to explain: There 
> is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, 
> or more uncertain of success, than to take the lead in the 
> introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for 
> enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and 
> lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This
coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents . .
> .and partly from the incredulity of men who do not readily believe in 
> new things until they have had a long experience of them.
> Regards,
>  Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: Dennis Hubbard **
> >Sent: Dec 16, 2012 2:17 PM
> >To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" **
> >Subject: [Coral-List] Striking a balance
> >
> >Hi all:
> >
> >Dean Jacobson asked me a couple of thoughtful questions off-line 
> >about how to balance honest pessimism with enough hope so our 
> >students (and the
> >public) don't just get totally discouraged and argue that, if we 
> >can't really do anything about it, we might just as well "eat, drink 
> >and be merry." He draws on some of David Orr's discussions on this 
> >issue. As someone who struggles with this in my classes all the time,

> >I thought it might be useful to share some ideas with the larger 
> >group (Dean - feel
> free
> >to jump in here if I've misrepresented your questions or points).
> >
> >I have the benefit of some of the brightest and most inquisitive 
> >students in the world...... we turned Steven Jay Gould down as an 
> >undergraduate, so I feel a lot better knowing I'm teachingat a school

> >I probably couldn't have gotten into. I also have the good fortune of

> >David Orr being in the next building and having been able to play 
> >curmudgeon to his optimist on a regular basis.
> >
> >Not a class goes by that the students don't ask two questions. First,

> >why are reefs so much more important than anything else.... and how 
> >badly
> would
> >the world suffer from their loss relative to other systems as we have

> >to make hard decisions about where to invest our physical and 
> >intellectual capital. Its been over a decade now and I still don't 
> >have a good answer for them. I can cite statistics on reef tourism's 
> >percent of GDP, wax eloquently on the values of biodiversity and toss

> >out that over-used comparison to rainforests that we all get 
> >nauseated by every time we see
> it
> >at the start of a paper. However, in the end, it comes down to I have

> >a soft spot having spent most of my adult life trying to understand
> >I'm biased.... so what? But, do I have a good and really onjective 
> >ansewer
> >- no.
> >
> >The other one is basically, "if nobody can agree on what to fix and 
> >how to fix it (yep, they've already caught on that we endlessly argue

> >that our favorite control is supreme and everyone else is a total 
> >Bozo for disagreeing), what do we do? In truth, I don't think my 
> >answer has been
> the
> >same for any two classes. If there is a commonality, its to suggest 
> >using strategies that have collateral advantages that will still be 
> >valuable if we're wrong. If it turns out that our ties to climate 
> >change aren't as significant as many of us think (I've been wrong 
> >before.... plus I tell my students that science can't prove anything,

> >only disprove them, so.....), cutting emissions still isn't a bad 
> >thing. And, of all the things we argue are contributing to 
> >temperature rise, that's the only one we have any significant control

> >over. So.... even if we are totally vindicated in 30 years, reduced 
> >carbon emissions will have resulted in longer-lasting reserves, a 
> >lower overall footprint and a host of advantages from curbing our 
> >appetites for energy-intensive activities. On other fronts, reducing 
> >unnecessary fishing or targeting species that we think are more 
> >critical will probably result in greater diversity - and watching the

> >reactions of reefs to higher fish abundance might help us better 
> >understand the impacts of top-down issues (and the fishing boats in 
> >Key West might even bring in something larger than a fresh-water 
> >catfish). Finally, if we stop dumping materials like fertilizers, 
> >sediments, sewage, etc. I don't really see a down side. Personally, 
> >I'm perfectly comfortable with possibly being in a position down the 
> >line where I have to say, "Gee we weren't nearly as big
> a
> >cause as we all thought. The water and the air are cleaner and we're 
> >using resources more slowly. Gosh, don't I feel stupid!!!!"
> >
> >So, we can spend our time beating each other up and arguing among
> ourselves
> >while the rest of the world makes up their minds without us, or we 
> >can figure out a way to make this issue seem more relevant to the 
> >public - before a state-of-emergency makes it obvious and it's 
> >probably too late to do anything about it.
> >
> >There is an interesting parallel in discussions about the existence 
> >of God in the 17th century. Pascal argued that the choice was 
> >binary... there either was a god or there wasn't. The outcomes of 
> >each choice were likely binary.... you were right or you were wrong. 
> >However, the repercussions were markedly asymmetric. If you said 
> >"yes" and were correct, you gained "eternal joy". If you argued no 
> >and were correct, your rewards were more limited but you still had a 
> >great time while it lasted. The really big issue is the cost of being

> >wrong. If you said "yes" and God was just a human construct, then you

> >and the world suffered only from what Pascal described as "an excess 
> >of morality". However, the fourth combination resulted in "eternal 
> >damnation". Any bet weighs the odds against the stakes, and Pascal 
> >argued that a rational betting man would vote in favor of God.
> >
> >Whether we are talking about climate change or other large-scale 
> >environmental issues, this argument still seems relevant. Those who 
> >offhandedly reject human impacts as they relate to our own well being

> >and argue that fixing them is too costly until we have proven a 
> >relationship risk the "eternal damnation" of future generations. I 
> >would argue that the "uncertainty" that is too often tossed around 
> >should be used the other way..... until we are absolutely sure we 
> >have no impact, we should assume that we do because the cost of 
> >fixing it will be immensely greater than what it would have been to 
> >not break it in the first place. If we use the concept of 
> >"discounting" as is common practice in economic circles, we also have

> >to realize that inflation will probably increase the eventual cost 
> >more than interest on money not spent reducing our impacts now will
> >
> >So, if you're a less government/more private sector guy, we'd be a 
> >lot better off reducing our environmental footprint before the 
> >federal government screws up the process... and we'd have greater net

> >profits! I understand that some might see the environment as just 
> >another hedge-fund investment and realize that you'll be fired for 
> >the higher business costs now and some other slob will reap all the 
> >rewards from lower costs later on. As my daughter is fond of saying,
"sucks to be you".
> >
> >Dennis
> >
> >--
> >Dennis Hubbard
> >Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
> >(440) 775-8346
> >
> >* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*

> >Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"
> >_______________________________________________
> >Coral-List mailing list
> >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> ****

Dennis Hubbard
Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"
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