[Coral-List] Science and Politics

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Tue Jun 3 12:14:10 EDT 2014

Anyone who thinks politics is not part of science should note the following
from Andrew Kaczinski's June 2 (yesterday) BuzzFeed piece. It is titled:
Last Thursday the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a
hearing to examine the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process..
One telling sentence notes that, "In his opening remarks, committee
chairman Rep. Lamar Smith said the IPCC report and Obama administration’s
third National Climate Assessment are 'designed to spread fear and alarm
and provide cover for previously determined government policies'.”via

Somewhere I read that over half of the committee does not believe in
anthropogenically driven climate change. There is an important lesson in
all of this. While we point fingers both within and outside of the
listserve, the people pulling the strings do not believe there is any truth
to all of this - and that's a BIG problem.

So, to all of those who share my belief in anthropogenically-driven climate
change (wow! and I'm a geologist, how did I come to that conclusion?),
let's start thinking of this as triage (we really DO have more trauma
victims coming in than we can handle - so we have to make choices) rather
than something we need to debate over.

I would hope that we would all agree that human population is at the root
of all of this. However, until one of us can come up with an effective way
to ameliorate this in a meaningful way, let's just agree to agree and move
on - this is the equivalent of the severely brain-damaged victim that the
doctors could not save even with infinite resources in the time allowed. I
fear that climate change may be the next one down that list, along with the
host of problems like acidification and disease - but I'm open to contrary
arguments IF they are accompanied by specific measures that will mitigate
the problems in time. We don't have time and resources are too limited to
deal with unsolvable problem that we feel good about hating.

At the other end of the spectrum, we might think about the real viability
of glueing small bits of coral back onto the reef. I've done this and have
come to the conclusion that while it might have local and short-term
benefits, it's not going to have a lasting impact on the larger problem.
And, the down side is that there are a lot of consultants making a lot of
money moving viable species from healthy sites into marginalized areas to
permit dredging, development and other projects. I'm not trying to
discourage all the well-meaning folks trying to raise juveniles and giving
them a leg-up on recruiting. However, until we fix the systemic stresses,
I'm not sure this is going to make a real difference - and a lot of slimy
consultants are going to use this as cover for the cash cow of coral
transplantation. I'd argue that, in the best scenario, this is the
equivalent of ER docs spending valuable resources on minor scrapes and
bruises in the train wreck because it is easier than dealing with the
terminal victims.

Our job is to identify if there are reef equivalents to that middle ground
where we might be able to make a difference that is non-trivial. I am still
struggling with what that productive middle ground looks like and this is
an area where I'd really like to get some well-reasoned and non-inflamatory
feedback. This is in part due to a genuine recognition that there is so
much I don't understand. It also stems from the fact that failed
experiments far outweigh successes and we seem to repeat them time and
again. So, as a proposal, might we set aside the argument of whether
climate change exists, is caused in any way by humans and is negatively
affecting reefs? If this is the case, we are doing little good by
denigrating one another. On the other hand, if we start with this
assumption and try to identify possible solutions that have collateral
benefits vis-a-vis cleaner water and air, the worst thing we'll end up with
is what Blaise Pascal's characterized as "an excess of morality" as natural
philosophers debated the existence of God.


On Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 1:53 PM, Helder Perez <helder.perez at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear all,
> My dad once told me that 'everything is political'. Under this axiom, even
> those who consider themselves *apolitical* are taking a stand in politics..
> Of course, there is a difference between those who make a living out of
> politics (congressmen, senators,activists and the president), and those who
> do everything else.
> Now, let's stop for a second and consider this: what would happen if more
> scientists went into politics? The job is certainly not for everyone, but I
> can see a couple of you out there making ripples in the stagnant wetland
> that is the State. We would probably have a government that takes informed
> decisions, decisions based on reasoning rather than corporate and personal
> interests and religious beliefs. Politics, would then, perhaps, not be a
> synonym of crowd manipulation.
> We are losing the reefs and doing very little to stop it. It's likely (as
> the IPCC lingo says) that I will witness the irreparable decay of the
> Mesoamerican Barrier Reef within my lifetime. For a country like Honduras,
> where a large portion of its GDP and social wellness depends on tourism,
> coral reef health is paramount. Why are we then still wasting time debating
> wether this issue should or shouldn't be political? Every minute counts and
> we are losing the battle. Just look at Fox News headline: *"New Research
> Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming". *
> 1. http://nation.foxnews.com/global-warming/2012/04/30/new-
> research-shows-wind-farms-cause-global-warming
> Really? I don't remember wearing a sign on my forehead saying that I'm very
> stupid. Do you?
> The world needs scientists and scholars (corporations have long profited
> from our findings only to later say -out loud- science had anything to do
> with it). Still, now more than ever we need scientists engaged in politics
> and *science communication*. Can you imagine if we had a Steve Jobs working
> in coral conservation? It seems that when Jacques Cousteau passed away he
> took all the ocean stories with him. If Neil deGrasse Tyson took over
> Cosmos and has made a TERRIFIC job at it, why can't any of the bright stars
> of ocean research (geology, climate, coral, biology, etc...) do something
> similar or greater?
>  Now, let's take a step further and imagine if we had coral scientist in DC
> with the political pull of John F. Kennedy. Wouldn't that be a lot
> different?
> Helder I. Pérez
> Contractor with GVC Italy
> La Mosquitia
> On 24 May 2014 17:01, Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I agree, I think this is a good discussion, and I hope more people who
> > normally don't post will post their thoughts.  It does take a lot of
> > knowledge and expertise to figure out much of the technical aspects of
> > climate change, and that is not the specialty of most of us.  So we would
> > appreciate those who do have the knowledge and expertise, posting to
> inform
> > us when there is something that needs correcting.   Thanks!   Cheers,
>  Doug
> >
> >
> > On Thu, May 22, 2014 at 8:44 AM, Gregor Hodgson <gregorh at reefcheck.org
> > >wrote:
> >
> > > I am thoroughly enjoying and learning from the recent conversations on
> > > coral list. If we cant debate the politics of coral reefs here -- then
> > > where? The climate change deniers are well funded and well organized
> and
> > > highly political. If climate change believers don't carefully research
> > and
> > > track what they are doing, and have answers for their (apparently) well
> > > documented arguments -- then we lose.
> > >
> > > A few years back at UCLA there was a debate with Bjorn Lomborg about
> > > climate change and my poorly prepared former colleagues lost because
> they
> > > underestimated how knowledgeable he is and how well researched his
> > > arguments.
> > >
> > > Bickering IS annoying -- lets debate the facts -- no personal attacks
> > > please.
> > >
> > > Gregor
> > > --
> > > Gregor Hodgson, PhD
> > > Executive Director, Reef Check
> > > PO Box 1057, Pacific Palisades CA USA
> > > Tel: +310-230-2371
> > > Skype: gregorh001
> > > Email: gregorh at reefcheck.org
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Coral-List mailing list
> > > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> > >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Douglas Fenner
> > Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
> > PO Box 7390
> > Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> >
> > phone 1 684 622-7084
> >
> > "belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
> >
> > website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
> >
> > Blog:
> >
> >
> http://cctus.org/conservation-science/2014-expedition-scholar/2014-expedition-scholar-douglas-fenner-ph-d/2014-expedition-scholar-blog/
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Douglas Fenner
> > Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
> > PO Box 7390
> > Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> >
> > phone 1 684 622-7084
> >
> > "belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
> >
> > website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
> >
> > Blog:
> >
> >
> http://cctus.org/conservation-science/2014-expedition-scholar/2014-expedition-scholar-douglas-fenner-ph-d/2014-expedition-scholar-blog/
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, 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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