[Coral-List] how to communicate a commonality with corals

Robert Nowicki rnowicki at mote.org
Thu Mar 2 11:23:02 EST 2017

Hi Hilary (and Coral-list),

Thanks for sharing this!  One thing that struck me about what you shared is
the following line:

"I think most people, as I am, are completely freaked out about the problem
global warming. What can we do? Can we do anything?"

I have been consistently surprised and dismayed over the past few years
about how often I get this response from laypeople when we discuss the
dangers of climate change.  As members of the scientific community we have
a good idea of what needs to be done at multiple levels (from individual to
global) to curb climate change and the impacts it has.  Yet I hear the
retort "Well, there's nothing we can do, is there?" all the time.

So I'll ask you folks- when discussing the problem of climate change (in
the context of coral reefs or otherwise), are you met with a similar
attitude?  Do you try and end public talks with relevant actions that
individuals can take (if so, do you think it works)?  Do you think we as
scientists do enough to provide direct advice that is actionable at the
individual level for the public?

I look forward to any discussion this generates.  Thanks from a coral-list

Dr. Rob Nowicki

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Mote Tropical Research Laboratory
24244 Overseas Highway
Summerland Key, FL 33042

On Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 8:02 AM, Hilary Lohmann <hilary.lohmann at gmail.com>

> Hi all,
> I want to share part of the transcript of an interview I heard recently.
> The Podcast 'On Being' is hosted by Krista Tippet and often played on NPR,
> National Public Radio. On Feb 16, the guest was Margaret Wertheim of the
> Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles, CA. She was discussing a community
> crochet project that participants realized looked like a coral reef. Her
> thoughts on coral reefs are below.
> I think her words are a very wonderful way of framing the significance of
> the decline of reefs and perhaps offer a clue about how the story of reefs
> can relate to people at large.
> "MS. WERTHEIM: And they’re sort of nature’s fancy work is the way we like
> to think of it. And when you get hundreds or thousands of them together,
> you can form them into vast coralean landscapes. And we — Chrissy and I
> started the project in 2005, about the time when scientists were beginning
> to realize that coral reefs around the world were being devastated by
> global warming.
> And we grew up in the state of Queensland, Australia, which is where the
> Great Barrier Reef is. And we joked to ourselves at the time that if the
> Great Barrier Reef ever died out, our crochet reef would be something to
> remember it by. In 2005, that was a joke. Just this week, NOA scientists
> have released a report warning that this year may be the worst coral
> bleaching and die-off in the history of humanity. And scientists are
> talking about the very real possibility that coral reefs might actually die
> out if we don’t stop putting so much CO2 into the atmosphere.
> MS. TIPPETT: Last week, I was with Mary Oliver, the poet, who doesn’t give
> interviews very much. And she talked a little bit about how distressed she
> is at the state of the Earth. And of course, it’s hard to hear that from
> Mary Oliver because so much of her poetry is about the beauty and grandeur
> and mystery of the natural world. And she said, “Other people write about
> that distress and what’s going wrong. But I’ve chosen for my contribution
> to be just making people aware of the beauty of it.”
> And I was thinking about that when I was thinking about this project
> because this is also a different approach to science communication because
> we do get these devastating news reports. And it seems to me that you are
> actually bringing people into some kind of contact with the notion of coral
> reefs as embodied and vividly beautiful.
> MS. WERTHEIM: One of the things about the reef project that I feel is
> important is that it’s a constructive response to a devastating problem. I
> think most people, as I am, are completely freaked out about the problem of
> global warming. What can we do? Can we do anything?
> And the reef project — the Crochet Coral Reef project is a metaphor, and it
> goes like this: if you look at real corals, a head of coral is built by
> thousands of individual coral polyps working together. Each coral polyp is
> a tiny insignificant little critter with almost no power of its own. But
> when billions of coral polyps come together, they can build the Great
> Barrier Reef, the largest living thing on earth and the first living thing
> that you can see from outer space.
> The Crochet Coral Reef is a human analog of that. These huge coral reef
> installations that we build with communities are built by hundreds and
> sometimes thousands of people working together. So the project capitulates,
> in human action, the power and greatness of what corals themselves are
> doing. And I think the metaphor of the project is, “Look what we can do
> together.” We humans, each of us are like a coral polyp. Individually,
> we’re insignificant and probably powerless. But together, I believe we can
> do things. And I think the metaphor of the project is we are all corals
> now. We are all at risk."
> The full transcript and interview can be found here:
> http://www.onbeing.org/programs/margaret-wertheim-the-
> grandeur-and-limits-of-science-2/
> --
> Hilary Lohmann
> NOAA Coral Management Fellow, USVI
> Project Coordinator, Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park
> "Conservation is primarily not about biology, but about people and the
> choices they make." Balmford & Cowling, 2006
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> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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