[Coral-List] Are reef ecologists capable of building the complex science needed?

J Hill jhilltrustee at gmail.com
Wed Nov 1 12:40:03 EDT 2017

To Peter, Angela, Dennis and the Coral List,

I respect all of you and am grateful for the work you do for our oceans. I
am not a scientist. I am a
businessman professionally and an advocate for our oceans socially. I
served as CFO for a Forbes 400
family for over 25 years and am now Trustee for this family. My
professional work is as an Independent
Family Trustee. I have been fortunate to serve on the Director's Cabinet at
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
and the Board at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
I was fortunate to meet many
inspiring scientists who are working so hard for the benefit of our
environment as I know all of you are as well.
I thank you. I did not accomplish nearly what I would have hoped to in
those board opportunities which is why I
think the frustration I feel as a businessman is not entirely different to
the frustration you may feel as a scientist
in the area of what to do about climate change and it's effect on our
oceans and specifically our coral reefs. As
Dennis asks below as scientists are "we just documenting the obvious". As a
businessman I ask "does my
time and financial contribution to work related to our environmental
challenges do any more than temporarily
make me feel better without moving the needle at all in terms of solutions
for our environmental challenges".
The common thread is a lot of compelling science and a lot of good
intention but no meaningful change in direction.

In reading the email from Peter and the responses (see two excerpts below),
I thought it was a good time to raise a
question for your comment especially from Peter, Angela and Dennis since
they have been the most active in this

The question is how do you get the population at large to care enough about
climate change's effect on our oceans
and coral reefs to demand change? I don't think you can do it through pure
science. Nor do I think you can do it in
a boardroom or by writing a check. You can only do it by focusing on it's
effect on people's financial well being. If we
could effectively get the message out that the declining health of coral
reefs directly effects the general population due
to reduced fish habitat, weakened storm protection, greater damage to our
homes and communities from more powerful
storms, decline in the quality of the air we breathe, loss of tourism etc.
then maybe we could get the general population to
demand change because we are showing them that by doing nothing long term
they will be negatively impacted financially.
It is easier to get the general population to support an environmental
cause if they buy in to how they will be impacted directly
by non action.

In conclusion (I am sorry if this is too many words) my offer is to discuss
with you developing a collaboration between the
business community and the scientific community to attempt to generate
greater concern in the general population about the
long term impact of non action so we can be more successful in getting
government and non government organizations to set
policy that aids the important work of addressing the challenges of climate
change and global warming. For example, I
feel strongly that insurance companies could be effectively educated on why
this should be important to them because
they have the most to lose financially from more severe storms caused by
warmer ocean water etc. There are also issues
of national defense that are hitting the radar now in Washington as the
military wakes up to the potential ramifications of
rising sea levels and melting ice.

I will stop there and invite you to let me know if you think having the
financial impacts of climate change be more a
part of this discussion is potentially productive. Again, I submit these
thoughts with great respect for the marine scientific
community. I truly thank you all for your hard work and dedication.

"From Peter Sale:
There is a challenge here for ecologists – how much better could our
scientific understanding become – and
also a call to action. And I actually believe we ecologists can do far
better than we are doing!"

"From Dennis Hubbard:  I think I am seeing more and more folks questioning
whether our management/monitoring
schemes are just documenting the obvious."


jhilltrustee at gmail.com
Independent Family Trustee
Former Non-Profit Board Positions:
Victim's Assistance Law Enforcement Board
Duke Children's Hospital
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Duke Nicholas School for the Environment
Former Special Field Agent for LA District Attorney

More information about the Coral-List mailing list