[Coral-List] Fwd: carbon offsetting AND slowing down

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Mon May 27 14:23:28 UTC 2019

Dear Gene,  

It is interesting to compare the way different people react to the idea that we have an obligation to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than getting depressed, I am heartened by by the prospect of reducing carbon emissions and I see science as having a fundamental and constructive role in bringing about the changes needed to offset a host of destructive human activities which have brought us into the Anthropocene. 

If in fact scientific advancements share some of the responsibility for getting us into this mess, then it is only fitting that science be at the forefront of designing our extrication. Maybe what the hero in the novel you alluded to needs is more foresight and optimism. When he is asked “what he can do to retard this rapid (and destructive) progress”, he could have prophetically invoked a forthcoming spirit and retorted “We possess all the resources and talents necessary. With new leadership we can make it a national priority to marshal the nation’s resources required to fulfill such a project (as in effectively combating rising carbon emissions). We have to specify long-range goals on an urgent time schedule and managed our resources and our time so as to insure their ultimate success.”  

Moral: Maybe we need to change our approach to the carbon emissions problem. If we just look at it as a planetary challenge that offers an opportunity to restore unity of purpose, invigorate our economies and protect the natural world there would be no need to exercise caution when we express what we wish for.  



On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 8:32 AM Eugene Shinn via Coral-List <  
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:  

Dear listers, at first I became depressed reading about how we could  
reduce carbon emissions. My first thought was the old saw about dumping  
automobiles and moving back into caves. Of course we are not going to do  
that. The developed word could stop having babies. Then we could just  
sit back and let the third world proliferate and overwhelm us. We could  
cook on wood campfires. That would not work either. What would happen to  
computers? Who is going to mine the world’s resources for raw materials  
to manufacture computers? Can we live without computers?How about  
radios? When I was a kid I constructed a crystal radio. It worked  
without batteries. Of course the signal had to be created somewhere  
using electricity. It also requires modern headphones. I often think  
about a power source that does not emit CO2. It would however require  
mining a lot of uranium and that requires energy. We could just give up  
on science. Seems all the advancements in science end up using raw  
materials that emit carbon.Then I remembered the humorous novel, “The  
Mark Gable Foundation.”The novel was envisioned by Leo Szilard in 1948.  
Leo was the scientist who talked Albert Einstein into writing the letter  
to President Roosevelt that led to creation of the Manhattan project.  

In his novel the hero, sometime in the future, is asked by a wealthy  
entrepreneur, who believes that science has progressed too quickly,  
“what could he do to retard this rapid progress.” The hero answers:  

"You could set up a foundation, with an annual endowment of thirty  
million dollars. Researchers in need of funds could apply for grants, if  
they could make a convincing case. Have ten committees, each composed of  
twelve scientists, appointed to pass on these applications. Take the  
most active scientists out of the laboratory and make them members of  
these committees. …First of all, the best scientists would be removed  
from their laboratories and kept busy on committees passing on  
applications for funds. Secondly the scientific worker in need of funds  
would concentrate on problems that were considered promising and were  
pretty certain to lead to publishable results… By going after the  
obvious, pretty soon science would dry out. Science would become  
something like a parlor game… There would be fashions. Those who  
followed the fashions would get grants. Those who wouldn't would not."  

That was 1948! How could Szilard know that the government might someday  
take him seriously?Moral: Be careful what you wish for. Gene  


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)  
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------  
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor  
University of South Florida  
College of Marine Science Room 221A  
140 Seventh Avenue South  
St. Petersburg, FL 33701  
<eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>  
Tel 727 553-1158  
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