Letters to the Editor

Ecology effort

March 31, 2010


To the editor:

Imagine a world where every day feels like a struggle. Imagine smog poisoning the air and lifeless creatures littering the ground. Imagine nations killing for food and masses starving to death. Sounds like a nightmare? According to the recent coral reef article, “Death of Coral Reefs Could Devastate Nations,” these scenarios could very likely occur.

How could the human race create so much damage in such a short amount of time? Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago, human activity has severely threatened the world. Already, we are responsible for the destruction of 19 percent of the Earth’s coral reefs. Moreover, global temperatures have risen by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit within the last century. Besides numbers, humans have and will continue to annihilate the fragile — and irreplaceable — ecosystems that have helped balance the Earth for millions of years.

However, the effects can be ameliorated. As a whole, this community must take the initiative to adopt a more ecological approach to their lives. Even simple changes such as biking once a week instead of driving and collecting newspapers, cans and plastic to recycle add up. At home, my family tends a vegetable garden and reuses our plastic bags as trash bags. It’s incredibly surprising to see how much of a difference these changes make. While it’s easy to fall back and rely on others, only you will make the difference that you want to see. Please take this as a lesson to improve and protect our only home.

After all, the Earth’s calling. What’s your response?


Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Plastic does not break down. Paper bags will break down but that is a lot of trees.

When going to the grocery store stop using plastic bags for anything. I don't use produce bags at the store any longer.... directly to the cart. Take a box or two, or total cloth sacks and a cooler with you. Yes we do these things. If I forget my shopping gear the groceries go on the seats then I head home and the food survives.

When checking out simply ask the sacker to put your groceries back in the cart. Then you load up groceries in the boxes and cooler(s) that are in your car. Or take the cooler in with you.

Bottled water is a huge problem. An article recently stated that water bottles used in a week would wrap around the planet 5 times. Most plastic water bottles are not recycled. http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/spread-the-word

Most bottled water is no different than tap water. So why not buy an aluminum/stainless container or two and fill them up. A thermos bottle for coffee instead of styrofoam cups. People say they are expensive. $40.00 is far better than several hundred to one thousand dollars a year for plastic bottled water. Yes consumers unknowingly spend that much over a 12 month period.

Hey maybe coffee shops will begin to use real coffee cups again? 4 bucks for a cup of coffee......plus a few bucks for bottled water. Hmmmmmmmm

devobrun 8 years ago

Ms. Wang, do you know anything about religion, or especially guilt and its relationship to religion?

Mea culpa is a term used in the Catholic church, but each religion has a part that is driven by the notion that we humans aren't worthy of our existence. We are all sinners and guilty of sin by simply existing.

Environmentalism is a religion. It has original sin, redemption, saviors, evil doers. And you believe an article by Brian Skoloff and Seth Borenstein that people are destroying the planet. Fine.

Just don't be oblivious to the religiosity of their presentation, or of yours, as well.

I don't buy into your guilt trip for the same reason that I don't buy into anyone's religion.

Don't use plastic bags, and say your prayers every night. Same thing. Leave me out of your guilt trip.

fishonareef 8 years ago

Thank you for posting this important letter. I sincerely appreciate that you are helping to educate people about what is happening. The scientific community is trying more than ever to communicate findings to the rest of the world, and encourage folks to share this knowledge, as you did here.

The realities are not meant to be a guilt trip, no more than evnironmentalism is religion. It is an awareness to what is happening, in an effort to find solutions. If you don't know about it, how can you care about it or do anything to fix it?

People depend on the environment and the services it provides...the food we eat and the water we drink and all of the other organisms and ecosystems we share this planet with...it all comes from this environment that we need to be good stewards of. We as people pollute the environment, every day, all of us. When you flush the toilet, it does not magically dissappear. When you burn fossil fuels, they don't magically dissappear, either. You should always be asking...where does it go, and then where does it go? It is called conservation of matter.

The coral reefs of the world are in peril, and that is the plain truth...it is measurable. Over one billion people on our planet depend on coral reefs for sustainence, jobs, medicines, and other ecological services such as shoreline protection. Can you imagine Maui without beaches? Jamaica is already facing that problem.

Did you know that the ocean provides over half of the oxygen we breathe? Did you know that ocean acidification from CO2 is changing the very base of the food web and that it lowers the threshold on coral bleaching? Did you know that warm water instigates coral bleaching, which in turn leaves corals vulnerable to disease...something that is on the rise worldwide?

Awareness is not about guilt. It is about taking the first steps toward finding solutions...and yes, making changes to our lifestyles because we just simply did not know that our actions were harming the planet that supports us...all of us.

We each have the power to do something. It is the collective of you, me, our friends, families, neighbors, and communities that will be the change that we need to see...to better care for this planet that supports us.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Coral reefs in danger of being destroyed Rising acidity of the oceans is threat to marine ecosystems, study warns

By Steve Connor, Science Editor in San Diego Wednesday, 24 February 2010

All of the tropical coral reefs in the world will be disintegrating by the end of the century because of the rising acidity of the oceans caused by a build-up of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a study has found.

Coral reefs start to disintegrate when the acidity of the oceans rises beyond a certain threshold, and this point is likely to be reached before 2100, said Jacob Silverman of the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington.

Carbon dioxide in the air dissolves in the sea to form carbonic acid, which interferes with the ability of coral organisms to make their calcium carbonate shells which form coral reefs, Dr Silversman said. But once the shells stop forming, the reef quickly crumbles. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/coral-reefs-in-danger-of-being-destroyed-1908544.html ===================================================================



JustNoticed 8 years ago

Devobrun, how idiotic, how ostrich like.

devobrun 8 years ago

Allow me to offer some solace for you in your guilt and fear and loathing:


In his last statement he says to enjoy life.

Problem solved.

Now, fishonareef, "Awareness is not about guilt". When I was studying epistemology, I don't recall the concept of awareness. Information leads to knowledge which leads to wisdom. The journey is difficult and full of missteps and mistakes.

But what is awareness? It is information, knowledge derived from evidence and hypothesis and feelings. That's right, awareness requires that the knowledge lead to motivation and motivation comes from emotion which are derived from feelings.

Awareness is the conflation of information and emotion. And that is what evidence-based environmentalism is. A touch of sloppy science, a dash of feeling, a dram of politics, a drip of cultural power, and voila, you have the deeply held opinion of the LTE author.

Oh, you also have comments from JustNoticed. Dismissal on the basis of Ad hominem .

I feel therefore I am is the order of the sloppy science of today. Descartes, Popper, Feynman are rolling over in their graves as fuzzy thinkers replace rigor with feeling.

Oh, another thing. I have yet to challenge the science, or the hypothesis that reef destruction, or any other assertions in the letter are scientifically invalid. I have commented on the use of the concept of science in juxtaposition with feelings, which are not acknowledged. Awareness is about information complete with motivation. Guilt. This is a dangerous mixing of rational with irrational. It is to be avoided unless you are a non-rigorous scientist. If you wish to convince me of anthropogenic reef destruction, show me an experiment which determines a cause and effect. Not just inference. Not just evidence with correlation. A real science experiment, with controls and everything.

Open for suggestions.

JustNoticed 8 years ago

Ugh, what a pile of self-important bloviation.

There is nothing ad hominem about my comment. I didn't say you were an idiot or an ostrich, rather, your comment is idiotic and your reaction is like sticking your head in the sand. Perhaps a distinction with not much difference but there it is.

Whether environmentalism has religious characteristics is beside the point. We are fouling our nest and the earth cannot sustain the way we live on it.

devobrun 8 years ago

So, Just, I claimed that you engaged in "A". You claimed "NOT A". You claimed "B". Then you claimed "not much distinction between A and B" Therefore there is not much distinction between A and NOT A.

How can this paradox of A and NOT A be resolved? By rejecting your logic. You are wrong on the ad hominem argument.

If environmentalism includes religiosity, then it is both logical and illogical. Science, math, reason and logic are the antithesis of religion. They rely on rational thought. Religion doesn't need rationality to exist. Nor does art. The two are often treated as different aspects of the human experience. Some scientists have rejected religion and God entirely. Richard Dawkins comes to mind. Some people hate science and live in a world of emotion, art, prayer or other irrational, but humanly pleasing endeavors.

Some people separate the two worlds (an Augustinian view).

But when science and emotion are put together, erroneous logic results. Errors in rational thought are ignored because the feelings are good.

This new science of environmentalism is simply giving up on the boundaries of rational science and irrational religion. It allows feelings and emotion to rule, when necessary. And it supports arguments with rational thought, when necessary. And the merit of any argument is based upon politics, consensus, art, awareness. The question in today's science that overrides everything else is :"Is the result useful?"

I call it sloppy. I think the conflation of emotion and rational thought is just what St. Thomas Aquinas did which caused Greek philosophy to enter the Church. The result was the notion that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. It was useful. Galileo paid the price for his questioning of authority.

And that is the system being set up now with regards environmentalism. Never mind that environmentalism and religion share a variety of aspects....."it is beside the point"

The heck it is.

drake 8 years ago

Wow devobrun, You seem very intelligent and well spoken. I look forward to your posts as they are always very thought out and well.....logical. You are much too smart to interact with the leftists on this board. I find your sense of reasoning to be refreshing. Good job.

JustNoticed 8 years ago

Meanwhile the air grows more foul, the oceans more toxic, the population too great, the topsoil either gone or sterile, biodiversity ravaged - etc. etc.. These are not emotional issues. These are parts of the biosphere that are damaged and approaching thresholds beyond which there may be no return to an ecosystem that sustains life - human life, even you.

As I said, you're a self-important bloviator. Now that's an ad hominem attack, you tedious drudge.

And you drake, On your knees, Sycophant!

devobrun 8 years ago

So, Just, "These are not emotional issues".

"biodiversity ravaged"?

"topsoil gone or sterile"?

"toxic oceans"?

"approaching thresholds beyond which there may be no return"?

Emotional words not found in rational discussions. These statements are projections, predictions, and full of emotions such as angst, fear, and guilt.

You say that the issues are not emotional, then you use terms that are emotional. Ravaged?

Then you attack Drake.


The LTE also is full of heartfelt warnings and projections of gloom. What do you say about my characterization of modern science and its corruption by non-science interests?

So here is an opinion not based upon science, just my observational evidence(kinda like your kind of science) If religion is the opiate of the masses, then this new science is the alcohol of the masses. It turns peoples brains off. It confuses thought and feeling. It makes them feel giddy and happy with themselves. Drunk with new found power to manipulate the people.

Form a group....call it Citizens for Justice. You can't argue with that. Carefully define in difficult terms and sentences just what justice is. Join forces with other groups to issue statements against those you wish to demonize so as to usurp their power.
Use a penguin for your logo. Collect funds for saving the Penguins under the "Justice for Penguins" banner. Take some of that money and support a congressman for election. Repeat, over and over until power is now in your hands.

Support "scientists" through your own funding and that gathered from taxes via the congressmen you bought. Support your penguin research with tax money. Build a giant, government-funded machine of "scientists", non-profit organizations, legislation, journals, peers, all to save the penguins. Hide anything suggesting that penguins are doing pretty well, thank you. Demonize those who question your authority........hold power. Fool people who don't think, but love to be a part of the movement.

Welcome to the new age of science, Just. Big time science. Manipulated, corrupted and justified by people who "shifted the paradigm" to include emotion as a metric for science. Usefulness in a political sense as a measure of scientific veracity. Well, it looks like power over the masses, just the way religion is. My opinion is formed from experience, Just. I do science and engineering. I deplore the new big time science paradigm.
So, I am now a "new science" apostate, because new science doesn't remove itself from the irrational, it embraces it.

parrothead8 8 years ago

Just got here, and devobrun's posts look like merrill's usually do, so I'm not going to bother. Instead, let me just ask devobrun: Do you assert that humans are not polluting the air, ground, and water?

devobrun 8 years ago

parrot, pollution is toxicity. First law of toxicology is that it is all in the dose.

Yes, parrot, we are sending "stuff" into the air, land, and water that modifies those environments.

Is it catastrophic? Is it trivial? Is it some good, some bad? Unfortunately, these terms are ill defined and emotional.

So as a follow to your question: Define pollution, please. I can answer your question more clearly if you would define your idea of what pollution is.

devobrun 8 years ago

Dihydrogen monoxide has recently inundated the east coast of the U.S. Rhode Island has the worst incidence of pollution in its history. Sewage runs through streets. Animals dieing, people displaced, automobiles and homes ruined. It is a disaster.

All caused by too much dihydrogen monoxide in a too small region. It is toxic and it is a pollutant because it exceeds safe levels.

It is called a flood.

Happened because a big storm came in and stalled just off the coast of New Jersey. Time and place and level defined this event as a polluting event. A disaster.

I feel bad for the people of Rhode Island. They were polluted by too much water.

madameX 8 years ago

Devo, are you arguing that the fact that some people get overemotional and worked up about the environment means that all concerns about human-made damage to it should just be written off as hysteria?

devobrun 8 years ago

madame x: I would not characterize my views in those terms at all. As an example of what I mean: Feel, think, do.

The Wright brothers were motivated to fly. They posed an important question" How do we maximize the ratio of lift force to drag force on a wing?" They built the first instrumented wind tunnel and proceeded to test wing designs. Then they built an airplane and flew it. They were motivated, thought, tested and tested and tested until they actually flew

Contrast this with today's process of science, engineering and implementation.

Growing corn in Iowa for the production of ethanol should be a clearly defined goal. The metric should be the ratio of usable energy out of the corn divided by the energy required to produce the energy.

Iowa State University would be a good place for this experiment. They could use data regarding average energy to plow the field. They could find the energy to produce and apply fertilizer, harvest, ferment, distill, ship, etc. Add up all the energy needed to produce ethanol. Ratio the energies. If the ratio is 1 or less, don't bother. If the ratio is 1.05 to 1, well probably don't bother. What ratio would be required to clearly say "grow that corn folks, produce energy!"?

So here's the problem. Iowa State U gets its funding from the government. Senator Charles Grassley is from Iowa and sits on the Ag committee. Iowa State U gets a lot of money from the efforts of Sen. Grassley.

So you do the above experiment and tell Grassley that the ratio is never going to exceed 1.1 and probably won't get to that. Your opinion is to not subsidize Iowa farmers for ethanol production. You are an associate prof of engineering physics at the u. Is this a good way to advance your career? You are afraid. Your boss knows that farmers in your state aren't going to like what you have to say. The head of the U gets wind of this and calls you in to see him. The U stands to loose a lot of government funding if you insist on continuing.

Science corrupted by the government. Science corrupted by greed, fear, politics.

What I am saying is that modern science, especially as regard to environmentalism is corrupt. People like the LTE author get all emotional and drive not the science, but the contrived results. Hysterical calls for somebody to do something and do it now are driving the implementation before the experiments are in. The results are preordained.
Ready, aim, fire is how you shoot a gun. Today we have .....ready? no. Aim? nah. Just shoot. With fear and anger. Lie to yourself that you are ready You are guaranteed to miss.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Anger is sometimes justified. The idiotic trashing of the planet's ecosystem (the one in which humans evolved in and depend on for survival) should (and does) make people angry.

And on forums like these, a common tactic when you don't want to argue the facts and evidence is to troll around with ad hominem attacks ("I can't take you seriously because you're just too emotional and religious") thus avoiding discussion of facts and evidence.

impska 8 years ago

Devo, you seem to indicate that you refuse to engage in environmentally responsible actions because environmentalists insert emotion into their call to action. How does that make the actions wrong?

It's a bit like saying: "I don't believe in making charitable donations because charitable donations make me feel good despite the fact that I don't see any concrete evidence that my small donation made a difference." or "I don't believe in making charitable donations because other people try to make me feel guilty if I don't make one."

And regarding your last post: How can we experiment on a world level without making changes first and measuring the results later? We can't possibly recreate our planet and all its people in a lab, so in order to find out if environmentalists are correct in their hypothesis we are forced to either try to make a difference on the off chance that it will work, or do nothing and face the possibility that we could have done something but didn't if they all turn out to be right. The former is safer than the latter - especially since an individual can make many minor changes without really impacting their life.

devobrun 8 years ago

Bozo, where are the facts in Ms. Wang's LTE?

She refers to an AP article by Brian Skoloff:


Read it and tell me about facts.

There are quotes from scientists regarding projections. Lots of projections. With lots of emotion: "Whole nations will be threatened in terms of their existence," said Carl Gustaf Lundin of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

"At least 19 percent of the world's coral reefs are already gone, including some 50 percent of those in the Caribbean. An additional 15 percent could be dead within 20 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Old Dominion University professor Kent Carpenter, director of a worldwide census of marine species, warned that if global warming continues unchecked, all corals could be extinct within 100 years."

"You could argue that a complete collapse of the marine ecosystem would be one of the consequences of losing corals," Carpenter said. "You're going to have a tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans."

"Fish will become a luxury good," said Cassandra deYoung of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. "You already have a billion people who are facing hunger, and this is just going to aggravate the situation," she added. "We will not be able to maintain food security around the world."

The only thing of a factual nature is the 19% figure quoted by Ms. Wang and Brian Skoloff. Where does that come from? Well, they said it comes from NOAA, but NOAA just printed a copy of a paper by ReefBase.org.


Yes, NOAA and NASA are partners with ReefBase, but so are: WWF, the Nature Conservancy, and 35 other government and advocacy groups.


Uh oh. One fact in Ms. Wang's LTE. Attributed to an article by an AP writer who attributed the number to NOAA. NOAA didn't derive the number. ReefBase.org did. ReefBase is partners with NOAA and other advocacy groups.

Is this data a fact?

It is sloppy reporting by an AP writer. Reproduced in thousands of newspapers around the world.

One ill-supported fact, lots of emotion, repeated thousands of times.

And you buy it. Because you are a believer. And you quote me: "I can't take you seriously because......" Those are not my words. Your erroneous quote is sloppy.

Because I am a heretic and you are angry with me.

devobrun 8 years ago

impska, I don't refuse to engage in environmentally responsible actions.

You wouldn't know one way or the other because all you have are these words on a blog.

So, I'll assert that I do engage in responsible actions regarding the earth.

But I think before I act.

I check the charity to make sure that the money goes to the purpose and not into some charlatan's pocket. I don't give out of guilt. In fact, I try my best to behave in a way where I don't have to say "I'm sorry". I do make mistakes, I do say sorry. I avoid it just as I avoid lies.

I was not born with original sin. Not the kind from Jesus, nor the one from James Hansen. I didn't ask to be here. Whatever this is, I'm in and I'll make the best of it. Keep your guilt to yourself.

Now, your last paragraph really does hit a question that should be on everyone's mind.

Just what do we know and how do we know it? It is the philosophy called epistemology.

My strict and rigorous view of knowledge insists on testing. No test, no knowledge. So what do you say to the evidence that cannot be tested? After you go through all possible ways to construct an experiment and failing, you say, "I don't know".

No, you don't give up trying. But you don't make stuff up. You don't derive a mathematical model, put it in a computer and call it an experiment. No it isn't. You don't mix emotion, gloomy projections and other hysterical prognostications with a few bits of data and tell everybody, that you can't say for sure, but they sure as heck oughtta be afraid..

Reducing CO2 output by reducing our economy and replacing fossil fuel with alternative energy that doesn't work is not safer. It is more dangerous.

When the prescription is worse than the disease, don't do it.

Modern scientists with computers are an arrogant lot. They think they know more than they do. They tell stories to people like Seth Borenstein and Brian Skoloff. The narrative gets published as science. Believers buy it. And the industry of government supported science goes on.

The worst part really isn't environmentalism and the havoc that may ensue from its proscriptions.

The worst part is the loss of rigor and diminution of rational thought and trust that honest science built up over many decades. The worst part is that Ms Wang and others on the blog think there might be facts in any of the articles. That science is somehow being done.

Now science is a load of stories. Can't test? That's OK, we can model it. Its a computer. It can't be wrong. Ha. Do we know the answer to coral reef destruction? No, but we should be so afraid that must do something. Now there's a bad way to make a decision.

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