If Scientists Don't Know How To Tell Their Kids About It, We Should All Worry
So the most recent issue of Discover
arrived today (it is, as I believe I have noted previously, a fantastic magazine for laypeople interested in science; it deals not just with research but with the larger implications). The issue features an alarming series of investigative reports on the state of the oceans, particularly a change in the oceans' pH balance - called "ocean acidification
" - due to carbon emissions.
"It's the most profound environmental change I've seen in my entire career, and nobody saw it coming," says Thomas E. Lovejoy, a biologist... Since it is easy to chart the step-by-step progression of the problem, there is a widespread consensus that we are marching toward disaster at a pace that is impossible to ignore.
The articles are, unfortunately, not currently available online - it's the July 2008 issue, so it might not even hit newsstands until closer to, you know, July, and will probably be posted on their site somewhat later; the Discover Better Planet blog
is a good resource on environmental issues, in any case.
The impact is wide-scale because it affects a lot of the microorganisms that form the basis of marine food chains. (We've probably all heard about coral reef loss, which is due to the same thing, but most of us probably haven't been too concerned about pteropod
loss - but we should be.) Moreover, this is all in addition to the other damage we're doing to the ocean.
More than a billion people - mostly in the developing world - rely on fish as their main source of protein. Within the next two decades, marine biologist Robert Cowen says, the continued loss of fish from poor management and overexploitation "could translate into the starvation of 100 million or 200 million people - and that's without ocean acidification."
It's impossible to sum up this set of articles in a concise post - hell, I haven't even touched on the article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
- but it is something we should be damned concerned about. Congress is discussing legislation to fund research into the problem (here's hoping the discussion goes quickly...), and once again, we all need to reduce our carbon footprint and use of plastics. Yes, you've heard that before, but it is worth reinforcing, and re-reinforcing.
The problem is so dire that two of the marine biologists in the article
soon realized that they would have to tone down how they talked about their research in front of their adolescent twins. "They overheard one of our conversations and started asking questions like 'What's going to happen?' ... We could see their distress and hear the agitation in their voices, and then they wanted to know, 'Is it too late?' and we're like, 'Hmm...well...'"
So, yeah - we need to be taking this seriously.Posted by Miriam, who is not being paid in any way by Discover, although it might sometimes sound that way.