Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“The Scientist as Educator and Public Citizen: Linus Pauling and His Era.”

October 29 - 30, 2007

Video: “Panel Discussion of Session III Topics” Chris Petersen, Tom Hager, Lawrence Badash, Warren Washington, Jane Lubchenco

15:38 - Abstract | Biography | More Videos from Session 3: The Scientist as Public Citizen


Audience Member: Jane, a question to you. Last November, I went to Pacific Marine Expo up in Seattle. This is the largest commercial fishing show in the world. And I had really two questions in mind. I’m putting on my old humble steak hat here because I got my [inaudible]. My two questions, when I went up there, my brother by the way, owns the Willamette Queen and wanted to talk to the [inaudible] Board Association, about keeping some blocks open here in Oregon. Anyway, my questions were how much fish are there out in the ocean and number two, the reauthorization of Magnuson fisherman, fisher’s consolation effort. And I was astounded to find out that all commercial fisherman, worldwide, are concerned about the same issue about their livelihood. Will these fish survive? And of course, the Magnuson Act, I was really honored to take a class, from Bob Shoney here at Oregon State, the man who created the Magnuson Act. It was during his administration that it was being administered. So that was number one. The number two question I have for all the group here is as an ex-science teacher. I rate this wonderful experience as a [audio cuts out 1:09] but I rate the attendance as an F. And I rate the marketing of this wonderful program as an F. A good friend of mine is Tom Martin, a chemistry teacher at CHS and he is really mad that he didn’t know about this until Monday morning. He would have loved to have been here. I used to be a chemistry teacher too. Number two. I mean, pardon me, number three [audience laughs.] My family took a cruise ship up to Alaska and this is very, very, very educational. First of all, we get on the cruise ship and the ship is Panama registered 2,500 clients and 973 crew. Not a single American in the crew. So we go up to Alaska, we first skip Juneau then Ketchikan, no, then Skagway, then Ketchikan. We spent a whole day in Glacier Bay. And right up on top are three national parks service people and they’re looking at the ecology, educating 2,500 people on the ship about you know, the capping, you saw capping in the glaciers and how glaciers are going away 600 feet per day. What I was inspired by is the naturalist on board was educating this very locked in audience of 2,500 people and it was a wonderful experience. They educated a lot of us right up there with the national park the way they used three of them on board for the glacier and she said this is the best grizzly bear viewing I’ve ever had. The point I am trying to make is that there is a huge industry. There’s four cruise ships in all these cities, 10,000 people everyday of the summer and all of that is going overseas as far as the economics of that and all of that trite. Everything is on a plan to spend [inaudible]. That’s enough. I won’t say anymore. [Audience applause] [3:03]

Chris Petersen: Anyone else have a question? [Audience laughs]

Jane Lubchenco: Do you want me to take a crack at the first one?

Chris Petersen: Sure, go ahead. [3:11]

Jane Lubchenco: The many fishermen that I know are very, very concerned about the patterns that they are seeing. They don’t always admit it to policy makers or in public forum, but in private they are very concerned. And I think one of the real challenges is with fisheries is that the economics of fishing right now is sort of stacking the deck against fishermen and against fish, both. And there are some very interesting new ways of reorganizing or restructuring fisheries that reward fishermen for being good conservationists, not just for being good exploiters. And some of those, some baby steps in that direction were included in the Magnuson Fisheries Reauthorization this last year and I am referring specifically to what economists call “Dedicated Access Privileges” or DAPs. Those are a variety of economic tools, one of which, for example, are known as ITQs, "Individual Transferable Quotas." There are a lot of different variations on this thing, but the idea is that instead of every fisherman just fishing like crazy until the total allowable catch has been caught in any particular season, the idea is to guarantee or to allocate the total catch to individuals based on their history or some other rational way of doing it, so that they have a guaranteed fraction of the catch, regardless of what the total catch is and that, in fact, changes the dynamics because they then have incentive to make sure that there are enough fish to be caught next year, and the next year, and the next year. So it enables them to take a long term perspective and have the value of their portfolio grow through time not just to be exploited this year and so I don’t want to go into more detail about this except to say that there are some very innovative, new ways of restructuring fisheries to align fishermen’s interests with conservation interests that are economically profitable over the long term not just the short term and that that is being actively performed by science and that is actually a good thing, it’s a nice tool that has complimented marine reserves that I think will provide for hope for the future of oceans. [6:13]

Chris Petersen: Dr. Badash.

Lawrence Badash: Let me say something about another part of your comment. I once went on a small ship cruise to Alaska, so that makes me an expert at present [laughter] And I don’t think that all the proceeds do go abroad. I think travel companies in America, the owners of the cruise lines and so forth get the vast majority of those funds and not the crew or the Liberian registry or [trailing off] [6:41]

Chris Petersen: There’s a question in the back.

Audience Member: Yes I was wondering, given the information Dr. Washington and Dr. Lubchenco gave us about the alarming rates of you know, warming projecting out, fish depletion and whatnot, that scientists would likely instate some rapid changes that you had expressed. Why are we not seeing, what are the main factors that we are not seeing scientists speak out to the extent that Linus Pauling did and others before him? Why wasn’t a scientist the one to make An Inconvenient Truth instead of Gore? [7:16]

Jane Lubchenco: I actually think scientists are speaking out more. [pauses] I think Gore was in a unique position to make it and the fact that he was already a public figure and this has been something he’s been passionate about for a long, long time I think was part of it. He has maintained a really good collaboration with a lot of scientists over the years. In 1995, which was the year that the Kyoto treaty was signed in December, in June of that year, seven scientists were invited to come to the White House and testify before President Clinton and Vice President Gore on the science of climate change. I was one of those seven. Since that time, I have interacted with him quite frequently. In fact I ran into him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the year before he started going around giving his slide show and he said, "Oh, Jane, it’s so good to see you again. You know I’ve got the slide show ready to go. It’s been vetted by x, y, and z," and he said, "but I’d really want you to look at it to make sure it’s accurate." So you know, he has an ongoing dialogue with a number of scientists. The fact that he already had a public position and was well known, I think, enabled him to be able to make that movie. Frankly, I don’t care who makes it as long as we have good tools like that that are good public communication vehicles. Now the science in “An Inconvenient Truth” was not a 100% accurate but it was pretty darn close. It was pretty good. And I think the fact, you know, that he received the Nobel Prize along with the Scientist of the IPCC is a really nice, powerful combination. It’s not just the politician who is a public spokesperson it’s also the science behind it and I think that’s a nice pairing. [9:21]

Warren Washington: I also would sort of like to say that [pauses] I think there’s a role for the scientific societies to play well in the making statements, and we have. The committee of societies [inaudible] about climate change. I don’t think they’ve gotten the attention that they should have. Just a few weeks ago I was invited to the Congressional Black Caucus by Obama and he was sponsoring a session on climate change and he seemed to understand in a two hour session, he understood very well, the issues of climate change. I’ve also, sort of like Jane, interacted with Al Gore in the past and Clinton and I’ve also interacted with many congressmen and senators over the years testifying at national things. So there is, the information is there, the questions are of a feeling that the public would support some more action than has taken place before. And I think we are getting to that point. Clearly, the Bush administration will take an attitude that it is not an issue they want to deal with. At least, that is my interpretation, or that they will solve this problem through technology, innovation but I can almost, am certain that the next president and future Congresses are going to have to delve into this problem and deal with it and I think we’re much closer to that point. [11:13]

Thomas Hager: I want to add one last thing, of more of a media perspective. I do science journalism and I will write for newspapers occasionally and I would say that the short answer about why Al Gore made that movie and a scientist didn’t is because Al Gore is a politician and Al Gore understands how to put a message together persuasively and, as Jane has been helping to point out, a number of scientists needed help to do it. This has been a fascinating section, I’ve enjoyed watching it and participating, and there has been a lot of discussions that circle around the idea of advocacy versus information. Advocacy versus information is a tough thing. It’s tough for journalists. Journalists toe the same line. Advocacy is where you sort of say this is the right way to go. And information is sort of saying well, here’s some facts for you to think about and make up your own mind. Well, in real life, what happens in our society is that people manufacture what you think is news. What you read in the newspapers and so forth contains a lot of information but generally speaking, as we’ve heard from you know, news sources like Fox News on one side and the New York Times on the other or everywhere in between, people have advocacy positions, who will present positions. And people with vested interests often have money to create very persuasive simple messages that sway public opinion. Now, if scientists take a role that says well, we have some important information to share, it’s kind of complicated but it’s difficult to get across and it might be this and it might be that. It’s a delicate balance. People just don’t listen to that as well. Al Gore is a politician and he put together a persuasive advocacy. Basically, he used a lot of good information, but it was an advocacy. Linus Pauling [chuckles], to get back to the subject of our afternoon, talked about this dynamic once, in different terms. He talked about giving the right to give radical political opinions basically, and he was talking to an investigatory committee and he said, "Well, in America you’ve got a range of opinion and there’s far left and far right and it’s sort of like a bell curve. Most of the people are kind of in between but there’s these fringes on the side. If you cut off one end of the spectrum, the far left or the far right, and say that doesn’t count, well, then you’ve shifted the median value, the median of the bell curve is shifted slightly and you’ve altered public opinion. You know, it’s unfair to public opinion. You have to allow the fringes to speak in order to have a correct interpretation of what’s going on." I see the same thing going on now with the environmental debate. Where you have vested interests, say the oil and gas industries or a number of corporate interests and governmental interests on one side with very persuasive messages and they’re not concerned with the subtleties of imbalance of scientific fact. They’re using science to make an advocacy case. If scientists are not allowed to join the other side of the debate then the question is are you seeing a balance? So that was a case, that was Pauling’s way of saying, I think. Advocacy is okay for scientists. In fact, it’s necessary. [14:42]

Chris Petersen: Well, we’re over time now. Let me just say in closing, that I happen to agree. I feel like the content of this conference has been an A-plus. We will be actively seeking to expand our audience by placing the transcripts and the video of the entire day and a half on the Special Collections webpage. So be looking for that in the next month or two. I think, speaking on behalf of the conference co-organizers, Mary Jo Nye and Cliff Mead, it’s been a really wonderful day and a half and I thank you all for coming. Thanks to all our speakers. [Applause]


Watch Other Videos

Session 1: Scientists and Textbooks

Session 2: Popular and Public Science

Session 3: The Scientist as Public Citizen

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