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The Intellectual Honesty Of Dolphins

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Climate change science is, when all is said and done, a tough place to be right now. And that statement has been true for about two decades, and is likely to still be true in two decades time.

We know, for instance, that our weather systems are changing: Europe’s (and world’s) overall climate is trending in an upward direction temperature wise; polar ice is melting at an unprecedented rate; that cyclones and tornado seasons are getting harsher (though it is a complex story); that fish stocks are in peril of collapse unless we step in and protect them; and that coral bleaching is accelerating as the temperatures of our oceans increase.

We know all of this because we have measurement data to support the positions (and, of course, in the case of many of them, our eyes).

All of these things we actually know, and a lot more besides, but processing it in any rational way, let alone doing anything about it is difficult. Both politically, and personally.

The first problem is that of scale. Climate change, and how that affects us on a day-to-day basis, are difficult to fathom, because they operate on different scales. Climate change is global, our day-to-day is local. Climate change is long-term, our day-to-day is the here and now.

The second problem is that of what we, as individuals, can do about it: and it is here that we can actually get to the nub of the problem.

Most of what we can do about it is going to cost us more money. In a world of austerity, the one we are in right here, right now, that is not an option most of us will take, or, more accurately, it is not an option many of us can take, even if we wanted to.

That is not because we are callous or against the idea of looking after our planet, often it is simply a matter of survival: if it’s the choice between our loved ones and a polar bear, well, so long polar bear. Of course it helps if we don’t have to see the polar bear die, or it’s little cubs, or, indeed, if we could just be left the hell alone!

This problem is exacerbated by a perception problem.

The perception problem started with climate change denial, but runs much deeper than that.

We do not directly see the large majority of the damage that climate change has levied on our planet, and most of us sleep a lot better for that. When faced with problems, most people, rightly, want to have decent solutions presented along with them, and if those solutions can be someone else’s problems, so much the better, which is the main problem here, with what we can do, because we are really going to have to be part of the solution if we are to stop dead dolphins and polar bears being on our screens, ruining how good we feel about ourselves for having remembered to recycle the Coke cans.

We all hope that some clever person from MIT or another major institution we might have heard of will come up with some very clever calculations, there will be huge global sigh of relief and the whole thing will turn out not to be a worry after all.

Unfortunately, this is folly, and those who keep perpetuating the myth that we should stop worrying and let the planet get on with it are, at best, burying their head in the sand, or at worst, giving you a false sense of security, because part of the “planet getting on with it”, will involve many, many, many, humans dying.

As our climate changes, so do the mechanisms, like ocean flows, weather systems and the things they support, such as crops, water tables, livestock, fish, plankton have to adapt. You may notice on that list, quite a few things that we need to survive. Yet, it seems, despite this being quite evident, and the on-going problems for us and other species that these problems are causing or will cause in greater numbers, we seem unable or unwilling to do absolutely anything about it. As described above, part of the reason is scale.

The other reason is cost.

Governments don’t like telling you that taxes need to go up, or schools can’t be built, or roads are not a priority right now because they have spend billions cleaning up the planet. Again, it’s not, at least technically, that we’re selfish and don’t want a future for our kids and grandkids, but, you know, why the hell should income tax go up yet another 5p/¢ in the Pound/Dollar/Euro/Yen?

Businesses face the same argument.

Unless mandated by law, for a business to voluntarily make their products either last longer, or be more inherently recyclable (or use less plastic, for example) is to put them at a competitive disadvantage to those competitors who do not choose to be good citizens also, and so no one (or few) take the steps necessary.

So, in a nutshell, we, as individuals, find it hard to connect to solutions because we are unable to pay the cost; governments are not willing to because they do not wish to commit budget or political capital to something that will not produce an outcome during their immediate careers; businesses do not want to commit fully because, to do so will mean they can no longer make cheaper and cheaper products, but will have to increase the cost (and therefore price) of those products, not to improve the product, but to improve the planet, and a competitor who is not doing so will therefore have a huge competitive advantage. Or, in other words, because no one wants to shoulder the cost, nor the responsibility.

We are, however, going to have to face up to it at some point, however; we therefore have to look at it from a different angle, and education is where this starts.

Here much care needs to be taken, because nothing turns people off of a course of action, or their interests in having a course of action, than seeing things they don’t want to: like dead dolphins or killer whales, or indeed most things. We like them, they are majestic, the are supposed to be amazing to swim with and really, really smart – and no one wants to see smart things dying. But if we can see the great bits, have help joining the dots, then, just then, we might start to care more.

The other is to have help to make it really simple to help out, and have a positive impact, where we can be part of the solution, and, in our modern society, be seen to be part of it.

There are two truisms in the age of the internet: nothing will get people to spring into action as when confronted by a cute thing that is dead because of human stupidity; and nothing gets more shares and likes than that same cute thing alive and happy.

That’s the intellectual honesty of dolphins. You don’t have to explain in excruciating details climate models to understand the risks to dolphins of, say, increased shipping or fishing in their environment: a dolphin corpse can do that for you, with a sombre voice over explaining that dolphin numbers are declining due to reduced food sources, partially as the result of climate change, and increasing fishing and shipping is starting to endanger those that do survive. The intellectual honesty is either the dolphin is alive and well (yay!) or not (boo!). We can help control which, and a happy dolphin can help confirm we’re doing the right thing; it’s honest, no BS, and we don’t mind the good news.

That’s where we come in, and you can help us. Simple, honest, cheap and quick. By supporting us, we can get on with reporting, science and presenting all of that to you in a great package that keeps the bad stuff to a minimum, and the good stuff (and why you should be more involved) to the forefront. We don’t suggest that we hold back, more that we can focus on outcomes, and everyone likes good outcomes, and we believe our missions, and this challenge, is all about good outcomes, both immediate and over time. The more support we get (over time), the better those outcomes.

So why not join us?

Featured Image Credit: Common Dolphin by Ed Dunens on Flickr. Creative Commons Usage