There was a very good science piece on Nine-to-Noon this morning, covering some of Kathryn Ryan’s trip to Antarctica.
Some of the subject matter was disturbing – they’ve recorded a drop in the pH of the ocean from 8.2 to 8.1 due to human CO2 output. Even if we stop polluting now, the oceans will continue to get more acidic for the next 500 years, dropping to pH7.8 – they certainly have no recent (tens of millions of years) example to compare with for how badly that will affect the planet.
The acidity starts at the poles and heads toward the equator. Land creatures can head away from the equator with climate change; but in the sea, there’s no escaping the increasing acidity. The outlook is dire for anything with a calcium carbonate shell – oysters, shellfish, lobsters, coral etc. And also it affects the juvenile stage of many creatures – including krill, the founding food for a lot of the ocean.
It’s all pretty depressing, but I’m looking forward to hearing more of the Antarctic reports Kathryn will be filing.
But it got me thinking: we don’t have much science in our media, and certainly not in prime times and places – despite how vital it is to our lives.
Some months back I went to Fabians lecture by Jim Stanford, author of Economics for Everyone, and he was deriding how we get the market reports in all our news bulletins. What difference does it make to our lives the current value of Telecom shares? (Although the blatantly made up reasons for why the market is up or down today are always amusing…) Far more useful would be to have work reports, where people could share useful information of productivity gains they’ve made, better and easier ways of doing things (indeed he liked our farming reports, with advice on harvesting etc, which is essentially what he was talking about – you don’t get that in most of the West).
I was thinking that the same would be true for science. Instead of yet more reality TV shows and Shelley Bridgeman columns, a little more science in our media would be very good for the country.
That extra knowledge that could help us, the new discoveries that will affect our lives. It would also hopefully mean a better informed population – climate change wouldn’t be in dispute if people were regularly hearing from those whose daily job was investigating its very real current effects. And it would hopefully increase interest in science. The future for New Zealand is green and clever, and innovative science skills are what will mean we can sustain our standard of living. Those are the jobs we can’t fill currently while we have high unemployment – if we could get a bit more interest and glamour to science, we’d end up channelling more students towards that needed training.
So as roastbeef from Achewood would say: what we need more of is science.