Managing conflicts in sustainability of resources
As seen previously, conservation efforts cannot succeed outside of a deep consideration of the balance between these efforts and the wider human context including local economies, human practices and beliefs, etc. For example, many products of wild animals that are becoming endangered such as rhinos, elephants and tigers are sought solely due to an often, if not always, unfounded but very strong belief that these animal products can heal disease or bring good fortune.
In the case of overfishing, harder questions come up that are often very difficult to compromise on. When humans rely on fish to survive, or when they rely on the income that the fish can bring, arguing for conservation and controls on fishing, or outright bans, is met with deadpan objection – understandably. This is doubly challenging when the negative impacts of their lifestyle or business can only be felt later in time, or elsewhere in the world altogether. A lack of immediate concern and connection to these downsides contributes to an unwillingness or ignorance towards sustainability and conservation.
These Japanese fishermen lost their livelihood following the 2011 tsunami. In extreme conditions and under high pressure, long term considerations, especially those of conserving biodiversity, are easily overlooked. Because the relationships between species across the planet are so complex, subtle and difficult to fully grasp, local people acting on local ecosystems do not feel particularly responsible for the wider implications of the cumulative repercussions of their activities.
The attempts to address overfishing have thus taken into account all viewpoints: that of the fisher, that of conservationists, and indeed that of the larger ecosystem and biosphere. This is why, rather than attempting unrealistic and hard to implement outright bans, they have sought to impose specific and manageable limits on fishing that minimise the use of fish stocks while allowing humans to feed on them and maintain them as a key part of their economy.
Regarding the even greater challenge of global climate change, similar approaches must be taken where measures to alleviate the impact of human activities are also viable for sustaining human needs. For example, instead of banning petrol cars, authorities can tax them to make people themselves want to change their behaviour – see also the carbon tax that seeks to encourage business away from practices that have a large carbon dioxide footprint.
Similarly, better alternatives such as electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 are subsidised by the government (even from the aforementioned carbon tax) to speed up their adoption.
Validating evidence in the scientific process
As you can see, data regarding climate change comes in many different forms and from many different sources obtained in many different ways, so curating it all together in a specific field or to answer one question is a big task.
Humans are still happy to attempt this task, even though it is clearly one for the machines to tackle. Soon enough this will be the case, however for background or at least a history lesson, here is how things run with humans involved.
Scientists strive to publish their work in scientific journals which are ranked based on the popularity of their content in terms of how many new scientists refer back to older work by previous scientists (or sometimes their own previous work!), and carry out the peer review process which attempts to act as quality control on the work submitted for publishing.
Peer review means that scientists in a relevant field to the work submitted comment on the submission. This informs the journal editor in their decision to accept or reject the submission, sometimes subject to new work being added onto the submission, or changes to be made.
[This process is very poor and has fallen victim to many fundamental issues: personal issues between scientists, peer reviewers and editors, as they can often be working together or competing; personal-political issues between scientists, institutions and private companies, as vast funding, reputations and relationships can rely on certain work being published in a certain journal at a certain time; human error, as the process often relies on as few as one or two peers judging one submission.
The publishing process itself can take as long as months or years to complete, and the top journal which is Nature is a for-profit organisation which fuels this broken system and routinely rejects most of its submissions, even though they are perfectly valid and often end up being published anyway in a “lower” journal. Hence, an artificial hierarchy is established where amazing and groundbreaking work simply does not have space in the limited space of the overly glorified and undeservedly attained top spot that just one journal has, of hundreds of others.
Quite literally scientists are forced to make it their career goal to publish in Nature or Science, and one can see the level of corruption this type of mania can entail. There are cases of withdrawn submissions, outright data fabrication and exaggeration and this type of outrageous outcomes that do nothing but hinder science and scientists.]
Despite this, when it comes to climate change, the amount of research is huge, as it has been a great effort spread over decades, thousands of scientists in different disciplines, very robust data and almost unanimous agreement amongst peers in deeming the evidence valid.
Another sphere of scientist communication (what is one to do with months between publishing and not being allowed to disclose anything prior to publishing to prevent someone else “stealing” the idea?) is conferences. These are meetings, some generic and some very specialised, where scientists in the field deliver presentations and exhibit posters of their latest work, and network with others to catch up with what everyone is up to. This is where one might find out what someone is working on before their work is actually published.