William Crook: We're going to have a very brief session this morning. I know many of you have long drives and planes to catch.
I want to tell you a sad thing, and that is we're losing to retirement Colleen Kain, who has served this Society so long and so well. But the Board, in its session yesterday, or Friday, made her an honorary member of the Society. Colleen.
And the good news is that the very efficient young lady who's taking her place has had time to study under Colleen and is going to serve us well in the future--Evelyn Stehling. Evelyn.
Now, I am a lame duck this morning. We have a new president and I want to introduce him to you, although you already know him. But one of our most distinguished physicians and administrators in the state, having headed up the Southwestern University Medical School, and later the Foundation--Dr. Sprague, would you stand? And is Mrs. Sprague here?
Charles Sprague: No, she's packing.
William Crook: All right. Bill Moyers.
Bill Moyers: Thank you, Bill.
As Bill said, we're going to have a brief, but, I'm sure, lively session this morning. For the first 15 minutes, we're going to let the panel talk among itself about a question that I will put to the group in a moment.
Some years ago, Oliver Edwards wrote a letter to Samuel Johnson to confess, "I've tried in my time to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness was always breaking through." Now, to the dismay of the moderator, a lot of cheerfulness kept erupting among our scientists yesterday. And while I like the taste of it in the air, I am, as a journalist, skeptical of its nutritional value in an age when our failure to confront reality can lead to a more painful reality for coming generations.
Lyndon Johnson once reminded me of the urgency of bad news: "Remember how Napoleon instructed his secretary. He said if the news from the front is good it will wait until in the morning. If the news from the front is bad I want to know about it instantly."
I think there's something to that in regard to our present exploitation of the natural resources of the world to satisfy our gratification now. As a journalist I don't think that our optimism is justified. When I was born 61 years ago, the population of this country was 130-some-odd-million people. It's now 250 million, often quite odd, people, and growing.
The front page of the New York Times just this week had a story about how several corporations working together had managed to cut significantly the amount of pollutants released into the air. But, the article went on to say that 700 Ford Explorers on the road--700, half of the daily output of Ford Explorers--more than offset the gains that had been made by the corporations that had voluntarily collaborated in cutting emissions. Now imagine a billion Chinese in Ford Explorers!
All this adds up to pressures on the ecology. That suggests to me that human activity is..................................................................more likely than not to overwhelm its habitat sometime in the course of the next century.
And so my first question which we will talk about is this: On the basis of what each of you know from your own research and your own study of reality, if present trends continue, what is going to happen? Mary?
Mary Altalo: Bill, you've posed a very provocative question as usual. The reality is that anthropogenic input is causing a great variation and variability in our system. And the variability and the trends are not in a good direction. Estuaries are becoming polluted. Estuaries which once had oyster populations in the bottoms, such as the Chesapeake, which once had a lot of spawning stocks within estuaries, within their basins, now no longer hold those. They no longer harbor these because they are affected by the pollutants which translate to higher biomass, higher degradation, and often anoxic bottom waters.
There is a frequent increase, along the shorelines in particular, of noxious growth of seaweeds, algaes, sea grasses, which are clogging a lot of the estuaries, a lot of the transport rivers and tributary estuaries.
There are pollutants in the sky. We look at Los Angeles. We look at any of the big cities. We see these right there. There's just no question.
Heat--thermal pollution. Thermal pollution from power plants, thermal pollution from a number of different areas is truly raising the temperatures of the near-shore surface waters, raising the temperatures of the atmosphere. These are not leading to good trends. Animal populations are decreasing.
One of the things that I think is very, very difficult to understand is that places--like the National Biological Survey--which are now poised for looking and maintaining and identifying these populations, are all looking at the terrestrial component. They are not looking at the marine component, and we've got a diversity of wealth. There are populations disappearing every day and species disappearing every day in the near-shore surface waters we don't know about, we can't monitor.
The reality is we know how to fix it. I truly believe this. I've shown you all the technology. The technology is there. The solutions are there. We put these together on a global basis. And in certain localities they are choosing to fix it. The Chesapeake Bay has been a wonderful, exquisite example of how, when the states cooperate, and they've gotten together, they're actually able to put a moratorium on dumping of certain types of pollutants which are harming the estuaries. And they are coming back. The Chesapeake Bay is one of our success stories. And there are a lot of local success stories. But, in general, these are the minority and that's what concerning me.
The reality is, like I say, it's happening. We know how to fix it, but we're not choosing to as a nation. And that translates into the monetary problem.
Wes Tunnell: I am reminded of what's happening in the world fisheries. We didn't really address this specifically during our time of discussion. There was a wonderful article in National Geographic this last month--some of you may have seen it--on the world's diminishing fisheries. And if you read through that you saw that 1989 was the peak of fisheries in the world, and we've started to decline now. There's lots of variation and variability in that, and certain places are worse off than others, but I think that's a real signal or a sign to--we've got to start doing things differently.
We have the tools and techniques, as Mary is saying. We have to do something new in our management ways to educate the public in what needs to be done. And there's often times in the new marine sanctuary areas of the world that we want to self-regulate ourselves. But if we look at some of the crashed fisheries in the world, we see that self-regulation doesn't work, that regulation has to be imposed.
I have experienced personally, in our new Environmental Science Bachelor's and Master's degrees at our university, a trend there that the young people are eager to learn and apply environmental science to our world. We often get into discussions though about mom and dad and grandma and grandpa who keep saying, "I didn't do it that way. We didn't do it that way. I don't know what they're talking about. We don't need to do these new things. We didn't have to do them."
But it's this realization of the number of people on the earth and the pressure that they are causing. If we go to our young children, in elementary school now, we see that they're more cognizant of environmental science than the mothers and fathers and grandmas and grandpas. They're the ones who are really making the older ones recycle the trash, turn off the water, do all these kinds of things. And so it's a generation away, I think, where we have this new mind-set on how to manage the environment.
Bill Moyers: But they're not running the cruise ships and they're not running the liners and the oil tankers at sea from which so much of the spoilage is now coming.
Wes Tunnell: That's true. But they will be. Can we last until then? That's a good point.
Bill Moyers: We'll last, but will the damage be irreversible?
Wes Tunnell: In some places, I think it will be. We've seen some places though, even in our own state, like the Houston Ship Channel--when it caught on fire in the late 1960s we decided something was wrong with the water. And so we came up with some new laws to clean up the water there now. And people were even catching fish in the Houston Ship Channel. Now, I don't know if I'd eat them or not.
So the technology's there to do it, but we have to do it.
Robert Ballard: I've spent a lifetime away from society exploring, and I must say the question that you posed is the one that bothers me the most of anything I ever think about. I'm deeply concerned about where we're headed. I know the human race is one of the most adaptive species that's ever been brought onto this planet. I certainly saw that when I was in Beijing.
When I grew up, I was led to believe that I was going to escape Earth and that I was going to be like Superman who left Krypton just as it went up in smoke, and that I was going to live on Mars, and I was going to swim in the canals of Mars and I was going to grow tomatoes on Venus. But I'm not going to do that, nor is my son, nor are his children or their children. Space is not an alternative in the time frame that we need to address.
But it's very important that we, in the ocean, don't create another false prophesy. That we're going to escape the land and go to the sea. I've spent a tremendous amount of time down there. I would consider a penal colony down there cruel and unusual punishment.
So I'm deeply concerned about where the human race is headed. I do think the oceans will provide some relief to population growth, but not a great deal. If you look at the amount of ocean floor that receives the sun's energy, it's the size of North America, 24 million square miles.
But most of that land is in high latitudes. It's in the Arctic. There's not much real estate--except in the area of Indonesia--that's near the equator, that receives the sunlight.
There's no way people are going to live beneath the sea. It's totally ludicrous. The ambient pressure--it takes an outrageous number of people to support one individual under water at ambient pressure. So we're not going to live under the ocean. We're probably going to move out on to it, probably wanting to keep land in sight.
But the oceans do not hold out great promise for the population, certainly not in terms of feeding it. We've already taxed that to the limit. We're moving away from a hunter-gatherer society. But even if we were to manage it better, the sustainable yield would increase, but certainly not to hold off the Armageddon I think we're heading towards.
So I think the responsibility of every intelligent human being, regardless of their discipline, is to force our system to address the issue. We're creating too many people.
I think the most important step we can take is the empowerment of women. Empowering women, giving women control over their lives. We always thought you had to pass through a developed state as a nation before you could crack the birth control problem. But now we're seeing that you don't, that third world countries with proper education and proper empowerment of women are having a significant impact on their population.
Tony Amos: Well, I had expressed some optimism yesterday, and I want to clarify. My optimism, in particular, was to do with the problem of marine debris, solid-waste marine debris. And I believe there is an improvement, both in attitudes and the amount of material being dumped into the sea.
But, overall, I'm not optimistic about what I see in the continuing development of our coastal environment. And here is a good case in point. We are continually being asked to comment on various projects to raise causeways, to make channels between islands, to improve this, to improve that, by big engineering projects. And what I see as one of the problems, maybe they will do what they set out to do, but they will also encourage continued development of the coastal environment, a sort of domino effect.
Continuously we have little parcels of land which are taken over, and developments are put on them, and it is a situation which I think has obviously got to stop. I mean, look at the island that I live on, Mustang Island. It's essentially been written off. At one time it was considered to be a kind of uninhabited island, except for the town of Port Aransas on the north. But essentially that's written off, and eventually it will end up with wall-to-wall condominiums. And that's got to stop somehow. And one--of course, what Bob has said--one of the reasons is that we've got a continuing population explosion.
What bothers me, however, also, is an attitude change I see occurring in the country, an anti-environmental attitude that is growing. And that really bothers me. I'm considered to be an environmentalist here, and when I get asked to comment, one of the things that I have to say is that I am--yes, I am anti-development. I think we have to stop that, or at least control it. We just can't continue on doing it. Therefore, I might be against a project simply because it just adds another piece of concrete here, and takes over another little piece of land there that most people consider to be wasteland.
So I'm a little--I'm certainly concerned about the continued development of our coastal resources and somewhat pessimistic in that sense.
Barto Arnold: Shipwrecks aren't a life-and-death issue like over-population, but they certainly are an area where you can see the problem with attitude and character that people have. Historic shipwrecks are a severely limited resource, like natural resources are limited. And if you look at a place like Florida, where commercial treasure-salvage has been a way of life for a long time, almost every shipwreck in Florida has been damaged or destroyed by people looking for treasure, mostly non-existent treasure.
So it's an attitude of trying to get something for nothing and the seductiveness of the idea of getting something for nothing. As a result, our heritage is being destroyed. That's not as bad as the whole environment being destroyed, but it is symptomatic of the problem.
Bill Moyers: Thank you. Amy Freeman Lee had to leave this morning to go back to San Antonio and raise hell. But she left a question, which I'll read while someone moves to the microphone. She asked, "How do you explain the salient paradox in our society? We claim to respect science, yet when science substantiates something we dislike, we ignore it."
Robert Ballard: We're human.
Bill Moyers: We're human, but . . .
Robert Ballard: Sometimes you kill the messenger when you don't like the message.
Tony Amos: We have an example of that here in Corpus Christi. We're getting into a problem with ozone. We have ozone-alert days and we need one more day in the next year or so to go above a certain level, and then we'll have restrictions imposed upon industry and the general public. I think that a lot of people don't believe in ozone. They don't think there is a problem. They argue, "hey, wait a minute, ozone is good up there but bad down here. Explain that to us."
In some cases, scientists haven't explained that well to the people. Because it's an imperceptible change, such as the gradual warming of the oceans and the atmosphere, the public in general often doesn't believe it. And there are forces at large which encourage people not to believe it.
Jerry Supple: I'm Jerry Supple. And the question I have relates to the capacity of the oceans to solve some of our problems. It is 71 percent of the surface of the earth. It has a huge biological and chemical potential for us. I guess the question I would like to ask relates specifically to greenhouse gases. What are the mechanisms by which the ocean can participate in solving some of that problem, and do we have any sense of its efficacy or capacity to do so?
Mary Altalo: Let me tell you about a project that was actually proposed a number of years ago, and which I think demonstrates very nicely the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. And it was proposed by a late colleague of mine whom we miss dearly. But one of the aspects of greenhouse gases and warming is the excess carbon dioxide that is essentially building up in the atmosphere.
Now, it is known that large concentrations of phytoplankton in surface waters will actually draw down the carbon dioxide, take it out of the atmosphere. What it does is that the algal cells are depleting the carbon dioxide in the water, in the surface waters. This creates an imbalance at the surface. Thus, it causes the CO2 in the atmosphere to get sucked into the water.
So it was postulated by the late John Martin at Moss Landing in Monterey that if somehow you could increase the productivity, the growth and production of these phytoplankton in the surface, they would photosynthesize faster and faster. They would use carbon faster. They would draw down CO2 faster. And, therefore, you could regulate the atmosphere.
One of the ideas that he proposed was that the surface waters of the open ocean--the reason why you don't have major, major blooms of phytoplankton or high concentrations of phytoplankton is because they're growth limited, not by light, not by carbon, but by a few trace metals that they can't get because they're so far from the bottom.
The limitation in open ocean water is iron. So it was postulated, and the experiment was called IRONEX--it just started about a year ago--that if you took the ocean, a certain portion of the central ocean, and you flew planes over it and you dumped some iron into it, that all of those surface populations would use the iron and start photosynthesizing like crazy and draw down CO2.
They flew the campaign. They dumped the iron. The water in that area turned green. Green means you've got lots of photosynthesis, lots of organisms going on. And the surface concentrations looked like, in an effort to get gas exchange, the flow of CO2 was going in versus going out. So those are the kinds of experiments and those are the kinds of things that I think are really illustrative of the problem of using some of these innovative techniques. It's the mechanism that we know to be able to regulate the flow in the right direction.
Now, the prospect of dumping iron all over the ocean is a real tough thing. But it was a tremendously innovative experiment, and it has just pushed our understanding and our--it has empowered us to realize that, yes, we maybe can do something about it.
Liz Carpenter: Well, I think that I'd like to know if the Pope has an outspoken environmental advisor to advise us, in view of the danger. How much effect could it have to allow birth control around the world? Such a lot of people have been making that point forever. Does he have anybody laying out these facts?
Robert Ballard: Well, to my knowledge, half the population of the world is in China and India, and there aren't many Catholics there. So, clearly, it's a global issue that all nations, all religions, have to deal with. And certainly the Catholic Church would be helpful if they would move a little forward on that issue.
Liz Carpenter: Do you know if he seeks information on this, if he has an advisor?
Robert Ballard: I don't think he can avoid it.
Ralph Shuffler: He does have advisors. He has a really big school of scientists that has recommended, at least since 1945, that the church not act the way it has. I'm not a Roman Catholic, and this is one of the reasons I'm not. Yes, they do have, and they haven't followed recommendations by top-flight people over and over and over again. But the Congress of Scholars must come out on the side of natural law. I think it's a peculiar reading of St. Thomas.
Tony Amos: Bill, could I make a point?
Bill Moyers: Yes, Tony.
Tony Amos: This is what Mary said. The amount of iron that would be needed to do this experiment would be tanker load after tanker load. And I think that we have to wonder. It's an innovative and extraordinary suggestion which has great merit. But I think we have to be worried about these kinds of big schemes to overcome problems that could be stopped, perhaps, at the source instead of trying to fix it after it's already broken.
One way would be to, perhaps, let us get some alternative ways of transporting ourselves around by using alternative fuels, to oil. It happened in the 1970s when we had a crisis, and there was a lot of innovative research done. The motivation to find alternative fuels slowly and inexorably disappeared as we seemed to have an abundant supply of oil. I think this is one of our major problems we need to solve.
Mary Altalo: Can I just really briefly respond to that? Tony, I do agree with you. What I was trying to do is be illustrative of a concept of the exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean, not necessarily saying this is the best way to fix it, but meaning that there--as an internal sort of a vision of a story that shows the interactions.
Steve Weinberg: I'd like to offer a partial answer to Amy Freeman Lee's question and see if the board has any response. The reason why people don't accept the view of science about what's happening and what could be done to affect it is because there's not much of an incentive to. Even if you were concerned about the environment, if--I may be very concerned about the environment, but if I add one more vacation home on Mustang Island and move into it, just by myself, not holding myself up as a model for everyone else, I haven't really damaged the environment so much. And then I can move in and call myself an environmentalist and oppose other people moving in.
Likewise, if I'm a cruise-ship operator and I decide that I won't be entirely careful with my wastes, I'm not going to add that much pollution to the ocean. It's all those other ships that do.
I think the only answer to this is not to teach people about what's wrong and what can be done about it because they won't have any incentive to do anything about it. The answer has to be regulation--Government telling people what they can do and what they can't do. That's not an entirely popular point of view these days. But I think we have to return to it in many of these areas. I would not say this about birth control. I don't like what the Chinese do about that. But, even there, Government can perform a valuable function of education.
I'd like--you know, we've been discussing all these things that have been going wrong. I haven't heard any discussion of concrete proposals for what you as a Congressperson or as a citizen would do to try to get legislation passed that would control these activities.
Bill Moyers: Let's have some specific responses from the panelists. I'd like you to tick off some things that you think are environmentally desirable. Tony?
Tony Amos: Well, one international agreement that has been ratified by most countries is what is called MARPOL (that's for marine pollution). MARPOL was first enacted and agreed to in 1973, I believe, and there are several annexes to MARPOL. One is the control of radioactive waste at sea. One is the control of petroleum products. One is the control of noxious chemical products. And the most recent one is the control of solid waste, in particular, plastics, into the ocean.
Many countries have agreed to MARPOL. Unfortunately, here on the Gulf of Mexico, some of our neighbors have not. One of our neighbors in particular, Cuba, has not responded to that. But it is a successful international agreement. However, the problem is enforcement. And enforcement is very difficult. Habits are very difficult to break, too. Just on a small scale, when I go to sea. Although smoking is not condoned very much anymore, a lot of people still smoke. And you will see people who will be environmentally astute flip their cigarette butts right into the ocean as a matter of course. And habits like this--the use of a styrofoam cup, for example, to drink one cup of coffee and then throw away. These are habits that could be changed for the better.
Barto Arnold: As a possibly more popular alternative to new restrictive regulations, you could alter the government policies that are counterproductive. And shipwrecks are just an example of how that has worked out.
Prior to the enaction of a federal shipwreck law in the mid-1980s, the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts imposed commercial treasure-salvage on the states, regardless of what the state wanted to do with its antiquities code. Rather than trying to outlaw treasure hunting, which we would have preferred as archaeologists, we drafted the law to remove the historic wrecks from the jurisdiction of the federal courts and leave it up to the states to decide whether to have treasure hunting or not.
At least we've eliminated a big negative influence, even though we couldn't impose the positive influence we wanted.
Robert Ballard: Mine is to commit myself, as I have done, to educating young people and to educate the general public. I'm amazed when most people say they know so little about the deep sea. Ninety percent of what I talked about has been known for twenty years.
And so, clearly, there is no major institute in the United States that commits large resources towards educating the general public about the deep sea. They have a completely ill-conceived notion of what most of our planet is all about.
And until they realize that the vast majority of our planet is a wasteland--an uninhabitable wasteland--they cannot realize how precious that little part of it is that sticks up above water, and understand that the universe has collapsed down to a very, very small amount of real estate that we are pouring concrete on and asphalt on.
So I think we must commit ourselves to just making everyone on this planet literate about their planet, so hopefully they'll stop littering it. But I think that's what we can do in the position we're in. We certainly would ask our politicians to be braver, ask our media to be less biased and present facts. I always enjoy going to England and watching the BBC when they announce the person who's going to tell the news as a reader, not as a giantly significant personality. And in the BBC, they say, "Our reader of the news today is Joe Blow from the Alamo." And this person is reading the news as opposed to interpreting it.
And so I think our job is to present the cold facts in non-politically correct context to intelligent people so that they might be able to make some intelligent decisions.
Bill Moyers: In that regard on the media, just a quick response. The media is not . . ..
Robert Ballard: I thought that might happen.
Bill Moyers: No, no. I'm on your side in this, which is why I am in public broadcasting, not commercial broadcasting, because commercial broadcasting long ago made its peace with the economic rules of the game, the little lies and the fantasies of merchandising. But it's a dance between the media and the public, as it is in politics. We want to blame our leaders, when the public often negates what the leaders want to do. We have been unable as a nation to implement the Rio Accord on emissions to the atmosphere, one of the few major democracies that has refused to do that, because of the strong ideological bent in our politics right now. So when politicians try to do certain things, the people resist.
In regard to the media, most people prefer to watch entertainment than to watch information and education from the media. It's one thing to get funds to do exciting documentaries about exploration underneath the sea, but almost impossible to get funds to do important documentaries about the threats to the seas.
We have wanted to do for years a major series on the Gulf. I've seen public television documentaries on the Aegean, on the Mediterranean, on all the exotic distant locations, but never a single documentary on the Gulf Coast.
I once heard William Buckley say that democracy cannot be successful unless it is practiced by politically mature people, among whom there is a consensus on the meaning of life within society. We don't have that consensus right now. It's easy to blame the politicians, and they are to blame for part of it. They're caught up at the moment in such expensive campaigns for office that money from their contributors dictates policy much more than scientific reality dictates policy.
How do we create a new consensus? How do we create a new consensus about what it takes to survive as a society?
Ralph Shuffler: I would like to both ask Dr. Ballard and affirm what you've just said how difficult it is to get anyone to agree on anything and also actually to follow through and do it in a democratic society. You were waxing eloquently about breaking through the media with the new media of the information highway and being able to talk back and forth.
It really scares me to death, because the Transnational Corporations--including Liz's whipping boys in the Catholic Church, and the media's whipping boys in Columbia--have been extraordinary pirates in all of our experience. People have called corporations "persons without a soul," I believe. It looks to me like they are voracious.
And if they're making money selling dope out of Columbia, or making money selling whitsets out of San Antonio, Texas, and doing it on the internet, we're in deep muddy--not an easier place. Would you all have some kind of comment about that?
Robert Ballard: Well, I think history is full of examples of the emergence of a technology and its devisive use and its wonderful use. Technology is amoral. It's a two-edged sword. Nuclear energy can heat your house or blow it up. Computers can help balance the checkbook or invade your privacy.
Certainly, the information highway is a tremendous technology--where, I understand, by volume, the majority of things moving on the information highway, or a significant percentage, is pornography right now. That is just a reflection of a new emerging technology that will become regulated. It's been an experiment for quite a long time, but it's rapidly becoming a technology that will be used in every walk of life.
I know in my particular case that I drive my car much less than I used to. I'm on the road much less than I used to be. And so it could have a very positive impact upon not putting us on the road as much as we used to be. But, you know, the information highway is being built and it's going to greatly alter all aspects of our life. And the question is in what way.
Fred White: I'm Fred White from Fredericksburg. I'm concerned with attitudinal changes of our population--world population--as a whole in regard to what we're doing. And I'm reminded of the statement of a wonderful philosopher, John Stuart Mill of the last century, when he put forward the idea that communities, cities, have become quite large enough to gain from them that conviviality and security of living together. And beyond that, that it was dangerous for man to associate primarily with his own species, and only his own species, or limitedly with his own species. And does this size of communities--that was important in the sense that it put these communities in a context of association with nature, if they were appropriately structured.
We seem to have lost that. But it's within the human genome, it seems to me, to have an attitude a little like the Bushmen or a little bit like the attitudes of the Hopi Indians, people we've lived with for short periods of time.
And I'm reminded of this from Lawrence Vanderpost about the Bushmen, and I think it's true in describing them. The Bushmen lived in an extraordinary intimacy with nature. Wherever he went, he felt he was known. We're a generation of know-alls, but few of us have a life-giving feeling of being known. Wherever this little man went, he was known. The trees knew him. The animals knew him. And he knew them.
His sense of relationship was so vivid that he could speak of our brother, the vulture. He looked up at the stars and spoke of Grandmother Cirrus and Grandfather Canus because this was the highest title of honor he could bestow.
This flows from our own shared genome. My question to the panel. Have we lost it forever or can we regain it? That gentling aspect of the marvel of association with nature is, to me, the key issue that we're talking about. So I'd like the panel of members to respond to, is it a hopeless thing?
Bill Moyers: Not too cheerful now.
Wes Tunnell: I might respond with a not-so-cheerful answer also. Many of you have heard of ecotourism, and some of you have undoubtedly participated in that, in some wonderful places in the world. And I think that's an example of it's being in the genome no matter where you're from, the wanting to get back to nature. And people discover these wonderful places to go to now. It's unfortunate to see that some of us ecotourists who love to go to places like the rain forest of Costa Rica are now the ones who are killing the rain forest in Costa Rica. We are loving it to death.
And so, again, back to the population thing. There are too many people to be supported in certain kinds of areas--most kinds of areas. Sorry about that.
Patsy Chaney: Patsy Chaney, Austin, Texas. I think that if we ask all of you in this room if you watch PBS, you would probably all say yes. There is another part of media--I suppose we still call it media--called talk radio. And I listen to that a lot, mainly because Mr. James Michener says it's good to listen to Rush Limbaugh because he makes you know what you believe. If you don't agree, then you agree strongly in your values the other way. Mr. Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe in ozone--that it's a danger, that is.
And for all of us that are talking today, I would feel better if you all on the panel would tell me how you're going to educate Rush Limbaugh.
Tony Amos: Let me respond in part to that. First, the thing that Rush Limbaugh uses is ridicule. Now, we do not as scientists. We don't get up here and ridicule things in a direct fashion that he does. Ridicule, unfortunately, appeals to the baser instincts of many of his listeners because they can say, "Oh, yes, you know, femi-Nazis." I listen to him until I cannot stand it any more. But I listen to him regularly because how can you comment on something if you haven't actually heard it?
This is a problem with many of the media things that you see. The 30-second sound byte where somebody will say, for example, "Oh, we have to ban this book because it is disgusting." And then you find out whether they have read it or not and they have not. They've just heard from other media or people like Rush Limbaugh what it's like.
It's very difficult for us, who are supposedly--how can I put it? We're supposedly--we go with a scientific mind-set. It's very difficult for us to reply with ridicule, get down on his same level. Maybe we have to do that. I'm not willing to do that yet.
Peggy Galvan: I'm Peggy Galvan, and I'm a guest at this meeting, and perhaps I shouldn't be speaking at all. But, Mr. Crook, at the beginning, said that this is a very powerful group, and I think it is. And if this group does believe that a wonderful PBS special on the Gulf Coast should be made, surely the expertise is right here, the knowledge is right here. And if it's a matter of money, surely you powerful people have access to funds which could be the seed money, a challenge to corporations.
Mr. Ballard can only visit so many children in school. But tapes could be made from this program, distributed to all the schools. And wouldn't it be wonderful if something really positive came out of this meeting.
Bill Moyers: You certainly know how to pick up a cue, Peggy. Yes, sir.
Jerry Doyle: Jerry Doyle, Beaumont. What is the attitude of the panel towards--or support for--the United Nations Law of the Sea?
Tony Amos: That's a tough one.
Bill Moyers: Yes, that is a tough one.
Tony Amos: Well, I'm in support of those international laws, the Law of the Sea. It's a very complex issue, and I don't claim to know all of it, but I believe that we have to regulate the international use of the ocean by certain laws which are agreed to by the majority of the sea-going nations and the nations that border the oceans.
Robert Ballard: There was a fly in the ointment, though. And the problem--as I understood it in tracking the Law of the Sea, and certainly our institution and our Center for Marine Policy was heavily involved, and it's been going on for many years--the real bad part of that law was in its effect on corporations that developed technology to exploit the resources of the oceans.
After having expended a tremendous amount of resources needed to mine the gold, the Law of the Sea basically orders the companies to turn over everything that they had done with no compensation. And this is ludicrous. The economic incentive was just taken away, so no one would want a law that said that they would have to spend all the money up front and then have to turn it over to an international body that then could exploit it without them receiving the reward for their incentive. Until they change that, it's just not going to work.
Tony Amos: However, I have to comment on that. The idea was that the third-world countries would immediately gain by all this effort that the developed countries have put into doing the research on how to extract manganese nodules, for example, from the bottom of the ocean, or ocean thermal energy.
However, it is unfair in a way in that the developed countries continue to have that great advantage because of their great resources in exploiting an area that belongs to everybody.
Robert Ballard: But I think we've seen that in any exploitation of a resource. It's called royalties. There's ways in which compensation schemes can be devised to compensate a world body for the access to these resources. We have this all the time on federal lands. Maybe we could argue that there should be much higher royalties paid.
But unless you begin discussing such a concept, some form of compensation as opposed to nothing, you can't have much of a dialogue.
Question: [Speaker not at the microphone. Unable to transcribe.]
Robert Ballard: No. But that's what's got to be worked out. There's got to be a reasonable economic incentive to invest such large amounts of money. As far as I'm concerned, any natural resource is a common resource of the planet and not of some specific group. But when you then ask a specific group to extract it, there must be the economic incentive to make it fair.
Tony Amos: None of these third-world nations that wanted the information had the ability to exploit those resources anyway.
Robert Ballard: But you would assume they would be the recipients of the royalty.
Tony Amos: Yes, but they would have had to have cooperated with the developed nation such as ourselves in order to extract that.
Robert Ballard: But therein lies the rub. And that's the problem, is that many countries cannot do it. Only a few can. And I believe it just has to get worked out.
Alec Rhodes: My name is Alec Rhodes. One of the initial questions you gave us, Bill, the one left by Amy Freeman Lee, was, in a society where we purport to believe in science, we ignore that science in our actions. And if we do that--and I'm making a statement, I'm not asking a question. If we do that, it's because it is to someone's best interest. Someone has a vested interest in doing that. And there is interest either individually or collectively for us to take these other actions, many times to the detriment of the environment and the sea.
If we as society permit that, it is at least in part because of what Mr. White from Fredericksburg just pointed out that we have lost touch with our role and our relationship to our environment.
I submit that one of the failures of science is to relate the body of knowledge, to relate what you know and what we know in this room about our environment and about our world to our local communities.
There's a bumper sticker out there that says, "Think globally and act locally." There's a lot of truth in that. And our failure to relate this world to our individual lives and our individual communities is part of why we, with impunity, take actions which hurt us collectively.
If there's an answer, at least part of the answer--we can't do what Steven Weinberg would like for us to do because we're still a democracy. We have to--we can't just regulate unless we believe in these precepts. And Robert said earlier that one of the findings he found that he believes in is the empowerment of women, for example. That's an education process. Much of what is going to help us here is for us to educate people about what it means when we damage the environment, not just the ozone layer or the ocean, but what happens locally or anywhere in the world--the fact that we are related to that.
A good example of this is, even in poor villages in South America--there's a Texas organization called Bats Conservation International which deals with the importance of bats. It's an environmental group that has gone to very poor villages down there and has shown these people the value of protecting the bats because of the effect it has on their crops, and the effects that it has on them locally.
We need to do the same kind of thing worldwide so that people understand the damage that's done and understand the benefits of protecting the environment. And I think our challenge as philosophers and as scientific educators is to do exactly that--to allow people, enable people to understand that relationship and understand the value of what you're doing. Thank you.
Tony Amos: May I comment on that? I think, just as there's a lot of debate in the country about how we fund our politicians, how they fund their campaigns and so on, I think there's a problem in the way that science is funded.
If you put in a proposal to one of the big national, or even state organizations, to say that you are going to go down to South America to teach people the importance of bats, the chances of you getting funded would be very slim. So maybe there should be other funding sources that would fund such programs that are really educational, and maybe our attitudes towards funding science should change.
And I think they are changing a little bit, but high-profile scientists who get out to the media are often scorned by their lower-profiled colleagues for being kind of publicity seekers and so on, and we have to change that attitude too.
Jon Fleming: Jon Fleming from North Zulch. Some people have wondered what North Zulch is. It is to College Station what Dripping Springs is to Austin.
This has been a delightful meeting, and I suppose this question is going to go to Mr. Moyers, or perhaps Mr. Crook, as the distinguished former ambassador.
Buckminster Fuller used to refer to our planet as our spaceship, and I don't think any one of us would disagree with that notion. And we have this spaceship with clearly limited resources--as the panel has pointed out to us, some of them are replenishable, others not.
Why in heavens name, with that knowledge, can't the G-7 come to a point where we use our economic clout, our technological exports, our medicinal capacities, all of that, to bring the other parts of our spaceship into line on the subject of population and abuse of the environment? Because if we don't lead, there will come a time when our spaceship is used up and the human race will go away.
I think, as Dr. Rostow mentioned yesterday in her report to us, as a Society, as we begin to formulate an agenda for the Society's meetings with the millennium approaching, that that's certainly something that we could talk about. And we could talk about it creatively. But I have always wondered why, with the tremendous power of this nation and our six partners that lead the world, and we shouldn't be afraid to lead the world, and we shouldn't be afraid to say what is right, and we know it's right. And democracy finally has its limits--that 51 percent of the people finally can have their way and their will in this country, and I would think in the world.
I wish some of you would respond to that because it's terribly frustrating being one of those people that does recycle, Bill, and tries to act responsibly. It's very frustrating for us to live in this way and seeing where we're headed. Thank you.
Bill Moyers: Well, that touches on the question I raised yesterday, which the panel very diplomatically avoided, and I was able to let the clock run out before we got to it. Having been raised a good Baptist here in Texas, I always thought that the human race was the summum bonum of creation. I've begun to consider that perhaps that is not the ultimate aim of creation. Certainly the conduct of the human race, while rich in moments of wonder and wisdom and grandeur and benevolence, also suggests tendencies that may be hostile to its own perpetuity. An Earth without the human race would be an Earth without the Holocaust, or genocide in Cambodia, or slavery.
Question: And a world without Mozart.
Bill Moyers: And a world without Mozart. But there is music in the sea, and there is the music of the spheres of the universe, as Joe Campbell told us. Who knows?
Robert Ballard: We all are churning with these questions. Anyone that's looking around and can see the world has to be churning on these issues.
And it's clear to me that Earth will survive. I've put a lot of effort into educating people about the wonders of our planet. But I've been more focused of late, not on Earth's survival, because I'm assured that it will be around for a long, long time, and that the processes that it has will be around for a long, long time.
But the real issue is us. I do worry about the extinction of species, but I really, really worry about extinction of us. And I think that if we can save ourselves, we'll inadvertently save everybody else. That's sort of the way that I've come to grips with it. Because to save ourselves, we will probably take the pressure off everybody else as well.
So the question is what do we do about us?
Question: That's what my question is.
Robert Ballard: I think we have to focus on us, not in a selfish sense, but in an actual way of saving everything.
Bill Moyers: We'll let this be our final question.
Fairfax Randall: I'm Fairfax Randall from Houston, Texas. And I sat at Bob's table yesterday, and had wonderful discussions. And he proposed the thought about deferred birth and waiting to have children. And he had some wonderful ideas, and I listened. And I've listened to all of you and loved hearing because it does make you think, and I feel so alive with ideas. And the man from Kerrville said that we've lost our connectedness, and I do feel that one of the reasons we've lost our connectedness is because we say we believe in God, but do we really search for God. And it is my thinking that in the search for God that we do find our connectedness. And this search, to me, is given lip service, but not life service.
And I also want to point out that at our table we talked about incorrect questions and that there would be tombstone that says, No politically correct questions were asked. And I know this is not politically correct, and I know that God is a subject that, sort of, people think, Oh, Baptists, you know. Put that away. Put that away. You know, this is a far-right liberal. I happen to be very pro-choice.
But my question, and it is not to put you all on the spot for an answer because it is totally politically incorrect, is do you think that there is truth in the prophecy of the Book of Daniel that there will be a time of trial? And could God actually be in charge of this Earth and that there will be a thousand years under the reign of Christ and all that died to bring the Gospel to the world?
Robert Ballard: Bill? I read The Power of Myth many times, Bill. That's yours.
Bill Moyers: I wouldn't--you want to add something before I think up an answer? Go ahead.
Walt Rostow: Because I do feel from the beginning that there is a scientific element in this which was somewhat missed in the early going. Let's take this question of South Korea. South Korea has a very rapidly falling birth rate. The fertility rate is 2.1, and South Korea has 1.6. In other words, if it goes on this way, it will come to a falling population. It will peak out, it figured, because of the age of its present population, at 2025, at 50 million.
Throughout the developing world, there's a much more rapid fall in the birth rate than there is here, except in Africa where it's just beginning. Africa is a great trouble to all of us.
My point is very simple. This is, in a way, the good news. The bad news is that the next twenty-five, fifty years are going to be very tough. We can break the environmental bank in that period with the industrialization of India and China. Therefore, we are very close to the period of maximum strain, after which I regret to say to the spokesman here, that we'll all be children of the Catholic Church in a sense, that we'll all be pro-natalist. The only reason we're not a falling population, like the European, Russia, and Germany, is that we're bringing people in from the south.
I, therefore, think that the things you've been talking about will be highly relevant in the next twenty-five, fifty years. And we have to fight the environmentalist issue with food--blessed with energy, as a matter of fact--but with food and the environment and the rest of it. Even then we have no guarantee, if we're stagnant and passive, that we can absorb an industrial India and industrial China into the world.
But after that the population will increase by five billion, up to about ten, eleven billion in these fifty years. And so I would say that in this period where things are going to get tough, the politicians will react to what the panel has to say, what this group as a whole has to say. And we shouldn't give up hope of educating people in the right attitude to survive these next twenty-five, fifty years.
After which our problem, if we get there, will be how do we have full employment in a world which has no population increase. But I'm content to leave that problem, which is a problem of affluence, for later.
In other words, I think that what you've been saying very much applies to the next twenty-five, fifty years. But there are many hopeful trends going on in the world that will help us get through this period.
William Crook: I want to hear Bill respond to the previous question.
Bill Moyers: I don't know if the prophesy in the Book of Daniel will be fulfilled. If I find out from experience, I'll be glad to share it with you, if I'm around in town. No one knows if any "prophesy"--scientific, religious, cultural, or demographic--is going to be fulfilled.
This particular one comes out of a very strong and singular conviction on the part of a devoted religious community. You'll find different kinds of prophesies on the part of other people who are as equally devoted to their idea of the universe.
As for myself, I know of no other philosophy by which to live in this world than to expect a hospitable future and do everything I can to work toward it. Then we'll see what happens.
I would like to close this morning with just a few words about your president and my friend.
Someone asked me last night at dinner, "Why did you come, knowing so little about the sea? And I said that I'm here for one reason and one reason only--Bill Crook asked me. You know him as your president. I know him not as a president but as a friend. The threads of our lives have intertwined for so long now that there are moments when I can't see but one seamless fabric, and I have shuddered at other times at the thought that that fabric would unravel without him. That's the nature of our friendship.
Francis Bacon said that a man in particular cannot speak to his son but as a father, to his wife but as a husband, to his enemy but on terms, whereas a friend may speak the case as the case requires. That's been the nature of our friendship. Bill Crook has been to me that second self that each of us needs to resist our own impulses to self-delusion and grandiosity.
I'll tell you something about this man I've known for almost forty years. Fontaine said of one philosopher that he knew everything about the universe and nothing about himself. Bill knows himself, and that's been the source of his leadership as a public servant. We were in Washington together. He was director of VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, one of the most important parts of our effort at that time. He went on to be ambassador to Australia. He never touched a responsibility that didn't become a devotion.
But I also have known him as a citizen. Judith and I spent the best year of our lives in two weeks in 1993 with Bill and Eleanor. We were playing Sancho Pancho to their Don Quixote as they moved through Spain in pursuit of the three caravels which now are docked here in the Corpus Christi harbor. It was Bill's assignment to negotiate with Spanish lawyers and Spanish business people and with Spanish diplomats and Spanish royalty. You should have heard him negotiate with the great-great-great-great-grandson (I hope I got that right!) of Christopher Columbus, CristÛbal ColÛn, the present Duke of Veragua, who was a key figure in the final decision to allow the caravels to come to Corpus Christi.
It was wonderful to hear Bill think in English and Eleanor translate in Spanish to the Duke of Veragua. And the two of them were the critical agents in obtaining for Texas this permanent reminder of the value of oceanography and marine exploration and of that age of exploration.
So I've seen Bill as a friend. I've seen Bill as a public servant. I've seen Bill as a citizen. And you've seen him as a president. If you feel as fortunate to have had Bill Crook as your president as I feel in having him as my friend for almost forty years, then we do have something very much in common.
I close with just this final thought from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
The sea drowns out humanity and time. It has no sympathy with either.
For it belongs to eternity. And of that it sings its marvelous song forever and ever.
William Crook: Thank you very much. Thank you. That was not on the program.
Bill Moyers: It'll be stricken from the record by the president, no doubt.
William Crook: Since you spoke a personal word, let me just respond with a couplet or two.
What makes a friend? What filmy strands
Are these that turn to iron bands?
Ah, these are things one understands, but once or twice.
Well, I don't feel so much like Texas and philosophy are oxymorons after all. I've been so proud of your response, your questions. And who could not be grateful to the men and the lady we have here? And I know you want to express your appreciation to them.
It seems as if Amy Freeman Lee's question is leading this morning. As I sat looking down the profiles of our scientists here, it occurred to me that the mantle of the prophet in our time has passed from Isaiah and Jeremiah to our scientists. Someone asked why we didn't believe them. Perhaps it is because we've been taught for so long, especially in our Bible Belt, that they were bad people. Yet the moral word--the definitive word today--the warning word is coming from the scientific community in every sphere of their activity.
And it is time--these prophets have spoken definitively with concern. And it's time we listen to them.
What I've learned from this is just how transient the world is and everything connected with it. In our time we've seen empires rise and fall, and states and isms and ideologies. And I want to close using the president of our scientists last year, who switched from pure science to a little sentiment, and close with a poem, which, to me, is the reassuring North Star from Tennyson.
Our little systems have their day.
They have their day and cease to be.
They are but broken lights of thee, O Lord,
And thou art more than they.