Laurence.Mee's blog

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

As Director of an independent marine institute, I have become used to having to balance the books. With the help of innovative and hard-working staff and a savvy Board and Council we have managed to do this well in the past five years without relying on ‘hand outs’. But I must admit, we all have to pedal harder and harder to keep up with the peloton and they are all doing the same. We have come to accept this as a ‘fact of life’ and encourage others to do the same. I have had my doubts about the sustainability of this lifestyle we have all adopted for some time and a recent paper that the economist Bob Costanza sent me has given me even more food for thought. The paper, titled Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress is published in Ecological Economics by a team led by Ida Kubiszewski.

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

Today an important piece of science news has been buried amongst the shocking revelations of chemical weapons used in Syria and the more trivial but captivating stories of human brain tissue grown in a test tube. A paper in the journal Nature by Yu Kosaka and Shang-Ping Xie from Scripps Institution of Oceanography has assembled and tested evidence explaining the seemingly erratic nature of global temperature changes in the past half-century.

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

Riots, looting and public unrest are not the usual subjects of this blog but the ongoing serious disturbances in Istanbul have caught my attention and I can’t get them out of my mind. Last night’s disturbances were in the district of Beşiktaş where I used to work and spend much of my time, dodging traffic jams, safely wandering through the narrow dusty streets as I walked home to my flat overlooking the busy Bosphorus, eating in my favourite fish restaurant by the market (they put my photo up on the wall with many other regulars; great ploy to keep customers) or my sumptuous $2 lunches of bamya, nohut and pilaf. I bought the table on which I write most of my blogs on the street that is now occupied by protesters. Turkey is full of lovely generous people and Istanbul, with around 15 million people, is its most cosmopolitan and overcrowded city. Whenever the arrivals hall of Ataturk Airport discharges me into its hubbub, I feel a curious sense of homecoming.

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

Ralph Keeling runs the Mauna Loa observatory where his father began CO2 measurements 55 years ago. He recently had the unenviable responsibility to tell the world that CO2 levels have passed the 400ppm mark for the first time, the highest level for about 4 million years. The news fleetingly passed through the front page of some newspapers; others steadfastly ignored it. Disbelief and overt scepticism maybe, but also the denial of an alcoholic diagnosed with the early stages of cirrhosis.

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

Let me begin by telling you something about Hallsands because it is a parable for the kind of short-sighted thinking that we often witness today. Hallsands is a little hamlet of a few well-maintained houses perched on a Devon cliff in a hinterland of rolling hills dotted with sheep and expensive holiday homes. But it didn’t used to be like that. The 1891 census showed it to be a bustling little fishing village of 159 people with 37 houses and a pub. But in a fateful storm on 26 January 1917, the entire village tumbled into the sea just after the residents had scrambled to safety. Villages that have existed for centuries don’t simply vanish without reason; the storm was a harsh but not unusual one. What precipitated the disaster was the dredging and removal of huge quantities of gravel from the underwater banks off Hallsands in the 1890s for construction material to be used for expanding the port of Plymouth. Local people had protested and the dredging was halted in 1902 … but it was too late, the natural resilience of the coastline had been fatally weakened.

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

February 6th will be long remembered as a good day for European fisheries as a series of major reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy were voted through the European Parliament by a massive 502 to 157 majority. The Bill covers key issues such as a progressive ban on discarding non-target caught fish, on tighter regulation of fisheries to ensure Maximum Sustainable Yield, on eco-labelling and, most importantly, on the regionalisation of fisheries management. This is a key round in a long battle for sustainable fishing and even though the battle is far from over (negotiations must continue with fisheries ministers and the European Commission), those who have worked for years to convince legislators and the fishing industry have good reason to celebrate. But, as I am about to explain, there is still an ‘elephant in the room’...

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By Laurence Mee, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, laurence.mee [at] sams.ac.uk

Most people would associate marine science with the bracing sea air and sound of the wind and sea. It is getting increasingly hard to find anywhere remote from the imprint of humanity and when an attractive place is ‘discovered’ and gets into a travel guide, the visitors soon begin to roll in. So much effort is placed on the ‘remote’ or ‘pristine’ that it is easy to ignore the other end of the spectrum; the coastal megacities where a quarter of a billion people live. Recently, I was sharply reminded of this when my plane landed in Mumbai on a hazy day and I felt my lungs filling with the acrid air of this city of over 18 million people. India’s increasing prosperity, like China’s, is putting a lot of pressure on the environment.

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