Tag Archives: social media

“Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control?”

Pretty good piece by Dr. Gordon Hartman, former Department of Fisheries and Oceans, posted at “The Common Sense Canadian”. As quoted on the website:

Dr. Gordon F. Hartman has consulted on fisheries issues in a number of foreign countries to help them contribute to the well being of that resource. Leading fishery scientists all over the world will attest to his knowledge and ability. Dr Hartman, long a premier scientist and manager with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was one of the “dissident scientists”, as Alcan referred to them – a sobriquet he wears with pride – who helped mightily in the fight to cancel the Kemano Completion Program proposal for the Nechako system.

This title is quoted from a publication by Jeffry Hutchings, Carl Walters and Richard Haedrich, back in May of 1987. Their paper dealt with government control of science information in regard to the cod fish crisis in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Kemano Completion issue in B.C.  Now, almost 25 years later, their title question is still appropriate when we consider the control of public communication by Dr. Kristina Miller, a DFO scientist at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. The control is in regard to her public discussion of her (and co-author’s) highly technical paper on genomic signature and mortality of migrating Sockeye salmon (Science, pages 214-217, Vol. 331, 14 January, 2011). The muzzling of this scientist originates primarily in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada, far more than in the DFO bureaucracy.

I have read the paper and it is unclear to me why there should be any reluctance on the part of government, at any level, to having such research discussed with the public. It is even less clear to me why Dr. Miller is constrained from discussing such work until after she appears before the Cohen Inquiry in late August. Her work is already open to the scientific community through publication in the prestigious journal, Science. To the extent that Dr. Miller and co-author’s work on wild salmon in the Fraser River may provide help in sustaining them, it should be open to the public now. Science should not be used for playing political games.

When one considers the behavior and record of governments, over the years and at the  very “top end”, there is cause to wonder what the real commitment is, deep down, in regard to sustaining wild salmon. The bitter history of issues such as Alcan/Kemano, salmon farming, and Fraser River gravel mining underlie such concern. In each case there appears to be an unspoken policy of business and industry first, and wild salmon and their environments second. Salmon-friendly measures such as the “wild salmon” policy and “no-net-loss” principle are positive, however, they seem to have less weight than they should when big business is involved.

Such doubt and concern has “big roots” as far back as the mid 1980s in the Kemano completion issue. A major element of debate involved the allocation of adequate flows in the Nechako River for the Chinook salmon population that reproduced there. Full review of this unfortunate part of history is not possible in a limited space. A listing of the chronology of events is given in my paper in the publication (GeoJournal, October 1996, Volume 40, nos. 1 & 2, page147 – 164).

A deeper and harsher indication of the misuse of scientists and their work is given in the Brief to the B.C. Utilities Commission Review Panel by Dr. J.H. Mundie (The Kemano Completion Project: An Example of Science in Government, 50 pages, February 1994).

  • Dr. Mundie tells of the Schouwenburg report, the joint year-long work of about ten scientists, being buried. This report contained the best advice the scientists could offer regarding required flows for salmon in the Nechako River.
  • He reviews how DFO scientists and managers were told that the minister accepted Alcan’s prescribed flows as adequate.
  • He reviews how a group of DFO people and Alcan consultants, over a four day weekend period, came up with a program to make Alcan’s dictated flow regime work.
  • He testifies to his being pushed, unsuccessfully, to change his expert witness document regarding flows required for salmon.
  • He quotes the minister’s statement in regard to scientists who were concerned about the Alcan/Nechako River process, they should either agree with him, or “take their game and play elsewhere.”

Except for the need for brevity, the experiences of other scientists could be added to this section. This history is not presented to re-acquaint people with the whole controversial history of the Alcan/Nechako episode. It is touched on to indicate that little has changed during about the last 25 years in the way governments manage science and scientists.

Organizations like DFO contain many very talented and dedicated people. The public does not gain the full benefit that they might offer in the present politicized and bureaucratized system. Both the public and the public servants deserve better.

As for the Fraser River salmon, they face a difficult and uncertain future even if only the freshwater environment is considered. It is a future marked by change and complexity. The complexity involves interaction of climate, flow regimes, thermal and forest cover changes. Added to these are, expanding human populations, water abstraction, pollution, and competing demands for catch.

There is urgent need for a structure that can focus on these major challenges now and into the years ahead. Such complex and expanding challenges cannot be dealt with without scientific knowledge. Whatever the Cohen Inquiry might do, it is not a substitute for science now, and into the future.

Beyond the provision of knowledge, we need a structure that allows the public to know what the scientific findings and advice are. We need a structure that permits thoughtful public response and feed-back to such information.

If political people must over-ride science for reasons of “greater societal good”, which they have every right of do, let them do so openly. Then let them also explain it openly, rather than trying to shape and manipulate science, through the bureaucracy, to serve political or business ends.

G.F. Hartman, Ph.D.,

August 2011

_ _ _ _ _ _

The underlined part goes back to this idea I’ve put out there frequently, something akin to a Citizen’s Assembly on how we coexist with wild salmon.

As I’ve also mentioned frequently on this site, it’s not just up to the ‘scientists’; however, science does play an important part.

(and this is made clear by the Prime Minister’s Office interference on this particular issue of muzzling scientists)

Unfortunately, though, just as the East Coast Cod collapse, and issues such as massive dam construction, and so on — it doesn’t really matter what the “scientists” say or what their ‘science’ says; it’s the economists and politicians opinions that win. And thus a “scientific inquiry” — which is essentially what the Cohen Commission has become — won’t answer many questions…

One scientist says that, another says this… and so goes the merry-go-round.

Or the famous beast known as Hydra arrives, and that’s the thing with “science” and natural systems — just when you think you have the answer, you realize you have two more questions that need be answered. Chop of another head, two more pop up.

These are issues of political will and political decision-making — whether it be in the Prime Minister’s office or the DFO office… and yet the Cohen Commission is not to find fault with any people or branches of government. And thus, what sort of “answers” to folks expect?

And, like it or not, media plays a role in near everything. The bigger change in recent years that many of the 40% of older work force in institutions like the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans (and older range of MPs and long time bureaucrats) may not have have  full grasp upon — the power of social media.

Marketing is everything and everything is marketing — plain and simple.

 

new words… no new actions. Winning strategies for Bullshit Bingo.

Love this post from Seth Godin yesterday:

The pleasant reassurance of new words

It’s a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything.

Real change is uncomfortable. If it’s not feeling that way, you’ve probably just adopted new words.

.

Less than 35 words… and yet pretty damn revealing.

Consider about bumpf words like: ecosystem-based management or ecosystem-based planning (or anything that starts with “eco” eco-certification, eco-building, eco-car, etc.); corporate social responsibility; code of ethics; adaptive management (aka, we didn’t know what the ‘beeeep‘ we were doing in the first place); best practices; performance indicators; benchmarks…

…and so on, and so on.

(Want more? Refer to the bullshit bumpf bingo card)

It is much easier to create new language that suggests change has occurred — than actually taking the hard, difficult, steps to truly change.

Does posting “corporate social responsibility” on a company website actually result in a change in day-to-day behavior (e.g. some U.S. banks)?

Does suggesting that things operate under “ecosystem-based management” actually result in ‘eco-action‘? (actual name for federal government initiative).

Search every provincial government website in Canada and you will find that every Province suggests that they engage in: “ecosystem-based management” and “sustainable practices” and, what the heck — throw in some “social responsibility“.

Are you changing… or, are you adopting new words?

Warning: skewed graphic content?

Fitting quote…

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.

~Mark Amidon

_ _ _ _ _

Hence, why it is pretty important to make best efforts to: mean what you say, and say what you mean.

As famous writer E.B. White suggested:

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

Or as Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University and design expert, suggests in one of his fantastic books Envisioning Information:

Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and for the audience. Chartjunk promoters imagine that numbers and details are boring, dull and tedious, requiring ornament to enliven. Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content…

Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. In fact, consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. And, no matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.

Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Fitting post from Mr. Godin today as well — especially surrounding this highly contentious BC salmon farming issue:

Self-destructive instructions

If you ever have to say ‘lighten up’ to someone, you’ve failed twice. The first time, when you misjudged an interaction and the other person reacted in a way you’re unhappy with, and the second time, when you issue this instruction, one that is guaranteed to evoke precisely the opposite reaction you’re intending.

I’ll add “I was joking,” to this list, because it’s an incredibly lame excuse for a failed interaction.

One more: Raising your voice while you say, “You’re just going to have to calm down!” (And I’ll add librarians yelling at kids to be quiet…)

It’s completely valid to come to the conclusion that someone else can’t be a worthy audience, conversation partner or otherwise interact with you. You can quietly say to yourself, “this guy is a stiff, I’m never going to be able to please him.” But the minute you throw back instructions designed to ‘cure’ the other person, I fear you’re going to get precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for.

(Generally speaking, the word “oh” is so neutral, it’s a helpful go to pause while you wait for things to calm down.)

_ _ _ _ _

Oh…?

_ _ _ _ _

Might something akin to this occur with the current PR-campaign by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, or tar sands PR campaigns, or otherwise?

For example, the “bcsalmonfacts” TV commercials that ask the question along the lines of: “do you believe everything you’re told?”

Doesn’t seem to be all that different than TV commercials these days advertising cars as good “environmental choices” and promoting the fact that fewer greenhouse gases were released in the making of the commercial because they put the car on a treadmill of sorts and sprayed it with a hose to make it look like it was raining.

Well, sure, producing the commercial might have saved a few ounces of greenhouse gases, but what about the amount that that same car is going to produce over its lifetime?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Advertising and PR (and the prime time nightly news and campaigning politicians) that market to folks as if they are the lowest common denominator will (most likely) eventually have things blow up in their face.

All the more complicated… throw in a pile of finger pointing, stabbing and jabbing — attacks on the other sides “science”, credibility, “facts”, and just simple attacks; and… well… many folks just zone out. At least the folks in the middle or maybe even on the fence.

For others that have an impassioned opinion on either side, fires are simply fueled, logs are thrown on the blaze, and the inferno of “who’s more right?” burns through the night. (just like a marriage or family member argument that burns for years because one person is sooo much more right than the other person… and vice versa).

Calm, measured, listening, middle-road approaches — with questions of clarification, attempts at balancing and limiting assumptions, and conversations that seek clarity and understanding (and maybe even agreeing to disagree on some things)… might garner much stronger, lasting results?

Or, is that just pie-in-the-sky idealism?

BC Salmon Farmers PR campaign: continuing the discussion…

I left some more comments today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website — the Public Relations (PR) spin campaign of the BC Salmon Farmers Association and related companies involved in open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast. I have found it quite an interesting process — from a variety of angles…

As a few of my posts have alluded to this week, looking at the strategy, tactics and approach of this PR campaign has been an interesting process. Launching PR campaigns can be akin to freeing — or trying to cage — a schizophrenic, unpredictable critter.

These sorts of things can be a great success, or an absolute bomb… just like a Hollywood movie.

Backlash can hurt just as much as watching the old movie Backdraft multiple times.

And, thus, these sorts of things must be well-though out and very well managed — even more so when the purpose is “getting the real story out” and espousing “facts”. Think of how many politicians have had campaigns ended or careers ended because they weren’t forthright about certain actions, activities,  from the past.

No matter how many clever commercials they put on TV or social media.

A glaring difference here is that a politician has clear objectives with their PR-campaigns… get elected. When it comes to this ‘salmonfacts’ campaign… well, I’m a little unsure. Some of this relates to, for example, why cannibalize your own businesses.

One of the comments left today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website in regards to the “fact” that “salmon are incredibly efficient eaters”. Yes, this is a fact, but what isn’t an “efficient eater”…?

And why cannibalize your own business in this process:

some might suggest that this ‘fact’ could be referred to as cannibalism…

And no, I don’t mean in the standard food consumption meaning of the word; more the business meaning of the word.

“Cannibalization refers to the business process whereby engaging in one activity or practice necessarily eats into another activity or practice. Cannibalization can take place within a firm, between businesses, or across industries.”

Last time I checked (and maybe it has changed recently?) Marine Harvest and Marine Harvest Canada [I stand corrected, it's Skretting not Marine Harvest as Nutreco sold Marine Harvest a few years back] are subsidiaries of Nutreco:
http://www.nutreco.com/

Their website suggests: “Nutreco is a global leader in animal nutrition and fish feed.”

one of their specialties is “Compound Feeds”:

“Compound feeds are complete, industrially blended or compounded feeds which fully match the nutritional requirements of the specified animal (poultry, pigs, ruminants, fish, rabbits, goats, sheep and other species).”

So it seems like this graphic and this concentration on salmon feed conversion rates is a little contradictory when compared to overall business practices of companies listed on this site.

Yes, maybe salmon food conversion rates are lower and this can serve as a front to suggest: look how “sustainable” this business of salmon farming is…

But isn’t it a little hypocritical for a company to sell its “sustainability” practices, by focusing on this specific ad, when the parent company (Nutreco) of this company [Skretting] is actually heavily involved as a majority of its business in developing feed for the poultry, cattle and pig industry, and is in fact invested heavily in poultry and other meats:

“Nutreco’s subsidiary Sada is the Spanish market leader in chicken production and is well known in Spain for its Sada and Cuk brands. Sada also produces a range of chicken products and meal solutions.”

If not hypocritical, its certainly cannibalizing the parent companies businesses.

BC Salmon Farmers, more responses… will I eat farmed crow?

If you have not had a chance to follow all the comments, or are new to the site; here’s a sampling of an exchange that portrays some properties of the BC salmon farming debate and where there may very well continue to be dissonance on this hot ticket issue.

A manager from one of the larger BC salmon farming companies (a very large company, where the salmon farmer is but one tiny cog in a much larger globalized multinational — not to suggest this as a “ohhh, watch out for the bogeyman”… more a reality of the business environment), respectively left some comments in response to my comments on the new PR campaign largely led by the website bcsalmonfacts.ca:

You raise a range of interesting points in your response to my posting on your blog. I do want to address these as best I can. I hope that ultimately you will come and see for yourself what we do and how we do it.

You comment that … in BC there are large populations of wild salmon stocks and the history of wild and farmed interactions is not a very good one.

This is an interesting point – but this is one of the myths that I’d like to see the wider public understand better. The farmers in BC have actually got a great record of living in harmony with wild salmon runs. In the Broughton – increasing pink runs and coho runs. In the Fraser a record sockeye run. Coordinated and effectively managed sealice levels to specifically protect wild stocks (not to protect the farmed fish)…

… Salmon farming is a good economic activity that should be seen as part of the solution to the world’s sustainability problems – it is not, in my view, part of the problem.

You then discuss more generally regarding what are acceptable impacts and how do we determine what is acceptable. You also comment on the role of PR. I’m glad to say that I agree with you here! All human activities have impacts. We do need to debate what is acceptable to the community here in BC.

But the community deserves to hear both sides of the story – PR works both ways and the people who advocate for the elimination of salmon farming (that is what would effectively happen if the industry was legislated out of the natural waterways) are very good at communicating their ideas and concerns. Salmon farmers have a responsibility to explain why we believe that our activities are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

_ _ _ _ _

It is not the entire comment, and I haven’t shortened it to try and take things out of context; more to shorten reading time (and try and keep post length down).

In response, I had a post-length comment, of which I have added a few more thoughts:

thanks for taking the time in continuing this chat. I certainly have to respectfully take issue with a few comments about the ‘myths’ you allude to… like anything, and especially this hot button issue of salmon farming on the BC coast… it is multifaceted with more sides, angles and faces then a polar bear embossed diamond from Nunavut.

I don’t quite buy the ‘fish farms living in harmony with wild salmon runs’ argument… it’s a pretty weak causal connection. If I might use the analogy, it’s like saying clearcut logging had a harmonious relationship with salmon because look at the record Fraser sockeye run this year. “All those years of industrial clearcuts ‘obviously’ didn’t do any damage, look at this record 2010 run. What’s everyone complaining about?”

The jury is most certainly still out on this apparent harmonious relationship between salmon farms and wild salmon. And quite frankly, I agree with the newspaper article posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website today regarding this PR campaign [Vancouver Sun: BC salmon farmers fight back]. Some of the statements made in the salmon farmers press release, and some of the statements on the website, just inflame the situation more than seek resolution.

If the intention truly was to ‘get the real story out’ then why use the “email from Nigerian refugee” analogy — that’s simply inciting. Not that i’m not prone to the same approach from time to time… but this is a PR campaign by big, ‘responsible, companies with many brains at the table (I hope). I would hope the PR firm launching this could come up with something a little more clever than that. (but then, sometimes folks tune me up on my communication tactics too…)

I think I’d have to beg to differ that the runs [Broughton pink and coho] are “increasing”… as compared to what? Late 1990 numbers when there was a zero mortality coho policy? (I have the same issue with DFO and their salmon numbers too… see older posts… colonial cultures tend to have a rather narrow timeframe when they start talking about “historical populations”)

I also struggle with the: ‘farmed salmon is part of a sustainable food supply issue.’

If feed conversion levels are still above 1:1 as in the 1.2 to 1 as claimed on the PR site… that’s still a negative gain — and negative gains are not “sustainable”. If it takes me $1.20 to make $1.00, I don’t think any financial adviser would recommend this investment scheme [as sustainable]?

Furthermore, last time I checked at the local Prince George supermarket, farmed Atlantic salmon prices weren’t all that different then wild salmon prices. I don’t imagine that’s much different in the U.S. where the bulk of BC farmed salmon gets exported too. And thus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I don’t think inner city kids in the U.S. are eating poached or baked salmon at any meal they might secure.

I also don’t imagine that BC salmon farmers are making huge strides to get their product to West Africa in its time of ethnic strife and starvation.

It’s not to suggest that they necessarily should… it’s more that this argument that farmed salmon are a solution to food shortages is seriously flawed. Frankly, salmon is a luxury food that some middle class families can afford — however, cheaper beef, pork and poultry are going to be the meat alternatives to folks on the lower income scale.

[furthermore, there are many studies that suggest there are not food shortages in the world, there are serious issues with distribution... not to mention, food now being used to produce biofuels...]

And thus, I have doubts about the “good economic activity” that you suggest. As far as I can see (which sometimes isn’t that far, depends on how hard its raining), salmon in the marketplace is about supplying higher income folks, and thus, this is why it makes “economic” sense to some. Especially publicly-traded companies that have shareholders to satisfy [and analyst expectations to meet]. I respectfully suggest that this is one of those half truths, half facts that I have mentioned.

You are fair in your comments on PR and yes, I agree in turn — PR is certainly used by all sides. If you’d like, search “Canadian Boreal Forest Initiative Agreement” on this site (or Marine Stewardship Council) and you’ll see I don’t only have issues with corporate PR, there is certainly enviro-NGOs PR campaigns that also drive me batty.

I’m not so sure I agree with the assertion that the salmon farming industry would be “eliminated” if it was taken out of natural waterways…[and I see today there is a new posting on the bcsalmonfacts.ca in this regard]. I’ve seen a few recent presentations that demonstrate the technology and financials around closed-containment systems.

Also… like so many things, industry proponents buried in certain ways of doing things, faced with imminent changes, jump up and down, scream and shout, twist and turn, and lobby the shit out of government to make sure changes are not enforced.

“we will be forced out of business”; “this industry will die”; “people will lose jobs”; and every other possible argument. And then… what to our wonder… real innovative thinking happens… new technology is created, becomes more affordable, and a whole new way of doing things all of a sudden arises.

Look at the incredible growth of organic farming: from food to cotton.

Early on, industry proponents said “no way, won’t happen” and now?… Walmart has jumped on board.
Similar arguments around alternative energy and so on.

And so, I am a bit curious about what you mean by salmon farmers are “part of the solution and not part of the problem” — what solution(s) are you referring to? And which problems?

_ _ _ _ _

A thought came to mind, in relation to yesterday’s post. In that post, I quoted a definition of public relations (PR):

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

If that is the case… then maybe some of the NGO campaigns opposing open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast, in relatively confined inland waterways, aren’t PR, as one could argue those campaigns are not seeking “goodwill” per se. Yet, some of those campaigns certainly employ the spin-factor or latching on to certain very negative components and communicating those in a way that over-emphasizes certain things.

Similar to various companies and corporations these days that advertise how great they are — yet will screw you over at the first opportunity. I recently looked at the back of my bill from Bell, and on the back in hard to read blue fine print it explains they will charge 3% per month interest on overdue balances. That’s 42.58% per year! (they leave that part out on their cute little TV commercials and newspaper ads). Same with the big banks and their mysterious user fees and administrative charges, etc.

This isn’t to say that I’m comparing these tactics directly — simply highlighting a point.

Marketing maven and guru Seth Godin has a fitting post on this from yesterday:

Raising expectations (and then dashing them)

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Judging from the billboards and the newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all. Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you’ve done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have

_ _ _ _ _

This is the danger with the fighting tactics that the salmon farmers have chosen for this PR campaign.

This is a potentially well-funded, infinitely backed PR-spin campaign mounted by massive multinational companies (for the most part). It looks pretty sharp, it uses nice language (e.g. dispelling myths, stating facts, and telling the real story). It’s about ‘putting those evil spin-mongering NGOs in their place, uncover their naysaying, left-leaning, greeny BS.’

The reality check here is that the general BC public — the average folks that in some way or another will make the decisions on whether to get open-pen salmon farming out of BC’s inland waters — will largely see straight through this. We are bombarded daily by hundreds, thousands of ads by large, national or multinational companies spouting off about how great they are, and how it’s just so simple to do business with their ultra-responsible firms.

Yet, when you actually try to call them you’re run through an infuriating automated answering system that doesn’t get you where you need to go. You get repeated “your call is important to us, please continue to hold”, and finally, a person, yet it’s quite apparent they are certainly not in the same time zone as you are.

This particular PR campaign is employing similar tactics, trying to show pizzaz and new aged-ness by engaging social media and so on… but it’s not that much different than BP oil mounting a Facebook PR campaign to change their image… most folks will see through it, the already converted will espouse its merits and why don’t those other dolts buy what we’re selling and stop believing that evil NGO crap.

It’s simply the wrong tactic… it’s old school, it’s tired, and it will most likely be a waste of money.

And worse yet, if the salmon farming naysayers are able to dispel and communicate the other ‘facts’ and the ‘myths posing as facts’ and so of this particular campaign — the salmon farming industry could end out with even more mud on their face. Most folks cheer for the little guy, the underdog, and this is shaping up nicely as well-funded multinationals against average citizens and a handful of NGOs, who have BC citizen membership behind them.

Maybe I’ve seen this picture somewhere before…?

(but who knows, maybe i’ll be forced to eat my words… eat farmed crow… or something)

…bcsalmonfacts.ca begins the slippery slide down, down, down: Zombie facts, half truths, and connecting some dots.

Sadly, the bcsalmonfacts.ca off with a bang of “open transparency” and balanced discussion… may quickly be slipping down a fish-slimed slide of zombie facts succumbing to gravity, infested with blurry vision, landing head first in the sand.

(please stick with this longish post to see curious connections of PR-campaigns at end)

I suppose if we could all just ignore some realities out there in the ocean and bury our collective heads in the fish meal bag we would publish half-fact articles such as this:

Why You Need to Eat More Fish

Submitted by BC Salmon Facts

Why you need to eat more fish
January 11, 2011
BY THERESA ALBERT

We need to eat more fish. That’s the bottom line. Fish doesn’t just protect our hearts. Studies have shown other health benefits, such as lowered risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers as well as eye, brain, and joint health improvements.

Fish contain oil that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have also shown improved symptoms in people suffering with mental and depressive disorders when they supplement with omega-3 from fish oil.

[bla, bla, bla, healthy, great fish...]

If you are like most people who do not live on a seacoast, you are likely getting only one serving per week, if that, so how should you get two more? And which seafood should you consume? The top three consumed in North America are tuna, salmon, and shrimp, so that’s a good place to start.

TUNA: The first, cheapest, and most convenient way of eating fish: canned tuna, is a moderate source of omega-3. Consuming one can per week of skipjack (sometimes called light, or flaked, tuna) will net less mercury than eating the larger, darker albacore (sometimes called chunk, or solid). Skipjack tuna is also cheaper. The other two servings should come from different oceans and different types of fish, to lower the risk of one toxin accumulating.

SALMON: Most people love salmon and it is an excellent source of omega-3. But which type should you choose? Remember that big exposé a few years back saying that farmed salmon had way more mercury than wild? There’s more to the story. The “wild” salmon that was chosen for comparison was a type that isn’t normally sold at the grocery store. It was so wild that most of us can’t buy it. It also turns out that the feed was skewing the mercury numbers. Since then the farmed salmon industry has made careful strides to monitor the fish feed more closely and measure the contaminants better.

But it’s farmed fish! Isn’t that bad? Think of it this way: this planet has way too many people on it and we are all going to need to be fed. It would be utopia if we could all move to the farm, grow our own food, and fish in ponds that are spring-fed with pollutant-free crystal waters. The dilemma is that we know we need to consume more fish for our health, but the oceans are having trouble keeping up with our relentless demand.

What are we to do? We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables. All of our tables. If there is enough wild fish to go around without annihilating the species and/or habitat and you can find as well as afford it, go ahead. But don’t avoid salmon simply because you are afraid of the mercury bogey man.

SHRIMP: This popular shellfish has a moderate omega-3 rating but it is the number one seafood on the market. Some fear that it has too much cholesterol for weekly consumption but a serving of shrimp per week has little or no negative impact upon our cholesterol levels and it is an otherwise lean, omega-3 containing protein.

The World Wildlife Fund is currently working with the shrimp-farming industry to create better practices; so if you are going to buy shrimp, buy American for now until the rest of the world gets on board. The healthiest fish for us (and for the planet) are the smaller fish. Sadly these are used as bait or “chum” and include delicious species like herring and sardines. Both weigh in with as much, if not more, omega-3 as salmon and are cheap and plentiful. The bonus of eating these fish is that it helps to create a more sustainable fishing industry and healthier oceans for us and the planet.

From: http://bit.ly/dHg9hQ

How much fish do you eat a week?

_ _ _ _ _

Reading this, garnered this response from my fingers on keyboard, of which I have posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website and is currently being moderated:

ummm, yeah, seafood is important folks — but maybe we need a gentle review of the reality of fish stocks around the world.

Here’s a link to the United Nations FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture website:

What does it suggest there?:

“75% of the major marine fish stocks are either depleted, overexploited or being fished at their biological limit”

Yes, tuna is cheap… at the supermarket. However, the true cost of making tuna cheap… not cheap. Tuna stocks around the world are in deep shit.

What does the UN FAO say about aquaculture?:

“Aquaculture is rapidly increasing its annual global harvest and seems to offer hope for increased food production. However, for some of the more than 210 farmed aquatic animal and plant species, 8 particularly salmon and shrimp, the methods currently used require high energy inputs and can cause environmental degradation similar to industrial/chemical agriculture or factory farming of livestock.”

Hmmmmm

what else?

“The high protein feed for farmed salmon is largely composed of ocean caught fish meal and meat offal from poultry and hog processing. Because of bio-accumulation of toxins in their feed, consumption of farmed salmon even at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds with commensurate elevation in estimates of health risk.”

Interesting.

what about those shrimp sources?

“Farming of shrimp in Asia has lead to significant destruction of natural mangrove ecosystems.

Genetically engineered fish are being readied for commercial production in open net pens.”

Sorry, but it’s not a pretty picture out there. We can’t simply continue to bury our head in the fish feed and pretend everything is alright out there.

The fact that folks don’t want to heed the warnings that have been coming for years on the state of the ocean and world’s fisheries is the “silly and not helpful” part. (sorry to say).

Please state all the “facts” if you really want to be transparent on this website.

thanks,
www.salmonguy.org

_ _ _ _ _ _

And, to be somewhat fair, there is some mention of some of the issues out there in the ocean… I did get a chuckle out of the “buy American in the meantime comment”… right, because if it’s made in America it means it’s more enviro responsible? (in some cases it may very well… however it still reeks of PR-speak)

And: “We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables.” Come on…

Sorry, this is called an ethnocentric view, meaning: “the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion.” (Wikipedia)

To Ms. Albert the original writer of this article: there is in the world, even today, a few folks that could be referred to as “hunter-gatherers”… they didn’t really ‘count on farmers as we always have.’

I’m not suggesting that the world’s population where it stands now could necessarily continue in a hunting-gatherer lifestyle… however, if we’re all about stating “facts” in an “open and transparent” manner then lets try our best to not simplify everything to the lowest common denominator and forget half the facts.

That’s like trying to make bread or cake with only half the flour… and we know what the result of that is… wet, sloppy, glop that we end out having to flush down the toilet.

(oh right, and let’s not forget the fact that there is this huge movement afoot in North America surrounding food security including: community gardens, 100-mile diets, organic farming, self gardening and so on, as opposed to chemical intense, industrial, genetically modified factory farming.)

_ _ _ _ _

Curiously, if you follow the link to the article that “bcsalmonfacts.ca” decided to post, there’s a curious thing on the bottom:

Excerpted from Ace Your Health by Theresa Albert, Copyright © 2010 by Ezra Levant

[Jan. 23 update, quite curious to find out where blog posts travel to and who might be reading them... the joys of social media. I received this email Sunday Jan. 23 in relation to the information in this blog post below:

Hello Mr. Loewen,

I am writing from McClelland & Stewart, the publisher of Theresa Albert. You posted a blog entry on January 12, 2010 in response to an article Albert contributed to the Toronto Star's Best Health website titled "Why  You Need to Eat More Fish." The piece was syndicated by other media outlets but was initially published here http://www.healthzone.ca/health/dietfitness/diet/article/919804--why-you-need-to-eat-more-fish

Upon publication, the credit information for the source material of the excerpt contained a major typo - listing Ezra Levant as the author of Ace Your Health instead of Theresa Albert. This was a simple cut-and-paste error on the part of the Toronto Star. They pulled the format of the credit tag from a past excerpt (by Ezra Levant) to attach to this piece and substituted Theresa's name and the title of the book in the appropriate places. Unfortunately, they missed one substitution and published the piece with "Ezra Levant" included. This was quickly corrected.

Ezra Levant had absolutely no involvement with this book. It is only fair to your readers to remove the portion of your article associating him with Theresa Albert's opinions and research.

Thank you,
Josh Glover
Publicity Manager
McClelland & Stewart

Keep this in mind as you read the material below. However, also keep in mind the comment that the point here is not to make direct connections... it's more to compare the PR tactics, as mentioned below. Simply seemed like a bit of a stretch of a coincidence... and sure enough it was. ]

Who is Ezra Levant?

Well… this is curious… he is “a is a Canadian lawyer, conservative political activist and media figure” and has a blog that he suggests is: “Opinions and articles by a conservative activist.”

And, well, if you read some of Mr. Levant’s posts, or his books, he’s on the same campaign, if not maybe assisting, PM Harper and “Environment” Minister Kent to sell “ethical” properties of the Canadian Tar Sands — (as opposed to the environmental merits… or lack of). As one of his blog posts asks, do we want oil from Saudi Arabia or Alberta?

Well… there is a part of me that asks: oil from Saudi Arabia has been fine for the last few decades, why not now? This is certainly not to suggest where my preferences lie on this issue — it’s more the whole: good for the goose, good for the gander thing. Nobody makes much of a stink about oil from the Middle East when oil reserves in this part of the world were less developed (not that I noticed anyways, I might be wrong…); now that we have increasingly developing oil reserves (e.g, tar sands and potential in the Arctic), let’s start riding the “ethical” train and painting those other sources with the bad, boogey-man brush.

Where were those ‘ethics’ a decade or so ago when that apparently ‘unethical’ oil was fueling much of North America’s ‘growth’?

_ _ _ _

Even more curiously, Wikipedia lists Mr. Levant’s recent work:

From 2009 until 2010, Levant worked as a lobbyist for Rothman’s Incorporated, a manufacturer and distributor of tobacco products.

Well, that is curious isn’t it? (maybe to some folks anyways…)

Everyone’s free to choose whatever career they like, and have opinions on whatever they like, and lobby for whatever they like (if they’re registered, that is).

For those folks out there that didn’t like my mentioning salmon farming, tar sands, and cigarettes in the same post — the connecting of the dots in this particular case starts to make those sorts of comparisons… not such a stretch. (and really, as mentioned in some comments, it’s not to meant to suggest a comparison of those actual industries… it’s more to compare the PR tactics).

This PR-spin mobile continues… and not one I plan to hang over my toddler’s crib.

BC Salmon Farmers engage and respond

It’s a flurry of activity on the salmon guy blog. I have a post yesterday commenting on the BC Salmon Farmers Association newest website: bcsalmonfacts.ca and the accompanying press release and coming onslaught of PR spin. I think it’s safe to say that I am somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to suggestions of the environmental inertness of open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast.

However, I do — and I did — express my appreciation that folks running the website just dove right into their ‘transparency’ efforts by posting my blog efforts as one of their first discussion pieces – with a response. You can visit their site, or read the reproduction here:

bcsalmonfacts.ca response to my post:

BC Salmon Facts says:

Jan 10 2011 5:49 PM

Hi David;

Thanks for visiting our website at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca. We appreciate your skepticism and believe that any subject should be open to challenge. We also believe that the source of the information be transparent – just like you have identified who you are on your blog. Because of this, The BC Salmon Facts campaign does not hide the fact that it is salmon farmers speaking up.

To our knowledge, BC salmon farmers have never thought our facts to be beyond challenge. But, shouldn’t the same be expected of critics? If salmon farmers feel that there is incorrect information about our business (fish meal use is one example, “dyes” another), then wouldn’t you expect us to speak up? Our goal with BC Salmon Facts is simply to assist salmon farmers in communicating.

You’re absolutely correct, motives should be clear, and then we can get down to discussing concerns, and the facts.

There is no arguing that all food production has some sort of impact, which has to be managed. We feel that we have listened to concerns, made important changes to our business, and are quite proud of the product we produce and how we produce it. Today, BC salmon farming is an important, viable business, producing a healthy product. Improvements will always continue.

As you probably know, salmon farms are open up for tours during the summer months. During the tour farmers often hear, “There are things I didn’t know about salmon farming until seeing it for myself – you need to get more people out here to see for themselves”. Well, it’s not easy getting 4.4 million BC residents out to a farm, so this campaign attempts to bring the farm to them.

We would encourage people to visit www.bcsalmonfacts.ca to discuss their concerns and, where they feel needed, challenge the content of the website. As you have said, “discussion…can be constructive…that’s why I started the blog in the first place.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Your opinion is important, so we have posted a link to your blog on our site, along with this response. Please feel free to provide your comments at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

Sincerely,
www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

I have since posted a response on bcsalmonfacts.ca and will have to see if the moderator chooses to publish my response and if the discussion continues.

I do hand it to them. It’s not an easy place to be in for them, and they just jumped into the fire with it. Maybe it’s a bit late? Maybe not?

I’m also skeptical of comments such as the alluding to the poor-lowly salmon farmers needing some help communicating. Come one… the bulk of these are multi-national corporations with deep pockets… And, as with every publicly traded corporations, they have quarterly targets and analyst expectations to meet.

Yet, the invite to visit and learn more is a good one. Launching into the social media world is also a dangerous venture, yet can pay dividends (sorry for the pun).

One thing that is not going away any time soon… the hot nature of this subject, and I’m pretty sure it will continue to be a hot spring as the Cohen Commission scrambles for their May 2011 deadline (which doesn’t actually exist anymore).

bcsalmonfacts I applaud your efforts and, yes, I’m sure I would learn things with a visit to the farms and appreciate the invite. I  paid a visit to cattle feedlots in California some years ago and also learned a lot too, however, not necessarily things I wanted to learn. I can’t say I’m fully buying the farm yet.

One of the big challenges with understanding the impacts of salmon farming is that it’s all underwater — literally. It’s also potential migratory impacts, in that they might be coming and going impacts. And thus, the general public is left having to read battling science on the issue to try and draw their own conclusions.

Or, trusting that government agencies have the general public’s best interests at heart… of which the recent court case slamming the federal government for handing aquaculture to the Province proved was not the case. And now the cost of that court case, and the cost of developing all new regs, and then implementing.

Or, paying for things like the $5 million BC Pacific Salmon Forum (read B.C. “Pacific Salmon Forum” – $5 million air pie? on this site) which didn’t conclude much specific and then disappeared to gather dust on Ikea shelving units and soon on some internet server – and now funding another $15 million public inquiry.

Gets a bit tiresome.

As I’ve mentioned on various posts on this site and in a public session or two… maybe part of the answer lies in a Citizen’s Assembly similar to the BC Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform? Sort of similar to an impartial jury that explores all sides of an issue.

I also say “part of the solution”, because another fundamental aspect of this issue is the unsettled treaty environment with First Nations on much of the BC coast. That is not something that can be swept under the rug.

The discussion goes on…

Open source salmon?

Mama Grizzly and 3 cubs - Babine River counting fence: Open Source Salmon

.

How about this for 2011…? The Pacific Salmon Commission opens their ‘science’ to anyone that’s interested. They put a call out for a contest to anyone to devise a better system of in-season salmon management.

They base this system on initiatives such as Proctor and Gamble’s “Connect and Develop” initiative, which is tagged as an “open innovation strategy”. Rather than relying only on internal research and development, P&G has opened up their product development to any outsider that’s interested.

Also in 2011, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) starts an initiative called: WikiSalmon.

What is it?

Well… in an incredible turn of events, DFO opens their process of “managing” salmon and in turn reduces the financial sucking noise emanating from their overly inflated ‘senior manager’ salaried workforce based in Ottawa (that real hotbed of salmon spawning and migration).

Throughout the range of Pacific salmon, impassioned folks (referred to as the Gumboot Army) are setting out across thousands of cricks, creeks, streams, and lakes looking at salmon habitat, counting salmon, evaluating inputs and outputs from salmon ecosystems — and entering all of this information onto their computer, and in turn onto the worldwide web — similar to Wikipedia (one of the more impressive open source projects online).

As opposed to a $15 million+, legal-heavy, DFO-heavy, paper-producing, ‘fisheries science’-heavy, preeminent expert-laden process of an ‘inquiry’ — the B.C. and Canadian government, the states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and the US federal government fund a: Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon.

The Assembly utilizes technology as much as possible cutting down on travel (teleconference, etc.) and has dedicated teams in each state and province that travel to as many small communities as possible to let people know about the Assembly and get information from average everyday folks about salmon in their area. (citizen science at work)

This info-gathering process utilizes a ‘wiki’-like format, rarely utilizes “panel-like” processes where public speaking and presentations is a must. (did you know that public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for the majority of folks in the western world?).

Instead, more encouraging formats such as World Cafe, or Open Space, or my absolute favorite: sitting at the kitchen table… are the most-relied upon for gathering info.

About this point, some folks reading this may be wondering what was in my Christmas shortbread cookies or holiday brownies…

_ _ _ _ _

If you haven’t heard the term “open source” or aren’t too sure what it means — it doesn’t really matter… What I can guarantee you though, is that this term will continue to become much more familiar to many in the near future.

Many already are — especially with the current fuss over WikiLeaks.

If you’ve been reading any of the multitude of books emanating from the ‘business’ section at the bookstore, or Amazon, or the library — “open source” is probably quite a familiar term, as are success stories of this approach.

Open source

Furthermore, if you’re reading this blog post you are benefiting — well… utilizing — open source software. WordPress has been an immensely successful open source project. As has Wikipedia.

Mozilla

If you’re using Firefox as your web browser: open source.

Pretty good chance that when you’re at work the computer servers are running on Linux: more open source. (Linux is the poster child for open source).

Or, web servers running on Apache: it’s been developed open source.

If you don’t want to get sucked into buying Microsoft crap, go with OpenOffice. It’s been out for ten years now.

_ _ _ _ _ _

mass collaboration

Think it’s just a technology thing then read about Canadian gold miner Goldcorp (or companies like Proctor & Gamble and others). These stories are told at length in the very successful book: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

There’s a shorter version from a 2007 BusinessWeek article by the authors of the book:

A few years back, Toronto-based gold mining company Goldcorp was in trouble. Besieged by strikes, lingering debts, and an exceedingly high cost of production, the company had terminated mining operations.

Conditions in the marketplace were hardly favorable. The gold market was contracting, and most analysts assumed that the company’s fifty-year old mine in Red Lake, Ontario, was dying. Without evidence of substantial new gold deposits, Goldcorp was likely to fold.

Chief Executive Officer Rob McEwen needed a miracle. Frustrated that his in-house geologists couldn’t reliably estimate the value and location of the gold on his property, McEwen did something unheard of in his industry: He published his geological data on the Web for all to see and challenged the world to do the prospecting.

The “Goldcorp Challenge” made a total of $575,000 in prize money available to participants who submitted the best methods and estimates.

Every scrap of information (some 400 megabytes worth) about the 55,000 acre property was revealed on Goldcorp’s Web site. News of the contest spread quickly around the Internet and more than 1,000 virtual prospectors from 50 countries got busy crunching the data.

[...]

But Goldcorp isn’t a dot-com kind of company. Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries, and it’s governed by some pretty conventional thinking. Take Industry Rule No. 1: Don’t share your proprietary data. The fact that McEwen went open-source was a stunning gamble. And even McEwen was surprised by how handsomely the gamble paid off.

[...]

The contestants identified 110 targets on the Red Lake property, more than 80% of which yielded substantial quantities of gold. In fact, since the challenge was initiated, an astounding 8 million ounces of gold have been found—worth well over $3 billion. Not a bad return on a half million dollar investment.

Today, Goldcorp is reaping the fruits of its radical approach to exploration. McEwen’s willingness to open-source the prospecting process not only yielded copious quantities of gold, it introduced Goldcorp to state-of-the-art technologies and exploration methodologies, including new drilling techniques, and data collection procedures, and more advanced approaches to geological modeling.

This catapulted his under-performing $100 million company into a $9 billion juggernaut while transforming a backwards mining site in Northern Ontario into one of the most innovative and profitable properties in the industry.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmm… open source, innovation, and citizen science fully utilized to better look after wild salmon? Quite a thought.

Thousands of people reading open scientific articles, newspaper articles, and the like and then sharing these through various open source and social media venues. (sidenote: Facebook just passed Google as the number one most visited site in the world).

These days if average joe and jill want to read scientific articles… forget it. They are protected behind their peer-reviewed electronic walls, remaining the domain of the preeminents and annual subscription paying folks with various letters behind their names.

Want to access Fisheries and Oceans science or decision-making rationale… the ‘science’ and ‘decisions’ paid for by citizens… gotta go through “Freedom of Information” legislation.

Want to look at data from salmon farmers on the BC Coast,  practices that potentially endanger wild salmon (as they have anywhere else open-pen salmon farms have been operated), and that utilize First Nations traditional territories and public lands and waters — nope, got to go through legal challenges.

_ _ _ _ _

One of the biggest barriers?

In my humble opinion… demographics.

Much of the senior civil service is occupied by… well… more ‘senior’ individuals (many approaching retirement in coming months and years)

The demographics of Canadian politicians … well… more ‘senior’, with an average age of 55.

I recognize I dance a dangerous razor edge here… I don’t mean to be ‘age-ist’; more suggestive of diversity in looking to solutions.

At a “digital economy” conference in 2009, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore (part of the more ‘senior’ contingent) comments on this issue (in regards to digital copyright laws) and is a fitting conclusion to this post:

The average age of a Member of Parliament is 55…

And you’d be surprised the number of Members of Parliament who have never held an iPhone, who couldn’t tell you, functionally, how a Blackberry works and have no idea how these things integrate.

The old way of doing things is over. These things are all now one. And it’s great and it’s never been better and we need to be enthusiastic and embrace these things.

I point out the average age of a member of parliament because don’t assume that those who are making the decisions and who are driving the debate understand all the dynamics that are at play here. Don’t assume that everybody understands the opportunities that are at play here and how great this can be for Canada.


Salmon science and the “Ikea effect”.

So here’s a thought… have you heard of the “Ikea effect”?

I came across this idea and term in two different places. First, on a great weblog by Jonah Lehrer called Frontal Cortex, which is now hosted by Wired magazine – the post is: Why making dinner is a good idea (he also has a great post today on precognition). I also came across it in a Harvard Business Review from 2009: When Labor Leads to Love.

HBR List 2009 logoLabor is not just a meaningful experience – it’s also a marketable one. When instant cake mixes were introduced, in the1950s, housewives were initially resistant: The mixes were too easy, suggesting that their labor was undervalued. When manufacturers changed the recipe to require the addition of an egg, adoption rose dramatically. Ironically, increasing the labor involved – making the task more arduous – led to greater liking.

Research conducted with my colleagues Daniel Mochon, of Yale University, and Dan Ariely, of Duke University, shows that labor enhances affection for its results. When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations. We call this phenomenon the IKEA effect, in honor of the wildly successful Swedish manufacturer whose products typically arrive with some assembly required.

In one of our studies we asked people to fold origami and then to bid on their own creations along with other people’s. They were consistently willing to pay more for their own origami. In fact, they were so enamored of their amateurish creations that they valued them as highly as origami made by experts.

Finally, the IKEA effect has broader implications for organizational dynamics: It contributes to the sunk cost effect, whereby managers continue to devote resources to (sometimes failing) projects in which they have invested their labor, and to the not-invented-here syndrome, whereby they discount good ideas developed elsewhere in favor of their (sometimes inferior) internally developed ideas. Managers should keep in mind that ideas they have come to love because they invested their own labor in them may not be as highly valued by their coworkers – or their customers.

Lehrer on his blog discusses other studies on the Ikea effect:

It turns out that the Ikea effect also applies to food, at least in mice. The experiment was simple: Mice were trained to push levers to get one of two rewards. If they pressed lever A, they got a delicious drop of sugar water. If they pressed lever B, they got a different tasting drop of sugar water. (This reward was made with polycose, not sucrose.)

The scientists then started to play mind games with the mice, as they gradually increased the amount of effort required to get one of the sweet rewards. Although the mice only had to press the lever a single time to get the sugar water at the start of the experiment, by the end they were required to press the lever 15 times.

Here’s where things get interesting: When the test was over and the mice were allowed to relax in their home cage, they showed an overwhelming preference for whichever reward they’d worked harder to obtain. More lever presses led to tastier water. (The scientists measured these preferences in a variety of ways, including an analysis of “licking microstructure”. Preferred foods lead to a faster rate of initial licking and longer duration of “licking bursts.”)

_ _ _ _ _ _

I received an email today announcing another Salmon Think Tank:

Salmon Think Tank

The Ups and Downs of Fraser River Sockeye” – Public Presentation, hosted by SFU December 6, 2010.

The public presentation is a follow-up to: “An invitational think tank of independent scientists” being hosted on Dec. 2/3.

On the SFU website, are lists of “associated resources” that are already accessible. Quite a curious list. For those on the “A” list of the invited independents… it includes nine separate reports.

Three on volcanic ash — the latest and greatest theory to enter the media realm — one on the damaging effects of algae in the ocean, a couple of syntheses from earlier conferences (easy night time reading…) and one from Dr. Carl Walters titled “where have all the sockeye gone?” which consists of a few points that will be sure to stir controversy.

_ _ _ _ _

The number of theories surrounding salmon declines and salmon inclines (such as this year) is more numerous then all the bolts in an IKEA kitchen set that one must build themselves.

As suggested above: “Labor is not just a meaningful experience – it’s also a marketable one.”

So is science. Marketing is actually quite a key component of science – always has been, always will.

_ _ _ _ _

“When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that some of the science backing the great salmon debate is “poorly-made” — like my homemade bookshelves made from scrap wood and old bricks — but maybe more that: “managers continue to devote resources to (sometimes failing) projects in which they have invested their labor, and to the not-invented-here syndrome, whereby they discount good ideas developed elsewhere in favor of their (sometimes inferior) internally developed ideas.”

Or, maybe:

“When the test was over and the mice were allowed to relax in their home cage, they showed an overwhelming preference for whichever reward they’d worked harder to obtain.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

See, I am curious whether the Cohen Commission will endeavor (or has) to look far past the Fraser River and even the faltering management regime here in Canada that has the specific responsibility to care for salmon.

As I repeat repeatedly… humans are the cause for salmon declines; the death of a thousands cuts — almost all exacted by us. The Fraser River flows through the most populated areas of BC — an ever-growing population — yet still not at the density of other places that Pacific salmon roam.

So where is the seeking information from places like Japan and Korea where wild runs of Pacific salmon have been virtually eliminated? Or the outer reaches of Russia where Pacific salmon still thrive? Or Alaska, or just north of Los Angeles where the historic range of Pacific salmon reaches its southern zenith?

Sure there’s a limit to the reach of research and the mandate of the Commission — but what about these “Think Tanks”?

The challenge is exploring the breadth of the thinking. The nice thing with my salmon think tank above is that it has glass walls and once can actually observe outside of the box — unfortunately, I think many of the great gatherings these days to “think salmon” result in a few too many theories on how to build the IKEA dresser within a confined, curtained-in tank. (…need to keep it dark so everyone can see the PowerPoint better…)

This is a perplexing issue — salmon that is. More confusing then if IKEA sent out entire homebuilding kits that one had to assemble…

_ _ _ _ _

If you’d like further “IKEA effect” — you may need to watch this video… I do wonder if this might somewhat mirror how Justice Cohen feels these days about the salmon debate that he finds himself mired in.

please be forewarned with the standard… this video does contain scenes of coarse language…

here’s something to consider…

I came across this on Garr Reynold’s blog: Presentation Zen (a website, blog, and author that should be required reading for everyone and anyone who uses PowerPoint and gives presentations — especially those who work for government agencies).

This is an excellent animation and discussion by Sir Ken Robinson at the Royal Society of the Arts in London of the challenges that the education system imparts. This is a smaller snippet of a one hour presentation.

It’s brilliant for its style of presentation — however, there’s also some excellent material to ponder.

The discussion around kindergarten kids thoughts on how many uses for a paper clip is rather illuminating for discussions surrounding wild salmon. Apparently as kids get older their creativity gets stifled; as they become more “educated” they become less creative.

Is this something to ponder in the great hallowed halls of pre-eminent experts and scientists…?