Since the outing of one of reddit’s most notorious trolls last week, the internet has been buzzing with issues of anonymity, pseudonymity, and privacy. Joe Scalzi’s discussion of the larger issues of privacy is the best I’ve seen, so rather than rehash, I’ll just point you there. What I would like to do, is take a moment to review Southern Fried Science’s policy as it applies to our own community. We welcome both anonymous and pseudonymous commenters, and, of course, we post under pseudonyms (granted, our real identities are literally one click away). Our pseudonyms are a matter of convenience, consistency, and tradition, but we recognize that our commenters may have other reasons to use a pseudonym, including, but by no means limited to, protecting themselves from physical, social, and emotional harm as a result of voicing their opinions. Southern Fried Science strives to create a safe space for people to discuss science, politics, conservation, and any of a thousand issues related to our oceans, our planet, and our future.
I’m pleased to announce that Southern Fried Science has once again joined the DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students Challenge! For those of you unfamiliar with DonorsChoose, they are an online charity that allows public school teachers to describe projects, and allows anyone to donate to these projects. In the past, the Science Bloggers Challenge has raised tens of thousands of dollars for worthy class projects all over the country!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite ocean-themed projects, and we hope you’ll consider supporting them by donating! The 13 projects we’ve chosen to support will help teachers all over the country to teach students about the ocean and the amazing creatures that live there. You can see all of our supported projects, and the funding status of each, in the widget on the left side of the blog. You can also visit our DonorsChoose giving page.
The Challenge ends November 5th, so if you’re thinking about donating, don’t wait too long!
We’ve updated the ever-evolving, often changing comments policy and added a link to John Scalzi’s excellent “How to be a good commenter” article. As an experiment, I cleared the moderation queue giving previously banned commenters a second chance.
Here is the current policy in its entirety:
Commenters (including blog authors) are asked to adhere to the philosophy laid out by Wayne C. Booth:
“Intellectual understanding is one of the best versions of the Golden Rule: Listen to others as you would have others listen to you. Precise demonstration of truth is important but not as important communal pursuit of it. Put in terms of Kant’s categorical imperative, When addressing someone else’s ideas, your obligation is to treat them as you believe all human being ought to treat on another’s ideas.”
~Wayne C. Booth (My Many Selves: The Quest for a Plausible Harmony)
We strive to provide an open environment for the free discussion of ideas and ask that you respect the opinions expressed by the authors and by other commenters. Dissent is an essential part of the discussion; we ask only that you provide evidence to support your views and respond thoughtfully to comments challenging those assertions. We reserve the right to moderate any comment and have a low tolerance for spam, trolling, ad hominem attacks, and sock puppetry. We ask that you not dwell on typos, as it is an unnecessary distraction. Commenters are encouraged to strive for clarity and brevity. The authors of Southern Fried Science may remove any comment they deem objectionable, off-topic, or annoying.
Comments are community moderated through Like/Dislike buttons. Comments that receive 10 net likes will be highlighted so that new readers can find the best comments. Comments that receive 10 net dislikes will be placed behind a link wall so that spam, off topic, and incomprehensible comments won’t clutter the discussion. If you do dislike an otherwise legitimate comment because you disagree with its content, we encourage you to leave your own comment explaining why. Comments that contain 3 or more links are automatically held for moderation.
We employ a variety of spam filters to stem the tide of robotically generated comments. Sometimes those filters mark real comments as spam and hold them for moderation. If you comment doesn’t appear within a couple of days, send us an e-mail and we’ll take a look.
Avatars are randomly assigned and keyed to individual IP addresses. If you would like to use a custom avatar, we sync with the Gravatar network. You may visit their website to sign up for globally recognized avatar.
Anonymous and pseudonymous comments are welcome.
If this is your first time commenting on the blog, please acknowledge that you’ve read this policy by declaring you favorite style of barbecue in your comment. First time commenters must have their comment approved by a moderator before it appears.
We are going to use a much heavier hand in comment moderation from this point forward. Comments should be constructive, relevant, and add something to the conversation. Think of the comment thread like the Letters to the Editor for our blog. Everyone has a chance to submit comments, but not all unsolicited comments will be published.
Last Wednesday morning, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted on proposed amendments that would, if passed, form their response to the European Commission’s 2011 proposal to end all removal of shark fins at sea (and thereby close loopholes in the EU finning ban). As the EU is the single largest supplier of shark fins to the Hong Kong markets, the eyes of the marine conservation community were focused squarely on Brussels, where the vote was taking place. Despite the numerous celebratory tweets , press releases , and Facebook updates that I observed, the vote didn’t go as well as hoped. The result has been described as “contradictory”, “confusing”, “puzzling”, and “inconsistent”, and it’s hard to disagree with that summary.
The Committee voted on a series of amendments, most of which had been debated earlier this year. Most of the problematic amendments were defeated and several positive amendments were endorsed. One of the most closely watched, which would have maintained exceptions to the current ban on at-sea fin removal and would have raised the fin to carcass ratio to 14% of dressed weight, was defeated. However, proposed text which refers (in principle, but without details) to removal of fins at sea also narrowly passed.
Yes, you read that correctly. MEPs (Members of European Parliament) voted to adopt text that suggests that removing fins at sea is sometimes acceptable, but voted to accept the Commission’s proposal to delete that part of the current regulation allowing for such exceptions. Contradictory, confusing, puzzling, and inconsistent indeed!
Don’t worry, though- this isn’t over. One of the next steps is a discussion before a Plenary session of the full European Parliament, which will consider these issues. This will likely take place in the next few months, perhaps as early as mid-October.
“We will continue to urge all MEPs to promptly remove all confusion in Plenary and clearly endorse a strict EU policy against removing shark fins at sea, without exceptions,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.
I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening and how you can help.
Last month we launched the video component of Southern Fried Science–Blue Pints. Blue Pints was designed to be an informal conversation among marine scientists about current issues in marine science and conservation. Our first four episodes covered topics ranging from shark finning to Japanese kelp fishing to Sea monsters and hoax UFO’s. Thanks to Google+, we could broadcast these discussions live while recording them for posterity. It took several episodes for us to hit our stride and I’m certain that we’ll continue to perfect and change the formatting as we continue, which leads us to the big question on everyone’s mind:
What is next for Blue Pints?
A weekly episode proved a bit too much for our current schedules, so we’re cutting down on the number we produce every month. On top of that, as many of you know, I’m defending my doctoral dissertation next month, so my southern fried schedule is pretty much completely packed until then. Finally, as much as you all love to see mine, David’s, and Amy’s faces, I’m sure you’d much rather we mix up the hosts a bit.
Two things are happening between now and the end of August. First, we’re soliciting guests to join in on our broadcasts. If there are issues in marine science and conservation that you’d like to talk about, or you just want to hang out online with us talking about the ocean, drop us a line or leave a comment on this post and we’ll start assembling a schedule of ocean communicators. Second, we’re launching a complementary program–A shot of Blue–which will be a short (5 minutes or less) discussion covering a single topic. This will help round out the schedule with out demanding too much of our time. We may continue to run episodes during this month, but will not be sticking to a regular schedule.
“[Chinatown Neighborhood Association Member Marcus] Lee noted that the law allows consumers to eat shark meat steaks, but not shark fin soup, leading to racial tensions. “How can you save the shark if you ban eating only the fins, but not the shark meat?” Lee asked. “This ruling is not the solution to the problem. In order to save the sharks, you might as well ban the whole shark entirely.” “
An earlier lawsuit against California’s fin ban, filed by the Asian-American Rights Committee of California, also pointed out the cultural significance of shark fin soup. According to the Huffington Post:
” “Shark fin soup is an Asian cultural delicacy with origins in the Ming Dynasty. It is a ceremonial centerpiece of traditional Chinese banquets, as well as celebrations of weddings and birthdays of one’s elders,” the committee wrote in its complaint. “
My personal views on this issue are complex. Populations of many species of sharks are declining at alarming rates (which has numerous negative ecological consequences), the single largest driver for these declines is demand for shark fin soup, and this demand primarily comes from Asian cultures. With very few exceptions, conservationists are not racist, and there are very good reasons to campaign for reducing shark fin soup consumption (and reducing shark fishing in general) . There’s a big difference between criticizing something because it’s different from your own culture and criticizing something because it creates negative ecological and economic ripple effects worldwide. However, when conservationists who are primarily Westerners criticize something that is done primarily by non-Westerners, it undeniably creates what politicians call troubling “optics”. In short, I don’t think campaigning to reduce shark fin consumption is racist, but I can understand how some people might.
I asked my twitter followers what they thought of the claim that criticizing shark fin soup is racist, and added some of the best contributions to the excellent discussion that resulted to a Storify. Check it out below, and feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below.
Regular readers know that we are big fans of the Beneath the Waves Film Festival, which shows marine science and conservation movies (I’m actually a co-organizer). If you’ve been excited to attend the festival after reading about it on Southern Fried Science but haven’t been able to attend, this could be your chance. The flagship event takes place each March as part of the Benthic Ecology conference, but this year the festival has expanded to include a variety of public screenings throughout the country.
Earlier this week, South Carolina governor and rising tea party star Nikki Haley cut all state funding for the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. Sea Grant programs are a critical part of the United States’ marine and coastal research network. In addition to providing millions of dollars in scientific grants, the national Sea Grant college program (of which the South Carolina consortium is a member) connects scientists, educators, and citizens with the goal of “helping citizens utilize scientific information to support a vibrant economy while ensuring ecological sustainability” (source). In total, there are 32 Sea Grant programs throughout the country, which help coordinate research and strategic goals with experts in every state that borders an ocean or one of the Great Lakes.
Despite Governor Haley’s claims, the Sea Grant Consortium is basically the opposite of big government and wasteful government spending. Though they are administered centrally by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each Sea Grant program is independently run. According to Executive Director Rick DeVoe,
“It is important to note that the programs we undertake are developed as a result of the input we solicit from our stakeholders along the coast and inland – businesses and organizations, NGOs, and people who depend on coastal and marine resources for their livelihoods, their pleasure and their quality of life….The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium generates and applies science-based information on issues and opportunities to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal and marine resources to foster a sustainable economy and environment in the state and region.”
The state contribution pays mostly for local staff and facilities that are used to apply for and distribute grants. Since much of the funding for grants they distribute comes from the Federal government, the entire state-contributed budget for the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium is a little over $428, 000 out of a total state budget of around $21,000,000,000, less than the total salaries of the Governor’s personal staff. Cutting this critical program thus results in a 0.002% reduction in state government spending, right after the state of South Carolina got more than $1.4 billion in increased tax revenue as a result of the economy improving.
Except Speak of the House Thom Tillis didn’t rectify it. He didn’t recognize the representative on the floor, and he rushed the vote to closure to prevent it from failing. As our American readers enjoy their day off to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let’s all take a moment to reflect on how little respect Speak Tillis has for the democratic process. I don’t care which party you align with. I don’t care whether you support or oppose natural gas exploration, we should all be opposed to our representatives usurping the democratic process for their own political gains. Let him know exactly how you feel on twitter or contact him through his webpage.
I can only think of one thing to say:
This concludes our political rantings for the foreseeable future.
A few weeks ago, I went home to Pittsburgh to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day. While there, I had the unenviable task of emptying out my childhood bedroom in preparation for my parents moving to a smaller place. I was apparently a bit of a pack rat growing up- while cleaning the room, I found every birthday card I had received and every test I had taken from elementary school through high school. I also found the results of my 8th grade career aptitude test, taken in 1999.
Based on my skills and interests, the “Career Futures” computer had recommended three potential careers for me: high school science teacher, military officer specializing in intelligence gathering, and marine biologist. Some of you may also know that three years later, my high school guidance counselor half-jokingly recommended that I consider a career as the leader of a cult, but that’s a story for another time.
While taking a break from cleaning out my room, I looked over the full reports for each career choice. The description of the career of a marine biologist was of particular interest, since that’s what I actually ended up doing with my life (I am definitely not secretly working as a military intelligence officer, nothing to see here, move along).