Who says you can’t teach an old dogfish new tricks? Last week, I participated in a two-hour Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Of the hundreds of questions posed to me, I managed to answer a few dozen during my allotted time period. The questions ranged from ocean science to Navy tradition to just about anything, including, “Do you like fish sticks?” The vast number of people who weighed in to ask good questions and provide comments is VERY encouraging, as it indicates the passionate interest in and concern for our ocean by so many people, especially the demographic that engages on Reddit (typically a bit younger than mine).
Countering the optimism … last Wednesday, the House passed a bill whose title acronym is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. While the HONEST Act purports to make the rulemaking process at the EPA transparent, it would, in reality, limit the best available science the agency can use when creating rules, thereby threatening the health, security, and prosperity of our nation and its citizens. Obviously, the precedence the bill could set worries scientists across disciplines. Thanks to all the congressmen and women who spoke on the House floor about the importance of sound science underpinning the federal rulemaking process, and an extra thank you to Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20) for submitting for the record the letter I wrote on behalf of the ocean science and technology community opposing the HONEST Act (you can watch the video on houselive.gov – fast forward to 4:33:30).
In another misnomer last week, President Trump signed a Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. Especially vexing is language that would revoke his predecessor’s Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security. The six-month old memorandum took a historic measure in addressing the national security implications of our changing climate by establishing a policy to consider the impacts of climate change in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans and by providing practical guidance to ensure those climate risks were considered. Upon its release, I stated (and I stand by it still today) that a failure to counter the risks our changing climate and ocean present to global and national security would “undoubtedly exacerbate geo-political instability and compound security concerns around the world and will reduce the ability of the United States and our allies to respond to threats as our own security infrastructure is compromised.” I am troubled to see this revoked and hope that we can pick up ground with the new administration soon to consider the effects of climate change on the nation’s national security, which is understood by the vast majority of past and present senior leaders in the Department of Defense.
And by the way … I do eat fish sticks, as long as they are from sustainably caught or raised fish.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Ubiquitous Marine Organism Co-evolved With Other Microbes, Promoting More Complex Ecosystems
William Blake may have seen a world in a grain of sand, but for scientists at MIT the smallest of all photosynthetic bacteria holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems, and perhaps even the whole biosphere. The key is a tiny bacterium called Prochlorococcus, which is the most abundant photosynthetic life form in the oceans. New research shows that this diminutive creature’s metabolism has evolved in a way that may have helped trigger the rise of other organisms, to form a more complex marine ecosystem. Its evolution may even have helped to drive global changes that made possible the development of Earth’s more complex organisms.