Focus on the future:
We find ourselves in the grips of a deadly pandemic which threatens our lives and the world economy. Over thirteen hundred Americans passed on April 4th alone and things are likely to get worse before they get better. But amid the devastation, scientists are planting the seeds for a brighter future. The most brilliant minds are at work developing and testing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 in government supported and independent laboratories throughout the globe. Simultaneously, others are developing solutions to existential threats posed by the ravaging of our oceans and by global warming.
The COVID-19 War:
We have a long way to go to extricate ourselves from devastation caused by the pandemic we face. The immediate battle will be won through the efforts of doctors, nurses and first responders who are risking their lives for us daily. But each of us must also continue to do our parts by taking every precaution to minimize the risk of being infected and of spreading this dreaded disease. Clearly, our most effective weapon is social distancing. Please recognize that ongoing research is not expected yield results that will dispatch the current threat posed by COVID-19.
The battle to save our planet:
We have ravaged our oceans by polluting and over fishing for over a century. However, global warming is the latest and greatest existential threat we face. Until recently, scientists have presumed that we were approaching the point of no return. Unboubtedly, the seas are an irreplaceable part of our ecosystem. If they are no longer able to sustain human life, the world economy may collapse under the strain. We have driven marine life of every kind to the brink of extinction and jeopardized the oceans’ ability to continue being a source of food that sustains us. However, an article published last Wednesday in Nature, a respected scientific publication, provides hope. An international team of scientists studied our oceans for an extended period of time and report that they found them to be amazingly resilient.
“The success of many marine conservation projects…….illustrates how we can make a difference in the life of our oceans if we apply what we learned”, explained Professor Callum Roberts, an environmental expert from the University of York and a co-author of the study. Amazingly, this may make it possible to stave off the ecological disaster many scientists have warned may be inevitable. Such an accomplishment would have extraordinarily positive ecological and economic repercussions.
Red Sea diving adventure:
My love for the oceans has evolved through many experiences. But the one that is most deeply rooted in my memory is my Red Sea diving adventure. Many years ago, while a faculty member at Nova University in Davie, Florida, I traveled to the Middle East to dive Ras Mohhamed, a secluded Red Sea coral reef off the coast of the Sinai desert. My friends and I arrived in Nuweiba, an oasis in the desert, to spend the night in tents. Nearby was a fishing village where we devoured an amazing fish fry dinner with the local fishermen and enjoyed their stories of the sea.
The next morning we set out for Ras Mohamed in a rented Ford Fiesta. Since this is a very dangerous part of our planet, we very carefully followed the guidance we received. You see, the Sinai is so secluded that there was always the threat of terrorists landing there from the sea. Therefore, every morning a group of soldiers departed Nuweiba for Ras Mohamed at 8:00 am sharp. Along the way, they removed the land mines they had planted the night before. Then, every afternoon at 4:00 pm they left Ras Mohamed on their journey back to Nuweiba to rebury the mines. Therefore, it was essential that we leave for the Ras Mohamed beach after the soldiers departed Nuweiba and begin our return drive to before the soldiers started back.
Voyage across the desert:
The drive to Ras Mohamed took us over desert sands. There was no road, but the path was marked with biblical rock formations. They are called cairns and consist two stones leaning against each other to form a triangle, with a third on top laying parallel to the ground.
We followed these markers and arrived at Ras Mohamed an hour later. To our surprise, we saw nothing but an empty Red Sea beach, nothing but desert sand and rock. No human beings were visible as far as the eye could see.
The shack at Ras Mohamed:
As we walked onto the beach, we noticed a little wooden shack around the corner. We approached cautiously and couldn’t believe our eyes. In the shack sat a young fellow from Brooklyn selling twelve ounce cokes for seven dollars a bottle. What an enterprising idea! You see, the daytime temperature in the Sinai averaged 134 degrees fahrenheit that time of year, hot enough to dehydrate a person in less than ten minutes. Therefore, we were more than glad to pay the price as we asked for directions to the reef. He pointed to a very tall rock formation at the end of the beach and advised us to wade in the waters of the Red Sea around that rock.
The Red Sea reef:
On the other side was the famous reef. There we found many divers speaking a wide variety of European languages. The reef was amazing. It was a stone wall which extended downward at least one hundred feet. As I dove in, I was immediately surrounded by a school of thousands of orange damsel fish. A wave of blue damsels followed. There were corals of every size, shape and color and amazing sea creatures as far as the eye could see. It was a truly incredible experience.
But suddenly, after basking in the glory of this reef for quite some time, I saw the shadow of an enormous fish below me, a fish more than seven feet long. It signaled that time had come to end this great adventure and get out of the water. The Red Sea is famous for shark attacks, so discretion was clearly the better part of valor.
Scientific interventions will positively impact the world economy:
In the Nature article, the scientists recounted their discovery of successful interventions that had resulted in the resurgence of the nearly extinct humpback whale and many other marine populations. Therefore, they concluded, the technology exists to restore the oceans in as short a time frame as twenty to thirty years.
But this would require intervention on a large scale at a cost of billions of dollars. I wondered what would motivate the giants of industry, often so short sighted, to invest such sums in this project? The answer to that question was eye opening. Amazingly, the scientists were able to demonstrate that such a risk a would have an expected reward of at least ten times the required investment, a rate of return that should certainly peek the interest of big business. Of course, a key to the success of this mission would be resolving the danger posed by global warming simultaneously.
Our planet is resilient:
While the COVID-19 pandemic is reeking havoc on our lives and the economy, scientists are laying the foundation for an exciting recovery. Stay positive! Just as our seas are resilient and will see a resurgence with our help, so will our lives return to normal soon. Governments have the tools to restore the world economy. The near depression of 2008 has taught us that. If real estate lags, it will spawn the same industry so instrumental in our last recovery, rehabbing. Investment opportunities will abound, generate income and create jobs. This too shall pass.
Have faith. Better times will follow. – Andy K.