I guess the basic reason why I wrote my book on the health of the Great Barrier Reef comes down to anger. I feel angry and exploited by the prevailing media message that all is doomed with the Great Barrier Reef. I consider the standard of science communication on the issue of the health of the Great Barrier Reef to be poor – based mainly on an appeal to emotion.
I feel that certain media organisations just dish stuff up to us as unquestionable truth without having done their own due-diligence about whether or not their reporting stands up to rigorous examination. Some journalists who would pride themselves on the idea of being investigative journalists, have a complete blind spot when it comes to investigating the truth – or otherwise – of the messages they are giving us about the Great Barrier Reef and the other coral reefs of Australia. The problem is that much of this reporting of what is opinion is dressed up to look like serious science communication.
A few years ago, after cyclone damage and back-to-back bleaching events, there was a massive public scare that the Great Barrier Reef was doomed. Like others, I was alarmed at the predictions that the Reef was so fragile that it could not recover. Statements like, ‘We are about to lose the Reef’ were common and widely accepted.
At first I took it all in. This was like the immediate reaction most people had. But after a while I started asking, ‘Can this really be true?’ I started researching and came to the conclusion that there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that the Reef is extremely resilient. I have set this all down in my new book. I hope you will consider buying it. At this stage the book is only available on my website … or by phoning or emailing me.
This issue is important because I consider the level of accurate public information about the Great Barrier Reef in particular, and the other coral reefs of Australia generally, is poor. Science communication, and the role of the media generally, has become a classic case of communicating ONLY emotion and not much actual science. Science communication can be hard because scientific facts by themselves are not seen as being motivating. Communicating the emotion is easy because humans are motivated by emotions. But as a journalist, news editor, program producer, and so on, what is your moral position if you are ruthlessly using emotion to promote a scientific position that is not true? If you are doing this, you are not being true to the values of your profession.
As a journalist, it alarms me that accurate science communication about the Great Barrier Reef – and coral generally – is completely obscured by; emotional reasoning, appeal to the argument of consensus, appeal to the argument of authority, non sequitur and virtue signalling. These are not scientific forms of argument.
So there it is, my reason for writing this book. I just feel that we need to spend a bit more time and energy in looking ‘behind’ the emotional persuasion we are being subjected to.
Again, I hope you will consider buying this book. I think it is important. At this stage the book is only available on my website … or by phoning or emailing me.