Watching the guinea pig; Papua New Guinea

The Nautilus Mineral is leading the world in the quest to develop, seafloor mineral deposits. It is developing the world’s first seafloor mining in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea (PNG). However, there are sensitive emerging issues that need attention before this major mining event could take its full course. The world is watching with curiosity as unfortunately, PNG is going to be the guinea pig.

The main hinted issue here is, “the interface between Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS) mining and environmental protection will be particularly challenging for developing countries such as PNG or Tonga and others in the Pacific, because of their limited capacities to undertake appropriate environmental laws to oversee seafloor mining activities effectively.”(Hoagland et al., 2010)

How much awareness on careful thoughts, considerations and communication had been delivered to the public? As far as environmental impacts and livelihood of the coastal PNG population is concerned this seabed mining project is going change everything.

We cannot see much under the sea, but there is sure living creatures whose peaceful habitat is likely to be disturbed by the slightest movement on the seafloor. How about this image?

How much do we know about the nature of this type of mining? Has the government of the day thought of its people and how this project is going to affect the daily lives of its people? Did the Nautilus company highlighted all the pros and cons of its operation? Has it done an honest plan for the next 20 years of its operation within the waters of PNG and in other parts of the Pacific? How much science (marine ecosystems disturbance) is there to be understood to appreciate or not appreciate this kind of development?

Here’s a video that should tell us how much has been said and understood as far as the development is concerned.

iframe>

Although Nautilus promises to encourage skills and technology transfer in terms of the following;

• Clean mining, low disturbance

• Little disruption of land holders

• Increased safety (compared with onshore operations)

• Royalties and taxes.

Can we safely rely and trust it? How far down the line would we tolerate before our lives are transformed by its influence, whether for good or bad?

Reference:

Video – http://youtu.be/tlnwguwO9Rc

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6011611812/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Hoagland, P., Beaulieu, S., Tivey, M. A., Eggert, R. G., German, C., Glowka, L., & Lin, J. (2010). Deep-sea mining of seafloor massive sulfides. Marine Policy, 34(3), 728-732. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.12.001

Mumbo Jumbo in the Mass Media

The mass media is regularly used in this “age of information” to communicate science to the public. Interactions between science, policy, media and the public are complex, non-linear and dynamic:  science and policy have shaped the way the media reports and also public understanding; meanwhile, journalism and public concern have also shaped continuing science and policy decisions.

Science in the mass media comes in many forms...

It is clear that the media plays a strong role in putting select science issues on the public’s radar. Because of this, analysis has been conducted into which disciplines get media attention, how they are presented, and therefore “what the public know, think and feel” about science.

There appear to be 2 main ways the media attempt to communicate science to the public:

  1. that by making the public understand science, and scientific facts, they can make them support further development etc; and
  2. by relating science to other areas (politics, religion etc), the public garner a greater understanding and an increasingly critical perception of science and technology.

It appears that the later is a more effective method, and has caused the media to put science on the map in a big way in the last decade.

It is worth noting, and being critical of, the “agenda building” in science within the mass media. Scientists and Science-institutions have extended their effort to communicate with the media, including increases in personnel and resources in PR. It has gotten to the point where some scientists have admitted to using “misinformation” and spin to convince journalists to publish their stories. This also extends to other areas that use science (like the government). It is concerning for science communicators that this spin exists, as the factual accuracy of science in the public eye is important to the overall science literacy of the public, and their belief in science in general.

I am inclined to agree with Ben Goldacre’s opinion in the following video (Where is my jetpack!?) – but what do you think?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Resource:

Schafer, M. S. (2011). Sources, characteristics and effects of mass media communications on science: A review of the literature, current trends and areas for future research. Sociology Compass, 5/6, 399-412.