The Parable of the Good Cake 

Many people sat around a large table in a big kitchen. A delicious looking cake sat at the center of the table. In front of each person was a small plate. Some plates held half-eaten slices of cake, but many held untouched slices. Still others had not yet taken a slice and their plates were still clean. The Chef stood off to the side quietly watching. The room was noisy because most of the people were arguing. Some argued that the cake was magic and the Chef created it out of thin air. Some said the Chief used a box mix, while others said the cake was made from scratch. One vigorously exclaimed that the Chef had nothing to do with the cake and tried to explain the intricate chemical processes by which the cake was formed. Others argued that the cake was made by the oven that sat still warm in one corner of the kitchen. They described how all the primordial ingredients were baked when the oven turned on. Another learned person interjected that of course the cake formed by those well-known processes, but that the Chief had placed the cake in the oven and turned it on. Many denied the oven had anything to do with the cake. The debate raged on. But amidst the din, one person sat quietly eating the cake. When finished the person leaned back and smiled, then thanked the Chef for such a delicious cake before leaving. The Chef smiled and was pleased.

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Call to establish an undersea research colony 

Development of a major undersea laboratory

Consider: Does it make sense to propose a lunar base as a stepping stone to a mars base, when we can't even establish a similar base in our own planet's oceans? Isn’t it incredible that in this day and age when politicians and scientists are seriously talking about lunar and mars space stations, that we don’t even have a serious “base” in our oceans? For years NASA has used undersea training to prepare astronauts for space because an underwater environment shares many operational similarities with an outer space environment. Why not call for the development of a full scale “space station” under the sea in preparation for lunar and mars space stations? But even more importantly we need just such a facility to conduct undersea research. True, a small undersea laboratory was established decades ago in the Carribean (the NOAA Tektite project), but that program ended long ago. Today, one of the only manned undersea research laboratory in the world is the Aquarius lab in Florida run by the NOAA National Undersea Research Program. But as worthy as that program is, it is just an after-thought to the space program. A token undersea laboratory. And even there, the National Undersea Research Program has received only very limited funding in recent years, and a zero dollar budget this year (fy2006)! For more on undersea laboratories go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwater_habitat

Action: Challenge the world to develop a full scale undersea laboratory capable of housing up to 100 persons 24/7 year round. It would be placed in relatively shallow water (<100 ft) with satellite stations at intermediate (>1000 ft) and deep depths (>3000 ft). Don't be timid, write your local, state, and federal politicians today.

Benefits: Technology Transfer

Consider: We all know about the wonderful developments in technology that were generated by the race to the moon and subsequent research at NASA and other space programs. Imagine the technologies that could be developed if a serious attempt were made to establish a real undersea research base!

Action: Promote transfer of undersea technology developed for the “Ocean base” to provide new jobs and grow the economy.


What About Windfarms and Other Offshore Development?

Consider: This begs the question of how are we to avoid further destruction of our fragile ocean ecosystems? Already we have thousands of offshore oil platforms, undersea cables, dumping grounds, etc. In recent years there has been heated debate over the merits of establishing offshore windfarms. In the next few years I expect we will see an explosion of proposals for offshore wind, tidal and wave energy projects. Why keep our heads in the sand? We know that some of these developments will take place eventually. Lets develop the guidelines for prudent use of our resources NOW before its too late. And when these developments are approved, lets insure that industry mitigates their impacts by requiring mandatory research and monitoring components. Take for example, the proposed windfarm development off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. If only 1% of the construction cost were allocated to supporting research, that would provide over 8 million dollars in funds. We should also require these companies to provide the infrastructure and equipment needed by marine scientists. Currently, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and various other regional and national institutions spend considerable research dollars to establish offshore observatories for the collection of oceanographic data. A large chunk of the funds are spent on the platform and data transmission infrastructure. As a result, only a small number of offshore observatories have been established to date (e.g., the Leo-15 and Martha's Vineyard sites, see http://www.whoi.edu/coastalresearch/res ... tgers.html). However, this one windfarm project, could provide a vast, ready-made, infrastructure for undersea research. Imagine, over 100 instrumented platforms providing real-time data free to public schools and colleges, all for one or two percent increase in construction costs. Nothing remotely like that has been done before. It would provide an unprecedented view of underwater life to scientists and the public.

Action: Promote ocean stewardship while allowing prudent ocean development and insuring the highest quality science through mandatory research. Contact your local, state and federal politicians and let them know that you want ocean development to give back to the public.

A Champion for Undersea Research?

Consider: I believe our country, and the world, needs a champion for undersea research in Congress and in the White House. Despite recent government and academic reports that call for increased research on our marine natural resources, funding continues to be cut. Although it may be a cliche, its still true that 75% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, yet we have hardly begun to explore our oceans and have relatively little understanding of their complex ecology. We need a champion in our government who will galvanize undersea research, just as President Kennedy galvanized our space program. Wouldn’t that be an interesting, and different, component of a Presidential campaign platform?

Action: Be the Champion. Write your representatives.

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About my blog 

My Thoughts, contains the musing and philosophy of Dr. Rodney Rountree, a marine biologist with over 20 years experience. Topics will range from ecologial issues, Christian philosophy, favorite books, music and current events. A more traditional overview of Dr. Rountree's research interests can be found at his web site: http://www.fishecology.org

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