Our dive trip to Cozumel, and a word on behalf of science
by Rob Tiller
For Christmas, Sally put together a scuba diving trip to Cozumel, Mexico with our dear ones — Gabe, Jocelyn, and Kyle (our new son-in-law). Our travel went smoothly, the weather was warm and pleasant, and the diving was revealing.
We stayed at the Hotel Cozumel and Resort, which has a large swimming pool surrounded by palm trees, as well as a small sandy area near the boat dock. For non-diving afternoons, we lounged about, read, and enjoyed pina coladas. Jocelyn, serving as our dinner concierge, found us some outstanding restaurants, including Kinta, Kondesa, and Alfredo di Roma Trattoria, and we had some good conversations with good laughs.
But the main event for four days was the diving. Each morning, we took boat rides of an hour or so along the coast to the south and did two dives of about an hour each. Our depths were mostly between 40 and 80 feet, with visibility from about 60 to 70 feet. The current was strong at times, and good for drift diving. Water temperatures at bottom were a pleasant 81 or 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even in our small area, there was a lot of variation in the marine life. Some of the coral seemed healthy and colorful, and other parts were brown and mossy, or bleached. There were a lot of small tropical fish with vibrant colors. Among the most enjoyable tropicals: angelfish (queen, French, and gray), butterflyfish (four-eye, banded), blue tangs, surgeonfish, durgons, trumpetfish, queen triggerfish, honecomb cowfish, balloonfish, porcupinefish, smooth trunkfish, whitespotted filefish, stoplight parrotfish, yellowtail snappers, and French grunts. We also saw a few barricudas, a few green moray eels, a few spotted morays, a few yellow stringrays, two magnificent spotted eagle rays, and one southern stingray.
We had no turtles until the last day, and then saw four Hawksbills on one dive (which was also the one dive when my camera malfunctioned). We were hoping to see nurse and reef sharks, as we have on previous trips here, but never did.
I’m sure being a reef fish is tough at times, but in our reef visits most of the residents seemed at ease. Some were clearly aware of us, and while some were shy, others were curious. Spending time close to them was both thrilling and wonderfully calming. Looking hard at the animals and trying to understand them better gives new perspectives on ourselves.
Of course we’re worried about the future of the Cozumel coral reef ecosystem, as many coral reefs around the world are dying. According to the IPCC, between 70 and 90 percent of coral reefs will perish by 2052 if global warming continues at present levels. This would have a devastating impact on all ocean life, not to mention human life that depends on ocean life.
But nature is amazingly resilient, and it’s certainly possible that we’ll figure out a way to stop killing coral reefs and other ecosystems. It will take some work, though, since we’ve barely begun to understand the workings of reef systems. More research is needed.
This is yet another reason why we need to boot Trump: Trump’s war on science. As the NY Times reported last week, Trumpians are shutting down federally supported science programs left and right, and threatening scientists who call attention to climate change and other health risks. Scientists with specialized and essential knowledge are getting let go or quitting government service, leaving us less and less able to address our emergencies. This is perverse!
A part of the explanation is probably the drive for more profits by fossil fuel, mining, agribusiness, and other corporate interests. Preventing greater understanding and control of the damage they’re doing to the planet is certainly in their self interest. But at the same time, corporate interests need scientific knowledge to manage risks, and the oligarchs have to live on the same planet as the rest of us. There must be more to it.
Very possibly Trump’s war on science is driven by the same malign impulses as has his war on the mainstream media. Both science and the media increase knowledge and understanding, which is at cross purposes with Trumpism. Science and serious media tend to undermine the administration’s preference for hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and ignorance. They give a basis for sensible political action, while their absence leaves an information vacuum that causes mass confusion and promotes political apathy.
There are all kinds of problems inherent in science — unacknowledged bias, methodological errors, and even occasional intentional fraud. Individual scientists are as subject to intellectual and moral failings as the rest of us. However, the community of scientists is built for self-correction, so that errors by some scientists are often called out by other scientists. The background methods of science have been amazingly successful over the last four centuries in increasing knowledge about the natural world and increasing human well being.
Science as a system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best way we’ve come up with so far for understanding the world and addressing its problems. It’s just bizarre that the richest, most technologically advanced country in history would systematically try to squelch it. Even leaving aside every other Trump criminality, cruelty, and stupidity, Trump’s war on science is reason enough to vote him out.