Sunscreen, Straws and Subtlety: The Dangers of Oversimplifying a Complex Environmental Problem
June 10, 2019 -- The following is an excerpt from an opinion piece written by Dr. David Shiffman, and published by Scuba Diving Magazine:
Sometimes, scientists have to be the villain.
When people unite behind widespread “save the ocean” movements such as plastic-straw and sunscreen bans, it might seem like an undeniable win for the important goal of saving the ocean.
But, here I am, your friendly neighborhood marine conservation biologist, willing to take the role of wet blanket and say: Not only are these sweeping policies partially misguided, but they also could be a net negative for our beloved ocean ecosystem—and for people.
Hear me out—sometimes a problem is so large and overwhelming that the only way to wrap our brains around it is to focus on one bite-size chunk at a time. This can be an effective strategy for public engagement and education, especially if the goal is using a small, easily visualized part of the problem as a hook to get people to learn about and try to fix the rest of the problem.
However, when that small chunk of the problem is wrongly treated as the biggest threat or the only threat, well-intentioned activists can do more harm than good.
Overwhelming activist and media focus on a small part of the problem leads to confused and misinformed citizens, research funding getting reprioritized so it can’t be used on the bigger issues, and suboptimal policy outcomes.
Read the full article at Scuba Diving Magazine