The article I chose for today is about a new concept in science called Neuro-conservation. This idea was developed by Wallace J. Nichols, a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. Neuro-conservation is a discipline that examines the connection between brain and ocean. The link above also has a short video that briefly explains what Nichols researches and the foundation for this emerging field.
Neuro-conservation is based on the idea that people inherently love the ocean. Nichols states that he had only ever met one man who hated the ocean. I understand not ALL aspects are great, like sunburns or getting sand in your car, but these details get easily overlooked by most people. Nichols might get a slightly biased response if he only talks to marine biologists, but from this article it seems like he interacts with lots of different people and acquires a good range of answers. I’m not sure about the argument for interrogators at Guantanamo. I think if I was jailed in a hot cell and in a dirty jumpsuit, I might be tempted by a cold shower or the sight of grass. However, nobody can deny that money is the best indicator of people’s emotions, values, and decisions. Just the phrase “ocean view” imparts a trillion-dollar premium on coastal real estate. Nichols gives examples about people deeply impacted by the ineffable effects of the ocean. He has probably run into a lot of people who wanted to be marine biologists as a child. Unfortunately, as people grow older, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is no money in marine biology or the environment (unless you work for an oil company as a consultant maybe). Many people get segued into higher paying jobs when the pressures of bills, children, and the mortgage start to pile up. I think this also applies for many other jobs, like teaching, nursing, or other public service jobs. I hate that the jobs that are really the most important for the environment, human health, and mental stability/enrichment are the lowest paying jobs. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, but I do know that if you ever want to find someone who is really passionate and hard-working, you should check out people who chose those lifestyles.
Although I find actual marine neuroscience (i.e. sea turtle brain activity, manatee behavior, etc) more interesting than Nichols’ approach, I’m really glad he is exploring this idea. Neuroscience is definitely on the upswing, and I think this decade is going to show a major push for neuroscience funding. The brain and the ocean remain the most complex and unexplored things on the planet today. I believe the questions Nichols addresses at the end of this article are fully within the realm of possible and pertinent research. I’m excited to hear more about this topic in the future.
My random thought would be that since many people are only aware of the ocean or marine creatures because they “ate 90 pieces of shrimp at Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp,” it would be great if the marine conservation organizations capitalized on that by working with seafood places to educate the public. I think the seafood industry could also capitalize on it. Obviously their contribution doesn’t have to be extreme because I understand a business is a business, but for example, Red Lobster could offer a tally or something for their endless shrimp campaign and offer to donate a penny or five cents for every shrimp someone consumes. I know there are “on the fence” eaters who would be drawn to go to Red Lobster if they advertised that idea. They would figure, “I’m going to eat anyway and at least this way I won’t feel so guilty about eating so much shrimp because I’m also giving back to the environment!” I believe companies should be required to give back to whatever environment they most deeply impact because, without that environment, they wouldn’t be able to have a business. That’s my tangent. Sorry, the post is really long again today! I had a long layover at the airport. Feel free to leave comments about your own thoughts on the idea of neuro-conservation and if you think it is a good thing to pursue!