Tuesday, December 20, 2011

60 Minutes on Coral Reefs and the challenge of depicting ocean acidification

This weekend's 60 Minutes featured this great segment on coral reefs, in which a well-protected "Gardens of the Queen" in Cuba are used a possible example of a resilient reef ecosystem.

The segment touches on coral bleaching, though perhaps not with the authority or depth that is warranted by science. What's most striking, however, is that the segment does not even mention ocean acidification.

I'm sure the media conspiracy theorists might claim this all as evidence a U.S. network shying away from discussing "controversial" subjects like climate change. But I suspect something else is at play, and it is something that science communicators everywhere need to consider. This is television - you need engaging, interesting video. Just how do you film ocean acidification? It's a slow, invisible process, nothing like the exciting action shots of the host and scientists diving among sharks and lionfish.

This is not a criticism - it is a challenge. What are the best ways for documentarians to capture the effect of changing ocean chemistry on coral reefs?


Anonymous said...

- Get a decent narrator.
- Get good "talking heads" if you're going to use them.
- Use animation.
- Talk about the fossil record, OA, and mass extinction events.

How did the NRDC do?


Simon Donner said...

None of those things involve good, engaging video. THE NRDC video is goog, but that video, and what you describe, will largely only appeal to people who already like watching science documentaries.

Rob Painting said...

Whoa, what an awesome dive spot! I particularly loved that tunnel of coral.

I feel envious because all I'm getting to see here in NZ, is a gradual deterioration of marine life.

Steve L said...

What did you think of "A Sea Change"? I asked the Student Environment Centre at UBC to play it at the Norm Theater over a year ago. They didn't advertise very well. I can give you a copy if you're interested in checking it out.

Pretty rudimentary on the science, pretty good at engaging a layperson, in my opinion.

Hank Roberts said...

Has 'Shifting Baselines' connected, out in the world?


"... our 'baseline' shifts with every generation, and sometimes even in an individual.... what we see as degraded our children will view as ‘natural’."

Seeing the living world is just as intuitively unchanging.

I the rocks and stars.