Tuesday, November 06, 2012

HEAR CLOSING - a message from Dr. David Duffy (PCSU/UH)

November 6 2012
HEAR CLOSING - a message from Dr. David Duffy (PCSU/UH)

A message from Dr. David Duffy, Pacific Cooperative Studies
Unit/University of Hawaii:

    "Because of a lack of funds, the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR) (http://www.hear.org) may close as soon as December 15, although there may be enough funds to extend it until February 15. This will mean several things. The web site will be placed on a new server although it is not clear who will pay for the server or for transitioning the site. HEAR data will not be updated. The Pacific Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)
site (see http://www.hear.org/pier/abtproj.htm) will also become frozen, as will numerous books, reports and papers. As software evolves we will likely lose the ability to access the data. The various list servers will need new owners, otherwise moderated lists will cease to function altogether, while other lists will not be able to add or delete members. The Starr photo collection will remain accessible, but only through a third party site that will charge for access.
    I should point out that we have already lost the original home of the Pacific Basin Information Node (PBIN) website, although it has found temporary refuge. Together with HEAR, this site represents the corporate memory both here in Hawaii and across the Pacific of efforts to sustain our natural ecosystems and agriculture against problems caused by
species alien to the islands. HEAR also serves as the glue that holds the community together, providing information and facilitating communication. I just hope hindsight is kind to this decision."

               Invasive species are all around us, but most of us never see them. Except for a small group of dedicated people, who over the years have studied and documented the changes in the landscapes of our world, most of us remain oblivious to the changes that are happening to the environment. To those who watch and know the changes brought about by the introduction of novel species, the spread of invasive species is like a wild fire consuming the habitats that shelter life as we know it.

               Invasive species destroy our crops and reduce the food supply that 7 billion people need. Invasive species foul our waters and cost us resources that most of us do not even know we have. Our expectations allow us to presume that resources provided by the diversity of life will always be available to us. As we allow our physical manmade infrastructure to crumble, the ecological systems that surround and support them are changing fast and costing us more.

               The free access of information that once was found in libraries is growing ever smaller, and in the world of invasive species the little electronic portals of knowledge are blinking out along with their hardcopy brethren because some of us feel there is no role for common access to science and experience. In some ways the loss of information will result in a world that knows nothing of the problems facing us as invasive species reduce the resources once at hand. In a tangled twist, the absence of information is validation to many that there is no problem. Without access to species information and their impact on ecosystems, communities will each have to learn anew the effect and cost that some novel species can have on our daily lives.

               The fisherman will see no problem until the lake loses its many species to an exotic flying carp; the farmer will be oblivious until the stink bug reaches his soy bean fields; the gardener will know nothing until the running bamboo takes out the foundation of the home; the child's parent will be content until the python attacks at dusk; the sick will not realize the impact of the insect bite until the doctor speaks of mosquitoes from a distant land; the homeowner will be amused until he learns the cost of termites from a place far far away.

               Then, and only then, when it is too late, will the costs of ignorance come home to roost.  HEAR and PIER provided information in depth to one and all. Individuals and their communities who bear the cost of invasive species and who are unable to pay individually for research information are the losers. They will pay in damage to their fields, gardens and public lands because we did not have the will to provide knowledge to one and all as a public infrastructure service. James Madison wrote to W.T. Barry in 1822:

"A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."[1]

[1] Kurland & Lerner, eds. 2000. Epilogue: Securing the Republic,  Chapter 18. © 1987 by The University of Chicago. [accessed November 6, 2012]  http://press-ubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s35.html

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