It all started with a book. Two of my colleagues had edited a book, aimed at children, that had 50 oceanic topics all dealt in one page, written by one specialist. It is called 30 second oceans, I suppose because you should be able to get through every topic in 30 seconds. I think it is a good idea! And of course they were seeking some publicity for it. And one of the bodies that was interested in providing that was the North Wales newspaper the Daily Post. They had done an interview with them, and that appeared on their website. In the interview, my colleague Mattias had applied what the book said about sea level change to North Wales, pointing out that we have some low-lying infrastructure here. As there already are issues with flooding, further sea level rise is bad news for the area.
For some reason, the daily post had decided to enliven the text with animations of North Wales experiencing 30 m sea level rise. The comments section of the article showed signs of the public thinking that was excessive.
So was this the stressed interview I am talking about? No, that is still to come. On Monday morning and email landed in my inbox. BBC Cymru wanted someone from Ocean Sciences to talk about this in Welsh. And I figured I might as well do it; I speak Welsh, and I am a sea level scientist. So I volunteered. I phoned the lady who had contacted the school. I was a bit confused about what she said then; she asked me what I thought the main points were from the report that the interview with Mattias had been based on. Report? Main findings? It was all based on the book. And it didn't really have new findings. It only gave one page of information! I asked her to send me any report she meant, and I contacted Mattias and Yueng. Then I found out that they know nothing about the report either, and that neither of them had the faintest idea where the animation had come from. And the book only says that average sea level rise since the 60s has been 1.5 mm per year (at the moment it is more: 3-4 mm/a), and that that is the most it has been in the last 3000 years. It also says that total possible sea level rise due to ice melt is some 65 m. That's all they say! And Mattias had not given any numbers. The public, however, would see the animation, and not know that these animations are not at all connected to the book, or to the research Mattias and Yueng do. They would logically link it to what Mattias had been saying, and concludes that these scientists are scaremongers and alarmists. Not good!
I had agreed with the lady she would phone me around 3 PM. But then I got an email; something had changed, and that it was going to be Cardiff who would phone me, and they would do that at around 4 PM. That was fine with me. There was nothing happening on that front at 4 PM, but well, one can be a bit late. I didn't have any contact information of the Cardiff crew so I couldn't contact them. And it was also the day I had promised the students their dissertation grades. I had spent the afternoon checking whether all grades were in, and trying to do something about it where they weren't. And at 6 PM, Jaco and Marjan would visit. We would have a barbecue in the garden! The first time since Christmas we would have an actual dinner in person. And I could sort all that if I would have that interview at 4 PM, but at some point I would have to light the barbecue et cetera! I didn't like this at all. By 5 PM I emailed the original lady again; had something gone wrong? She mailed back there had been some confusion; she thought Cardiff would do the interview and Cardiff thought she was going to do it. But she would kick Cardiff in the bum.
In the meantime, I started to get dinner ready. I put the garden furniture out, and the fire bowl, and big slabs of slate to put the fire bowl on in order to protect the grass, and I got oil and a poker and all sorts of things we would be needing. I kept an eye on my phone so I would notice if Cardiff got in touch. For now they hadn't, but I did get some other messages. Lots of students were telling me they couldn't see their grades! In all the stress, I must have mis-clicked a button somewhere. So even though Cardiff hadn't been in touch yet, I knew I had to get back inside and sort that out. And then I heard voices. Jaco and Marjan were here!
I quickly explained to them that there were still two issues I had to see to before I could sit down for a relaxed barbecue. They understood! So I first went inside to sort out the grades for the students. And shortly after that, the phone rang. It was Cardiff!
We had a little discussion. They still wanted to do the interview, basically ASAP, and they wanted to talk about the amount of sea level rise by the end of the century. I had prepared for that so it was okay with me. She had to send me a link so we could have a secure connection and then we could talk.
While I was waiting for that link to arrive, I briefly sat down with my friends. It didn't last though; I got a message saying "have you received my link?"; I checked my spam box and it turned out I indeed had received the link. So it was time to run inside, tell the interviewer that IPCC expects sea level rise of 26 to 80 cm by the end of the century, unless West Antarctica runs amok and makes things worse. And that was it! I don't think I did very well. I had been on Welsh radio before, and already noticed I lose my ability to speak, especially in Welsh, if I am suddenly talking into a media microphone. But I managed to say something useful I think. And I don't watch television so I didn't see the final result. It was going to be broadcast on breakfast television.
With my job done I went outside again, grabbed me a beer, and sat down. I could really use a relaxed barbecue now!
This blog started as a tool to keep my Dutch friends informed on my whereabouts when I moved abroad. It quickly also became an external memory for my own use. It largely failed as a stage for discussions on whatever is worth discussing. And it has become a way of sharing my scientific knowledge with a lay audience. And who knows, it could become even more! And whatever it is you are looking for among all this: welcome.