Monday, June 25, 2007

Please don't pee in our pool (ocean)?

Is this what corals are saying? Should divers hold it until they're back on dry land? Is it better to pee on shore than in the ocean?

Believe it or not, enquiring minds want to know. Google "ok to pee in the ocean" and you'll get a lot of debate, mostly ending with the view that it's natural, it's not much, so it's ok. Even the venerable Umbra Fisk at Grist takes this blithe attitude. But Rick over at Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets has some concerns over pee and sunscreen effects on corals in popular dives spots like MPAs.

I'm with Rick on this one, it might be time to worry about peeing in the ocean, at least in heavily used and sensitive sites. Remeber that people once thought it was ok to dump sewage in the ocean, because it's natural and it's not too much on the scale of an ocean. Now we know better, and few places still dump untreated sewage into the ocean. Read the justifications of peeing in the ocean, and you'll see the very last frontier of the thoroughly discredited slogan: "dilution is the solution to pollution." Maybe it's not even ok for pee.

Stop by Rick's terrific blog Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets and tell him it's ok that I stole his great picture (above)!

Photo: Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets


Anonymous said...

Seeing Blue, Seeing Yellow: Personally, I prefer not to pee in the ocean, especially when wearing a wetsuit...except when it is very cold. However, I also think the whole debate over "to pee or not to pee" and whether to use PABA-based sunscreen when diving are minor concerns with respect to coral reef conservation with the potential to distract from the really large threats facing coral reefs. We should stay focused on the mega threats to coral reefs which have the potential to eliminate coral reefs within our lifetimes. These include fishing impacts, ocean warming and acidification, coastal development, and in some areas, nutrient and sediment pollution from much larger point and non-point sources of pollution. Debating "to pee or not" in the face of looming coral extinction seems to me a bit like "fiddling while Rome burns".

Mark Powell said...

I agree, the focus should be on major threats. This came up because a popular website (Grist) had an "authoritative" columnist raise the issue and declare it's ok, it's natural. And, let's face it, the issue has potty humor appeal. It's drawn quite a few guests from unlikely places, so it's a traffic driver. Hmmm, what does that say?

But about major/minor threats. Shall we not talk about minor threats until all major threats are gone?

Up Welng said...

in my take on the pee issue referenced in mark's post, i am not making any claim of pee being a major threat (or even it being a threat at all)... i am asking the question of its validity as a concern in the absence of any evidence... (though i support a precautionary principle particularly given coral reefs already degraded condition in most popular snorkle sites)

what i do focus on (and what seems to have been overlooked) is the growing concern of local communities (stakeholders as we call them) that pee is a problem...

anyone who does field-based, community-based conservation recognizes that irrespective of scientific evidence, stakeholder claims and views must be acknowledged and a process established to vet those concerns against what we can empirically demonstrate (and even then, it's no guarantee that communities will accept those findings... local communities are not bound by the scientific process...)

the surest way to lose community support for conservation is for an organization to poo poo (parden the expression) local concerns...

i was hoping to illustrate the complexities of community-based conservation... not advocate that pee is necessarily the new enemy... and as mark points out, in the absence of strategies to reduce the "big threats," shouldn't we do what we can to reduce "small threats" and improve overall resilience?

Mark Powell said...

maybe it's the potty talk, but the topic has generated some interest. anything to get people thinking about oceans.