Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tom Goreau

Good to see Tom Goreau for the first time since we parted in Palau last June. He has made a good recovery since a barracuda took a finger and a whole chunk of his left hand off in Mexico in August.

As every, Tom has a dozen or more projects on the go. The Lighthouse Foundation, which supported the work at Saya de Malha, interested to fund a very large project in Mexico. Big troubles with the Kuna project in Panama. A bad sign is no feedback from the funders of the Helen Reef project in Palau. And the signals from Australia, where - momentously - it looked as if Tom and colleagues were finally going to be able to do a project on the Great Barrier Reef, are now clouded.

But there's a chance of good news in the offing regarding work with the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility for the entire South American region.

We talked about trends in climate change research - what is really new and to what degree the media are recycling what is already well understood. Tom updated me on his assessments. Two points, among others:

  • global dimming, caused by presence of aerosols from large scale burning of coal which gives us a breathing space by "shading" the consequences of rapid CO2 increase (to which of course the burning is a major contributor);
  • even if all man made emissions of greenhouse gases stopped today, all coral reefs are set for extinction in this century anyway (because of the processes already in place in the system).
Tom drove me from Cambridge out to my sister's house in Lexington. A beautiful clear night, and not too cold. When we got there my sister and her son were enjoying the lunar eclipse. Tom and my nine year old nephew Harry hardly spoke, but I detected an instant liking. Tom, the former astronomer who has sacrificed so much to do something practical to "save the world". Harry the young son of an astronmer with his whole life before him.

Tom didn't stay long. He wanted to get home to share the eclipse with his daughter. Harry, though distracted by the Red Sox game, made a point of coming out to wave goodbye to Tom. A moment when two souls pass each other by.

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