Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In Somalia, Piracy Stymies Science

Politics of Piracy

Somalia Pirates: NatGeo writes: “A masked Somali pirate, photographed in September 2012, 
stands in front of a Taiwanese fishing vessel that had washed ashore after being attacked.”
Photo Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh; AP
Source: NatGeo
Everyone knows that piracy has plagued the west African nation of Somalia for years, but what its not well-reported is how such lawlessness affects scientific efforts, says an article by Paul Salopek, in National Geographic.

Salopek writes:
Yet nothing has stymied White's pursuit of knowledge—or thwarted his scientific ambitions—like the hard-eyed men in flip-flop sandals who, valuing doubloons above Darwin, set sail hundreds of miles away in skiffs stocked with machine guns and rope ladders: Somali pirates."No question, it's been a serious setback," says White, who has waited years, in vain, for a research vessel to drill crucial seabed cores off Somalia that would revolutionize the dating of East Africa's spectacular hominid finds. "Piracy has stopped oceanographic work in the region. There's been no data coming out of this area for years. Zero."
 White isn't alone in his frustration. Scientists from around the globe, specializing in subjects as diverse as plate tectonics, plankton evolution, oceanography, and climate change, are decrying a growing void of research that has spread across hundreds of thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean near the Horn of Africa—an immense, watery "data hole" swept clean of scientific research by the threat of Somali buccaneering.
Major efforts to study the dynamics of monsoons, predict global warming, or dig into seafloors to reveal humankind's prehistory have been scuttled by the same gangs of freebooters who, over the course of the past decade, have killed dozens of mariners, held thousands more hostage, and, by one World Bank estimate, fleeced the world of $18 billion a year in economic losses.
The cost to science may be less visible to the public. But it won't be borne solely by scholars. Years of missing weather data off the Horn of Africa, for example, will affect the lives of millions of people. A scarcity of surface wind readings has already created distortions in weather models that forecast the strength, direction, and timing of rains that sustain vast farming belts on surrounding continents.
If anything, such shows how the selfish pursuits of a few ruthless pirates can affect the lives of millions of their fellow countrymen; we are more than individual units of humanity; we are inter-connected, our individual actions having some affect on others around us. Although pirate attacks are down, chiefly due to the use of increased security measures, the lost years of data will always remain lost.

You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo]