Saturday, July 25, 2009

Drugs, guns, gangs--and turtles

It is wild here, the stories are intense. Guns and drugs, lots of both.

Hit the ground running yesterday--4:30 rise, drove across the country and got on a Navy gunboat to explore a deserted island for hawksbill turtle nests--with an armed soldier.

Only two years ago, researchers discovered the last, best population of Eastern Pacific hawksbill sea turtles. Researcher J Nichols has jumped in here to try to quickly protect them--perhaps 100 turtles. Earlier this year, egg collecting was outlawed--up until now 95+ percent of the eggs were harvested and sold.

The big issue here is dodging the drug traffickers--some beaches and islands are totally off-limits. The police won't even enter these areas.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Am in London at the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ): I was lucky enough to be given a Laura Van Dam Fellowship from the National Association of Science Writers to come here. Have attended great sessions on the state of science writing, journalism, book publishing, and new media, as well as specific issues like how science innovation will be needed to address burgeoning global needs for food, water and energy amidst the growing spectre of climate change. I was thrilled to hear John Beddington, the UK's Government Chief Science Advisor, bring up the need for population control and education of women--and identify big barriers to that as one world religion that still prohibits contraception and another that discourages the education of women. This issue is one that most governments and NGOs will not touch, and to me, is the pink elephant in the living room.

Fascinating to hear a global perspective on these and other issues from European, African, Asian, Australian journalists. Particularly interesting to hear differences in health care and health care costs and marketing (particularly pharmaceutical marketing) from European and Canadian journalists.

Also had some personal time with Darwin today: stepped into Westminster Abbey and saw his tomb, and in the evening, attended a WCSJ gala at the Natural History Museum. They just moved a huge marble statue of Darwin to the head of the main stairway to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species. Later this year, the museum will open a brand new building named for Darwin. I had the honor of attending the event with a colleague, Victoria Costello, who was the other Van Dam recipient.