The Moment That Mattered

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 5, 2008 10:25 am

From here in DC, it’s day three of Capitol Hill Oceans Week 2008. With little time to blog, the highlight from Wednesday’s session on coral reefs:

Notable panelists, impressive powerpoints and a clear message: Corals are in serious trouble. Speakers were excellent, but this wasn’t new information to many in the room considering coral reefs have been ‘in trouble‘ every year of CHOW. After the discussion, scientists, hill staffers, and environmentalists proposed the typical questions. Ho hum.

Then it happened. A bright young 12-year-old girl approached the microphone. ‘I’ve been diving for two years‘, she began, and then explained why she cares about reefs. She wanted to know what she could do–and what the panelists were doing to set things right.

Genuine and simply put, she asked the best question all week.


Comments (5)

  1. Sciencefan

    There is plenty of hope for our country and this world in the minds and spirit of young people.

  2. So, how was this great young person answered?

  3. Judging by the sudden end to your post, an embarrassed silence followed the question?

  4. Dark Tent

    Good question indeed

    I’d ALSO bet the question was met with silence — or perhaps an effort to change the subject.

    That’s basically the very same question everyone should ask their Congressional representatives:

    What have YOU personally done TODAY?

    Not “What did you do last week, last month, last year or before the Iraq war?” (“I voted against authorizing the war”), not “What ARE you GOING to do tomorrow?”, but “What did you DO TODAY?

    I’d bet you would get the same silence/effort to change the subject from both sides of the aisle.

    These people who say they represent us need to be held accountable for what they are doing right NOW — and they need to be held accountable EVERY day of every week of every year.

    No more excuses. No more kicking the can down the road. No more blaming it all on the Republicans. No more “We don’t have the 60 votes” garbage.

    Either they should do the job that they are getting paid a King’s ransom for ($170,000 per year) or they should get out of Congress.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


See More

Collapse bottom bar