The Bigger Picture

Some Final Remarks

And so after this evolution we arrive at a crossroads, strongly driven by non-equilibrium growth, and we look for solutions about how to better manage the planet.

In the current climate, solutions are hard to come by primarily because we live in a reactionary environment. Sensible planning seems to elude us (no long term decision making skills) and we are motivated mostly by short term considerations.

A Favorite Example:

Morality vs Economic Decision Making: Light Bulbs

Much of the current dialogue in environmental studies or management needs to shift away from belief to a position of knowledge.

The acquisition of knowledge requires gathering good data, analyzing it correctly, and then forming new questions on the basis of the data.

The Data Commandments: (Apply them often)

  1. Always, always ALWAYS plot your data.

  2. Never, never NEVER put data through some blackbox reduction routine without examining the data themselves.

  3. The average of some distribution is not very meaningful unless you also know the dispersion. Always calculate the dispersion and then know how to use it!

  4. Always examine correlation data for points that could be rejected. Never reject them just because they are "too far from the line" but rather examine if poor measurement or some other error is responsible for these peculiar data values.

  5. Always present and plot data without any compression in the axis so that you don't distort the data by fostering an unfair visual impression. (unless you want to go into politics)

  6. Always compute the level of significance when comparing two distributions. Just because they might have different mean values doesn't necessarily mean they are significantly different. This is probably the most basic thing to remember from this course.

  7. Always know your measuring errors. If you don't then you are not doing science.

  8. Always require someone to back up their "belief statments" with data. Change the world. Stop being a passive absorber of some one else's belief system.

  9. Always calculate the dispersion in any correlative analysis. Remember that a correlation is only as good as the dispersion of points around the fitted line.

  10. Always remember that unambiguous data resolves conflict when having a rational dialogue. However, if you live in an irrational world, all bets are off!


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