General Response to Joe Greene

[Editor's note: When the New 49er's griped about the bias of scientists involved in the public advisory committee for suction dredging in California, the State eventually acquiesced allowed the New 49ers to invite two people with science degrees from their camp.  They selected Joe Greene and Claudia Wise retired EPA scientists from Oregon and current officers in the Millennium Diggers organization.  These parties were invited by virtue of their positions on the issue rather than their expertise on the topics at hand.  Both have made comments characterizing themselves as "experts" and not initially disclosing their memberships in Millennium Diggers or their participation in or passion for suction dredging.  Ms. Wise has posted few comments, but Mr. Greene has posted numerous comments to both suction dredging posts (Suction Dredging…Sucks and Dredging Up The Truth) requiring a general statement to him personally]

 
Dear Joe,
 
Since I did not mention you by name in my Dredging Up the Truth blog, I can hardly see how my post was a personal attack.  It becomes a personal attack only because you see yourself in those comments.  But since you have opened the door here, let’s play. 
 
Former EPA scientist Joe Greene, an avid gold prospector who has been suction dredging since the 1960s, is less than impressed with the EPA’s propaganda and Tomten’s claim that dredging is illegal under the CWA (see here)
In the first place, certainly I agree with free speech.  I have defended that right my entire life.  But that is separate from the concept of professional ethics.  You have been involved in dredging for nearly 50 years, so you—as a scientist offering scientific opinions—have a huge conflict of interest.  Your access point to this debate is as a suction dredging advocate.  You have crossed a professional line with your comments and attacks on scientist with actual credentials in this field.  But in addition to the concept of professional ethics there is also a question of the extent of your credentials in this specific arena and the quality and thrust of your commentary.  
 
Having worked as an ecological consultant in 1980s—sometimes on fisheries matters—I was often asked to synthesize masses of studies that dealt either directly or indirectly with the species or habitat in question and draw my best conclusions based on the body of work available and those studies that were most applicable.  Where there were conflicts and confusion I had to dig deeper until I felt comfortable with my ultimate conclusion about that element.  A lot enters into this including examining experimental design and dealing with changing evaluation methodologies and scientific standards.  This was the same careful and considered process that was conducted by Dr. Moyle.  His logic was sound and his use of the literature, cautionary remarks, and conclusions were all appropriate. 
 
On the flip side we have you.  I found it interesting that in your initial comments that you made derisive remarks about Dr. Moyle using the work of his former graduate student (i.e., “So, Moyle stated for science he was relying on data published by his former grad student Bret Harvey.  Great move.”)  Using Dr. Harvey’s work in the context of what Dr. Moyle was asked to do was totally appropriate and you should know that.  What was inappropriate was your comment.  It was both disrespectful and incorrect.
 
So let’s deal with the thrust and quality of your work as exemplified by your traveling power point presentation and advocacy.  Words fail me when I look at this.  It is hard to find a single slide in this presentation that is not purposely misleading or dangerously paranoid.  Working for the EPA you should be well aware that there is a difference between sequestered toxics and those re-suspended in the water column—shame on you.  You also know fully well that the arguments about “very little” becomes a big deal when talking about suspended materials and chemicals that are often measured in parts per million.  And your quoting of water chemistry conclusions from a nearly 75-year old study is pretty much laughable—what professional scientist would do that?  Taken in sum, your presentation is deceptive, unprofessional in nature, and politically and personally motivated.  I could do a slide by slide critique but after about slide 40, it makes me sad that you have slipped so low.
 
So Joe, I can absolutely live with disappointment from you.  I might actually wear it as a badge.  And I am glad that you get reinforcement and compliments from the mining community because you certainly will not get them from your former peers or from the scientific community where it actually counts.  I suspect it is also gratifying that your contrarian views and emerging status in the mining community affords you a notoriety that you never enjoyed during your career as a federal bureaucrat—I hope it is worth it.  
 
–Bob Ferris
 
P.S. In terms of your characterization of my qualifications as being non-biological, my undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies and Biology which means that I completed the degree requirements for both majors.  Moreover, my exit requirement for biology involved being above the 75% mark on the subject GRE which was easy and why I later was accepted into masters and PhD programs.  Much of this is not on my LinkedIn profile because the later 20 years of my career are more relevant.  So I left out paid teaching assignments (not unpaid courtesy appointments) at San Jose State University and UC Santa Cruz (full courses not short courses) as well as my ecological consulting and research experience in the 1980s.