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monitoring Facing up to the issues: monitoring and research

Monitoring can thought of as 'thoughtful observation'. Our world view has been shaped by our basic monitoring tools, our sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Instruments extend our senses, they do not do away with them.

Every time you take a drive in your car you take part in a monitoring program. Careful observations and the use of instruments to put you in touch with the not so obvious functions of the car allow you to manage your journey. You can not drive the car just by staring at the speedo, but you can assess your progress. Conversely if none of your dashboard gauges are working it will only be a matter of time before serious damage is done to the motor or the law catches up to you for dangerous driving.

It is the same with our environment, and the natural laws are catching up with us. There will be no talking our way out of it. In our own interests we need to nurture the environment in which we live and on which we depend for life.

Research attempts to reveal the response of natural systems to the laws of nature. If the laws are understood then monitoring tools can be used effectively to watch over our progress. Simply understanding something will not change it for the better and neither will 'gut feeling'. Much environmental problem solving activity is based on panic reactions, pet theories or limited past experience. To succeed we will have to be as smart as possible in the way we address the environmental issues which face us.