Your profile of Heal the Bay's Mark Gold (Times, Dec. 26) was a well-deserved compliment to Gold. In addition to demonstrated leadership on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project Management Committee, Gold has (in my opinion) restored much credibility to the reputation of Heal the Bay, since that infamous Regional Water Quality Control Board hearing at which environmentalist Donald May paraded jars of sewage sludge before TV news cameras, warning of impending doom from the county's sewage treatment plant (Mr. May is now crying wolf about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station).
Gold brings to Heal the Bay virtues that are absent from the leadership of many environmentalist groups: the ability to conduct, evaluate or even recognize "good science" which conforms to the principles of the scientific method, and the resolve to accept the results of good science, even if its conclusions may not support the political agenda of the organization.
Too often we hear environmental groups' so-called "experts" and other maverick scientists warn of environmental catastrophe, based on spurious, poorly documented and/or unrepeatable studies not subjected to the normal scientific peer review process, while the preponderance of good scientific evidence and the scientific consensus in fact suggest quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the legitimate scientific community rarely takes action to ensure that the public is truthfully informed on such matters, sometimes for self-serving reasons (much science funding is influenced by popular perceptions). The media (are) also unenthusiastic about emphasizing the scientific consensus. After all, a potential catastrophe, no matter how unlikely, makes for more interesting reading and sells more ad space than a non-issue. Compounding such passive misrepresentation, environmentalists frequently ignore or dispute any scientific results that conflict with their own "facts," lest the wisdom of their strategies or causes be questioned and scarce public funding be diverted down more productive paths.
An unfortunate result of such "junk science" upstaging good science is that society spends vast sums to correct insignificant or nonexistent environmental problems, while real and insidious environmental or societal problems go unfunded and therefore unaddressed. Numerous surveys have confirmed that the American public is quite willing to pay for environmental protection, directly or indirectly. The public deserves assurance that its dollars are being spent wisely on truly important environmental problems and not squandered on witch hunts fomented by wolf-crying junk scientists. The community of good scientists and environmentalists had better provide such assurance, as Gold does, or risk a popular backlash that will hinder even legitimate and necessary environmental protection efforts.
DAVID W. KAY