Personal Reactions to the NSF Public Hearings

The Arecibo Observatory is part of NASAs Near Earth Orbit Program
charged with predicting asteroid threats to Earth
With the public hearings for the National Science Foundation's coming and going so quickly, it's left me with a real sense of futility. To join the effort to support the Arecibo Observatory with the last deadline for public participation only weeks away is disheartening. 

It is going to take a massive showing of support in order for the NSF to back away from their currently proposed changes to the Arecibo Observatory.  From having only participated in a couple of the public hearnings and researching the situation, it is unsettling how dire the situation looks. 

It is challenging for anyone outside of the small community directly impacted by these proposed changes to integrate into these ongoing processes.  However, that is the challange we are faced as concerned cititizens.  And, to be honest, it is a chllange which seems so far behind what's happening (the reality), to dream of having any sort of impact.

Specifically, what I have witnessed so far is:
  • No media participation in the public hearings nor any coverage of the entire process;
  • No governement participation (nor any communications relating to the ongoing processes (expect for Pridco's appearance and testimony in the public hearing for the draft Environmental Impact Statement)
  • Disorganization and division amongst the largest players; who have known about the recent proposals, the desire of the NSF to defund the facility, and of the previous public hearings on scoping the propsals held back in June and didn't...tell more people...get better organized?  Where are the publicity campaigns from ... anyone?
  • I'm not qualified to speak of the the chances of the worst possible scenario, nor about the prefeered option (defunding, continued operation with new collaborators), but I can talk about risk.  You see, risk and probability, although perceived as having a strong link, which they do, that link is not required to assess risk.  When thinking about risks, it is useful to ask yourself, if this happens, what are the worst things that could happen, and specifically for this discussion, how do each of the alternatives threaten the facility?
Laying Our Cards On The Table

Obviously, if the NSF takes no action, then the risks are low.  Funding continues, and hopefully everyone involved becomes unified to find a more sustainable funding arrangement for the future observatory.  While this maybe the most dire iteration of this dance, the observatory has been struggling with funding for 20 years. 

If the NSF does decide to take action, i.e., not fund the observatory, then the options that are left on the table are all much more risky.  Meaning that, as described in the current draft documents, some or all of the telescope and support structures will be at risk of being demolished.  Something, that seems right out of a nightmare.  The thought of the NSF recommending the complete destruction of the facility is the highest risk of all. 

I'm afraid that everyone involved is thinking that complete demolition isn't a likely alternative. But the wording used in both the historic assessment and the environmental impact statement are so mechanical; it's there in black and white. If the NSF stops funding, and another stakeholder is not found, then NSF could recommend complete demolition.  Then what?