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MICE and men


With reference to your article 'Wave of confusion' (NCE last week), I totally agree as to the great uncertainty associated with coastal management, but feel it is a bit harsh to suggest we are heading for confusion.

Uncertainty has always been one on the hallmarks of coastal engineering.

It is refreshing that this uncertainty should be so clearly acknowledged.

This should not, however, be confused with confusion.

It is merely recognising that, at present, there is an even greater need for an engineering attitude to coastal management, based on science, but managing to produce necessary robust answers without the certainty of science.

The difference in quoted potential sea level, described by Hamish Hall, is an excellent example of this, in that the response to a specic question cannot come from an absolute answer, but rather from the intent behind the question. This comes not from confusion, but from a need to make decisions.

It does concern me that there is a clamour for hard and fast guidance. We should be considering the potential outcomes of different scenarios and making good argument for specic use of the data that is available.

'But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley.' The difference between mice and MICE is that however cautiously we need to tread, we do not have the option to be wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beasties.

Gregor Guthrie, royalhaskoning. com

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