[Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resiliency - maybe consilience?

Regina reginal at hawaii.edu
Sun Feb 26 16:56:04 EST 2006

Esther and all,

As a marine anthropologist, I read your post with great interest and 
had to resist the temptation to shout out loud "here here!!" lest my 
office mates think me a bit mad.    There are actually a few 
universities teaching marine anthropology and I agree that the 
inclusion of a marine anthropologist in interdisciplinary marine 
science projects is vital.  As Chuck Birkeland, one of my favorite 
professors often says, one cannot manage the marine environment, one 
has to manage the people using it.


Regina Woodrom Luna
Maritime and Fisheries Anthropologist
PhD Candidate, Ecological Anthropology Program (Marine)
University of Hawaii Manoa
Lecturer: Biology of Marine Reptiles, Human Adaptation to the Sea, 
Anthropology of Tourism, American Cultures
Biological Assistant: Oahu Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvaging Group
ReginaL at hawaii.edu

 >From: Esther Borell <estherborell at yahoo.co.uk>
 >To: "Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu>
 >CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
 >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resiliency -  maybe consilience?
 >Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 07:13:43 +0000 (GMT)
 >Hi Alina and all others,
 >   I think your letter has not only contextualized our ‘reef problems’ 
but also hit a nerve.
 >   Its time to change our dogma. Its time to strip down the fancy 
costume of sustainability. I sometimes even wonder whether this word 
was invented to keep social economists in business. I don’t want to see 
them unemployed, the contrary, but I believe that sustainability, as a 
concept needs to be reinvented.
 >   The red queen is running faster than ever, unable to not only 
maintain her position, but even starting to fall behind.
 >   I am currently based in southeast Sulawesi, alleged centre of coral 
reef biodiversity but I am placing a safe bet that 70% of reefs here in 
the Spermonde archipel are very ill, losing their diversity, maybe not 
like rainforests in %s, not yet but it’s probably only a matter of time 
– on an ecological, not geological time scale. Diving reminds me of 
walking along the Via Appia in Rome, looking at the remains of the 
past, providing faint evidence of how ‘it’used be.
 >   Many of the reefs here look like rubble deserts. To see fish one 
has to pay extra entrance fee. I have counted 7 bombs on a one and a 
half our dive the other day.
 >   Reefs here don’t seem to suffer from bleaching (ironically I am 
researching just that) but from structural devastation (bombing), 
insane overfishing and severe eutrophication. Most corals of the inner 
and middle shelf within this archipelago are heavily infested by all 
sorts of borers. Its like cancer. Seemingly healthy and flourishing to 
the outside, but then unable to withstand  January and February storms, 
which have eroded large patches of reefs and signs of algal succession 
are already on the way.
 >   The only way to sustain would be to stop ANY reef and coastal 
related activities until further notice. But this of course is just 
naïve wishful thinking.
 >   The present resilience vs remnance discussion has been largely 
gravitated around the Keys and I noticed that most if not all 
participants were ‘1st world scientists’. I am sitting in the middle of 
the 3rd world biodiversity hot spot wondering where our ‘hotspot 
affilated collegues’ are. I am guessing, that many are oblivious to 
this discussion due to the lack of adequate internet access, which at 
least here in Indonesia is still a novelty, slow and expensive. But 
they need to be integrated – asap. Reef decline here is more than the 
problem of policy implementation, local politics and steak holder 
conflicts. It’s the consequence on the tail of a much bigger issue, an 
issue of local culture and education.
 >   We, the 1st world scientists live in a world of health insurances, 
unemployment insurances and mortgages. Hooray to those that can afford 
to recycle their rubbish. It’s a luxury. In Germany every household has 
more rubbish bins than fingers on one hand. Here in Indonesia we have 
none. Rubbish is dumped into the ocean, onto the reefs or disposed of 
‘thermally’ (I know ...weve been there - still are?).
 >   My point is, we are living in a world that has conditioned us to 
think ahead, trying to not only predict but also prepare for future, 
featuring perspectives extending beyond that of individuality -  a 
concept as such alien to indonesien society. Family rules. Thinking 
future is much more confined to the individual and future predictions 
seldom appear to penetrate any further then to  the F1 generation. 
Producing offsprings to secure the future. Offsprings are the real 
existing currency.And can we blame them? I cant. The 62 yr old woman in 
the states really didn’t need the 12th child. That’s pure stupidity. 
She probably didn’t even need 3, but I am hitting thin ice here. Women 
on the archipel islands however do need children (but not 12).
 >   Most people on the islands don’t qualify for mortgages and likes, 
most don’t even qualify for simple bank accounts. They borrow money 
from affluent parties, thereby entering into a livelong dependence, 
becoming an accessory to the complex network of the local illegal 
fishing industry, paying off their debts by carrying out the task at 
hand, namely bombing. Many of them risking their lives in doing so, 
many being driven into invalidity of some sort.
 >   What we need, is educational sustainability. Education that lasts. 
Education that indoctrinates and is assimilated and passed on to F2, F3 
 >   Academically and practically its time for consilience, in the sense 
it was formulated by O. Wilson. We need a unification of knowledge in 
order to act. Disciplines need to be pulled together. Reef conservation 
here in spermonde is a first order task for anthropologists, 
sociologists, and socioeconomists, then for marinebiologists and in the 
last instance for politicians, but creating a circular network of 
 >   Maybe its time that universities teach marine anthropology. But 
yes, its easy to stay in our studies busying us with intellectual chit 
chat contemplating fancy  –nce words…..creating awareness amongst those 
that are aware anyway.
 >   I am just wearing the shoes of the devils advocate, and am 
certainly not throwing the first stone. After all I am researching 
bleaching in corals that do not bleach and my bahasa Indonesia is as 
fragile as the reefs. So whats the new dogma? What do do? And who is 
doing it?
 >   Learning the language, going into teaching after finishing the PhD? 
  Become a marineanthropologist? Maybe I should give up my oil leaking 
motorbike …and do what with it?...dump it the ocean?
 >   trying to keep up optimism
 >   esther
 >   .
 >"Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu> wrote:
 >   Hi Phil & others:
 >I am the first to agree with you that human overpopulation, and all of 
our demands on the environment to support the number of people living 
today is the root of all 'evil', including over fishing of all marine 
(and terrestrial) systems, not just coral reefs. World forests are in 
far worse shape than coral reefs, dissappearing in %s per day and yet 
we don't do much about it Deforestation to clear land for farming, 
homesteads, and collect wood for building materials or making charcoal, 
is followed by soil erosion, and coastal sedimentation. Human needs for 
food and other commodities lead to over-application of fertilizer and 
pesticides; fossil fuel burning for modern industries and to support 
our fat life styles; not to mention religious and ethnic conflicts etc. 
Not just coral reefs but every marine and terrestrial ecosystem on 
Earth are being affected by human activity, and many such as tropical 
rainforests, much more than coral reefs! Think about all the big 
deserts we have created
 >  through deforestation. Every human living in the tropics and 
elsewhere makes their tiny daily contribution to environmental decline 
not just of coral reefs but of Earth resources. Look around you and 
notice how many additional wooded areas in your neighborhoods are being 
cut down for new developments, and the muddy runoff that seeps into 
local streams and coastal areas. I have been plugging a new book by 
Jared Diamond in which he recounts how past and present human societies 
have gradually over-exploited their environs to their own demise [book 
is titled: "Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed"]. 
Diamond expressed some hope for the future because he found a few 
examples where when strong leaders, or small cohesive communities, 
realized what was happening they were able to choose to take actions 
that prevented future decline and were able to restore their damaged 
ecosystems and save their societies. However, he presented many more 
case studies where such actions were not
 >  taken and where the socities ending up becoming extinct. So which 
way are we headed?
 >You ask for action and in the past few years, the President's Ocean 
Commission and the Pew's Ocean Commission both reported on and 
recognized most of the environmental problems above and that you stated 
in your email. It's not that people don't know what is going on, rather 
that there are conflicting views about the severity of the problem, and 
what can be done about it. Those two reports if you read them contain 
many of the measures needed to at least slow down some of the abuse of 
the world's oceans, but of course totally side step the human 
overpopulation issue. This is not a poltically correct issue to bring 
up in our polite society: you might offend someone who has 5 kids or 53 
grand children... If we had strong leadership in our country we would 
expect to see something happening after the must publicized release of 
those two extensive reports with long lists of urgently needed action 
items [Side note: if you look though those reports, pretty coral reef 
photos abound in them]. I
 >  have not seem the US public beating down the doors to Congress 
making sure those action items are acted on! Why not?
 >China was criticized to high heaven for politically limiting human 
reproduction. In some parts of the world, people have self-limited 
family size, but in others 6 to 10 kids is the norm. We glorify in our 
newspapers that a 62 year old woman who gave birth to her 12th child! 
(recent article in US news). We don't help women in poor countries 
control their reproduction so that they fewer children that they can 
provide for better. We keep coming up with new treatments to reduce 
infant mortality so that they can survive to live a life of hunger and 
poverty and contribute to more environmental abuse and political 
 >For the first world folks reading this message, I would ask how many 
of you that clamor for more action be taken right now to save coral 
reefs drive an unnecessarily big vehicle? (not picking on just SUVs, 
but Hummers, giant pickups to take kids to soccer etc)? How many TVs 
and gadgets do you feel you must have? These are all life-style 
attributes we can chose to change, and if enough people do it, maybe we 
can turn things around. Unfortunately, people are selfish and few want 
to give up the better life we have built for oursleves this past 
century, and all those out there that don't have our modern, high 
consumption life style know about ours and want it too! Globally, 
things will only get worse over the next few decades.
 >So where are we headed? I don't believe in "sustainability" because it 
is a meaningless word the way people think about it, which is: ' if we 
could only find a way to continue to fish as much as we do now without 
affecting the fish stocks' [not close a fish stock, and in 20 years or 
more, fish 1/10th or less of what we take now]. Or cut down all the 
remaining old growth forests because we need wood now and replant with 
fast growing pines. Or pump more oil and gas and coal from our own 
lands so we are not beholden to other countries for energy because we 
have to support our presnet life style needs and a GROWING economy.
 >Going back to Diamond's book, I am less optimistic than he because (1) 
I see no evidence of strong or insighful leadership on the global scale 
needed to get us out of this pickle, and (2) human societies are too 
conflicted to make much of a difference with the bottom up approach.
 >So when we come down to ot, coral reef decline is the least of our 
problems, albeit one that readers of this forum hold close to their 
hearts. But as long as we continue to think about coral reefs as a 
separate special case of the continuum of nature, we will get nowhere. 
We are really fighting for the future of the human life-support 
ecosystem and it needs to be done at every local planning board meeting 
and in every choice we make. How many of us are up to that level of 
engagement? I know I am not doing enough or as much as I could. It's 
easy to sit here in my study and write this long diatribe about world 
issues and then go on with life as usual. I drive a Pruis but I am 
surrounded by electronic gadgets I'd be hard pressed to live without.
 >So, we can continue to fret about resiliency, remnancy, vitality 
indices etc, but as long as we don't connect the dots all the way to 
the top and start problem solving there, all we are doing is venting 
our frustrations with being part of the bigger problem.
 >In a pessimistic mood this morn',
 >Alina Szmant
 >Dr. Alina M. Szmant
 >Coral Reef Research Group
 >UNCW-Center for Marine Science
 >5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln
 >Wilmington NC 28409
 >Tel: (910)962-2362 & Fax: (910)962-2410
 >Cell: (910)200-3913
 >email: szmanta at uncw.edu
 >Web Page: http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
 >From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov on behalf of Richard Grigg
 >Sent: Fri 2/24/2006 2:42 PM
 >To: Phil Dustan; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
 >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resiliency: Part 2
 >Coral reefs are not dying all over the world. We have 1000's that
 >are very healthy in the Pacific, not to say there are not problems but 
 >doesn't help to make sweeping false generalizations.
 >Rick Grigg
 >At 12:23 PM 2/24/2006 -0500, Phil Dustan wrote:
 > >Dear Colleagues,
 > > Again, thanks to everyone for participating in this most interesting
 > >thread. It also reminds me of the Reefs at Risk thread we had a few
 > >years back but there are more people involved now so it's important 
 > >continue. And now that we've had the opportunity to contribute our
 > >thoughts, perhaps we do some good work.
 > > We all know that reefs are dying all over the world, in remote
 > > and less
 > >remote locations. We know that reefs in different places are 
stressed by
 > >different things. For example, Florida Reefs show signs of stress 
 > >nature, land based sources of pollution as well as bleaching, loss of
 > >diadema, and anything else you can probably name. Rainbow Gardens in 
 > >Exumas, Bahamas was once pretty little patch reef, lost 80% of its 
 > >cover between 1991 and 2004. But the biomarkers from there do not 
 > >signs of stress from LBSP and it's probably that global warming is to
 > >blame. And everyone can cite an exception as well. Each reef has its 
 > >history and ecology.
 > >
 > >Let's face it:
 > > The stress to reefs occurs at nested scales from local to global,
 > >varies in severity at different scales in different locations, is
 > >ongoing, and has had cataclysmic results. You can site the geological
 > >record of past changes and say the ongoing decline is really no big 
 > >in light of what happened in the Tertiary, or say that we really 
 > >have enough baseline data to make an informed decision, or pretend 
 > >outside our control. Without human activity, natural change would 
 > >its course, but the human disruption has spread like a flame across 
 > >seas. Mangroves, kelp forests, oyster reefs, salt marshes, etc. are 
 > >in trouble. Dust storms resulting from inefficient agriculture spread
 > >spores, nutrients and pollutants across oceans at global scales.
 > >Everywhere is connected and the dots lead back all the way to human
 > >reproductive success.
 > >
 > > Reefs are dying all over the world. This fact puts reefs on the
 > > radar
 > >screen at conferences, in books, in the media, and drives the 
 > >of government task forces and increased agency budgets. It is my
 > >opinion, based on what I know, that the demise of coral reef 
 > >(along with most other coastal ecosystems) is signaling a decline in 
 > >health of the oceans. So can we live without reefs- maybe? Will reefs
 > >reappear after humans leave the planet-probably? But can we live on 
 > >earth without a healthy ocean?- probably not. The canaries are dying
 > >and we have got to do more.
 > >
 > > As I said in my earlier remarks that started this thread, I think
 > >resilience is the wrong term because it gives the wrong impression. 
 > >scientists and managers work with the terms and understand them, but 
 > >everyday person, or politician, may have a very different concept of
 > >resiliency. Instead of remnancy or resiliency, perhaps an index of
 > >ecological integrity might be more realistic. Lots of us have 
 > >with this idea and there are some very good protocols, programs, and
 > >ideas floating. An index of ecosystem vitality comes to mind.
 > >
 > > As the "body of experts" I think we have to ask ourselves what we
 > > are
 > >going to do about the coral reef crisis now. Can members of the coral
 > >list find some common ground upon which to proceed as a group? Or,
 > >should be go about our individual ways and do what we can at our own
 > >scales. I'd like to believe that we have more power in numbers and
 > >could help to generate more awareness around the planet as a group. 
 > >example, perhaps the National Science Foundation and National 
 > >of Health could establish a joint program in coral reef, or oceanic,
 > >health and its relationship to human health. Perhaps federal 
 > >concerning sanctuaries could be more concerned with conserving a
 > >resource than the economic benefit derived from the resources. It is
 > >simply unconscionable to think that we can harvest virtually all the
 > >lobster and a significant proportion of the fish from a sanctuary and
 > >still call it a sanctuary! No take should be he rule, not the
 > >exception. Who in their right mind can argue that trawling is
 > >sustainable, or thousands of divers on a reef have little 
effect..... And
 > >the list goes on. Science tells us that optimal yield only works if 
 > >had a valid baseline to begin with and we are way beyond that on 
 > >every reef on the planet.
 > >
 > > This coral list &shy; albeit sponsored and censured by a US Federal
 > > agency,
 > >is probably is the closest thing we have to a real time global forum 
 > >reef advocacy based on science. Perhaps we can begin to embark on a
 > >process that might help generate long term solutions that are 
 > >in science. Do people think that it might be possible to reach 
 > >on a set of 8-10 action items, or changes in the practice, that would
 > >forward the conservation of coral reefs right now, not that more 
 > >of any factor will not improve our understanding, but what do we 
 > >can be done right now as well as over the long term?
 > > Thanks,
 > > Phil
 > >
 > >--
 > >Phillip Dustan Ph.D.
 > >Department of Biology
 > >College of Charleston
 > >Charleston SC 29424
 > >(843) 953-8086 voice
 > >(843) 953-5453 (Fax)
 > >
 > >
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