[Coral-List] Proposed: "Until We Know Better" campaign for coral reefs

lesk at bu.edu lesk at bu.edu
Fri Mar 24 09:33:56 EST 2006

I think we should follow through on Alina's consumer-side suggestions, 
just think them through a bit more.

Until we can think of a better name, I propose that we call this the 
"Until We Know Better" campaign.

The point of this name is to reverse the burden of proof, as long ago 
suggested by Paul Dayton.

Until we know better, we should not eat any spiny lobster or large reef 
predators.  Until we know better, we should do everything in our power 
to allow populations of these species to rebuild themselves.

Until we know better, we should designate limited areas of coral reef 
or other tropical marine habitat, for use and destruction.  This is a 
better idea- more easily enforced and more likely to work- than 
designating limited areas of coral reef for protection.  There is no 
theoretical minimum area for an area designated to be over-used and 
destroyed.  It can be as small as you like.  However, there is a 
definite minimum area for protection to be effective.  We do not really 
know what this minimum is, except that it is obviously much larger than 
most of our existing protected areas, because they are nearly all 
degrading.  So, until we know better, let's gazette areas for 
destruction instead of restoration, and let the undestroyed areas 
restore themselves.  MPA scientists have often arrived at a figure of 
about 20% of the seabottom as a minimum area for a global network of 
marine reserves.  That is a good-sounding number.  Let's say instead, 
that 20% of the seabottom be designated for sustainable use.

Until we know better, let us take at face value the evidence that human 
activities are changing the atmosphere and climate in ways that 
threaten coral reefs.  Until we know better, let's do everything 
possible to resist these changes.

I wonder if SeaWeb might be up to the dare of taking on this campaign?

The obvious challenge is to recommend positive steps to alleviate the 
hunger and desparation that such a position will cause.  It made no 
sense for northwest Pacific coast loggers in the US to keep logging old 
growth forest, knowing full well that it would run out.  We need 
grease, lots of it, to slide people over to other ways of doing and 
being.  However, the logic of "Until We Know Better" is unassailable.
It has worked for primitive societies for millenia.  Our increased 
destructive potential notwithstanding, we are still a quite primitive 


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