[Coral-List] ESA Listing for 82 corals

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Thu Feb 18 15:45:40 EST 2010

Fellow coral listers,

I prefer to silently read the posts by others, but every now and then, I 
am forced to comment.  Recent posts on the topic of listing of more corals 
under the US Endangered Species Act by Gene Shinn, John Ogden and others 
show the diversity of opinion out there, even among the scientifically 
informed.  Rather than comment on whether listing is a useful action to 
take, let me take a different tack. (I remain curious concerning the 
penchant within the US for listing organisms that live largely or entirely 
outside US jurisdiction ? such as the red kangaroo ? but now is not the 
time and place for that discussion.)  There is such a thing as fiddling 
while Rome burns.  We are generally quite good at that, and I fear we are 
going to go on fiddling until the opportunity to actually take action will 
have passed us by.  Corals, and many other species, are at risk of 
extinction because too many of us insist on demanding too much from an 
environment that cannot provide for these wants.  I happen to think we 
need these other species more than we realize, and that it is in our own 
self-interest to change our attitudes and behavior now.  We do not need 
the US to list corals as endangered to know that management of most reef 
areas around the world is woefully inadequate, nor to know what steps need 
to be taken to improve that management ? reduce overfishing, cut 
pollution, eliminate inappropriate coastal development, and, yes, cut CO2 
emissions and reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations in order to 
stabilize/restore ocean surface waters pH.  In short, we need to start 
managing our impacts on reefs, instead of continuing to pretend to manage 
them.  That means making actual, on-the-ground changes, not discussing 
changes, legislating changes, or bemoaning the lack of changes.  We could 
also start thinking seriously about the carrying capacity of this planet 
for Homo sapiens, rather than complacently noting that our population is 
trending towards 9.2 billion by mid century.  What can one scientist do? 
We each can start by doing our best to articulate the problem as clearly 
as possible in every forum open to us ? we have a very big problem and 
most people are quite unaware of how big it is.  When did you last 
buttonhole a politician, get an article into a newspaper, talk to a school 
group, post on a web-site, get yourself onto TV to talk about environment, 
or, especially, work to improve environmental management where you live? 
When did  you last talk quietly to your family or neighbors about this 
issue?  When did you set an example?  Spaceship Earth is not being managed 
sustainably, and its coral canaries are screaming as loudly as they can.

Peter Sale
Peter F. Sale
Assistant Director
United Nations University
Institute for Water, Environment and Health
University Professor Emeritus
University of Windsor

More information about the Coral-List mailing list