[Coral-List] Imperfect helpful 60 Minutes

Stephen Palumbi spalumbi at stanford.edu
Tue Dec 20 11:23:51 EST 2011

Steve's query and John Bruno's blog - along with Randy Olsen's critique 
and various replies - have underplayed the value of the 60 Minutes 
piece. Millions of people who only get their information from television 
sets now have an impression that somebody found a reef worth fighting 
for and that there is some hope for it because of local protection, a 
reduction in fishing and the abundance of wildlife. I agree with Randy 
that this was tedious story telling - but my Dad watched it and wanted 
to know if it was true. And he didn't want to know if coral cover had 
increased over the Caribbean average (as he would have if this was a 
stock transaction and the stock didn't meet S&P standards). He basically 
wanted to know if there was any hope for this one tiny bit of live rock 
in a place he will never go. Then there was another football game coming 
on, and whatever impact 60 Min had had was finished.

Since that is over now, our question to ourselves is how we take 
advantage of such an opportunity. Telling better stores (certainly). 
Figuring out if local protections are helping (obviously). Helping turn 
the world away from a CO2 addiction (long term). Figuring out the 
nuances of impacts of multiple stressors on reefs and how corals respond 
and adapt to them (yes, but these are jobs we do among ourselves to 
produce understanding and maybe hopefully to produce sustainability 
tools). But mostly we have in our power to open up the gates and show 
people all over the world the beauty and power of wild and healthy reefs 
where ever we manage to find them, and build an emotional connection to 
protecting the world's life.

So if Anderson Cooper ever calls you to go on another reef trip, please 
take him along, and do another one of these imperfect, helpful pieces.

Steve Palumbi

On 12/19/11 12:09 PM, Steve Mussman wrote:
>     The 60 Minute piece on the state of coral reef ecology served as an
>     excellent primer which should help to increase public awareness and
>     hopefully lead to more efforts aimed at gaining traction on this issue.
>     (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7392092n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.8
>     )
>     At the same time, the segment raised some interesting questions.
>     I would like to know how coral-list subscribers react to some of the
>     statistics and assertions cited. (Ex. 90% of sharks are gone and 25%
>     of reefs have been lost with another 25% likely  to disappear in the
>     next two decades).
>     And what about the ability of healthy reefs to resist the multiple stresses
>     associated with development, tourism and rising atmospheric CO2 levels?
>     This of course leads right to the topic of sustainable tourism. The reef
>     featured was in a remote area fifty miles south of the main island of Cuba.
>     Development and tourism is so highly restricted there that it would be
>     unrealistic to expect that such standards could ever be applied to reefs
>     located  in the more popular tourist-driven dive destinations. While I
>     believe
>     that all sustainability efforts are helpful, I question whether or not these
>     efforts
>     can ever measure up and offset the greater forces at play.
>     Certainly "healthy',  well-protected reefs such as The Gardens of the Queen
>     will  be  better  equipped to withstand the onslaught, but if we don't
>     effectively
>     deal with climate change and ocean temperatures continue to rise (along with
>     associated trends in acidification), can there be any real hope that even
>     these
>     relatively pristine reefs won't ultimately share the same fate as their less
>     resistant counterparts?
>       Regards,
>           Steve
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