[Coral-List] Impact of listing 66 coral species on coral research

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Fri Dec 14 19:21:51 EST 2012


Nice try, but I won't rise to the bait. I looked at the URL you furnished
very carefully. Thanks, it will be useful in class. I did not see a single
reference to either Climate Change or our impact on it. What I take from
the text (I assume it's a transcript of the video) is that thinking we are
a significant force in the long-term is conceit. Corollary to this, the
idea that we can "fix" it would seem to fall in the same category given our
stellar tack record thus far. I'm a firm believer that we play a MAJOR role
in the changes we're seeing (I teach a class on this), but I also think old
George is pretty much on target in the specific words you kindly provided.

It strikes me that they could put our listserve discussion on the same web
site as an example of how climate change is all a conspiracy because we
can't all agree... but that doesn't make it so. It's a pretty common tack
by what I've come to think of as the "dishonest deniers". So, I hope we
won't  conflate the appearance of this on some anti-climate-change web page
with an endorsement of their specific views.

Regardless of anything that's been said in the past couple of weeks, we've
shown an impressive inability to actually agree on either a problem or a
solution (Bob Dill used to say, I'm impressed.... just not favorably) - and
that doesn't leave me with a lot of optimism. So, I'll have to settle for
some solace in the end of the piece:

"We're going away. Pack your ----, folks. We're going away. And we won't
leave much of a trace, either"



On Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 4:29 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Dennis,
> There is nothing wrong with giving consideration to Gene’s views, but his
> expertise does not in any way preclude his opinions from being challenged..
> To reject out of hand that anthropogenic climate change could present
> stressors whose impact may be beyond those found in the geological record
> is in my opinion the very epitome of dogma.
> It is interesting that you refer to George Carlin’s musings about the
> misgivings of attempts to save the planet. For they are a feature of the
> Climate Change Dispatch which also offers this bit of unbiased scientific
> opinion. . . What CCD seeks to do is repudiate the consensus that the cause
> (of climate change) is man-made and the principal culprit is CO2.
> http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/videos/130-george-carlin-saving-the-planet
> Sorry, but you don’t have to tell me that diplomacy is not your strong
> suit.
> Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dennis Hubbard **
> Sent: Dec 14, 2012 12:02 PM
> To: Steve Mussman **
> Cc: Eugene Shinn **, "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" **
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Impact of listing 66 coral species on coral
> research
> TIME OUT!!! Everyone go find your sleeping mats. It's "quiet time".
> I started this post over a week ago and put it away remembering an earlier
> admonishment of long missives. Having now read enough verbiage to fill a
> bad first draft of a master's thesis, I've pulled it back out.
> Clearly, this is an important discussion and one we will not resolve here..
> My short answer to the very eloquent parable of December 7th is that
> clearly we saw Hitler as a bigger threat to our society than we saw our
> society as a threat to our own life-support system... and that is sad
> indeed.The good news may be that we're doomed.
> In *Home Economics*, Wendell Berry wrote, " We have never known what we
> were doing, because we have never known what we were UNdoing. We cannot
> know what we are doing until we know what nature would be doing if we were
> doing nothing." This is, in effect, Geology's seat at the grown-ups table
> when it comes to discussions of climate change, environmental "decline",
> etc. The geologic record gives us a temporal and spatial perspective that I
> find missing in much of the literature.... and the design of many
> ecological experiments.
> Having said that, we (geologists) have our blind spots as well. Too often
> we fail to recognize that, while the record we see is both temporally and
> spatially grand, the laws that dictated how it unfolded operated largely on
> a day-to-day basis that we simply can't tease from the record. So, we have
> to do the best we can by trying to think beyond what we can measure in a
> core or an outcrop. I've fallen into that trap too many times to not look
> for it.
> We geologists may not be the brightest bulbs in the pack, but I really
> doubt that Gene's been going back to the Keys year after year looking for
> Elvis to return from the dead. I believe the term "local extinction" has
> not been struck from the scientific lexicon. Gene's probably spent more
> time "looking" at reefs than most of us combined, so I've learned to think
> very carefully when he brings up a point that really pisses me off. He's
> usually either right or has at least reminded me that there is something I
> need to think more carefully about.  If one looks objectively at the
> arguments that go on in the popular literature (and I consider Science and
> Nature to be among these) the curmudgeons are most often people who have
> lived and worked at Marine Labs. I suggest you go back and look at some of
> the back-and-forth discussion as the reefs off Disco Bay were coming apart
> to see passionate but well-framed and civil disagreements.
> Those of us who have been fortunate to spend any significant time living
> near the reefs on which we work are mindful of the tremendous spatial and
> temporal variability that occurs on individual reefs. I spent over a decade
> bringing students and colleagues back to the same place only to see how
> much "shake-and-bake" there was  (I think that's the proper term in the
> stasis literature). Also, I have seen places that I visited on an almost
> daily basis (and published on) varyingly described in the literature as
> "rich" or "poor", "stable" or "declining"..... and often based on the same
> data (sometimes mine) viewed through the lens of individual bias - this is
> the stuff of dogma. Many of our arguments depend on which perception we
> choose to accept. Yes, reefs are "changing", and I would argue they are  "unhealthy".
> However, I am always mindful that the latter is largely a personal
> position, which includes biases from having spent so much time so close to
> the patient.
> Too often we go to places at great expense and temporal investment (and,
> let's not forget the blazing trails of carbon we've left as we visit our
> favorite sites far afield). As a result, we spend so much time "working"
> that we don't spend enough time "looking". I remember a very gifted
> colleague years back explaining that their field site, which was the
> "model" for the northern third of the GBR, was chosen based on "where the
> captain would anchor". These are the realities of research, but we still
> don't want to forget that our careful measurements can still benefit from
> taking the time to just burn a little air looking around.... or a little
> valuable journal space just musing. Yeah, it's not random and can't be
> entered into a non- metric scaling analysis, but.......
> I often think back to Bill Gladfelter's warnings about WBD that went
> largely unnoticed.... and it was damned frightening as you watched it
> unfold. But, for some reason, it didn't get any traction until it hit the
> Keys..... go figure. Then it was a big deal. Any bias there?
> A few years back, Hal Wanless kindly shared some of his photos of
> magnificent *A. palmata *communities in the Turks and Caicos (acres of
> them.... it was Buck Island reincarnate). Then they got hammered a few
> years back by multiple hurricanes and cover was decimated. I crossed paths
> with Hal again this past summer and he showed me photos of the recovery.....
> and it is incredible. What's up?? I have seen photos of acre-after-acre of
> *A. palmata* along the south coast of Cuba. Same question.
> I mention this not to argue against listing of the species (that's above
> my pay grade), but to point out that this phenomenon is incredibly variable
> and we have opportunities to perhaps understand what factors combine to
> make *A. palmata* so "happy" at these and similar sites. Maybe it's a
> larval dispersal peculiarity. Maybe it's because Cuban fishermen using too
> small a mesh size in their traps just disappear. I doubt it's a matter of
> warming passing these places by. If I were inclined to bring out the
> "over-the-hill" gang and take some more shelf-edge cores, I'd probably go
> to one of these sites to see if *A. palmata* along the deeper shelf edge
> survived through the two millennial-scale gaps in the species 6,000 and
> 3,000 years ago throughout the Caribbean (nobody's given me any samples
> from those intervals in nearly a decade since I first mentioned this). I
> can only imaging how easy it would be to get a permit to core through one
> of the few remaining A. palmata communities in the region.
> So, while I do not share Gene's healthy skepticism about our ties to this
> problem and the potential value of listing species, I do share his sense
> that we too often use environmental strategies to convince ourselves that
> we understand an issue or are "doing something to deal with it". With the
> best of intentions, we toss terms like "decline" and "health" around with
> abandon. Unfortunately the number of perceptions of what these mean is
> probably close to the number of people participating in the discussion. For
> years, I have read both civil and uncivil discussions of the relative
> importance of "top down" vs "bottom up" vs "side in" impacts (we're running
> out of directions folks). .... and the animus has risen to the point where
> the people who probably know the most about these things no longer talk to
> one another.
> The following wise words of the recently passed savant, George Carlin seem
> appropriate here: "We’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little
> over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion.
> And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat?..... Save the
> planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t
> learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the %#*&ing planet?
> Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The
> PEOPLE are f%#*&ed.
> So, I end my post with three questions in the hope that they will spawn
> careful introspection and a measured response. First, "What is "healthy"
> and what would we return reefs to if we were the Secretary of Coral Reefs?"
> Does anyone really believe that if we don't remove the stresses that are
> responsible, keeping species behind a fence will do any good? Yes, I
> understand that the listing process has recovery plans and a number of
> other tools to implement solutions. These are well intentioned, but until
> we understand the habitat-level relationships, they are just window
> dressing.
> Second, "what could we have done, or might we do, other than the obvious
> things we've "fiddled with" over the years as CO2 levels have steadily
> risen?". Politics matter - and until we get better at engaging the public,
> we shouldn't expect much success. We get our butts kicked in debates over
> climate change and evolution for a reason.
> Finally - my original question of a few weeks back. Could someone who is
> more familiar with the subtleties of the listing process briefly lay out
> what they see as the pros and cons of listing in general, and specifically
> "threatened" versus "endangered". I didn't ask this to set off another
> hostile thread. I really don't know the answer.
> So, whether you can embrace with any of the points I've made here, I hope
> you can agree that a bunch of obviously well educated and gifted scientists
> lifting their legs and marking trees in the back yard probably won't get us
> where we want to be at the end of this discussion.
> Sorry, but diplomacy isn't my strong suit.
> Dennis
> On Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 10:07 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>wrote:
>>    Dear Gene,
>>    I  suppose  you  will  never understand/learn why coral scientists and
>>    environmentalists are so worried about the impacts of anthropogenic
>> climate
>>    change..  Although the geological record is essential for
>> understanding how
>>    species respond to natural climate change, there are a number of
>> reasons why
>>    future effects on biodiversity will likely be different and
>> particularly
>>    severe. Human-induced warming is already rapid and is expected to
>> accelerate
>>    further. Changes, not in models, but in the real world of glaciers,
>> heat
>>    records, species distribution and behavior, are already evident.  It is
>>    quite possible that in a geological instant, planetary conditions will
>> be
>>    transformed to a state unlike anything that the worldâs modern species
>> have
>>    ever encountered. Most ecosystems have already degraded and lost
>> resilience
>>    from past human activities. In this context, synergies from temperature
>>    increases, ocean acidification, chemical pollution and other factors
>> could
>>    lead to cascading extinctions for the changes are occurring too
>> rapidly for
>>    adaptations like those found in the geological record to reoccur.
>>           And this time around, we believe we could have done something
>> about
>>    it.
>>    Regards,
>>    Steve
>>    -----Original Message-----
>>    >From: Eugene Shinn
>>    >Sent: Dec 10, 2012 3:31 PM
>>    >To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>    >Subject: [Coral-List] Impact of listing 66 coral species on coral
>> research
>>    >
>>    >Dear Listers, I suppose coral biologists and environmentalists will
>>    >never understand/learn what the geology of coral reefs is telling us..
>>    >As pointed out many, many times, about 98 percent of the Florida Keys
>>    >reefs are no less than a meter thick yet they have been underwater at
>>    >least 6,000 years. Acropora has come and gone several times during
>>    >that period long before all the current hysteria about
>>    >Co2/warming/alkalinity shift began. Seems likely that if history were
>>    >not repeating itself our reefs would be many meters thicker and
>>    >contain a continuous record of all the species we worry about. Gene
>>    >--
>>    >
>>    >
>>    >No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
>>    >------------------------------------
>> -----------------------------------
>>    >E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
>>    >University of South Florida
>>    >College of Marine Science Room 221A
>>    >140 Seventh Avenue South
>>    >St. Petersburg, FL 33701
>>    >
>>    >Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
>>    >-----------------------------------
>>    >_______________________________________________
>>    >Coral-List mailing list
>>    >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>    >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
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> --
> Dennis Hubbard
> Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
> (440) 775-8346
> * "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
>  Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"
>  ********

Dennis Hubbard
Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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