[Coral-List] Rau, McLeod and Hoegh-Guldberg outline strategies to brace for impact in the face

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Tue Sep 4 17:21:05 EDT 2012

I know Coral-List subscribers are all about saving the coral reefs.  The latest discussion about moderation and bridging science and advocacy is important and relevant.  But I have a question for you all about a terrestrial system that is as much under attack as are the coral reefs of Majuro from dredging (to combine two current C-L threads).

The US State of Wyoming wants to shot and kill most of its grey wolves, a species that is just now recovering from the implacable hunting of this species until it went under protection of the Endangered Species Act.  Populations are now recovering so that there are now a few hundred wolves per state:  yes, a few hundred, not thousands or tens of thousands.  The US White House just approved Wyoming's request to kill 170 wolves, 2/3s of the state's population.  What kind of scientific discussion vs advocacy can be used for this type of situation?  Scientists know the importance of apex predators (sharks, wolves) and there are plenty of scientific studies that have documented recovery of over-grazed plant populations and even improved health of grazer populations where wolves have been allowed to recover.  But now humans want to be the only apex predator on land or sea.

The problem with trying to bridge the science vs advocacy bridge is that we are living within a human society that puts human wants (and needs, but just as often wants) first over any consideration of the natural system.  Who cares if a few hundred meters of pristine coral reef are lost as long as we have bigger, better runways!  Why have wolves control the elk and deer populations when human hunters will pay for the "right" (=want) to kill not just elk and deer but also wolves....win-win situation, no?

How do you use science to get any traction with these situations? 

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Dennis Hubbard
Sent: Monday, September 03, 2012 1:28 PM
To: Steve Mussman
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Reese, Jessica
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Rau, McLeod and Hoegh-Guldberg outline strategies to brace for impact in the face

I agree on all points, but am troubled by singling out geologists - especially after following a long thread about an article (I believe by an evolutionary biologist) who stated that we're all deluding ourselves if we think we can make a difference). I'm not sure that these acid remarks are particularly helpful on either side.

I must admit that I think aloud about these things differently quite depending on the audience. With my students, I can take a more measured approach, knowing that they will be able to put things into a realistic context. Thus, I commonly comment that the most optimistic scenarios (the British one where we leveled out omissions 12 years ago) have us leveling out at ca 500 on CO2. So..... organizations like 350.org may already have to think about their names - and we need to start thinking in a longer-term scenario. My hardest job as an educator is to move students away from easy and idealistic answers (especially when social justice comes in) while not destroying their sense of hope. On the other end of the spectrum, it scares me to death when I see gaps in *Acropora* in the Holocene record and think of all those nay-sayers who will say, "see, it's happened before and it's just the latest iteration of a recurring event".

So.... the reality is that the difficult truth comes somewhere in the middle. And, as long as we're afraid to face difficult realities about the future - or are so pessimistic that we can't take any actions, we're going to be mired in our very non-scientific positions about what is right and what is not. Labeling positions as wrong because an opposing one seems self-evident is one of the reasons we get into so much trouble with arguments over evolution - and it's a lot of the same people on either side in both discussions. The scientific reality, at least to me, is that the evidence weighs in favor of those who might argue that the reefs are toast.
However, I will still take the personal position opposing those who would argue that dealing with climate change is too costly until we have slam-dunk proof or causes and attendant solutions. I would argue that not doing anything is potentially so costly that, until we have proven that climate change is *not* a problem that demands immediate response, we can't afford not to act in the most prudent way. My students ask me what we can do given the arguments among scientists over what will work and what is a waste of time (and, both sides can't be wrong). I tell them that, until we know the answers, we can still do things that have positive collateral benefits. IF.... we recuce nitrogen, sediment, etc. in the water and reduce atmospheric pollutants (including CO2) and it turns out that the whole ocean acidification argument was totally flawed, I won't feel particularly bad having to say, "Hey, the reefs were fin e all along and the water and air are much clearer now.... gee, don't I feel stupid!!"

As for what to tell divers and snorkelers.... tell them not to feel guilty that they might unintentionally be part of the problem. Tell them that rather than feeling guilty - to take responsibility. Not standing on the corals is easy. Not taking home a souvenir - check. More important though, share their excitement with those who don't have their passions for reefs.
But, warn them that the guy who just lost his job might not be as excited as them.... and they need to respect that. I've given up trying to answer my student's questions about how bad a world without reefs might be relative to other equally negative scenarios - because I really don't know the answer. So, I just have to be a cheer-leader when can't be a coach.

Keeping my fingers crossed,

Dennis Hubbard

On Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 11:25 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Jessica,
>  As a PADI Dive Master and concerned citizen you can certainly make a 
> difference through effectively communicating your concerns with other 
> divers. It has been my experience that the recreational diving 
> industry does not believe that taking a direct approach to addressing 
> rising atmospheric CO2 levels and climate change is in it's best 
> interest regardless of the threats these factors hold for our coral 
> reefs and other marine ecosystems. You can certainly encourage divers 
> to help in evaluating even unconventional marine management strategies 
> to deal with these issues, but I don't believe the authors of the 
> article were necessarily advocating that we abandon all hope in 
> dealing with the core problem of stabilizing and/or reducing 
> atmospheric CO2 levels. In truth, there are still too many divers and 
> non-divers (and geologists?) that just don't accept the fact that a 
> problem exists.
> Regards,
>  Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: "Reese, Jessica" <Jessica.Reese at CZS.org>
> >Sent: Aug 30, 2012 12:41 PM
> >To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >Subject: [Coral-List] Rau,     McLeod and Hoegh-Guldberg outline
> strategies to brace for impact in     the face
> >
> >Coral Listers,
> >
> >
> >
> >Mother Jones ran an article, today, about a recently published 
> >open-access paper by Rau, McLeod, and Hoegh-Guldberg (2012) entitled 
> >The need for new ocean conservation strategies in a high-carbon 
> >dioxide world. The popular press article can be accessed here:
> >http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/08/crazy-ideas-coral-reef
> >s
> >
> >
> >
> >The Mother Jones article, unwisely, presents the ideas as "crazy", 
> >and even goes so far as to picture tube sponges being sheltered from 
> >thermal stress by beach umbrellas.  The open access article, however 
> >does not strike me as crazy at all. It's a call to action for the 
> >scientific community to look to new management and conservation 
> >strategies, for the evaluation of their success, followed by policies 
> >to support those silver bullets when and if they become identified. 
> >The open-access paper can be accessed here:
> >http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate155
> >5.h
> >tml
> >
> >
> >
> >As zoo educator who is well-versed in the science of climate change 
> >and coral reefs, and a passionate PADI Dive Master, I worry 
> >constantly about how these ecosystems will survive. Since December 
> >2009, it has become abundantly clear to me that we are pitifully 
> >off-course to stabilize or adequately mitigate our global CO2 
> >concentrations. Yet, divers, all over the world continue to enjoy 
> >these resources, often without any education about what stressors 
> >they are facing. Do you, the coral scientific community see a role 
> >for the recreational diver to engage in citizen science action to 
> >help these ecosystems brace for impact and support their resilience? 
> >The strategies that are recommended in the paper suggest 
> >possibilities such as using shade cloths to reduce thermal stress, 
> >electrical currents to reduce bleaching and encourage growth, 
> >selective breeding for heat tolerance, and managing chemistry by 
> >adding carbonates, silicates, and dissolved bicarbonates sound like exciting possibilities and inspire me to join in to help in any way that I can.
> >While many of these experiments will be done in a lab, there may be 
> >cause to try some in the field, which sounds very labor intensive.
> >Please let me know if you need any assistance in following Rau, 
> >McLeod, and Hoegh-Gulberg's recommendations. I would love to get 
> >recreational divers involved in the process of building resilience.
> >
> >
> >
> >Best Fishes, <))))><
> >
> >
> >
> >Jess Reese
> >
> >Interpretive Programs Coordinator
> >
> >Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo
> >
> >3300 Golf Rd.
> >
> >Brookfield, IL 60513
> >
> >Direct Phone (708) 688-8861
> >
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >Coral-List mailing list
> >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing 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*"
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