[Coral-List] To Dennis Hubbard (What agency should list corals under the Endangered)

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Fri Mar 29 09:47:12 EDT 2013

I totally agree with Alina's assessment. Two of the courses I teach (Coral
Reefs: Biology, Geology & Politics and Environmental Geology) have strong
cross-disciplinary content. We often address isssues like mitigation and
adaptation in the context of different societies' ability to take advantage
of these strategies. The hardest thing to get humanists and social
scientists to understand that, to a large extent, social equity is the
left's version of macro-economics. Both assume an infinite pie and that if
we can be either a little more productive or equitable we will be closer to
the mythical "sustainability".

Evolution is by its very nature socially blind ; there are winners and
losers. Unfortunately, the short-term losers in this discussion are the
poor and the disenfranchised who cannot take advantage of what is required
to keep malaria and dengue on the southern side of their borders. Residents
in small island states are among the least responsible for sea-level rise
and will be among the most affected. And our attempts at "law in the sea"
have actually made this a lot tougher on the estimated 30 million climate
refugees that we might see in the coming century. Most of us on this list,
however put-upon we might feel, are among the privileged and have a
responsibility to recognize that fact and act accordingly. However, arguing
for social equity over environmental equity misses the point. And, once we
move into that environmentally equitable maze, we have to decide who are
the unrepresented - species, habitat, the cosmic spaghetti monster?

We are having thoughtful discussions at Oberlin about sustainability and
our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, these too often become self-serving
and fail to recognize that we are all arguing from totally different
perceptions. Great Britain has significantly lowered its carbon footprint,
but largely by de-industrializing and moving to a service economy. While
that's great on the surface, their purchased commodities are rising; they
have, in effect, outsourced their carbon to China and can take credit for
reduced emissions..... unless we account for the carbon that has been
emitted by someone else on their behalf. Here at Oberlin, we just installed
a 10-acre solar array that will cover 10% of our electricity needs. That's
GREAT, but..... the panels were made in Taiwan - they are essentially made
of coal. So... we get credit for the lowered emission while taking no
responsibility for the embedded carbon.

This has gotten pretty far from the original discussion of whether the
Dept. of Commerce is the best agency to coordinate coral listing, but this
seems like a much more interesting way to head. My original comment
regarding Gene's post was not so much that there was a better agency (or
that Commerce was even a "bad" one). The intent was to point out the
economically focused underpinnings of our decisions regardless of who makes
them. This errs on the macro-economic side of things. I suppose on the
equity side, we have to ask "fair to whom"? My own opinion (as opposed to
any professional pronouncement) is that the problem with environmental
decline is systemic and that saving particular corals will do no more good
than preserving one cultural element in Detroit in the hope of returning it
to its former glory. That's evolution! Caveat, I'm thinking like an
uncaring geologist here (BTW, I'm not thrilled by fracking).


On Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 5:09 PM, Szmant, Alina <szmanta at uncw.edu> wrote:

> I think the biggest difference between the natural sciences and the social
> sciences might be in our views of what is sustainable...  Many of us
> natural scientists think that the terms "sustainable development"  or
> "sustainable exploitation of resources"  are oxymorons!   There is nothing
> sustainable about human development or exploitation as long as human
> population growth is not halted and human population size is greatly
> reduced.
> *************************************************************************
> 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
> http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
> *******************************************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:
> coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Pedro H. Rodríguez
> Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 2:39 PM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] To Dennis Hubbard (What agency should list
> corals under the Endangered)
> WE scientists? The social and eonomic scientists dealing with
> natural-resource use apply the same scientific philosophy as you and me,
> Dennis, and their goal is to maximize social welfare under the constraint
> of sustainable resources. I see no conflict of interest.
> Pedro
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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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