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

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sat Mar 30 16:49:21 EDT 2013


1. Time lines are short in politics, business, fisheries, and particularly
climate change, where the climate will keep changing for centuries and the
damage get worse and worse.

2. Human population is indeed one of the ultimate drivers of environmental
damage.  Another is consumption.  They usually act to multiply each other,
they are not a problem by themselves if the other is zero.

3. Technology is also a major driver.  Although it usually causes increased
problems early in development, late in development it is the way societies
reduce environmental damage without reducing incomes.  By doing so It
increases the standard and quality of living.

4. Developed countries need to have sustainable, stable economies, instead
of endless growth, and we can do that by reducing waste.

5. We can't save coral reefs by slowing population growth or reducing
populations, because that is far too slow a process.  Reefs will be dead
before we get population under control, unless we work on the things people
do that damage reefs.  We would probably do best by concentrating our
efforts on the greatest problems, and the problems where we can make the
most progress.

       It is often said that the timeline for political decisions is very
short, not much longer than the length of time in office of an elected
official.  In business, it is often said that businesses have to focus on
short-term profits over long-term.  Much of fisheries management is trying
to deal with the fact that it is easy to take so many fish in the short
term that in the long term the fish can't replace themselves as fast as
they are being taken, and the long term catch ends up being much less than
it would be if the short-term catch had been limited.  In climate change,
we have to look ahead decades to see some of the negative impacts start to
appear, but the negative impacts are very slow to appear and grow, and will
slowly continue to grow larger and cost humanity more.  The IPCC
(Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) was commissioned by the
governments that set it up to look at the effects of climate change up to
2100.  The farther off you try to predict things, the more uncertain the
predictions are.  In particular, the predictions heavily depend on what
governments and people decide to do, with the possibilities ranging from
"doing nothing" (= business as usual) to drastic action.  Even getting
citizens and governments to think seriously and make decisions based on
what is predicted for a few decades from now is a very difficult thing, let
alone 87 years from now (2100).  But the effects of climate change are only
getting started by 2100, even if we stopped all emissions tomorrow.  In
fact, the effects will get much worse than in 2100, in the centuries
following that.  Sea level rise will continue for at least 1000 years.
     I must agree with those who say that human population is a huge part
of the ultimate drivers for our problems.  The other major ultimate driver
is consumption and with it the growth of consumption, including economic
development.  The book "Conservation Biology for All" 2011 edited by Sodhi
and Erhlich, published by Oxford Press (available online open-access as a
pdf), has a box "Human population and conservation" by Paul Ehrlich.  In
it, he presents his equation, I = PAT, where I = impact, P = population, A
= affluence as measured by consumption, and T = technology.  Thus, he sees
the effect of population and consumption as essentially multiplicative.  If
you had a huge population, but they consumed very little per person, the
impact would be minor.  If you had huge per captia consumption, but the
population was tiny, the effect would be tiny.  We get into trouble when
both are very large and growing, as they are today.  The effects of
destroying the environment come back to hurt humans, in many ways, from
destroying the means to produce food, to chemicals in the environment that
can kill, destroying the ability of the environment to produce ecosystem
services, and on and on.  Also, developed countries do not have the right
to tell developing countries that they can't develop and can't increase
their consumption.
      On the positive side, development also gets people to the point that
they no longer want their environment to be poisoned, and to push to get it
cleaned up.  Long ago, the fog in London from burning coal was killing
people.  Then they cleaned it up.  A river in the US, in Ohio, was so
polluted at one point it caught fire.  Now it is much cleaner.  Fish are
coming back to many rivers, including the Thames that flows through
London.  At one point Tokyo air pollution was so bad that there were coin
operated machines on the sidewalk that dispensed pure oxygen for those with
breathing difficulties.  Now the air there is much much cleaner and clear.
Development can be part of the solution, that's where the "T" for
technology comes in.  Renewable energy will reduce air pollution in many
ways in addition to reducing CO2 emissions (for example, burning coal is
one of the major sources of mercury that ends up in fish like tuna).
Technology (including what we learn to do to save reefs) is a major part of
the solution.
     We do indeed need to get human population under control and even
reduce it.  Unless we want to reduce our consumption to very low levels,
which I think few want to do.  But we also need to find better ways of
reducing our consumption and impact, while maintaining our standard of
living.  Changing from always trying to have the economy grow larger, to a
goal of developed countries having a stable, sustainable, economy that is
not growing but still provides a good standard of living should be part of
the mix of solutions (I agree with Francesca).  Much of the growth of
consumption ends up as waste in some developed economies (such as the US),
such as buying things you don't need and eventually throwing them away.  We
can, and must, do much better.
     But trying to save coral reefs by controlling population simply won't
work.  Population has enormous inertia, and getting the population growth
rate to slow down and eventually stop, and then to get population to
actually decline, will take more than decades, it will take centuries.  We
don't have the luxury of that time.  The world's reefs will all be dead
long before then, if that is all we do.  We have to attack a long list of
specific things that people do that kill reefs and threaten their future.
Top of that list is reduce greenhouse gasses and other warmers, including
CO2, methane, soot, and low altitude ozone.  But the list of things we need
to fix to save reefs is long, and it includes overfishing and destructive
fishing, sediment runoff, nutrient runoff, chemical pollution, introduced
species, diseases, etc etc. (see the long list and rankings in the NOAA
report on the corals considered for endangered species status, see also
"Reefs at Risk")  The list is long, but they are not all equal threats and
we can probably do the most good working hardest on the most important ones
(globally and locally) and the ones we can most easily make progress on.
Population may be an ultimate driver, and we do need to slow population
growth (which is happening slowly anyhow), but we can't save reefs by
slowing population growth or reducing population.

Cheers,  Doug

On Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 6:21 PM, vassil zlatarski <vzlatarski at yahoo.com>wrote:

> Martin, you nailed it, our society reminds of "Après moi, le
> déluge" ("After me, the flood") uttered by the absolute monarch, Luis XIV.
> Vassil
> 131 Fales Rd., Bristol, RI 02809, USA;  tel.: +1-401-254-5121
> ________________________________
>  From: Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com>
> To: Quenton <qdokken at gulfmex.org>; "'Szmant, Alina'" <szmanta at uncw.edu>;
> 'Pedro H. Rodríguez' <phernanrod at yahoo.com>; "
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Sent: Friday, March 29, 2013 10:24 AM
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] To Dennis Hubbard (What agency should list
> corals under the Endangered)
> Well said, Quenton. Here's another way to express it.
> We do have a balanced approach to the environment. Picture a
> seesaw... with population growth on one end and industrial economic growth
> on the
> other. The fulcrum is technology. As population growth increases that end
> of
> the seesaw dips a bit, so the industrial economy then has the opportunity
> (demand)
> to expand and counter the increase in population; and the balance is
> restored.
> The fulcrum of technology groans a bit, but industrial development shores
> it up
> with green revolutions, chemical magic, carbon dioxide production, new
> ways to
> harvest natural resources, and fossil fuel exploitation, err, make that
> fossil
> fuel research and development. And that stimulates more population growth
> and
> creates a dip of the population end of the seesaw. Then the Industrial
> economic
> end of seesaw rises a bit, stimulating population growth back to balance
> with another groan from the fulcrum, which is quickly made all better by
> advances in
> industrial technology. The balance holds tenaciously through the
> repetition of
> the cycles and all is good, until, until, the fulcrum just can’t continue
> to
> “make it all better” and crumbles under the weight of humanity. But don’t
> worry, we, most of us alive in this glorious time of industrial growth and
> consumer comfort will be gone before the environmental fan is hit by the
> excrement of human civilization, so what do we care what happens after we
> are
> gone. Unfortunately, that attitude, “don’t care what happens after I’m
> gone” is
> far too prevalent in society today. Will we restore a sustainable balance
> to
> the seesaw and create a stable fulcrum in time to maintain a functional and
> progressive civilization? I really, really, hope so. I know, I know, think
> positive, work hard to develop constructive solutions to our problems, and
> I’m
> trying, but it’s difficult to do.
> Martin
> ________________________________
> From: Quenton <qdokken at gulfmex.org>
> To: "'Szmant, Alina'" <szmanta at uncw.edu>; 'Pedro H. Rodríguez' <
> phernanrod at yahoo.com>; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Sent: Friday, March 29, 2013 6:22 AM
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] To Dennis Hubbard (What agency should list
> corals under the Endangered)
> Good Day All;
> Social and economic practice do not necessarily follow the constructs of
> science and certainly not the realities of the limits of nature.  In
> economic and social science forums, rarely have I heard discussed the fact
> that there are very real limits to the level at which the natural systems
> and resources can be impacted before the living resource and/or system
> ceases to function in a normal way, if at all.  The belief seems to be that
> natural habitats, wild populations, and the cycles of ecosystem dynamics
> can be compromised infinitely to serve the needs and wants of humans. The
> fact is that nature did not evolve in a manner to be sustainable under the
> variety and quantity of insults and compromises that humans inflict.  Nor
> is
> nature geared to adapt on a human generational time scale.  Every
> environmental issue we face today can be discussed in terms of lack of
> understanding/acceptance of the fact that nature can only be compromised to
> a limited extent before it fails. Our regulatory system of issuing permits
> is based on the belief that nature can be compromised infinitely.  Yes,
> society must have jobs and business opportunities to exist and flourish.
> Yes, there must be access to natural resources to meet the needs and wants
> of humans/society.  But, at some point planning and permitting must factor
> the limits of nature into the model.  Nature does not take into account an
> individual's or community's culture, history, religion, uniqueness, dreams,
> financial need, property rights, or any other purely human contrivance. In
> and of itself, nature is a perpetual motion machine..  Nature will function
> just fine until something or someone disrupts its cycles to a point that
> the
> engine stops. Very clearly we can see the train coming at us and we don't
> seem to be able to get off the track.
> Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
> President/CEO
> Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Inc.
> 361-882-3939 office
> 361-442-6064 cell
> qdokken at gulfmex.org
> Office:
> 3833 South Staples
> Suite S214
> Corpus Christi, TX 78411
> Mail:
> PMB 51
> 5403 Everhart Rd.
> Corpus Christi, TX 78411
> www.gulfmex.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Szmant, Alina
> Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 4:09 PM
> To: Pedro H. Rodríguez; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] To Dennis Hubbard (What agency should list corals
> under the Endangered)
> 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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