[Coral-List] are our hopes for coral reefs false?

Kaufman, Leslie S lesk at bu.edu
Sun Sep 1 13:17:06 EDT 2013

To Steve Mussman and fellow coral-listers,

As a co-author of the first draft of the ICRS consensus statement, I can testify that the statement resulted from a careful analysis over several months by a committee of senior scientists with well-balanced expertise, a majority of whom are old fogies who still dive (the highly qualified youngsters in the group who also dive will hopefully know who they are and forgive me).   We considered several hundred million years of tropical reef and earth history, as well as current knowledge of local and global anthropogenic impacts on coral reefs.  We were attentive to the art of messaging, but our emphasis was on simply figuring out the truth as best as we could.  We didn't think our colleagues would respect and join us for anything less.  We used the word "hope" also, which is variously defined as the cherishing or desire of something happening that you actually do expect could happen, whether the odds or high or low.  We weren't just hoping.  We were saying that in our professional opinions, the odds are high that much of the value that flows to people from coral reef environments can be maintained if we act decisively, quickly, and adaptively at both global and local levels.  We were also saying that if we do not act in this manner, we will lose these values..  Very simple.  Stop smoking, or die.

So to answer Steve's question directly, no, we are not spreading false beliefs.  We're not spreading any beliefs at all.  We are communicating our best scientific judgement, and it says that coral reefs are circling the drain but we can still plug that drain and prevent some of the good stuff from going down it quite so fast.  That was the notion that a couple of thousand (I've lost count) folks knowledgeable about coral reefs and people who live near them, endorsed as being consistent with their own best judgement, too..  We might even succeed well enough for some types of tropical reef community, and a very large proportion of living reef-dependent species, to survive the hysteresis (and also the hysteria) of climate change.

The sport diving community had better wake up.  We do not need to pussy foot around them, either.  Tell it straight.  Sport divers don't respond, they're their own worst enemies.  The disparity in reporting between Alert Diver (which is, truly, alert) and other dive magazines is starting to show.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu<mailto:lesk at bu.edu>

From: Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net<mailto:sealab at earthlink.net>>
Subject: [Coral-List] A World without Coral Reefs?
  Dear Listers,
  I hate to put this out there, but I'm beginning to wonder if I've been
  kidding myself.
  I've been collaborating with others in an effort to urge the diving industry
  to openly address the issue of local and global threats to coral reefs
  including an honest assessment of the pending impacts of climate change. In
  doing  so  I've  found  it necessary to tread carefully in that strong
  resistance remains intact throughout the industry at just the mention of the
  term climate change.
  But that's not really my focus at this point. What I want to know is this:
  Are efforts to forestall or mitigate the impacts of climate change on coral
  reef ecosystems already past the point being practical? Are efforts like
  last  year's  consensus  statement  from  the  ICRS  just based on the
  institutional inertia of conservationists who value hope over truth and
  scientists who can't see the reefs for the corals? Am I (are we) spreading
  false beliefs and misdirecting efforts by persisting that coral reefs have a
  future rather than urging that we begin to address the greater fallout from
  their inevitable collapse?
  I'm honestly beginning to wonder.

More information about the Coral-List mailing list