[Coral-List] Why we are failing to repair coral reefs
douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Wed Oct 22 04:10:16 EDT 2014
I think that human population and consumption/economy are the two
ultimate drivers of environmental destruction, and ultimately threaten
humans as well. Both have been growing exponentially. A recent Science
paper reported a model that predicted that world human population will not
stabilize by 2100 but will continue to grow beyond that, and that at 2100
there will be 9 to 13.2 billion humans. "Experts be damned: world
population will continue to rise."
However long it takes to stabilize, coral reefs will be long dead by
then, let alone when population is back to half the present size.
Some time back, the outgoing president of AAAS (American Association
for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science magazine) wrote an
essay he delivered to Congress, arguing that science was the reason that
the US economy had grown exponentially for so long. I thought that was a
powerful argument to get Congress to fund Science, because everyone wants
the economy to grow. Fastest way to loose an election is to promise to
reduce the size of the economy.
The earth is finite. Exponential growth of anything on a finite
planet cannot be sustained. One way or another, sooner or later, the
exponential growth will stop, it can't go on forever. It can be ended in a
way we like, or in a way we don't like. An old saying in population is
that there are only two ways to control population, birth control and death
control. If you don't use one, you will eventually get the other, unless
you live on an infinitely large place.
The problem is that we can go on like we are until the planet is
damaged to the point that it makes humans miserable, that is, all the
environment that supports us is destroyed. Unfortunately, we can't change
either the growth of human population or of economic growth fast enough to
avoid killing coral reefs. They are going to be even more severely damaged
than they already are in just a few decades and surely by 2100. The
economies of China and India and a few other places are growing very
rapidly, bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty. I personally think
that is good. China has done more than any other country to control
population. If rich countries would just provide free birth control to
everyone in poor countries that wants it, and didn't force anyone to do
anything they don't want to do, that would go a long ways towards slowing
But if we wait to solve the ultimate causes, we will loose what we
have left of coral reefs and every other ecosystem. Ultimately, we better
get population and economies stabilized and sustainable, for our own good
if nothing else. But we can't afford to wait for that, because that can't
possibly be done fast enough to avoid destroying the reefs meantime.
Which brings us back to the original problem. We need to do better at
slowing and stopping the destruction of coral reefs if we want to have any
left in half decent condition a few decades from now. Many things can
help, there is probably no one magic cure. Spatial planning can surely
help. And yes, at the same time contribute to getting population and the
economy to be sustainable.
Let's get to work and get it done!! Cheers, Doug
On Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 11:56 AM, frahome at yahoo.com <frahome at yahoo.com>
> Although the article rises some important points I believe Peter only
> marginally touches the issues for which we have failed to "repair" coral
> reefs and he ends up proposing again tools that try addressing symptoms
> (e.g. Marine Spatial Planning) rather than the root problem. This seems the
> same mistake made by the very same attempts he is criticizing.
> I believe that the root of the problem is in the entire “infrastructure”
> of our society built around an intrinsically unsustainable economic model
> (based on perpetual quantitative growth) and the cultural model that
> derives from it (based on consumerism, spoiled/lazy/luxury aiming mindset,
> competition, individualism).
> As governments are not currently designed to be proactive nor farsighted,
> then we should start acting ourselves in our communities to develop a more
> sustainable model, something that will be quite different than just putting
> the word "green" in front of "business as usual".
> I do not want to sound arrogant nor provocative but I would really invite
> each of us to stop focusing only on researching on what we already know
> (reefs are declining) and start dedicating a lot more time into our
> communities to imagine, design and implement a new sustainable way of
> living on this planet.
> This very likely will mean pushing for a very different economic model,
> embracing simpler lifestyles, redesigning our food production system and
> deeply rethink and question the entire industrial system.
> Marine Spatial Planning is part of my profession but I admit that while it
> is fun to work on and it pays the bills I really do not think it has the
> potential to make a real difference to the marine ecosystems fate in the
> current economic and social context (and almost paradoxically it could be
> actually part of the problem due to its links to the high demanding
> industrial system). This applies in one way or the other to most of the
> current approaches used to look into and trying to solve the environmental
> The engagement to bring change in the current system and in the above
> aspects, although a major challenge, seems the only chance we have to make
> a difference.
> Kind regards
> Further reading (I do not necessarily embrace all the contents of these
> resources but they all provide some food for thoughts):
> *From:* Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
> *To:* coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> *Sent:* Monday, October 20, 2014 7:02 PM
> *Subject:* [Coral-List] Why we are failing to repair coral reefs
> I recently penned a comment on why we are, for the most part, failing in
> our efforts to repair and sustain coral reefs, despite the efforts of many
> dedicated and hard-working people. It appeared in Reef Encounter, the
> on-line news journal of ISRS, and many readers of this list will have seen
> it already. Thinking it might be worth wider dissemination, I've now put
> it up on my blog, with some pretty pictures attached. You can access the
> blog at www.petersalebooks.com/?p=1708 and you can see the original in
> Reef Encounter which can be downloaded from the ISRS website at
> http://coralreefs.org/ Reef Encounter has lots of interesting content
> (perhaps even more interesting than my comment)!
> If you are a member of ISRS, you could also think of nominating someone to
> the ISRS Council, and if you are not a member, think about joining this
> international coral reef science community.
> Peter Sale
> sale at uwindsor.ca @PeterSale3
> www.uwindsor.ca/sale www.petersalebooks.com
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 USA
phone 1 684 622-7084
"belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
belief in evolution is optional, use of antibiotics that bacteria have not
evolved resistance to is recommended.
More information about the Coral-List