[Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Tue Sep 9 11:15:44 EDT 2014

The adjective "political" is often ignorantly used as a perjorative when 
in fact any voluntary collective action by humans must, in fact, involve 
some form of politics.

For example, the drafting of the "Declaration of Independence" was a 
political action, as was the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and the 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and 
more to the point, the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water 
Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act, were all political in 

The establishment of national parks, national forests, national wildlife 
refuges, and national marine sanctuaries are all political acts.

The successful effort by a coalition of tens of thousands of people to 
save an endangered bottomland forest in Louisiana (an effort I was 
involved in in the 1980s) was a political act.

I am not so naive to believe that all manifestations of politics are 
beneficial -- I have worked in academia, business, and (yes) government 
too long to believe that -- but I suggest that anyone wishing to use 
"political" as a perjorative be more precise. Otherwise, it appears to 
be a knee-jerk burst of bile toward anything the utterer does not like.

That being said, the CBD used politics appropriately in filing the 
petition, and clearly scientific evidence was used in whittling down the 
list from 83 to 66 to the final 20 additional listed species.

As for whinging about "non scientific" (sic) people interfering with the 
working of professional scientists, keep in mind that professional 
scientists do not always act in the Earth's (or our) best interest.  
It's not that we are necessarily nefarious, but that in our work we 
become victims of perceptual narrowing and at times are so focused on 
the little problems we are interested in we lose sight of the greater 
ethics, values, and concerns that should guide our work.  (Sure, kudzu 
is a great ground cover to reduce soil erosion, but it is hell on the 
surrounding forest.)

Those non-scientists are the ones who force us to look up and check our 
course, and I would argue the Center for Biological Diversity did us all 
a favor by getting us off our complacent keisters.

Not that at least some of us are standing, isn't it time to quit 
kvetching about the greenie-weenies and start discussing what we can do 
to stem the rather obvious declines in many coral ecosystems?


On 9/8/2014 8:24 PM, Walt Smith wrote:
> Excuse me but has anyone seen Charlie Veron's response to this action?
> This is strictly a political move by a non scientific body of people and
> there is not one shred of scientific evidence to support their claims.
> They have even gone so far as to completely ignore his more than 90 comments
> on the report that contradict his work when the whole study was based on
> this work.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Mussman [mailto:sealab at earthlink.net]
> Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 4:10 AM
> To: Peter Sale; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals
>     Hi Peter,
>     Excellent analysis as usual. It is getting more and more difficult to
> retain
>     any realistic hope that we will turn this ship around in time, but I have
> to
>     point  out  that even  though  the actions of the CBD and NOAA are not
>     necessarily the silver bullet that will save the world's coral reefs, at
>     least  they  are  modeling behaviors that go beyond as you put it  . .
>     .  devolving into meaningless discussions. In my opinion, reactions to
> the
>     ESA listings are telling. Instead of seizing on the moment to emphasize
> the
>     extent of the problem we prefer to point out deficiencies in the
> mechanism.
>     No wonder there is little evidence of public concern. Instead of rallying
>     behind the effort, we reinforce complacency by going to great lengths to
>     point  out any and  all  shortcomings even when it is obvious that the
>     efforts were initiated to help draw much needed attention to the dire
> nature
>     of the problem at hand. It may be frustrating to think that we are still
> at
>     the  point of needing to develop a popular consensus that this problem
>     exists,  but  more  importantly,  we  need  to take a hard look at our
>     own contributions to the confusion. When I am told by scientists that it
>     doesn't do a damn bit of good to list 20 more coral species as threatened
> I
>     am no longer bewildered by the fact that many sport divers can't tell a
> live
>     coral reef from a dead one. After all, why bother?
>     Regards,
>     Steve
>     >From: Peter Sale
>     >Sent: Sep 6, 2014 5:04 PM
>     >To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals
>     >
>     >Hi Listers,
>     >As usual, I have been reading but not commenting. Seems to be lots of
>     >confusion around the news that NOAA has designated 20 species of corals
>     >that occur in US waters (including US protectorates, or whatever the
>     >politically correct word for colony is) waters.
>     >
>     >Some are irritated that CBD generated a list of 80 species and that this
>     >action obliged NOAA to spend time and money doing the mandatory
>     >assessments required that ultimately led to the list of 30 species
>     >announced. Apparently people should not generate work for government
>     >agencies set up to do that work.
>     >
>     >Some are concerned that the species may not be easily identified, or
>     >perhaps have been mis-identified, and therefore may not even be
>     >endangered. Some think that this means that genetic analyses need to be
>     >done to be sure that these are indeed valid species, correctly
> identified
>     >(the assumption here, apparently, is that a genetic analysis is the only
>     >one that can determine if a species is a species).
>     >
>     >Some seem irritated that NOAA has only identified 20 species, because
>     >surely more are endangered.
>     >
>     >Few if any (I don't think I saw any) have reflected on what designation
> by
>     >NOAA means for the future well-being of these species.
>     >
>     >Everyone who wrote on this topic should read Gene Shinn's comments made
>     >today. They were a breath of fresh air.
>     >
>     >So far as I understand it, by designating certain corals as threatened,
>     >NOAA is now obligated to develop management plans for each; plans that
>     >will help to avoid their eventual loss from US waters. This might have
>     >value if the management plans include actions that will attack the
> factors
>     >causing the declines in these species. I don't hold my breath on this,
>     >because the plans are not yet developed, and the reasons for coral
> decline
>     >are many and sometimes not easily remedied with local action. Still, it
>     >is possible that some good could come from these designations.
>     >
>     >That NOAA, once required to assess some 80 species of coral, identified
> 20
>     >that were worthy of listing as endangered is further evidence of the
>     >perilous state of coral reef systems -- a fact that most readers of
>     >coral-list will not find surprising. It is a fact that many of us have
>     >been stating repeatedly, and in any forum available, for some time now.
>     >And still the world goes on complacently, unconcerned. These 20 species,
>     >correctly identified or not, are just a symbol of the plight of coral
>     >reefs worldwide. It is clear that we have not been articulating the
>     >problem effectively enough to break through the general unconcern. As
>     >Gene Shinn remarked, most sport divers do not appear to know the
>     >difference between a living reef and a dead one, and we need to become
>     >more effective if we really want the fate of coral reefs recognized.
>     >
>     >And while we are about it, let's remember that the coral reefs are just
>     >one of the canaries in our particular mine. Just as human activities are
>     >causing major changes to coral reefs, we are causing major changes to
> the
>     >oceans in general, as well as to the Arctic and many terrestrial systems
>     >as well. We seem not to notice the pressure we place on the planet's
>     >ecological systems, caused by way too many of us, using way too much
>     >stuff, We seem reluctant to ever curtail our enthusiasm for using stuff.
>     >We seem capable of devolving into meaningless discussion, much at cross
>     >purposes, when something like the formal designation of 20 species of
>     >corals occurs, instead of articulating, clearly, that this is simply
>     >further evidence of the damage we are doing. And we do not seem very
>     >interested in stopping our bad behavior.
>     >
>     >Peter Sale
>     >
>     >sale at uwindsor.ca @PeterSale3
>     >www..uwindsor.ca/sale www.petersalebooks.com
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  David M. Lawrence        | Home:  (804) 559-9786
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