[Coral-List] Even chickens can help save coral reefs

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Tue Mar 31 05:09:09 EDT 2015

    You are right that the population is currently less than it would
be without reductions in the rate of growth of the populations, the
reductions in the rate of population growth you quote prove it.  That
applies to the future as well, even within the relatively short number
of decades before reefs begin to be impacted much more and decline
faster.  Less population reduces the pressure from what it would be
without those reductions in population growth rate.  I agree, it is
     But to save reefs by reducing population, I'd argue we would need
to go back to a human population for the world of a half, maybe a
quarter of what it is now.  I can't see how that could be accomplished
before 2060 without billions of people dying, or no one having any
children at all.  China, India, and the US all have populations that
continue to grow, as you point out.  Slower, yes, but still growing.
To save reefs by population, we need populations to decline, and
decline drastically and fast, not continue to grow, even slowly.  I
don't think that is going to happen in time to save reefs.  It is
absolutely necessary for the long haul, the next few centuries, and I
believe the predictions are that it will indeed happen of its own
accord, and the peak population may be a bit less than previously
predicted.  The process can be sped up, and I think that would be a
very good thing to do, by voluntary family planning.
      I agree that population growth rates can be reduced quite a bit,
totally voluntarily. Voluntary family planning just needs to be
provided free of cost to those who want it and can't afford it around
the world, and that will make a huge difference.  Totally voluntary.
A good thing to do.  Will help, no question.  It would slow population
growth, but it won't cause major population decreases in the few
decades we have left to save reefs (given the continuing growth of
populations, economies, CO2 emissions, CO2 levels in the atmosphere,
and local impacts).
     I think we have to find other ways of saving reefs, primarily
reducing CO2 emissions to low levels, but equally by reducing the
local impacts of sediment, nutrients and overfishing, etc. to much
lower levels.  In other words, the usual suspects.
     The one way I think I could be wrong, is if the demise of coral
reefs before 2100 turns out to be much less than we think it will be.
If, by some miracle, they are able to adapt faster and more than any
of us think, and the world reduces CO2 emissions vastly more than has
happened so far, and we can find ways to reduce the local impacts much
more than we have, then maybe coral reefs can eke out an existence
long enough for us to get these things under control.  If we get
family planning to a billion people very soon, that would make the
difference in the period between 2100 and 2200 or maybe 2300.
     So it might work, but it might also not work.  I'd rather not
have to risk the future existence of reefs with corals on them to such
a uncertain, indeed perhaps very unlikely, scenario.  Not the least of
the uncertainties is whether the rich countries and people of the
world will help the billions of poor get the family planning that they
need and want but can't afford.  I see no huge movement to do that.  I
do see that it is part of the Gates Foundation medical aid program,
and their goal is to bring voluntary family planning to 120 million
people in the poorest countries by 2020, with the eventual goal of
having universal access for all.  Fantastic!!   But there are many
more people around the world that need it and can't get it and many
many more who aren't yet interested in reducing their family sizes.  I
suspect it will take a very large increase in the government aid to
poor countries targeted to family planning to make a real dent in
population growth.  I hope it happens, but I don't think we should pin
our hopes or bet the farm (reefs) on it happening soon.  I see no
movement of governments to increase foreign aid for voluntary family
planning by huge amounts.  For those who are not interested in having
smaller families, we will likely have to wait until they are more
prosperous, raising children is more expensive, women can get better
educations and are allowed to have jobs and have more power to control
their family size.  I would love to see it, but I think we have to be
realistic, it's not likely to happen soon enough.
     I completely agree that perpetual economic growth is impossible,
it is not sustainable forever, the world is finite.  Perpetual
population growth isn't possible either.  I note that the outgoing
president of AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of
Science, publisher of Science magazine) published a powerful essay
saying that science is what made possible the growth of the US
economy, and so Congress needs to provide more support for science.
However, he never even hinted that growth of the economy couldn't go
on forever, and that maybe we should start working towards a
sustainable economy instead of endless growth.  I think not having a
growing economy is going to be a very very hard sell.  No matter how
much people have, no matter how much money people or countries have,
they almost always want more.  But it has to be done, at some point,
or the laws of nature will do it for us in a way we won't like,
because we will have destroyed our environment which will come back to
bite us big time, and we'll run out of resources.  Better to plan for
a sustainable economy than try to have endless growth, which will be
followed by a collapse that takes everybody down with it.  But
changing to a sustainable, no-growth economy isn't going to happen
soon.  Even if the rich countries transitioned to no growth economies
right away, the world's economy would surely continue to grow, perhaps
for a long time, because the majority of the world's people are in
developing countries (I count China and India as developing, rapidly).
     Cheers,  Doug

On 3/30/15, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:
> Doug and List,
> I largely support the sentiments in your comment, but must respond to your
> claim that "We are NOT going to solve the coral reef crisis by reducing
> the population, it is WAY WAY too slow."
> Actually, taking serious action to slow and then reverse human population
> growth is a process that could have significant positive effects on time
> scales comparable to those required to transition away from use of fossil
> fuels.  China's population policy, which has been so roundly criticized,
> played a significant role (but was not the sole cause) in a reduction of
> growth rate from 2.8% per annum in 1970 to 0.5% per annum today.  In the
> same time period, India has gone from 2.2% per annum to 1.2% per annum,
> and the USA has gone from 1.2% per annum to 0.7% per annum today (yes,
> higher than China's).  Many nations, including the USA, use immigration
> policy to keep population growth positive, because our economic theory
> demands growth.
> Concerted action with the goal of turning global population growth
> negative could be achieved, probably without the "coercive" regulations
> China used, if governments could be convinced that perpetual GDP growth is
> impossible.  Reefs, and a whole lot of other things would certainly
> benefit.
> Peter Sale
> sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
> www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com

Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

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website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner

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