[Coral-List] Two news stories about coral reefs

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri Aug 19 18:25:46 EDT 2016

     I completely agree that human population is one of the two fundamental
drivers of ecosystem damage from humans.  However, people from developed
countries love to stress the population problem and forget that the other
driver is economic development and it takes both to cause massive
environmental damage (Ehrlich says that they are multiplicative).  If we
were all still using stone tools like our ancestors did, we wouldn't have
these problems (and we wouldn't have 7 billion people, starvation would
have limited population at a much, much lower level, as indeed it did back
then).  Indeed, the reason that Australia can sell so much coal to China
and India now is because of both their gigantic populations, (about 1.3
billion and about 1 billion), and their very rapid present economic
development.  Australia wasn't selling them much coal before their recent
rapid economic development, and they didn't have some of the worst air
pollution in their cities, just a couple decades ago, even though their
population was nearly as large as it is today.  Rapid economic development,
NOT population, was the key change that drove this huge increase in the
burning of fossil fuel.  But population IS a huge multiplier.  If Andorra
or Niue, two of the smallest countries in the world, had similarly rapid
economic growth, there would be no major consequences.
    Second point, is that we in the developed countries benefit from our
countries having done the exact same thing as China and India are now
doing, only it started in our countries as much as a couple hundred years
ago, in what was called the "industrial revolution."  In fact, over the
course of history, the cumulative total amount of greenhouse emissions
produced by the USA over time is much larger than that of either China or
India (or any other country), because the USA has been producing it over a
much longer time span than either China or India.  And this in spite of the
fact that the USA has never had a population size even approaching that of
either of those two counties.  And the US economy and that of many other
developed countries, developed based on cheap fossil fuel energy.  Before
we point a finger at large rapidly developing countries, we should look in
the mirror.
    Third point, people in developing countries have just as much right to
development and to escape poverty and misery as anybody in the developed
     Fourth point, as I've argued more than once before, you can't control
greenhouse gas emissions, or any other kind of environmental impacts to
reefs or anything else, by controlling population soon enough to avoid
catastrophe.  Unacceptable impacts from global warming and acidification
will strike the entire world long long before any realistic or ethical
effort to control population could have any effects.  For the very long
term (like maybe 200 years or more from now), population control is
absolutely essential.  But coral reefs need to dodge the bullet of oncoming
global warming within the next few decades.  Nothing short of a nuclear
Armageddon will kill enough people within 2 or 3 decades to reduce human
population enough to avoid killing the reefs.  China has one of the most
stringent and successful population control programs on the face of the
planet, the one child family (in urban areas) and it has only slowed the
growth of its gigantic population, the population has continued to grow and
there will be significant problems with the aging of the population and
reduction of the number of working people supporting the old folks in the
future as a result of the slowing of growth.  Slowed population growth is
great, but to save reefs we not only would have to have population growth
slowed, not only stopped, but population reduced and reduced drastically
and very quickly.  It just isn't going to happen fast enough to save reefs,
unless we have an even worse thing happen, world nuclear war.
      Frankly, I don't think it is productive to complain about population
causing reef declines, since there is nothing that is feasible or ethical
that can be done about it soon enough to save the reefs, not even close.
Nor is it realistic or desirable to destroy the economies of the developed
world and the rapidly developing world, in order to reduce emissions
sufficiently.  About the only realistic path left is to generate energy by
shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, a process that is
already well underway, but must be sped up.  The Paris agreement was a
great step in the right direction, but has to be fully implemented, and we
have to do more than was agreed to.  I note that China is already the
world's largest solar panel manufacturer, and India has such ambitious
plans to increase renewable energy production that there is significant
skepticism that their targets can be met.  We should be so ambitious!
    Cheers, Doug

On Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 6:49 AM, Phil Dustan <dustanp at cofc.edu> wrote:

> Dear Bob,
>   The elephant in the room is really 7 billion people on the
> planet......and no one wants to talk about it as though it would be
> upsetting some moral taboo. The rest of it - coal, methane, carbon, sea
> level etc is a consequence not real drivers.....The Club of Rome had it
> spot on in the 1970's........
>  NOAA is too politically greedy, large NGO's have become corporate, the
> diving industry is making too much money pushing into new territories after
> their customers trash the last place, Wreck diving is replacing reef diving
> in the Florida Keys 'cause the reefs are dead........Oh, and scientists
> keep asking for more money for "research".
>  Ecology is really a local sport with local actors - just all over the
> planet. We don't need more research, more monitoring, or more
> technology...We know the basic principles now and how to put them in place.
> We need people to change their behaviors, reproduce with longer generation
> times, eat a different diet, and to distribute wealth more equitably.
>  But all that is too much to ask of the human race so we have situation
> like the GBR, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Jamaica, Philippines, etc.......all
> over the planet. Our reproductive success is really the driver behind it
> all.
> And the destruction is accelerating as in Bali this past year:
>    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxOfLTnPSUo
> All the best,
>   Phil
> On Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 11:23 PM, Robert Bourke <rbourke at oceanit.com>
> wrote:
>> Doug & All;
>>         The discussion concerning saving Australia's Great Barrier Reef
>> ignores the elephant in the room.
>>         At the recent coral reef conference we all listened to numerous
>> papers placing much of the blame for the decline of the Great Barrier Reef
>> upon two key factors 1) sediment turbidity from agriculture and mining
>> operations, and 2) global warming.
>> Nobody mentioned the fact that last year (2015) Australia mined and
>> shipped
>>         150,000,000,000 kg
>> of coal, primarily to China.   China imports about
>>         190,000.000.000 kg per year  - primarily from Indonesia and
>> Australia.
>> Why does the government allow this to happen? Because coal exports make
>> up about 15% of Australia's GDP (~1 Billion $) and there is no comparable
>> measure of the value of the GBR against which to balance the economic and
>> social welfare from these two sources.
>> The solution to this is NOT to use questionable economic surveys to
>> inflate the economic value of reefs.  NOAA has tried this approach and the
>> results are not pretty.  Rather we should urge our governments to take a
>> broader view of the economic AND social value of all activities so that a
>> better balance can be achieved.
>> Methods to conduct a true ecosystem valuation were developed by
>> ecologists cumulating (my opinion) with the work of de Groot in 1992
>> (Functions of Nature: Evaluation of Nature in Environmental Planning,
>> Management, and Decision-making).  Unfortunately (for us biologists) this
>> methodology has been conscripted by the economists.  The method was further
>> developed and used to create the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
>> which calculated the "value" of all the worlds ecosystems.    Fortunately
>> many large international organization (mostly outside the US) have adopted
>> methods that incorporate the quantification of all ecosystem functions and
>> services as part of their large project planning and funding activities.
>> Anyone interested in the approach to saving reefs should look into the work
>> of the World Resources Institute, The Economics of Ecosystems and
>> Biodiversity, or the United Nations Environmental Program.  Many good
>> universities now have programs that concentrate on this
>>   topic.
>> NOAA, USFWS, EPA and USACE would all benefit from adopting a similar
>> strategy based upon analyses of ecosystem functions and services.
>> Perhaps to save the reefs, one must become an economist........ just a
>> bit.
>> Aloha
>> Bob Bourke
>> Environmental Scientist
>> Oceanit, Hawaii
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:
>> coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Douglas Fenner
>> Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 10:40 PM
>> To: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>> Subject: [Coral-List] Two news stories about coral reefs
>> Five things we can do right now to save the Great Barrier Reef
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.the
>> guardian.com_australia-2Dnews_commentisfree_2016_jun_13_
>> five-2Dthings-2Dwe-2Dcan-2Ddo-2Dright-2Dnow-2Dto-2Dsave-
>> 2Dthe-2Dgreat-2Dbarrier-2Dreef&d=DQICAg&c=7MSSWy9Bs2yo
>> cjNQzurxOQ&r=mxnjGj1-K1cYCH-JH1g-7Q&m=b5Z465Sz0hHCaYr9bVMH
>> UELneUBLQ1r_rPZA0HfE1ac&s=nyB2rpbJLgFJ_crVA2Au9m9RNipwE8tEOqnfIH2aUdM&e=
>> The coral die-off crisis is a climate crime, and Exxon fired the gun.
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.the
>> guardian.com_environment_2016_aug_17_the-2D&d=DQICAg&c=7MSSW
>> y9Bs2yocjNQzurxOQ&r=mxnjGj1-K1cYCH-JH1g-7Q&m=b5Z465Sz0hHCa
>> Yr9bVMHUELneUBLQ1r_rPZA0HfE1ac&s=w7ZVq8ZeJ7vyDL16
>> zy9sGRoQ9OAazzpH4L82sSZDbP4&e=
>> coral-die-off-crisis-is-a-climate-and-exxon-fired-the-gun?
>> CMP=share_btn_tw
>> Cheers,  Doug
>> --
> Phillip Dustan
> Department of Biology
> College of Charleston
> Charleston SC  20401
> Charleston SC
> 843 953 8086 (voice)
> 843-224-3321 (m)
> "When we try to pick out anything by itself
> we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords
> that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe. "
> *                                         John Muir 1869*

Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
"have regulator, will travel"
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

Join the International Society for Reef Studies.  Membership includes a
subscription to the journal Coral Reefs, and there are discounts for pdf
subscriptions and developing countries.  Coral Reefs is the only journal
that is ALL coral reef articles, and it has amazingly LOW prices compared
to other journals.  Check it out!  www.fit.edu/isrs/

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

blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope

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