[Coral-List] Two news stories about coral reefs

frahome at yahoo.com frahome at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 29 06:21:39 EDT 2016

I believe there is more than one elephant in the room, the other beingan economic system based on infinite growth. Probably this one is more of amammoth.

You can't run such a system (and related lifestyles including flyingaround to see reefs and attend conferences, enjoying a meat based diet and afull set of gadgets activated while sitting on the couch) on a decreasingsupply of energy (neither on a decreasing population...but let's stick just toenergy).

Renewables have a lower EROEI ratio (Energy Returned On Energy Invested)than the one fossil fuels have granted us, they are subject to intermittentavailability and are difficult to be carried around and stored. 

Have you tried to count how many solar panels and wind turbines are neededto replace fossil fuels in the current system and the near future (e.g. the 2-3decades mentioned in this discussion) as forecast by trends in consumption andtechnology advances? Try!

Have you tried to estimate how big a battery of a Boeing should be evenconsidering the highest theoretical limit of chemical energy storage?

Technology can help but likely only to transition to a very differenteconomic system and much lower energy/simpler lifestyles, not to keep business asusual.

The relatively good news is that it doesn't seem this transition will bea choice but it will be forced to us by peak oil and environmental issues, theonly problem is that, unless we take it before it is forced on us, it might be toolate for reefs (and not only reefs…) as we know them.


      From: Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
 To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>; "douglasfennertassi at gmail.com" <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> 
 Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2016 10:49 PM
 Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Two news stories about coral reefs
Hi Doug and listers,
Your recent post argues that it is per capita consumption of resources, rather than population size that best measures human impacts on ecosystems such as coral reefs.  You then state that in your view it is not 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" (my italics).  I have to differ.

First, while it is true that the impact of people on the planet depends on the size of our footprints, that is not a good reason to ignore population size entirely while complaining about per capita resource use.

Second, and this is why I decided to chime in, it is absolutely not true that it would take too long to reduce human population to make it a useful thing to advocate if one wants to save reefs, rainforests or any other ecosystem.  It is difficult to get unbiased discussion of China's population policy in English - most reports are either overt efforts to show how wrong it was to legislate fertility, or reports subtly influenced by such anti-China ideas.  But cutting through the anti-China bias, it is fact that China has wrestled its fertility rate from about 4.8 births per woman in 1975 down to 3.0 births per woman in 1980 when the policy was fully in place, and down to 1.5 to 1.6 births per woman in the years since 2000.  This is a very rapid reduction; it has brought China into line with most western European or North American countries very rapidly - we are all suffering the temporary pain of aging populations as population size falls (or is maintained by immigration from 
 elsewhere).  By contrast, India is still dealing with a fertility rate of 2.5 births per woman.  Which of India or China would you prefer to govern right now?

You are correct that China's population has not yet fallen.  But in 20+ years, China stopped growing and is on the cusp of falling.  It seems likely that it will take at least another 35 years to wean the world off fossil fuels, and it is going to take most of this century to pull atmospheric CO2 down to levels needed to bring temperature below a 1.5 degree C increase from preindustrial.  That enormous challenge could be made easier if the giant fossil fuel corporations would join the fight to stop using their products, but it will also prove much easier if large parts of the developing world had stable or declining birth rates.  China's experience proves that shift in birth rate is attainable in a couple of decades.

There is value in pushing for serious efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.  There is value in pushing for local management efforts to keep ecosystems sustainable.  And there is value in pushing for 1) recognition of not just the desirability, but the need, for reduction of the global human population, and 2) real actions designed to achieve significant reduction over the next several decades.  Then we might be able to deliver flourishing coral reefs to future generations.

Peter Sale
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Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov


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