[Coral-List] A take on the GBR obit discussion

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Fri Oct 28 14:51:34 EDT 2016

   The bludgeon isnât what you do to the peopleâ¦itâs what you do to the reef,
   the ânot deadâ person.
   I  get  that,  but  all  considered,  it  may be time to try something
   unconventional.  There  are still far too many people that dismiss the
   scientific evidence as heresy and just imagine if Trump pulls an upset
   (think Brexit). I'm just saying that if the next few decades are critical,
   we have no time to waste. A little satire isn't exactly what I would call an
   extreme measure, but at least a metaphorical bludgeon on the other hand has
   real potential.   Steve

     -----Original Message-----
     From: "Kaufman, Leslie S"
     Sent: Oct 28, 2016 1:52 PM
     To: "sealab at earthlink.net"
     Cc: Coral List
     Subject: Re: [Coral-List] A take on the GBR obit discussion
     Oh yeah.

   The bludgeon isnât what you do to the peopleâ¦itâs what you do to the reef,
   the ânot deadâ person.

   I still think big time playing up coral reef stewardship as something that
   delivers fun and profit, is one leg of our stool.


   On Oct 28, 2016, at 1:34 PM, Steve Mussman <[1]sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

   Dear Les,
   One central point that I took from your eloquent statement was that "It is
   going to take us a few centuries to bring runaway climate change under
   control even with the effort heavily front-end loaded: right now through the
   next couple of decades is absolutely critical".
   So how do we frame that situation in such a way that we express the gravity
   of the situation without being accused of being alarmists or pessimists?
   Keep in mind that I currently work in an industry (scuba) that is almost
   totally dependent on coral reefs for it's well-being and sustenance yet it's
   leadership refuses to even discuss the issue let alone promote solutions and
   that  we  were  all recently subjected to a series of three exhaustive
   presidential debates during which not one question was posed relating to
   climate change.
   I'm not so sure we need to put the bludgeon away. Maybe we just need to
   figure out how best to make use of it.
   > On Oct 26, 2016, at 1:55 PM, Kaufman, Leslie S wrote:
   > [2]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A
   > In âMonty Python and the Holy Grailâ, Scene 2, a moribund medieval man who
   is nonetheless âgetting betterâ is loaded by his caregiver against his will
   onto a passing cart led by a guy whose job it is to gather the fruits of
   death.  When  the  poor  fellow  protests profoundly âIâm not dead!â a
   negotiation  ensues  between  cartman and caregiver. As a favor to the
   caregiver, the cartman dispatches the unfortunate to make him definitively
   dead, upon which his corpse is summarily loaded onto the cart with the
   > Obviously this scene, like most of the Monty Python canon, is meant to be
   humorously thought provoking. In a similar vein, âOutsideâ magazineâs online
   site recently published a satirical obituary for the Great Barrier Reef, the
   point being to underscore the dismal trajectory of the worldâs greatest
   coral reef system so that something might be done about this and quickly. It
   was a satirical obituary. A lot of people didnât get the satire part, or did
   and didnât think it was particularly funny. Evidently a good many coral reef
   lovers are worried that a premature death sentence for the worldâs coral
   reefs  will have the same effect as the cartmanâs bludgeon. Now that a
   tsunami of comments savaging the author of this tongue-in-cheek blog seems
   finally to have faded to foam, we should reflect on what that little episode
   was truly all about..
   > The GBR really has suffered calamity but most of it remains dominated by
   living  hard  corals,  coralline  algae,  and  coral  reef  fishes and
   invertebrates, and so is still recognizable as a coral reef system. Just a
   very sick one. Imagine a person with gangrene, whose foot is rapidly heading
   south. His head still looks pretty good and will for at least a little while
   longer. The important thing is that something can still be done about it and
   the person could yet survive and thrive, even if needs be, sans foot. Can
   something  still be done about the worldâs coral reefs? This is a very
   important question because if not, we have many other things to worry about.
   If yes, we have a gigantic caregiving role on our plate that we may well
   have caused, but we certainly hadnât asked for. No wonder the caregiver was
   glad to get the cartmanâs violent favor.
   > So what about the blog was actually true, and what of it could perhaps
   have been dangerously misleading? Well, coral reefs are threatened globally
   by anthropogenic climate change, which includes ocean warming- triggering
   mass bleaching events, coral disease pandemics and killer cyclonic storms;
   and  ocean  acidification  that compromises coralsâ ability to repair,
   regenerate,  and repopulate episodically devastated reef environments.
   Climate change is an anthropogenic ill on the scale of our entire planet.
   You might be inclined to think that anything done to combat the effects of
   climate change on a local scale is pissing into the wind. Except, this is
   hardly the whole story. It is going to take us a few centuries to bring
   runaway climate change under control even with the effort heavily front-end
   loaded: right now through the next couple of decades is absolutely critical.
   Coral reefs are going to have to somehow survive this âclimate hiatusâ if
   they are to thrive once more in more or less their current forms. Thatâs
   going to take a lot of help, on a very local level. And itâll be hard.
   Forget climate change for a moment. Coral reefs are locally besieged by
   overfishing, limestone mining, military oceanscaping, coastal development,
   and by virulent and voluminous runoff from land loaded with sediments,
   nutrients, trash, toxins and pathogens. We do all this stuff. We could, for
   exampleâ¦consider not doing it?
   > If we are to judge from the current situation in Biscayne National Park
   just south of Miami, then the answer might be ânot likelyâ. Given the dire
   condition of the Florida reefs in general, the National Park Service found
   prudence dictating that everything possible should be done to intensively
   steward the part of the reef tract that had landed on their watch, in the
   BNP. This recently rich stretch of patch reefs is strategically located just
   north of the Florida Keys, linking the Keys reefs with a northern reach of
   coral communities that stretch all the way up to West Palm Beach. In warming
   seas such a corridor to cooler waters could be critical. NPS staff planned
   on placing the parkâs entire coral reef habitat into a marine reserve to
   shield it from physical damage from the hurling of traps, nets, lines and
   anchors  on  this  beloved  fishing  ground. Small park, tiny reserve,
   potentially  very big payoff. As a compromise with extractive use, the
   planned reserve was shrunk to approximately one quarter to one third of the
   parkâs coral reef habitat, or only about 6% of the parkâs total area. Note
   that after years of heated discussion among marine scientists a consensus
   recommendation has emerged: if you are really serious about maintaining the
   health of any marine ecosystem, you need to effectively shield about 30% of
   it from direct impacts, as a marine reserve. This is a judgment call, but
   one no weaker than your doctorâs insistence that youâd better stop smoking
   or risk a high likelihood of dying from lung cancer or emphysema. The coral
   reef itself comprises a small proportion of an ecological landscape that
   includes seagrass, mangrove forest, and other habitats that help to nurture
   and support the reef and the goods that it provides us. 6% isnât 30%. Not
   surprisingly, some of the fishermen who use the park are opposed to there
   being a no-fishing zone anywhere. Their argument is quite interesting: the
   reefâs poor condition is due to climate change, about which nothing can be
   done  at  a local level. Since the coral reef- which is essential fish
   habitat- will not respond to local stewardship, then must we not accept that
   weâve simply lost that habitat and manage the fishery as if it were never
   there? Some kind of fishery could still be sustainable. It just would not be
   a coral reef any more, and the target species would no longer be those that
   require a coral reef habitat.
   > Snappers and groupers arenât the only things that require a coral reef
   habitat. Coral reefs have evolved to break the waves. Reef crest corals like
   the endangered and majestic elkhorn coral are surfers, and their lives are
   one long ride. By virtue of coralsâ millennial service on the front lines
   just off the beach, we humans have expensive coastal real estate. Also,
   somewhere  around  one  quarter of all marine organisms are coral reef
   citizens: no reef, no citizens. But who cares about them? You might be
   surprised. In this country, causing species to go extinct, even locally
   extinct, is illegal. It is also strongly frowned upon everywhere else on
   this planet.
   > There is a lot that we canâ¦and mustâ¦do to shepherd coral reefs through
   the climate hiatus. During this interregnum our reefs may not look like they
   used to, but thereâs a chance for them to deliver value and to reiteratively
   lift themselves up from successive climate clobberings. The odds are good
   that we can facilitate this happy outcome, but only if we do two things.
   First, we stop crapping on reefs with local insults and policies that look
   like lunacy a mere year or two out. Second, we support recovery in every way
   possible, even by farming and planting seed corals and their ecological
   allies back out on the reef should that be necessary. For it already is, and
   we already are. Itâs early days: weâre just learning how.
   > So the next time the cartman chants âBring out your deadâ to the beat of
   wooden wheels on cobblestone, put the bludgeon away. Care for the people and
   things that you yourself had a hand in making so sick, and fill the space
   between forehead and nose tip with thoughts of a longer-term future.
   > (The author thanks Dr. Anthony Janetos, Director of the Pardee Center, for
   reminding  him  of the mentioned scene from âMonty Python and the Holy
   > Les Kaufman
   > Boston University Marine Program
   > and
   > Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future
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   2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A
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