[Coral-List] #oceanoptimism, sort of

Nicole Crane nicrane at cabrillo.edu
Mon Jan 9 11:17:55 EST 2017

Doug et al.

Your response below is right on, and this discussion is right on. But I think we are failing to recognize two critical factors and one approach here. I'll start with your Ebola analogy: excellent analogy. But if Ebola had started in the USA or somewhere in Europe, each patient would have mattered to the world in a more urgent way. Note that the crisis, like AIDS before it, was NOT addressed in a timely matter because it happened in Africa, to Africans....too far from western reality. Only when cases showed up in our back yards did we really even pay attention. Important to save the patient, but unlikely if the the money that pays the doctor doesn't flow because the patient has no direct connection. Too bad they are sick....oh well. Too many epidemics and global catastrophies have gone this way.

Now to coral reefs. Many of course are in those underdeveloped and far away places. The patient is in Madagascar? Too bad they are sick. Sure are beautiful....sigh. Let's add to that point number two: the shifting baseline. Many of my (non majors-different from my majors) students today who come back from tropical destinations that have coral reefs that we would consider pretty much dead say 'wow it was so beautiful! So many fish! Clear warm water! Love those coral reefs! They have no benchmark like we do against which to measure what they see. They are key to helping address these problems...and let's remember the non major science person is far more common than the science type.

Ultimately of course this is all about people. We need the support of people and governments to make it work. Thus I deeply believe that it is incumbent on us not only to work in and present good science, but to find a clear way to make these habitats and what is happening to them relevant to people's lives, other than a beautiful place that might be lost. And I don't mean by presenting the importance of reefs to communities in some remote place, because they become again like the many Africans that received sympathy but too little support. We NEED to tie this to the importance to the lives of the people and governments who can help. That includes building governmental committees (happening to some extent), but also getting to people. Coral reefs are beautiful, so they start from a great place. But the two messages of 'these beautiful places are dying ' and 'climate change is killing reefs' seem to be receiving lots of sympathy but not enough action (though I must say a bit more lately..).

So...we need to give people and politicians the information they need to understand why this problem is relevant to their lives. And that their action will do something important for THEM as well as others.

Big charge I know. But somehow the science alone, and the clear message it gives US is not enough to get what we need to address the problem.

My three thoughts! Make the disease relevant and imminent, give the patient a face people can't ignore and tie it to them, recognize the shifting baseline and that not everyone is as horrified as us 'older timers'. Give people the information they need to justify action (can't be esoteric in the eyes of the public and politicians).

It's a new Year. Let's do it!!!!

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jan 6, 2017, at 3:43 PM, Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
> Steve,
>     I agree.  These days I like to say something like "coral reef
> ecosystems as we know them will cease to exist if we don't act decisively
> and soon."  Some corals will likely survive, but how consoling is it if
> reefs go from 40% coral cover to 5% or 20% to 1% coral cover (and
> macroalgae and turf go up to 80%)??  Even if no species were to go extinct,
> that doesn't strike me as a coral reef ecosystem, it strikes me as an algae
> bed.  Or some places may be dominated by soft corals, gorgonians or
> corallimorphs, or something else.  I'd say the canary in the mine is the
> coral reef ecosystem, and we had better continue to sound the alarm as loud
> and clear as we can and get effective international action on the root
> causes, while at the same time doing everything we can to try to reduce all
> other threats.  But we'd better get international action on the root causes
> (greenhouse gases including CO2), or we're just re-arranging the deck
> chairs on the Titanic.
>      If you have a patient that has Ebola, and also has a scratch on the
> finger, what should you treat??  I argue that you had better treat the
> Ebola, because if you don't, they will soon be dead.  It's fine if you have
> time to treat the scratch on the finger, but you would not be wise to take
> any time away from treating the Ebola to treat the finger.  Worth
> disinfecting the finger, if you don't they could get an infected finger and
> it could get more serious.  But first and foremost get the Ebola treatment
> started in a way that could save the patient's life.  The bottom line is if
> you don't treat the Ebola and treat it vigorously, you will loose the
> patient and anything else would have been a waste of time if you loose the
> patient.  I think that's pretty much what we're faced with on coral reef
> ecosystems.  Maybe a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much.  With
> something like diver damage or sunscreens, I don't think it is an
> exaggeration at all.  If the goal is to save world coral reef ecosystems,
> then working on those is a waste of time if we don't solve the CO2 problem
> (the 800 pound gorilla in the corner of the room).  If the goal is to save
> a small, high-value coral reef that is particularly threatened by them,
> then working on them is well worth it, if we work on the big threats too
> (but only if we do).
>     My 2 cents worth.
>     Cheers,  Doug
>> On Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 10:01 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Dear John,
>> It is certainly challenging to describe the threats to coral reefs in such
>> a way that presents just the right balance between hope and despair.
>> Interestingly, from my perspective, I worry more about the effects of an
>> overly optimistic approach. There seems to me to be too many either
>> ignoring the issue completely or making claims that would lead one to
>> believe that we can engineer our way out of this mess. I think most would
>> agree that some corals will survive, but what solace is there in
>> considering that those reefs with which we are most intimately involved
>> (the shallow reefs you referred to) are the most likely to succumb?       I
>> would reverse your question and ask what incentive do people have to act on
>> climate change if we feed their hunger for the good news by focusing on the
>> fact that (some) corals are likely to survive or at least make a comeback
>> over geological time?      Where we agree is on the point that we have a
>> responsibility to share what we know and I know o
>> f no responsible individuals peddling the rather simplistic idea that the
>> extinction of all coral reefs is imminent.   What I would ask is, is it
>> really so wrong or deceitful to suggest that if we don't act now to address
>> climate change (and other stressors) the coral reef ecosystems that we have
>> just begun to explore and understand are likely to continue to slip away?
>> Regards,
>> Steve
>> Sent from my iPad
>>> On Jan 4, 2017, at 9:55 PM, John Hocevar <jhocevar at greenpeace.org>
>> wrote:
>>> Colleagues -
>>> I studied coral reef ecology in the early 90s, back when our biggest
>>> concerns were Diadema die-offs and black or white band disease. More
>>> recently, this community has struggled to keep up with its own
>>> predictions of the demise of coral reef ecosystems on a global scale. We
>>> have argued a bit over which are the most important or most preventable
>>> threats, but most agree that climate change is the knockout blow to a
>>> victim softened up by a right-left-right combination of high nutrient
>>> runoff, depletion of herbivores, etc.
>>> There is no question that we, the people best suited to know for sure,
>>> are watching a disaster unfold.
>>> And still, I can't help but think that as important as it is for us to
>>> speak out clearly and loudly about what is killing the most diverse
>>> ecosystems on earth, it is both a scientific and strategic mistake for
>>> us to refer to the imminent extinction of coral reefs. Perhaps
>>> everything will be so apocalyptic by the time we stop spewing carbon
>>> emissions that even deep reefs will die off, but I don't think that is
>>> supported by data or analysis. Am I wrong?
>>> Deeper reefs are clearly doing better than shallow reefs. That seems
>>> unlikely to change. We are going to lose some shallow species, perhaps a
>>> great number of them. But deeper reefs are refugia for many coral and
>>> reef associated species, and they will be able to repopulate shallower
>>> waters once temperatures stabilize and start dropping again -
>>> particularly if we reduce other threats by creating networks of marine
>>> sanctuaries.
>>> If scientists tell people reefs are going to disappear by
>>> 2100/2065/2050/2035, what incentive does that give anyone to act? If we
>>> are sure that is true, ok, I suppose it is still our responsibility to
>>> say so. But as far as I know, it is NOT something we can say is true. As
>>> soul crushing as the death of shallow corals is, we need to be clear in
>>> communicating about what we know.
>>> Coral reefs are going to survive. How many species, and how quickly they
>>> recover, is up to us. This is not some disingenuous dream to peddle to
>>> people eager for good news, it is what we are seeing and have a
>>> responsibility to share.
>>> Happy New Year!
>>> John H
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> -- 
> 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/
> "Belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."- Jim Beever.
>  "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."-
> Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
> 99 Reasons 2016 was a good year.
> https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823#.9iznf7pfk
> Check items 42-59.
> 43. Global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not grow
> at all in 2016, for the third year in a row.  Scientific American
> <http://futurecrunch.us8.list-manage.com/track/click?u=6321feeb3ffd42b0e44a01616&id=18ef49d1e6&e=20926c12c5>
> 44. renewables now account for more newly installed capacity than any other
> form of electricity in the world, including coal.. Gizmodo
> <http://gizmodo.com/renewables-now-exceed-all-other-forms-of-new-power-gene-1788195297>
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