[Coral-List] Chasing Coral (documentary), "Ocean Warming Caused Most Caribbean Coral Loss: Review of Evidence, " Moana (Disney movie), Star Dragons (a book)

David Evans davidjevans1818 at yahoo.com
Mon May 1 14:10:21 EDT 2017

Hello List - 
Inspired, to address the List, by recent viewing of the new documentary Chasing Coral and by the ongoing/captivating discussion about "Ocean Warming Caused Most Caribbean Coral Loss." ... 
First, I had a chance to watch the new documentary Chasing Coral at the recent Earth Day screening at Earth X, Dallas. I'll just say, well worth watching - for researchers, enthusiasts, and everyone else as well. The Q & A afterward with some of the principals was also a delightful bonus. I will admit, I cried... and I didn't think corals could do that (whales and dolphins maybe, because - you know "Charisma"... but corals!?!?) and I don't cry at just any movie (Ok - I may have cried during Moana when the Ancestors were crossing the ocean and singing and all... but that's probably just a weird thing I have with Ancestors... and the Sea... and Boats... and ... Singing.... and that Grandma sure was cute) ... 
So, I know Chasing Coral and even the "Evidence Review" of Caribbean coral mortality are not strictly speaking scientifically written (peer reviewed before 'publication') but both are heavily based on science and the work of very fine scientists. 
As far as the back-and-forth discussion and what appears to be an important core element of the Caribbean coral mortality debate, one thought swims into my mind. I'm not going to weigh in on the 'causation determination' aspect of the discussion, which I think is being handled very well - but rather, I'll comment on a bigger picture of the situation (I think others may have made this or similar points also).
My thought is this: Isn't it essentially the same thing? --> Whether mortality is being caused by warming directly or more locally by development and human activity in proximity to reefs?  <-- 
Obviously the specifics are not the same thing. But aren't they both results of this "Engine of Progress" we humans seem to be stoking into high gear? 
And I don't just bring that up to say, "hmmm, isn't that interesting, yes, yes maybe that is so..." but rather because the solution to both may be similar and can be achieved by the same mechanisms, or "paths" or ... whatever ... It seems that this carbon fueled development across the globe is a boon as well as its own bane... It's certainly brought incredible steps of progress that I think few would reject outright. But it's also brought it's many hazards we are all too familiar with, whether polluting the air, warming the atmosphere, polluting the soils and waters, or just plain allowing for nearly unrestrained development at rates far exceeding natural processes of adaptation. 
My point is that Carbon (mostly from fossil sources) is definitely altering our atmosphere, changing our climate and weather essentially without a doubt, warming and acidifying the oceans, and assuredly (if not precisely understood entirely) impacting habitats and critters and plants (in various ways). But fossil-Carbon extraction and use has also allowed for rates of development and product fabrication at levels that we know beyond doubt are unsustainable for local environments.
Getting "smart" about cutting Fossil use and moving to Renewables is not just about the atmosphere and temperatures (and air and water quality), but it's about sustainable development as well. And part of that, honestly, is just a sheer psychological effect within and across societies (that may just be my view, but I strongly stand by it). But psychological or not, our Carbon economies allow for rates of development that are just not sustainable.
Here's the part I think is important, or maybe just worth considering: Our concept of "healthy" or "preferred" rates of development is completely arbitrary and not related to the real needs of human health, wealth, and "happiness" ("contentedness")... Let that sink in... Actually, I think it may be more dangerous than just an "arbitrary" assessment, I think it is very likely driven by the Carbon economy itself - you know, like a Drug-Addiction kind of thing.
And here is the money pitch: Moving to the Renewable society provides that benefit of not just "fixing" the atmosphere and water, but it acts to adjust the fever pitch of unsustainable development and open the eyes of the "buy, buy, buy; build, build, build" mindset that has gripped and drugged the global population of human beings.
Ultimately, for whichever reason/causation, in moving to Renewables Coral Reefs can be given the breathing room they need to continue surviving and thriving, whether from adjusted air/water temperatures or from adjusted human attitudes related to development and product use. And the Earth gets a reprieve that allows it to continue supporting a biosphere on which we are inescapably dependent for our own survival... yes?
Regarding my observation and question about Chasing Coral, I refer back to another Coral-List discussion about what exactly corals (reef building/hermatypic) have done during previous global climactic/oceanic changes that we know all ocean creatures have had to deal with or else they get added to the "extinct wing" of the museum of earth history. Since corals are still in the "still with us wing" of the museum of earth and life sciences, we agree they have spanned previous oceanic and atmospheric disruptions and changes in sea levels, geo-morphology, and temperatures.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Chasing Corals film (aside from the personal experiences) was the documentation of "fluorescing" coral colonies on reefs undergoing massive bleaching events in the Pacific Ocean. (I hope that wasn't a "Spoiler" - I guess it's to late to give a Spoiler Alert...). 
It was mentioned that this was completely unexpected and made seem that it was almost unheard of (if I am remembering that part of the film correctly).. Is this true? 
It was explained that the fluorescing was a response to the warming waters and the mass bleaching. It was also explained, as documentary films tend to do, that the beaching itself is a form of "survival technique" in warming waters. The fluorescing was described as a form of "sun-screen lotion" for bleached coral colonies that have lost their zooxanthelae. And I think the film just barely touched on the idea that this was an evolutionary defense for just such events.
My point here is that for this to have developed as an "evolutionary defense," corals must have experienced enough of these events for it to have become part of their genome. 
My observation about this part of Chasing Coral and much of the coral reef mortality debates is that much of it SHOULD focus MORE on rates of change in the environments (over years and decades vs. millenia etc.) as well as the proximal and specific pressures/impacts being inflicted on reefs and their environments (eg., ocean warming events). I'm sure the rate thing does get mentioned and talked about, but at the same time it seems to be missing as a key player and is often placed out of context when it is present.
The thing is this: THIS cycle of warming could very well BE the extinction event for hermatipic corals NOT just because of the degrees of warming, but because of the RATE of onset. Corals haven't had "evolutionary experience" to deal with THIS kind of change even though they do seem to have survived and have had some skill in dealing with previous rates of change.(Apologies for all caps - not shouting, just providing emphasis in an ITALIC free discussion board)
One thing I think most humans are rather untrained at is adjusting their "time-frame of reference" when making assessments and creating expectations based on input about their environment. We obviously relate everything to human time frames by default. Is it fair to judge the current "health" of a system that lives its "life" on a time frame of thousands and hundreds of thousands years? At the same time though, what happens when an organism that evolved to handle environmental changes at glacial rates encounters a change that occurs too swiftly (relatively speaking) for it to respond?
Figuratively speaking: "It's not so much the HARDNESS of the concrete that caused the death of the victim as it was the sudden CHANGE in velocity between the moments of falling from the 10th floor balcony and instant of hitting the street below."
This idea of time frames was brought recently into my mind by a fascinating (fiction) book called Star Dragons. I was trying to get my son to read it and was reminded of the aspects of time frames and scales of reference when dealing with events happening across the Galaxy. Yes, it is somewhat sciencey fantasy fiction, but it is filled with real worthwhile sciencey and life concepts. Worth the read. 
But that brings me back to Moana... (yes, it has to all come back to Moana)..
The ability of the Ancestors to cross the sea and colonize the scattered islands of the Pacific was incredible and noble and worthy of honor. But at the same time, didn't they also bring change and threats to those islands? Destruction to some of them? So, in a corny (and in an "I'm definitely NOT crying" sort of way), isn't a whole lot of all of this just about honoring the Progress we make, but also striking the balance of Preservation we all need - for our souls as well as our collective survival?
Just some thoughts on corals, life, and stuff...
David J. Evans

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