[Coral-List] On a positive note But actually...

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Thu Jun 27 03:42:41 UTC 2019

Coral listers, and especially Alina Szmant,
Welcome back, Alina.  Normally, when I am being realistic about the future, I would agree totally with your rant on population.  It puzzles and horrifies me that the environmental community avoids much mention of the problems a growing population causes.  (How exactly does one manage coastal pollution in a developing country still enduring a fertility rate of 3.5 or so.  No sooner does the government find funds for some mitigation of the existing problem, that problem grows in size.)  The thought of 10 or 11 billion of us on this planet terrifies me.

But today I can rant about a book I just finished reading.  It's Empty Planet. The shock of global population decline by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbetson, published Feb 2019.  The US Amazon link is https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1984823213/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0 where it seems to be amazingly inexpensive right now.

I know nothing about Bricker, but John Ibbetson is a well respected Canadian journalist.  I've read the book and apart from their relatively savage dismissal of Paul Ehrlich, I found it well presented and reasonable.  I did note that despite the hype the population projections they offer are all well within the UN low fertility variant, and also within the 95% confidence limits of the UN standard projection.  That is, the UN projections do account for the possibility Bricker and Ibbetson project for the planet (but, hey, we all have to stress how our work is really different from all that has gone before).  Frankly, I found their book very good environmental news and hope their projections are on the right track.

It is still possible (vanishingly small possibility that I'd not wager a cent on) that coral reefs could move through the Anthropocene, substantially changed but still, very much coral reefs.  I'm hoping for that outcome.  And in that respect, I've also been buoyed by the recent special topic collection of papers in Functional Ecology, put together by Gareth Williams and Nick Graham https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/13652435/2019/33/6  Authors discuss reef conservation done by seeking available ecosystem states that are as good as possible in retaining/replacing/augmenting existing services and assisting reefs to reach these states, as opposed to a preservationist approach that struggles in the impossibly uphill battle to restore the reefs of the 1950s.  Forward-thinking conservation demanding new science as opposed to backward-looking conservation that will inevitably fail because we cannot push ocean temperature down and ocean pH up nearly quickly enough to rectify what has already happened to reefs.

So, Alina, welcome back and get optimistic again (I wrote this after a delicious Aussie red, which also helps),
>From the old scientists' home,

Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca

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