[Coral-List] More positive outlook would be nice but...

sealab at earthlink.net sealab at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 29 19:23:59 UTC 2019

Thanks for contributing/posting.  
I think you’re exactly right.  
Got to focus on climate change first.  
Population is linked and should be favorably impacted in the process.  

Steve Mussman  

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On 6/28/19, 4:37 PM, Robert W Buddemeier via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

From: Robert W Buddemeier via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
To: Alina Szmant <alina at cisme-instruments.com>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>, Szmant, Alina <szmanta at uncw.edu>
Subject: [Coral-List] More positive outlook would be nice but...
Date: June 28, 2019 at 4:37:37 PM EDT
I am delighted to see Alina back and apparently unmellowed by time or  

She is correct in her analyses and conclusions. Whether you agree with her  
or not, consider risk evaluation -- assessment of the penalties for being  
wrong in policy or action.  

Assume that climate change and/or overpopulation are serious and  
potentially catastrophic problems. Get that wrong and act on it, and you  
may suffer major unnecessary expenses and hardship. Assume no problem, and  
error may result in a real possibility of extinction (ours, as well as that  
of our beloved invertebrates). Go ahead, decide what you value and what  
chances you are willing to take. Then pick one of the choices.  

Although I fundamentally agree with Alina, I have a tactical disagreement  
with her. I think attacking climate change first is the most practical  
course. The evidence mounts rapidly, more and more people are taking it  
seriously, there are some feasible actions that can be taken -- and serious  
attention leads inexorably to consideration of the overpopulation problem.  
As long as people are comforted by the prospect of an empty planet, or  
arguing that the issue merits more nuanced discussion, we are very far away  
from addressing in any useful fashion whatever population problem there  
might be.  

Pessimistically yours,  

Bob Buddemeier  

On Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 10:08 AM Alina Szmant via Coral-List <  
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:  

I have noticed something very interesting. Coral-List subscribers that  
agree that human overpopulation is the major issue write to me privately  
and not to the whole list. Those of you who think over-consumption is the  
whole problem and have a knee-jerk social justice reaction to the "how do  
we reduce human population size?" issue, write to the list. Wonder why that  

Before I get to my reply to Peter's message, I'd like to remind everyone  
of an important little book that was published by University of Georgia in  
2013: "Life On The Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation" (  
In the final chapters it offers a few suggestions for how to reduce human  
numbers outside disease and war. Several of them make sense to me, which  
include giving free birth control to all women so that only wanted (by the  
woman) pregnancies happen. Most pregnancies are unintended and unwanted  
especially in societies where women are subjugated to their husbands and  
where manhood is measured by how many children you have fathered. I visited  
a Maasai boma where an 84 year old man with 15 wives had 43 children. And  
now his grown children are having children. Yikes. Interestingly, several  
of the older sons only had 1 wife but were hoping for a second one if they  
could afford it. Bride price is a lot of cattle and with so many mouths to  
feed, not that many cattle to spare.  

NOW: Thanks Peter for the reading recommendation. I will pick it up after  
I finish the Harari series "Sapiens", "Homo Deus" and his most recent "21  
Lessons for the 21st Century"/ I am only 2/3rds through the first one,  
which I highly recommend if you haven't already read it. It has a  
historical point of view of the human species and how we got to where we  
are (destroying the world).  

I am glad that you are feeling more positive about the future, but things  
I've seen and read won't allow we to follow you down that path. I am  
pasting here the abstract from a paper I found on-line:  

"How Many Times Has the Human Population Doubled? Comparisons with Cancer"  
by Warren M. Hern; University of Colorado  
"Along with decreasing doubling times as a function of increasing rates of  
population growth over the past several thousand years, the human species  
has shown striking parallels with a malignant growth. Some cancers also  
display decreasing doubling times of cell proliferation during the most  
rapidly growing phase. At 6 billion, the number of doublings reached by the  
human population as of 1998 is 32.5, with the 33rd doubling (8.59 billion)  
expected early in the next century. In terms of total animal biomass,  
including that of domestic animals under human control, the 33rd doubling  
of human-related biomass has been passed. In terms of energy use, which is  
a more accurate index of the global ecological impact of humans, the human  
species has passed its 36th doubling. These calculations are important  
because, in addition to the number of doublings, the human population is  
showing several important similarities with a malignant organismic tumor,  
which results in death of the host organism at between 37 and 40 doublings.  
At current growth rates, the number of individual humans will reach those  
levels within 200-400 years from the present, but the ecological impact  
will be felt much sooner since the number of doublings of energy consumed  
will pass 37 early in the next century. These observations support the  
hypothesis that the human species has become a malignant process on the  
planet that is likely to result in the equivalent, for humans, of ecosystem  
death, or at least in a radical transformation of the ecosystem, the early  
phases of which are being observed." (  

I agree with Hern that the human growth behavior has the characteristics  
of a cancer. As we outgrow our habitat, we move onto other lands looking  
for life support. That is why humans are not limited in distribution to  
just Africa. This has been going on for 100's of thousands of years with  
loss of major species everywhere we moved to, as we ate them to extinction  
(Harari does a great job of summarizing this history).  

Most of the highest population density areas are large city-states (  
that depend for pretty much everything on what is produced in other  
places. If you visit a moderately overpopulated and less technical society  
such as Rwanda, you will see people living without most modern commodities  
and with every square ft of arable land already under cultivation for  
decades, people trying to grow food in the tiny strips of land between  
crowded houses and between their homes and the street. Large groups of  
young, barefoot, half naked children everywhere. They are working hard to  
overcome the social problems from the Genocide but lack of resources and  
opportunity will make this more difficult as time goes on. It is a very  
Catholic country so birth control and family planning is hard to get. They  
will be ever more dependent on food from outside their borders, but as  
neighboring countries struggle with their own population problems, costs of  
food and other essential goods increase due to global demand especially  
from more affluent city-states, hard times can be expected. And they are  
the home to 1/3 of the 880 remaining mountain gorillas in the world. Why  
are there so few mountain gorillas left? Loss of habitat to grow food for  
people; hunting to eat them; villagers killing them when the animals leave  
their tiny park boundaries to eat the crops of neighboring communities; and  
sadly even trophy hunting by affluent outsiders (less common now because of  
armed rangers). Same story/different details for other African countries  
where people are competing with wildlife for land. In the Maasai Mara and  
Serengeti, people kill lions who kill the cattle the people illegally graze  
inside the parks because their own grazing land is exhausted and can't  
support the larger herds that larger human settlements need. Back home in  
NC, we have precious little wildlife left and haven't for decades because  
of development for increasing numbers of European descent people living in  
the state (Europeans moved here because of over carrying capacity in  
Europe; that drove the search for new opportunities; Read "Collapse" by  
Jared Diamond or go way back to Malthus in 1800's ). From the air, all you  
see is farms except where there are a few small swamps. Red wolf- gone;  
bobcats and other predators- mostly gone; bears- hunted to keep them from  
coming near human habitation. But we have lots of coyotes now because they  
have migrated East from West of the Mississippi as wolves have disappeared.  
And now that there are a few wolves in states out west, of course ranchers  
and hunters want to shoot them all because they eat the occasional sheep or  
cow, or just for sport... or because they blame wolves for decline in moose  
numbers when it is clear that moose numbers are down because of climate  
change (eaten alive by ticks; loss of habitat), and hunting (many millions  
of human hunters vs only a few thousand at most wolves).  

And as you drive through the country side now, you see solar panel farms  
replacing food farms. How long is that model going to last? I am ALL FOR  
RENEWABLE ENERGY. My solar panels produce 80 to 100 % of my daily  
electricity needs. But not all roof tops are suitable for solar, and  
clearing land for more agriculture or converting agricultural land to solar  
panels is loss of food production for the growing human population and  
further loss of habitat for wildlife. If we try to replace all the fossil  
fuel energy with solar renewable by putting panels on ever rooftop  
possible, we still have the problem of energy storage. And while there  
have been many very smart people working on better energy storage systems,  
carbon capture (as Al Gore says, it doesn't exist yet) for many decades, we  
are not there yet. To think that we will be able to supply all 7.5 billion  
people with 100 % renewable energy with a limited land mass and a growing  
population is in my mind, science fiction.  

As you may notice, I haven't even mentioned coral reefs. Coral reefs are  
in fact is better shape than most terrestrial environments. And I think it  
is very short sighted to think about saving coral reefs in whatever shape  
or form in the future without thinking about the global ecosystem.  

How many of you have become vegan? Industrial animal agriculture  
(including dairy and eggs for those of you who have become vegetarian) is  
as big a source of climate change as all the fossil fuel burning, and a lot  
of fossil fuel consumption is for production of animal-based foods. And it  
is an inherently very cruel and inhuman industry. Care about coral reefs?  
Go vegan, give up cheese and crackers. I did it and it's not that  
difficult. Just takes conviction. And much better for the coral reefs than  
shooting lion fishes.  

OK, I feel drained and need to get back to all the work I was going to get  
done this morning.  

Dr. Alina M. Szmant, CEO  
CISME Instruments LLC  
210 Braxlo Lane,  
Wilmington NC 28409 USA  
AAUS Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement Awardee  
cell: 910-200-3913  
Website: www.cisme-instruments.com  

Videos: CISME Promotional Video 5:43 min  
CISME Short version Demo Video 3:00 min  
CISME Cucalorus 10x10 Sketch 4:03 min https://youtu.be/QCo3oixsDVA  

-----Original Message-----  
From: Coral-List <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> On Behalf Of  
Peter Sale via Coral-List  
Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2019 11:43 PM  
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov  
Cc: 'Szmant, Alina' <szmanta at uncw.edu>  
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] On a positive note But actually...  

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  
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  
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 wh at 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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