Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coral reefs heading for disaster

From the BBC:
Three-quarters of the world's coral reefs are at risk due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and other factors, says a major new assessment.

Reefs at Risk Revisited collates the work of hundreds of scientists and took three years to compile.

The biggest threat is exploitative fishing, the researchers say, though most reefs will be feeling the impact of climate change within 20 years.

Nice, huh? These aren't just pretty, biologically diverse curiosities which most of us will never see for ourselves. We're talking about over-fishing, primarily (and destroying our oceans in other ways, too, of course). We get a great deal of our food from the ocean. What happens when it's gone?

How can we, as a species, be this dumb? How can we be this shortsighted? After all, it's nothing new.
The report revisits some of the territory explored in the original Reefs at Risk project, published in 1998, but in much greater detail.

Over the 13 years intervening, the area at risk of destruction has increased by nearly a third.

The main reason for that change has been a massive increase in damage from exploitative fishing, particularly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In 13 years, the area at risk of destruction has increased by nearly a third. Think about that! How foolish can we be? And we haven't even seen the worst effects of global warming yet.

I remember as a child in grade school learning about the passenger pigeon, the whooping crane, the vast herds of bison slaughtered indiscriminately. I remember learning about how we'd driven the whales to near extinction. The implication was that we'd learned something since then.

But we've learned nothing. We're still just as greedy. We're still just as ignorant. We're still just as foolish as ever. We're lemmings going over a cliff - seeing the edge of the cliff getting closer and closer and closer,... and still too dumb to change course! It's maddening!

And frankly, it makes me embarrassed to be a human being.
Against this bleak backdrop, the researchers have been at pains to emphasise that there are things that can be done to reduce the damage.

"There are reasons for hope," said Lauretta Burke, senior associate at WRI and a lead author of the report. ...

"The report is full of solutions - real world examples where people have succeeded to turn things around," said Dr Spalding.

Right. "Reasons for hope." Except that we won't do what needs to be done. Heck, look at how much worse it's gotten since their first report 13 years ago.

I'm not a young man, not anymore, and throughout my entire life, we haven't been willing to do what needs to be done, not in this and not in most situations. After awhile, you kind of lose hope.

I don't give up. Giving up is not an option. It's cowardly, and it guarantees the worst possible result. But hope? No, I've lost that. I think stubbornness is all I have left.

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