Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope?

Another fantastic collage by Vitaly - using a pic of Predator by Lill!

Found this message in my in-box this morning.

My marine conservation sensei is of course absolutely correct.
Although some highly depleted but thankfully, largely local as opposed to global Fish populations may have accumulated extinction debt and may be pushed over the brink by the double whammy of Global Warming and Ocean Acidification, we are still to unequivocally document the extinction of a single marine Fish - meaning that there is hope that most of the Fishes could indeed survive in some MPAs (Assumption 3, Solution A).
But my sensei is heavily invested genetically and has no choice but to be optimistic about the future prospects of his grandchildren. And, the next 100 years is a mighty long time - just think of all that has happened, and of the havoc we have wreaked since 1911!

Anyway, here is the message, unabridged.
Wise words indeed - but that's why he is my sensei!

Your blog of 2011/05 was a bit of a wail of despair and your facts per se are hard to refute, but one might paint many different pictures from the same pigments of fact.

Yes, consumerism is the dirty secret of modern social, economic and political stability.
Like our relatives the chimpanzee, we humans are driven to compete for the biologically important things in life, like breeding rights with Alphas of the opposite gender, by amassing resources. Glittering status things, Ferraris, and Rolex watches do work. Societies with strong economies that foster consumerism out-compete other societies, and governments that allow people the freedom to compete for and amass resources can even get away with political repression, as in China. However consumerism that draws lightly upon the accumulated resources of Earth or does not overtax the compensatory mechanisms that maintain the equilibrium of the biosphere may be compatible with maintaining a healthy natural world.
Clean energy technology may be the sort of straw that an optimist might grasp here.

The big problem, as you pointed out, is population.
Yes there are presently too many people worldwide and the inexorable spread of consumerism will only increase the strain on natural systems. However, the demographic transition, which affects all modern first world societies, is an unexpected miracle with long term effects impossible to ignore. More and more countries are moving from zero population growth to negative growth, as in Japan and southern European countries. Even many third world countries are experiencing a dramatic reduction in the number of children per family, and education and empowerment of females in patriarchal societies promises continuing demographic changes. The inertia of population growth will certainly cause grave strain on natural systems throughout this century, but the Long Run may not be bleak if we can get through this bottleneck. Nature has its own ways of controlling overpopulation as well, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could saddle up yet again for another winnowing. Perhaps they have even started their ride in Africa now.

It is probably an unrealistic goal to protect all habitats or to maintain large populations of species like sharks everywhere.
The future of, say, Triaenodon populations in places like Cocos Island may be bleak. It may be more effective to allocate resources to protect species and key habitats, with the hope that species that can “ark” through the next 100 years and then repopulate the spaces a more enlightened humanity sets aside for them. Education does change attitudes in the long run. I am encouraged that large areas of marine environment have recently been protected. Enforcement is always a problem, but some vast areas like the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are effectively protected by the might of the US government, others like the southern Line Islands by remoteness. Species is such areas, including Triaenodon, should get through the bottleneck OK.

The SRMR is the sort of project that can play a vital role in protecting species and habitats.
Even though you seem to despair for the future, interpretation is everything and according to the guardedly optimistic picture I have painted from facts and trends, the work you and others are doing may yet provide our descendents the resources necessary to help restore balance in the natural world.

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