There is a confrontational piece in the New York Times, written by marine ecologist Roger Bradbury, that states rather plainly:
IT’S past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation.
Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution have two features in common. First, they are accelerating. They are growing broadly in line with global economic growth, so they can double in size every couple of decades. Second, they have extreme inertia — there is no real prospect of changing their trajectories in less than 20 to 50 years. In short, these forces are unstoppable and irreversible.
In short, coral reefs are doomed, and given our trajectory and inertia, there is nothing we can do about it. This has been a reasonable assumption for many years. For much longer than i’ve been blathering on about human nature, and the established order of capitalism, the writing has been on the wall. We could change, but it’s not in our short term interest to so do, and as a race we’re driven by short term, selfish interests.
Bradbury goes on to make the case that resources (research money) are being wasted on studying how badly the bodies will be mangled after the car crash, when we should be focusing on how to carry on driving. Obviously he doesn’t put in such terms, but you get the idea.
Others have taken him up on this, but seem more interested in apportioning blame than anything else.
Still. We’ve killed off an entire global ecosystem.
Shouldn’t somebody have to fucking pay?
“Sorry about that, we’ve destroyed the ecosystem… to whom do we write the cheque?” Not entirely sure that moves things forward. Back to Bradbury:
Coral reefs will be the first, but certainly not the last, major ecosystem to succumb to the Anthropocene — the new geological epoch now emerging.
The naming of the epoc feels like an appropriately hubristic climax to our age. The consequences of our prolonged war on the ecosystems that support (not serve…) us might well be coming around to extract their own price. It’s always dangerous to extrapolate climate from weather, but there is increasing statistical evidence that the climate is being thrown into a more extreme and chaotic state. If this is indeed the case we’re in for a pretty rough ride. Given how far we are over carrying capacity, anything that interrupts the crop cycle of the major landmasses is going to cause real problems.
The collapse of fisheries as reefs die. Massive algae blooms at the poles as ice is lost. Equatorial dead zones. Drought in the amazon basin. Desertification in China. Throw in a few multi-year droughts, ‘one in a thousand year’ flood events, above normal hurricane / typhoon seasons, and pretty soon were reeling. Our much vaunted adaptability has bought us this far, far enough to rip our ecosystem to shreds.
We might have pushed the system up to the cliff edge, but we’re far from in control of the rocks it’ll hit on the way down…