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…


4 thoughts on “Hubris

  1. There are actually some pragmatic reasons to make an example of someone, make them “pay”, so to speak.

    1) It signals a paradigm shift and acknowledges that a “crime” has been committed.

    2) It maintains order because authority is prosecuting and handing down a sentence as opposed to pitchforks and torches.

    3) It sends a signal to the rest of the horde that further destruction of the food supply won’t be tolerated and maybe it’s time to think and invest in some solutions lest the guillotine get hungry for more heads.

    4) It satisfies a human need to see some justice which, though it may not be truly equitable, satisfies those among us who follow enough to stop fighting and start helping with whatever solutions have been developed as a result of item 3.

    This is what happens on smaller scales anyway, especially when power refuses to admit its mistakes, they make examples of those who point out said mistakes (like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning). This being a larger problem is probably going to require a larger scapegoat. I give the USG about three weeks to start blaming Japan and the EU, maybe Iran.

    But that isn’t what I mean. That will be a dodge and that will of course only leave the problem completely unsolved. To do it right, it has to be some real polluters and that has to be driven home repeatedly.

    Meanwhile, there should be a Manhattan Prohect type effort looking at the best options for most of these things quietly going on in the background. Another advantage of the bread and circuses, it keeps public attention away from the scientists so they can argue and hammer out the options without being intimidated and swayed by throngs of mass media watching folks.

    • All well and good, but extracting payment won’t change anything that has already happened. And, perhaps more saliently, it feeling increasingly unlikely that anyone in the ruling elite would be willing to go on the attack against those that enable them…

      My feeling is that the energy required to reverse the accumulated effects of decades is so far out of scope of anything currently available to humans that not even the optimism of americans can make a dent.

  2. Pingback: The Reality of Climate Change « Collapse of Industrial Civilization

  3. Pingback: I AM NOT A RAPPER | The Reality of Climate Change

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