Unexpected relationships between human impacts on coral reefs and socioeconomic development

One thought on “Unexpected relationships between human impacts on coral reefs and socioeconomic development”

  1. JB,

    Very interesting paper and nice piece. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    I feel compelled to comment on your discussion about “whether human population size (and growth) per se is the ultimate problem (as my buddy The Natural Patriot believes) or whether the impacts of societies have a lot more to do with governance and policy, local choices and customs, and the application of technologies.” Obviously, governance, policy, per capita resource use, and multifarious other complexities of modern life are key determinants of environmental impact. No thinking person would argue with that.

    But it is equally true that more people mean more impact, especially since in the coming decades most of those people will have much greater per capita impacts than they do (because of rapidly increasing standards of living throughout the developing world, which I assume we can all agree is a good thing). We as ecologists appreciate better than anyone that ecosystems are finite and have finite carrying capacity — and that includes the planetary-scale ecosystem that all of us are absolutely dependent on and that is unique in the universe as far as we know. We as ecologists appreciate better than anyone the manifold direct and indirect effects that huge populations of generalist predators, like us, have throughout ecosystems. We are being criminally irresponsible if we pretend that human population can be ignored in discussions of sustainability.

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that coral reefs, if they are not already doomed, really DO depend on condoms, and more specifically on humane population policies that, for example, empower women throughout the world to make their own decisions about their families, and provide the necessary resources, educational and otherwise, for doing so.

    Can we please, please, please get past the one-dimensional argument about population and the knee-jerk responses to anyone willing to say the truth: long-term sustainability is absolutely dependent on finding a humane way to stop population growth. Thans for listening.


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