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Give it up!

July 14, 2012

It seems that climate change denial and the denial of environmental problems in general doesn’t cut it anymore because the signs of ecological destruction are so obvious that a significant part of the commoners have become alert and are questioning the narrative that they were spoon-fed now for many years via TV, internet, and press.

Which means that the imperial corporate media has to change tactics because continuing with the denial scheme would diminish further what is left of its journalistic credibility.

Normally I try to avoid traditional news media which are just mouthpieces of the establishment and not overly informative but occasionally I check news sources like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal to find out what the officially sanctioned narrative is.

Yesterday the New York Times published an article that could be a harbinger of the new tactic that mass media journalist will use to please their bosses. The article had the title “A World Without Coral Reefs” and the message of this piece was very clear: The coral reefs are dying and there is nothing we can do to save them.

The core part of the article opened with the statement: “There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be.” And continued: “Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion.

It went on like this until finally a few paragraphs later the author was presenting his conclusion and main message:

“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.”

I don’t know what the main motivation of the author Roger Bradbury for writing this text was, but the New York Times, which for sure gets hundreds of scripts a day, most probably chose this piece for its projection of inevitability and helplessness.

We well see more and more articles like this in future and the message will become clear and unmistakable.

It is a message from the ruling class to the tree-huggers, the consumerism dropouts, the humanists, the peace activists, the ant-globalists, the dreamers of a smooth transition to a harmoniously into nature integrated lifestyle, and anybody else who interferes in the rulers lucrative businesses of making money by producing crap, by creating environmental catastrophes, by starting wars. The message in cleartext:

Give it up!

Your opposition, your resistance is futile, hopeless. Your cause is lost, humanity has past the point of no return. Alea iacta sunt (addressing the humanists). You’re fired! Game over! (addressing the TV watchers).

Future messages will be fine-tuned and become more detailed and include additional advice or raise questions like this:

What is bad about denying reality or indulging in fantasies about magic technological fixes?

Why not trust the corporations who employ thousands of scientists in research laboratories all over the world and who pay them to work tirelessly to replace nature with their synthetic environment?

What is bad about just following the crowd and living a life along the guidelines shown by the media celebrities?

Roger Bradbury, the author of the New York Times article about dying coral reefs, is assumably not related to Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer who last month died at the age of 91 and who had become famous with his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.

Roger Bradbury is an ecologist, who does research in resource management at Australian National University. If he would be inclined to write a dystopian novel like his famous namesake Ray he would be well placed, because the implications of a coral reef collapse are huge and the corals annihilation will together with the collapse of other ecosystems like rain forests and wetlands usher in a truly dystopian future.

Roger Bradbury writes: “…it will be a disaster for the hundreds of millions of people in poor, tropical countries like Indonesia and the Philippines who depend on coral reefs for food […] countries like Mexico and Thailand will have both their food security and tourism industries badly damaged.”

What we will be left with is an algal-dominated hard ocean bottom, as the remains of the limestone reefs slowly break up, with lots of microbial life soaking up the sun’s energy by photosynthesis, few fish but lots of jellyfish grazing on the microbes. It will be slimy.”

Which sounds very impressive and would be well suited for apocalyptic scenarios, where slime, the jellyfish with its gelatinous umbrella-shaped bell and trailing tentacles, and a murky brew of heavily polluted water would create the right ambience to start with.

The author would though face tough competition, because his text is not the first report painting a grim picture and warning about dying coral reefs. The famous marine biologist John Veron, like Bradbury hailing from Australia, wrote in 2010 a piece with the title: “Is the End in Sight for The World’s Coral Reefs?”

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/is_the_end_in_sight_for_the_worlds_coral_reefs/2347/

But Veron’s message was different, as he concluded:

Yet here I am today, humbled to have spent the most productive scientific years of my life around the rich wonders of the underwater world, and utterly convinced that they will not be there for our children’s children to enjoy unless we drastically change our priorities and the way we live.

To “drastically change our priorities and the way we live” is of course not a line that ever will have a chance to appear in the New York Times or in other corporate media businesses.

John Veron writes: “You may well feel that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerations. You may think there may be something in it to worry about, but it won’t be as bad as doomsayers like me are predicting.”

Coral reefs speak unambiguously about climate change. They survived Ice Age sea-level changes of 120 meters or more with impunity. They once survived in a world where CO2 from volcanoes and methane was much higher than anything predicted today. But that was over 40 million years ago, and the increase took place over millions of years, not just a few decades, time enough for ocean equilibration to take place and marine life to adapt.”

What were once thriving coral gardens that supported the greatest biodiversity of the marine realm will become red-black bacterial slime, and they will stay that way.”

Reefs are the ocean’s canaries and we must hear their call. This call is not just for themselves, for the other great ecosystems of the ocean stand behind reefs like a row of dominoes. If coral reefs fail, the rest will follow in rapid succession, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will be upon us.”

Veron’s piece from 2010 was outlining a doomsday scenario just like Bradbury’s text, with the big difference that Veron calls for action, calls for a drastic change of our priorities and of the way we live.

Many other pieces about coral reefs have been published in the last years and all point out the seriousness of the threat and warn about the dire consequences. All call for instant and decisive action.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/environment/2010-03-26-coral-reefs_N.htm

http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/42139

http://www.coral.org/node/434

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/12/316476/coral-reefs-gone-climate-change-and-ocean-acidification/?mobile=nc

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2008/07/corals-reef-on.html

http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/20_2/20.2_caldeira.pdf

I don’t want to discuss the scientific details here because they are laid out sufficiently in the linked reports yet a few sentences about the consequences of coral reef destruction may be appropriate at this point:

It is not only that the coral reefs will be replaced by a disgusting and toxic slimy mass of algae and bacteria, the loss of biodiversity together with ocean acidification will decrease marine life further and also reduce the ability to absorb CO2 and to clean the waters of the inflowing rivers from the toxic substances that humans are pouring into the rivers.

Fish stocks will be depleted everywhere and millions of people will lose their livelihoods. Earth’s food security will be further threatened and seafood will become a luxury, only affordable to affluent people. One billion humans face hunger today, their number will at least double.

Desperate people in the search for food will kill the last remaining wild animal populations and destroy the last intact habitats. We are already seeing this in Africa with the rise in bush-meat demand due to the decrease in fish catches.

The death of coral reefs together with ocean acidification will reduce biodiversity, will cause explosive growth of some robust species like jellyfish and algae, and lead to algae blooms which could culminate in widespread dead zones where no life is able to exist because of lack of oxygen. The oxygen content of the oceans will decrease dramatically anyway as a result of warmer water.

Algae normally act as scavengers and bury toxic pollutants like mercury in the sediments, while various microorganisms break up organic pollutants into non toxic materials.  Oceans with big dead zones will not be able anymore to absorb and decompose our pollutants and our waste. Clean drinking water will become rare, the chemical contamination of water and food will significantly increase up to the point where people even in affluent countries will be left only with the choice between starving or slowly poisoning themselves.

Singing a new song

It is unlikely that such scenarios will be discussed in the mass media, which for many years were denying that the coral reefs are in any danger and have run a relentless campaign of disinformation, outright lies, and character assassinations of eminent reef scientists.

Most media pundits start from the ideological position that any kind of environmental concerns are fabrications by the wicket “water-melons” of the Left (meaning: Communists with a Green veneer), designed to derail the economy and destroy capitalism.

Until recently this method worked quite well but the media pundits now will have to learn a new song, because not only the scientific evidence, but also the evidence right in front of peoples eyes is overwhelming and everybody who is able to separate her/himself from the TV screens, computer screens, tablets, smart-phones, video game boxes for more than a moment and put her/his nose out into fresh air or maybe make even a walk outside into one of the remaining patches of nature will see the clear and unmistakable signs that the natural world is declining.

Like on so many occasions before the New York Times is the trail blazer and shows the way. You remember:

Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution have two features in common. First, they are accelerating and growing broadly in line with global economic growth. Second, they have extreme inertia — there is no real prospect of changing their trajectories. These forces are unstoppable and irreversible.

You want economic growth and prosperity? Forget about the coral reefs.

You need your car, your tablet and/or smart-phone, your air-condition, your dish washer, cloth dryer, electric bread slicer, your super-automatic espresso machine, your occasional air flight? You like to go shopping and replace some old cloth or furniture or various paraphernalia and gadgets with new items?

Forget about endangered species and destroyed habitats. Modern day comfort, technological and economic progress have their price. Be asured, even if the corals are gone, you still will be able to download thousands of pictures and movies of coral reefs, you will even be able to install a beautiful rendition of a coral reef as a screen saver and watch it as long as you want. All this from the comfort of your armchair and with not much more effort than a few mouse clicks.

Do the media propagandists change their tune because the data mining and sentiment analysis of public discussions shows that the population doesn’t buy their lies anymore and that the number of people who are ready to change their lifestyle and to drop out of the consumerism rat race has reached a critical mass? This would be a for the plutocrats disturbing trend which could  significantly impair their business and diminish profits.

Is it maybe only a precautionary move to discourage dissidents?

Whatever prompted the publication of this piece, we certainly will see more of this kind. We will be presented thoughtful analysis predicting a bleak future but assuring us that the situation will be manageable by using new technologies.

We will be told that the serious effects will only be felt in poor countries and the Western nations will mostly be spared. We will hear more reports about devastating droughts, famine, epidemics caused by polluted drinking water, unrest, chaos, and failed states.

We will slowly getting accustomed to the idea that the worlds ecosystems are breaking down and that we have to buy everything what nature formerly provided for free from private companies. Pristine nature will disappear at an accelerated rate and will only live on in the memory of a few elderly people.

As I wrote before in earlier blog posts, I am pessimistic but I’m not without hope. We don’t know the whole picture and there could be unexpected developments.

The Western world’s financial system is troubled, it could implode at any time and bring an end to the consumer economy as we know it now. New exceptional scientific discoveries could make it possible to disable weapons or render them unreliable or dangerous for the warriors themselves. The pollution of drinking water by hormones could reduce male fertility and eliminate the problem of overpopulation.

It may well be that one day the political leaders and generals will sit in their underground bunkers at Denver airport or Cheyenne Mountain and watch the computer displays till the screens suddenly go black.

While the until then powerless and helpless people will breath fresh air and will continue organizing in small neighborhood communities and continue building up their local economies.

Just dreaming — nevertheless, my alternative advice (as always) is: Keep on resisting, organizing, planning, building, and never, never give it up!

One comment

  1. We were reading the same article today, Mato. As usual, your commentary is very astute. I agree, we are slowly being prepared for a very new and different world. The gates of our gated communities are closing more tightly all the time. We are on the inside. But most of the Earth and its life forms, including most humans, are on the outside. Resistance from within is possible…though the Occupy movement showed how difficult it is right here in the heart of Empire. I too am pessimistic, but I cannot give up hope. I cannot give up the love I feel for this planet, which fuels all I do. I will go down loving….



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