This Post Might Make You Cry

I’m sorry but I am going to ruin the rest of your day, week, month, and year. I don’t like packaging conservation messages in the negative but I fail to see any good spin for this. I was going to do a large write up about shifting baselines and Jeremy Jackson’s wonderfully written (as always) paper occurring recently in PNAS as part of special issue addressing biodiversity and biodiversity loss. However, Jeremy provides a table that brings home the message that far excels anything I could write here.


Get the message?

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

15 Replies to “This Post Might Make You Cry”

  1. And yet I still hear people sing the song “nothings wrong with the ocean or the environment.”

  2. There’s no doubt that most of these populations are in decline, and even those who might quibble about the effect of varying fishing efficiency for the gear itself as sampling tools (thereby affecting CPUE calculations) know that we’re simply overfishing too many fish species.

    So, in theory, we could stop or significantly curtail some fishing practices and/or targeting certain species through effort restrictions and/or economic sanctions. That gets us past some of the species, such as the large pelagics like tunas and istiophorid billfishes. Then what? Unless we also identify — and more importantly, do something about — things like non-point-source pollution and overdevelopment in coastal areas, we’re still in trouble. One only needs to look at southeastern Florida to see the many case-study-worthy problems of development in sensitive ecosystems.

    Still, pointing out problems in stark contrast is a start, and depressing or not, it’s a good read for all of us.

  3. *just cries* I couldn’t even look at the chart in detail. Seeing all those 90+%s…

  4. OMFG! We are truly killing the planet. What will future generations say about our efforts to protect the environment and biodiversity. I’m truly depressed over this information.

  5. Like a poster above, I had thoughts of “omfg!” and “wtf? how stupid are we?” when I was that table. I started circulating it to colleagues earlier this week.

    I was also struck by the multiple assaults we are using to “accomplish” this – from the abstract: “habitat destruction, overfishing, introduced species, warming, acidification, toxins, and massive runoff of nutrients”. Nothing there comes as any surprise, but it is just the whole “shock and awe” quality to it.

    Over at thingsbreak they restate the obvious point that we need a multi-faceted response to our various environmental crises. The pathetic intiatives to-date on GHG mitigation are at least in part due to some sort of collective “it’s not so bad, and we’ve got lots of time” avoidance/denial mechanism. I hope that this kind of stark message from Jeremy Jackson helps snap us out of stupor, finally convince the majority to embark on the radical changes required to redress the planetary emergencies.

  6. Jeremy Jackson did a talk at the Geophysics department at U of Chicago a couple of years back when I was there; he is collaborating with someone there on I don’t recall what.

    He basically told this story, and I have been recovering from the shock since. The oddest part of his presentation was when he congratulated the climate scientists in the room for our success (!) in getting the word out about our problems and our effectiveness (!) in influencing policy. Ray P. was there and spoke for the rest of us that we didn’t feel all that successful or effective. But by comparison to the greenhouse problem, the problem of the death of the ocean remains essentially invisible.

    I have never agreed with Gore that global warming is the defining issue of our time. It’s only a facet of the sustainability question. The oceans are another place where we can hide our impact from ourselves. Apparently, with great success.

    The years when I was able to attend the U of C geophysics Friday talk series was the most amazing series of lectures I have been privileged to attend, but Jackson’s was a standout. I think he received vigorous applause but you sort of wonder what to do with information like that.

  7. Two of Dr. Jackson’s recent seminars are up on youtube, here and here. A lot of overlap with the PNAS paper, but I still find that “Table 1” above the most stark portrayal of the problem.

  8. There is also what I describe as a wilful ignorance also in operation. Not that long ago, down here in New Zealand, the head of one of our big fishing companies wrote in the industry magazine that ‘bottom trawling enhanced the environment’.

  9. I was talking to a fellow who fishes commercially (small boat, longline) — he says there are big factory ships just over 100 miles west of California taking in three tons of a desired species and throwing away fifty tons of dead “bycatch” over and over til they fill their holds, then sailing west, and that it’s not news because there’s no point worrying the American people since they’re outside the territorial limit.

    Dunno, I haven’t been there. What’s going on that you all who do go to sea can tell us about? Don’t assume we know diddly.

  10. Probably the case. No reason for the cultures and countries of the rest of the world, especially the developing world, to accept less in order to make the “I’m a really good person” Americans feel better.

  11. I don’t like packaging conservation messages in the negative but I fail to see any good spin for this.

    Yup. There comes a time when plastering a fake happy face over the reality doesn’t work anymore.

    Unfortunately, we’re there.

  12. > in order to make the “I’m a really good person” American
    > feel better

    Is that you, Gerard?

    Time to write “Tragedy of the Invaded Commons” I guess.

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