Doom and gloom won’t save the world

By Nancy Knowlton

Once upon a time, a career as a marine biologist conjured images of days spent diving amid beautiful sea creatures. These days, it can often feel like being an undertaker for the oceans.

Early in my career, I witnessed first-hand the depressing side of the job. The coral reefs off the north coast of Jamaica, where I had spent several magical years as a graduate student in the mid 1970s, were struck by a category-5 hurricane in 1980. Then came mysterious ailments that devastated two of the most important coral species, along with a species of sea urchin that, because of previous overfishing, had become the last defence against a tide of seaweed that was choking the struggling coral. Ten years after my first dive in Jamaica, the reefs I’d studied were all but gone.

These days, students studying reefs spend their time investigating bleaching and acidification, terms that were never mentioned when I took my first coral-reef class in 1974.

As we observe Earth Day on 22 April, it’s worth recounting how researchers like myself have managed to rebound a bit from all this depressing news.

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  1. Fair enough, but we must ensure that the science is reported and believed as much as is possible. For those interesting in optimism (re-solutions) I can suggest watching Fully – Charged (I have been Binge watching of late) on you-tube where you will see how many of these problems can be solved in practical even cheaper and better ways than we currently do.

  2. A straw-man, as Phil Rimmer would say.

    Analogy: Feeling doom and gloom about dying when you’re a healthy patient is as absurd (irrational) as feeling hopeful about one’s long-term prospects if you’re a late-stage cancer patient, in the palliative care stage.

    What is required is realism.

    I’ve been informed that the coral reefs will be mostly dead in a very short time. Sounds like that warrants a sense of doom – or grave concern, if you prefer. Denial will not save the planet either, is in fact more likely to contribute to our untimely extinction.

    Yes, yes, let’s look for solutions. If that’s the point than yes, I agree. But no one should tell other people what to feel. The experts should share the facts with the public and with their colleagues and students, and then it’s up to them, up to us, how we process those facts.

  3. Reckless Monkey #1
    Apr 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Fair enough, but we must ensure that the science is reported and believed as much as is possible.

    While we should be very careful about introducing potentially invasive species, we may need to consider replacing bleached reefs with heat tolerant corals and algae as warming continues.

    Characteristics of Red Sea Coral Reefs

    The geological history of the Red Sea region is distinctive, and there is only slow and restricted water (and larval) exchange between this sea and the remainder of the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.

    Thus, Red Sea reefs have developed a number of features that distinguish them from reefs found throughout most of the rest of this vast oceanic area.

    Particularly important in the light of global warming predictions is the fact that Red Sea corals have developed an unusually high tolerance to the extreme temperatures, salinity, and occasional turbidity (caused by huge seasonal dust storms) that occur in the region. Such conditions that would be lethal or highly damaging to most hard corals found elsewhere.

    Also, water clarity is exceptional in the Red Sea because of the lack of river discharge and low rainfall. Thus, Red Sea reefs are not heavily impacted by the suspension and dissipation of fine sediments that plague reefs in tropical oceans near large land masses.

    The issues of muddy waters cutting off sunlight, is a separate issue from temperature, and needs a different solution.

  4. q

    Thanks. He da man.

    I am delighted by much that he says, even if it is uncomfortable to hear.

    From 1:06:15 he not only sells our light bulbs, but Bernie Sanders too, saying his policies could be Eisenhower’s.

    Republicans need to see what controlled zombies they have become, now their inner selfishness is unfettered. They simply can’t see themselves in mirrors (or is that vampires?) They are vampiric, controlled zombies with a moral dysmorphia. No wonder these are Hollywood’s favourite tropes.

  5. Thanks q.

    Well put, Phil. (We agree politically; so why can’t we agree about a priori knowledge?)

    Le Pen may win. A neo Nazi for sure. Someone in Austria is running, with widely known neo-Nazi roots.

    What I don’t understand is why people, including Chomsky, blame neo-liberalism (free market, etc.) for the rise of right-wing populism. That can’t explain why so many are still looking for right wing populists for leadership. People like Trump are to the right of neo-liberals. Isn’t France aware of that?

    My take on it (today) is this: it’s about flattering people in order to gain power. This is related to the problem of nationalism. Other elements too, like pent up violence and rage (and the “foreigner” is a convenient scapegoat) and wanting to feel not just good, but superior. The wretched of the earth, and that includes all of Le Pen’s supporters and everyone who is still loyal to Trump, hate their own lives, are lost souls, and therefore they become nationalistic; and the demagogues make them feel special. You are French. You are American. The others can go F themselves.

    That’s a pattern. Hasn’t changed a whole lot. A little maybe

    I have hope too. You have to have hope; “without hope you die!” (MLK)

  6. Dan #6

    Le Pen may win.

    Yes, Le Pen is through to the final round of the French presidential election, and therefore may win. The fact she made it through to Round 2 is entirely consistent with all the polls prior to the first round: French polls generally are significantly more accurate than either UK or US ones. Those same polls predict that Macron, the centre left candidate, will beat her in the final round by about 65:35. In fact, they showed that ANY of the other 3 leading candidates in Round 1 would beat her in Round 2; and that Macron – the candidate who has actually got through to Round 2 – would beat her most resoundingly of all. It hasn’t happened yet, so there are no guarantees. I’m not saying she absolutely can’t win, or that she absolutely won’t win. But all the signs so far point to its being highly unlikely that she will win. In exactly 2 weeks’ time we’ll know for sure. What’s the point of spreading not particularly well-founded doom and gloom in the meantime?

    Someone in Austria is running, with widely-known neo-Nazi roots

    Are you referring to the Austrian presidential election? Because if so, that was last December. And the neo-Nazi lost.

    The other country that was feared to be about to fall to the Far Right was the Netherlands. There, too, the Far Right candidate lost.

    Look, the Far Right is stronger in a number of countries at the moment than it’s been for decades, and that is a serious concern. But we need to keep it in proportion: the pattern at the moment – after the shocks of Brexit and Trump – is that fewer people than feared are voting for them, and enough sensible people are voting for sensible candidates to keep the lunatics out of office.

    Be concerned, by all means. The existence of a Far Right base in so many countries is concerning. But for goodness’ sake, let’s keep it in perspective, keep up with what’s actually happening, and leave the woolly, emotive, content- and detail-free proclamations to Trump.

  7. Hi, Marco,

    last December

    I must have read an old article. They never give the dates on these frigging online articles.

    I am simply appalled that someone whose racism is as thinly veiled as Le Pen’s is could have gained such a following.

    Your points are all well taken, however; and I thank you. (Funny; I’m trying to cheer other people up, and feel that they are too negative; haven’t made much of an effort to cheer myself up.)

    (I’ll try to feel worried rather than bleak. That’s reasonable, as you said.)

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