March 19, 2009
Fish Numbers Down At Caribbean Coral Reefs

Pollution, overfishing and other factors are cutting down species in coral reefs in the Caribbean.

By combining data from 48 studies of coral reefs from around the Caribbean, researchers have found that fish densities that have been stable for decades have given way to significant declines since 1995. The study appears online on March 19th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"We were most surprised to discover that this decrease is evident for both large-bodied species targeted by fisheries as well as small-bodied species that are not fished," said Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Canada. "This suggests that overfishing is probably not the only cause."

Rather, they suggest that the recent declines may be explained by drastic losses in coral cover and other changes in coral reef habitats that have occurred in the Caribbean over the past 30 years. Those changes are the result of many factors, including warming ocean temperatures, coral diseases, and a rise in sedimentation and pollution from coastal development. Overfishing has also led to declines of many fish species, and now seems to also be removing those that are important for keeping the reefs free of algae.

The planet has too many people and yet the human population is going to gain a few billion more in this century. So more habitats will be damaged and destroyed.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 19 11:10 PM  Trends Habitat Loss


Comments
JoeKing said at March 20, 2009 9:43 AM:

"The planet has too many people and yet the human population is going to gain a few billion more in this century."


By what measure? Living standards as determined by most all measures (life span & daily caloric intake to name 2) have steadily increased as population has increased. If you even use population density as a barometer...are living standards higher in NYC or Nepal?

You are also mistaken on your assertion that "a few billion more" will be added during the 21st century. The UN estimates that with increasing living standards, even the developing world will over the next 100 years mimic the below replacement level reproduction already happening in the developed world. Net projected population of earth 2100 is pretty close to earth 2000.

From a humanitarian prospective I challenge your assertion that there are already too many people. Who are you to judge the validity & worth of anyone's existance? I find it arrogant to suggest your life is of greater worth than anyone else's. The whole notion of the "population problem" is a myth. Starvation is largely a political/logistical problem, not resource scarcity.

As stated before >99% of all species have gone extinct without man's intervention. Since 1500 76 species have gone extinct...mankind has probably saved more than we have destroyed.

Don't be diss'in my species...

Realist said at March 20, 2009 5:05 PM:

"By what measure? Living standards as determined by most all measures (life span & daily caloric intake to name 2) have steadily increased as population has increased. If you even use population density as a barometer...are living standards higher in NYC or Nepal?"

You're missing the point. Living standards have increased in many parts of the world, but at what cost?

"You are also mistaken on your assertion that "a few billion more" will be added during the 21st century. The UN estimates that with increasing living standards, even the developing world will over the next 100 years mimic the below replacement level reproduction already happening in the developed world. Net projected population of earth 2100 is pretty close to earth 2000."

You're correct that the third world is expected to even out its population, but that doesn't change the fact that the world population is estimated to hit 9 billion by 2050. You need to check you UN report facts before you begin bloviating.

"From a humanitarian prospective I challenge your assertion that there are already too many people. Who are you to judge the validity & worth of anyone's existance? I find it arrogant to suggest your life is of greater worth than anyone else's. The whole notion of the "population problem" is a myth. Starvation is largely a political/logistical problem, not resource scarcity."

The idea that we're too many people doesn't necessarily mean we judge anyone's value or worth. We could decrease the population by humanitarian means, but the longer we wait, the sooner we'll have to wish for another typhoon or food collapse.

Starvation is all about resource scarcity, unless you live on a pink planet where the resources are endless (e.g. you're insane).

"As stated before >99% of all species have gone extinct without man's intervention. Since 1500 76 species have gone extinct...mankind has probably saved more than we have destroyed."

That's not an argument against environmentalism or depopulation.

"Don't be diss'in my species..."

Your species is a moron, because it's corrupted by human drama. Wake up and smell the coffee: finite resources and too many people don't add up.

JoeKing said at March 20, 2009 6:25 PM:

"You're missing the point. Living standards have increased in many parts of the world, but at what cost?"

No..Pessimist...that IS EXACTLY the point. Humanity's living standard IS the point. Who are YOU, no doubt speaking from your comfortable 70+ degree den after eating your 2000+ calorie dinner, to pontificate about humanity bespoiling the environment at the expense of the defenseless spieces we are exploiting? If you ever got beyond reading the Earth First newsletter you might "realize" that for the most-part mankind has actually made the world a better place since we came out of the trees. Spieces like Panda bears, Whooping cranes & Condors would be only be seen in Joni Mitchell's..Tree museums.


"You're correct that the third world is expected to even out its population, but that doesn't change the fact that the world population is estimated to hit 9 billion by 2050. You need to check you UN report facts before you begin bloviating."


Thank you for your approval..I'll sleep tonite. Read my post..I said the population in the year 2100 would be the same...or don't you care what happens after 2050 since you won't be there?


"the sooner we'll have to wish for another typhoon or food collapse."

In your neighborhood


"unless you live on a pink planet where the resources are endless (e.g. you're insane)."

I feel a Simon-Ehrich in my future.....care to wager on what "resources" aren't endless?


"That's not an argument against environmentalism or depopulation."

It is a statement of facts. It wasn't meant as a condemnation of environmentalism..it has it's place, if administered sensibly & not by fanatics. I'm not FOR depopulation...you seem to be (of course not anyone you know though).


"Your species is a moron, because it's corrupted by human drama. Wake up and smell the coffee: finite resources and too many people don't add up."

Are you from another???? What exactly IS ..human drama? 6+ billion people living their lives...does that trouble you? "Finite resources"...refer to my above wager...show me the money!!


I am the "Realist", I've looked at mankind's history of accomplishments & the ACTUAL state of the environment. You, have bought into the LIES & mis-information the "environ-mental" movement feeds you to justify their continued funding. Your world is no doubt comfortable, warm & clean; and I'd wager you've probably never actually SEEN pollution or resource scarcity..but you're just SURE its happening somewhere....


JoeKing said at March 20, 2009 9:44 PM:

Starvation is all about resource scarcity,


Global Climate Network...Didn't they used to be called "The Club of Rome"?

JoeKing said at March 20, 2009 9:45 PM:

Starvation is all about resource scarcity,


Global Footprint Network...Didn't they used to be called "The Club of Rome"?

Realist said at March 21, 2009 3:40 AM:

Water scarcity already affects every continent and four of every ten people in the world. The situation is getting worse due to population growth, urbanization and the increase in domestic and industrial water use.

http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/water/en/

Climate change and an increasing population could trigger a global food crisis in the next half century as countries struggle for fertile land to grow crops and rear animals, scientists warned yesterday.

To keep up with the growth in human population, more food will have to be produced worldwide over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined, the experts said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/31/climatechange.food

Where do you get your resources from, Fairy Tale land? You're simply a humanist having a tantrum over the fact that sacredness of the individual leads to collective self-destruction.

Realist said at March 21, 2009 3:42 AM:

"Global Footprint Network...Didn't they used to be called "The Club of Rome"?"

Ad hominems don't work here, sorry. Present facts or don't participate in the debate.

Azzurro said at March 21, 2009 7:04 AM:

I love fictional averages like, "our living standard is higher than it's ever been".

Check out Dr. Albert Bartlett's video on peak oil and overpopulation. He explains the arithmetic very well and describes how we won't even know when we're gearing up for a growth in population that will coincide with a decrease in available energy & resources until it's far too late.

To think that we can keep growing exponentially on a finite planet is insanity. There are limited resources; most of our fish have some type of mercury poisoning, less and less land is arable, and the areas of highest population growth - the third world - are seeing more people born into poverty. Standard of living? You must be joking.


http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/03/18/baby_boomlet_us_births_in_2007_break_1950s_record/

This also goes to show that it takes fewer people to make much larger jumps in population - which is a terrible thing for down our future.

Reduce the # of people on the planet to 1 billion or less. Only a truly enlightened population can make this decision. Think about what happens when other animals overpopulate an area: they either spread until predators come in and thin their ranks, or resources deplete and they die off slowly. One or the other will happen to humanity; my bet is on the latter if we don't get ourselves under control.

simone said at March 21, 2009 7:13 AM:

Realist- It is not facts alone that constitute a "realists" position. Logic and reason are key ingredients. Your arguments are those repeated ad hominems by Malthusian and his followers. They have been making the same argument for decades and they has been addressed by Simons (and many others). We have been at the verge of nothingness since the beginning. The edge is always present as a boundary. Maturity is necessary not invent monsters that are lurking at the edge of the world. As for you assertion that the “sacredness of the individual leads to collective self-destruction” is progressive pap. The reverse is clearly true as modern history has shown in Europe and Asia. Please note that these comments are from a REALIST.

Bob Badour said at March 21, 2009 8:51 AM:

Azzurro,

I think you underestimate the human capacity for massive intra-species population destruction.

Realist said at March 21, 2009 10:24 AM:

Simone, Malthus was right, he just had the date wrong. You wrote quite a lot, but I didn't see any counterevidence. Julian Simon proposed we can increase the population growth, correct, but we're talking at what resource costs that notion comes. It's pure logic that a population cannot expand infinitely on a planet where resources are limited. There is no way this equation will ever work. There needs to be a balance between what you take and what the planet produces.

Bob Badour said at March 21, 2009 11:36 AM:

Azzurro,

I think you also overlook the potential of little tiny viral predators. Pandemics happen.

simone said at March 21, 2009 12:41 PM:

Realist- Malthus was wrong and your comments about the date suggests you also know that to be the case. If you are asserting that sometime in the future something may happen, you are not applying a material argument. Yes, sometime in the future something may happen, we just don't know what. Your "pure logic" is childish. No one is asserting infinite expansion. Your strawdog is easy to attack, but meaningless. Simon's argument stands as the challenge. Please address his point of view not a silly infinite expansion argument that no one is asserting. Thoughts of a true REALIST.

Randall Parker said at March 21, 2009 2:39 PM:

JoeKing,

You simply assert I'm wrong about the few billion population increase. Could possibly bother yourself to look at demographic projections?

Here is more: 2.5 billion in 43 years. Looks like billions to me.

NEW YORK, 13 March (United Nations Population Division) -- The world population continues its path towards population ageing and is on track to surpass 9 billion persons by 2050, as revealed by the newly released 2006 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections.

The results of the 2006 Revision -- which provide the population basis for the assessment of trends at the global, regional and national levels, and serve as input for calculating many key indicators in the United Nations system -- incorporate the findings of the most recent national population censuses and of the numerous specialized population surveys carried out around the world.

According to the 2006 Revision, the world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion over the next 43 years, passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050.  This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.  In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, and would have declined, were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.3 million persons annually.

I assume my readers are fairly well read and assumed when writing the post that of course everyone knows that the population of the world is growing and is on a path to grow by billions more.

What point are you trying to make here?

for the most-part mankind has actually made the world a better place since we came out of the trees. Spieces like Panda bears, Whooping cranes & Condors would be only be seen in Joni Mitchell's..Tree museums.

Lots of species can only be found in pictures. We wiped them out. How have we made the world a better place for species that we wiped out? How have we made the world a better place for species that are barely hanging on in very small numbers?

Living standards and population density: You miss the very obvious fact that NYC requires a much larger area of land to support it. NYC uses wood, steel, grains, fruits, vegetables, oil, natural gas, and tons of other inputs that come from all over the world. Amazonian rain forest is cut down for NYC. Other rain forest is cut down in Indonesia and Malaysia to grow palm trees for palm oil for NYC. The richer NYC gets the more land around the world gets shifted into production to provide for the people of NYC (and Tokyo, SF, Beijing, etc).

China's demand is denuding southeast Asian forests and wiping out species that the Chinese think impart sexual or other health benefits.

Then there's this specious logic:

I find it arrogant to suggest your life is of greater worth than anyone else's.

Get a clue Joe. You think your life is worth more than the lives of lots of other people. Otherwise you'd lower your own living standard to support people who are starving to death in Darfur, Mali, and Niger (among other places).

As for worth of lives: I say cut down on the start of new pregnancies. This doesn't violate the rights of babies since the avoided babies will never exist in the first place.

simone,

It would be correct to say that Malthusian reasoning was correct for the entire world for a long time until technological advances allowed most of the world to lift their population limits. But some parts of the world stayed poor and just used the advances in agricultural technology to increase the number of hungry people. Look at Africa. It might well be the case that more people go to sleep hungry there now than was the case, say, 75 years ago. There are so many more people in Africa now that even if a smaller percentage are hungry the absolute number that are hungry is probably larger. We've got African countries whose populations have gone up by a factor of 6 since WWII. Kenya comes to mind. Look at Niger for a true clusterfuck country. Tons of babies. Extreme poverty. Malthus would recognize the place.


Octuple said at March 22, 2009 2:43 AM:

Joe King said:

"No..Pessimist...that IS EXACTLY the point. Humanity's living standard IS the point. Who are YOU, no doubt speaking from your comfortable 70+ degree den after eating your 2000+ calorie dinner, to pontificate about humanity bespoiling the environment at the expense of the defenseless spieces we are exploiting? If you ever got beyond reading the Earth First newsletter you might "realize" that for the most-part mankind has actually made the world a better place since we came out of the trees. Spieces like Panda bears, Whooping cranes & Condors would be only be seen in Joni Mitchell's..Tree museums."

"Are you from another???? What exactly IS ..human drama? 6+ billion people living their lives...does that trouble you? Finite resources"...refer to my above wager...show me the money!!"


This conversation is getting emotional. Ok, to be aware of overpopulation doesn't means misanthropy. We as humans, are standing in an inflexion point where we could really get the world into an ugly situation. I ,as a human, try to make this world a better place; nowdays, the best way to make this world a better place and to save species, is solving overpopulation.

Before proceeding any further, I'd like to ask, everyone... how this fair and humanist living standard, could reach 6.7 billions of people? No more, no less.

JoeKing said at March 22, 2009 6:16 AM:

Randall

"everyone knows that the population of the world is growing and is on a path to grow by billions more"...

For the next 50 years...perhaps, but after that (which IS the point of the debate) the "FACTS" aren't so settled.

I can play "Population projection" too....http://math.berkeley.edu/~galen/popclk.html. Mine says 7.2 billion by 2100.

Here's a UN study saying 2-36 billion by 2300 http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/2004worldpop2300reportfinalc.pdf.

How about this litte factoid...65 countries TODAY representing 43% of the world's population are at BELOW replacement level. Once the demographic momentum stops (within 50 years)..the ACTUAL population begins declining.


"We wiped them out. How have we made the world a better place for species that we wiped out? How have we made the world a better place for species that are barely hanging on in very small numbers?"

As I said, very FEW spieces have gone extinct lately (600 years)...can you prove humanity is the cause of even those? What about the 99.9% that did it all by themselves? This canard of "barely hanging on" I have been hearing since the 60's yet why is rate of extinction less than the historical average...could man be the cause? What you are suggesting is that all of the efforts of Greenpeace, Sierra club, EPA etc. have been fruitless..I disagree.


You miss the very obvious fact that NYC requires a much larger area of land to support it.

And the average population density of IOWA is 25.7 people/sq. mi....they sure can eat A-L-O-T of corn there. Its called resource distribution. The (rich) population of NYC PAYS $$$ for goods from the places you mentioned so they can BUY the things they don't grow/make themselves. I believe this trade idea has some merit....if we'd leave it alone. 1000 years ago, eveyone hunted, grew, & made everything for themselves...they also were cold, hungry & died at 30.


"Otherwise you'd lower your own living standard to support people who are starving to death in Darfur, Mali, and Niger (among other places)."

No thanks, I'm not the one saying the world is overpopulated..you are. How would lowering my living standard "support" starving people? As I stated before, the unfortunate people aren't starving because of my glutony..its because of politics & poverty, there are ample food resources available, if they could afford them or they weren't the objects of a (man-made) genocide.


I say cut down on the start of new pregnancies.

I agree in principle; but to play the devil's advocate, there are some dangers to such a simplistic view. First, from my (much mailigned here) humanist perspective...who the hell are you to play god & tell anyone what to do with their genitalia? Further, to be pious, again what gives you the authority to deny anyone the gift of life? (I am most definately the antithesis of a Jesus freak, so that was a stretch). Lastly, if/when people actually start DOING it..a whole new set of problems arise...ie. aging population..a truckload of bad.


Bob Badour...I think you underestimate the human capacity for massive intra-species population destruction.

And YOU miss the human capacity for COMPASSION, conscience & stewardship..


Realist....

"Global Footprint Network...Didn't they used to be called "The Club of Rome"?"

"Ad hominems don't work here, sorry."

...You believe the mention of the Club of Rome is an ad hominem ...I agree, my apologies.

The bigger point is what Octuple suggests....how this fair and humanist living standard, could reach 6.7 billions of people? No more, no less....To that I say amen brother

simone said at March 22, 2009 7:13 AM:

Realist and Randall-

Please read or re-read Simon's wager with Urlich. You are both missing the point by reasoning incorrectly. The identification of a counterfactual is a logic argument that is applicable when reasoning about universals. It is irrelevant when speaking about probabilities. Malthus was incorrect as Urlich was incorrect.

Thoughts of a REALISTS

JoeKing said at March 22, 2009 7:16 AM:

Randall

To expand on the NYC/trade point. You have it backwards...NYC is the RESULT of successful resource allocations, not the cause of (potential) scarcities. Had not the means for urbanisation been established BEFORE settlement..there never would have been a NYC.

"The richer NYC gets the more land around the world gets shifted into production to provide for the people of NYC (and Tokyo, SF, Beijing, etc)."

And the more the people who produce for NYC... prosper. It isn't a zero sum game. All particpants can win, & NOT detroy Gaia. If it didn't work that way, 6.7 billion humans wouldn't be alive today, we would have caused the ecologial collapse you've all been anticipating long ago. What unique circumstances today (or the near future) have caused us to reach THE "tipping point"?

The whole notion of humanitiy's wanton destruction of the earth is flawed. Man has co-existed with nature from day 1 & is as much a part of it as ANY other species. The fact that we have the ability to alter (parts) of nature for our benefit doesn't automatically mean we are distroying it. We have throughout our history changed nature, sometimes for the worst..but more often for the good. Just the fact that we question our impact shows the worth of us.

Bob Badour said at March 22, 2009 10:56 AM:
And YOU miss the human capacity for COMPASSION, conscience & stewardship..

What an absurd statement. I have no idea what astounding leap took you to reach that conclusion.

Historically, human capacities have often failed to prevent massive destruction of human populations. Rwanda, Kosovo, North Korea, Darfur all suggest this failure continues into the present. Little evidence suggests any imminent change.


Randall's point you seem to have missed is the population of NYC is tiny both in land mass physically occupied and in quantity relative to the global population. Many of the populations in the most crowded places on earth use the resources of a tiny fraction of the earth's landmass relative to the resource footprint of the people of NYC. Increasing those populations means reducing their standards of living from levels already squalid or greatly increasing their resource footprint.

Octuple said at March 22, 2009 3:08 PM:

Joe King said:

"The bigger point is what Octuple suggests....how this fair and humanist living standard, could reach 6.7 billions of people? No more, no less....To that I say amen brother"

_____


I'm still waiting for an answer.

Sure, capitalism produces wealth within a comunnity, but we are living not under capitalism alone, but neoliberalism and supercapitalism, which produces even more wealth to the technology owners but at a cost of unfair subcontracting in the third world.

In this third world situation, more people means lower wages, so is very appropiate to the first world. In theory, this exchange is about technology for manpower and resources, so in theory, when technology establishes in third world, it does enhance living standards and reduce population overgrowing.

Let's be honest, this is not happening. This contract between nations is on behalf of first world, in spite of all "fair trade" propaganda, the technology owners will seek the highest gain at the minimum cost, because that's the nature of the system. Technology and education doesn't arrives, and overpopulation happens.

Ok, let's be optimist, just imagine... 6.7 billion people living with high living standards... is that possible?

Somehow we all agree that population has to reduce at certain point, a breaking point of unsustainability. So, we are aware of overpopulation, but we disagree about the methods. "Overpopulation deniers" propose that the market will solve the problem, while overpupolationists propose governamental regulation, and specially, cultural and ethical revaluation of this statal and national affair.

I think the problem is that, the "market solution" will reach the last consequences until it is forced to change, I don't want to face that consequences that will actually make this world a worse place (and I believe this has already started). At certain point of breaking unsustainability, market will force the state to force the market. What are we waiting?


JoeKing said at March 22, 2009 4:04 PM:

Bob Badour

"I have no idea what astounding leap took you to reach that conclusion."

Obviously...you have no ideas beyond the evil of humanity...like most "Environmentalists" you "KNOW" the world has long since PAST the point of sustainability.... Of course, the world YOU live in has NONE of the gloom, but like your soul-mate Fantasy-ist you will FIND/invent events to "prove"(?) your warped view. Rowanda, Kosovo, N.Korea, Darfur...talk about strawmen...wtf do THEY have to do with resources? The only evidence of lack of imminent change is in your ability to grasp the difference between POLITICALLY induced suffering & resource scarcity. Go wallow in your world of doom...

Exhibit A

"Increasing those populations means reducing their standards of living from levels already squalid or greatly increasing their resource footprint."

Once again you demonstrate a dearth of comprehension of the human condition. Read my post about zero sum game...increasing a population does NOT automatically MEAN there will be MORE starvation. Of course, the scenario of logistically induced starvation doesn't FIT into your world view. How about a rural village that because of its isolation doesn't make a paved road economically viable to build? When the population "increases" viability can be reached..end of hunger. All starving people's situations don't always fit into neat little packages. Or, how about more people to clear land, or higher yielding crops becoming available? Doomsayers all share a common fault...they believe technology is only available to the developed world. In 1968 all I ever read was India is DOOMED..today they export food. Let me guess...you'd have been against "increasing their resource footprint"?

Bob Badour said at March 22, 2009 7:31 PM:

JoeKing,

I suggest you take a step back for a moment and calm down. Quite honestly, your replies to my comments suggest a psychotic break.

Azzurro posted a false dichotomy. In two separate comments, I pointed out possible (some would argue probable) outcomes he excluded from his dichotomy. Somehow, in a truly stunning leap of non sequitur, you conclude I entirely miss compassion, conscience and stewardship. WTF?!?

Having noted the absurdity of your conclusion, I point out that compassion, conscience and stewardship (among many other capacities humans have) historically fail to prevent massive destruction of human life. I offer empirical evidence that nothing has changed with respect to that repeated failure, and I suggest little evidence exists to suggest anything will change in the near future.

From that, somehow, you concoct an even more bizarre fantasy about me. I am not much of any sort of "ist" and quite likely least of all an environmentalist. That humans have a capacity for massive intra-species destruction is simply a fact. Noting the fact says nothing about good or evil.

Furthermore, you concocted some fantasy that I said anything at all about starvation. Get a grip! Seriously.

JoeKing said at March 22, 2009 8:21 PM:

Bob Badour

Indeed I should..I was having an Emily Latella moment..my apologies

Bob Badour said at March 23, 2009 6:58 AM:

Well, that's different then.... Never mind! :)

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