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The oceans need a rest

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (bio here), 86, told the U.N. climate change conference (aka “COP26”, details here) the oceans so badly need a rest that the world’s nations should immediately ban industrial fishing.

This is necessary, she said, not just to prevent the collapse of fisheries from overfishing (which has been the fate of most historic fisheries) and preserve marine biodiversity, but because removing “all that wildlife” from the ocean “breaks the carbon cycle.” Marine life is essential to “the nutrient chain that maintains the fabric of life on Earth,” Earl says.

She told the attendees, “It is frustrating to be able to see the future so clearly, from having spent years at sea, and thousands of hours under the sea, and to realize that so many people can’t see it.” Read story here.

She probably was referring to her own observations over decades as an oceanographer. But the implications are broader. A related story (here) links past mass extinctions that erased most life on Earth, including and animals, to major disruptions of the carbon cycle. In other words, if the oceans crash, it’ll affect all of us.

World leaders probably do see it, or at least have heard about it, but it’s unlikely they’re do anything about it. There’s too many hungry people, too much money being made, and sometimes deeply-ingrained cultural practices involved. The major offenders are China and Taiwan (story here); think they’re going to stop?

Plundering the oceans will continue until there’s nothing left to take. Economists call this behavior, which is endemic to the human condition, “the tragedy of the commons.” (If you don’t know what that is, look it up here.) Then, the “free market” will dock the boats and close the canneries.

Here in the U.S. we live in a supposedly educated society where you can’t get half the population to wear face masks to save their own lives. Does anyone seriously believe we human have that kind of self-control? It’s far more likely our selfishness will drive our species. With humans gone, the Earth will recover in time, until the next “intelligent” species comes along.

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