Have just finished Stung!, one of two recent recommendations from Kottke.org (the other was Salt, Sugar, Fat). It was a slow start, but if you stick through the first few chapters (enumerations of newsworthy issues caused by jellyfish) it gets a lot more interesting. And depressing. The conclusion of the book, and I’m not ruining it by saying so, is thankfully not falsely optimistic. It’s clear from the scientific evidence provided that the oceans aren’t the same as they were and won’t be any time soon.
It brought up some interesting issues:
It’s not reasonable to expect fisheries to harvest seafood responsibly for the amount of demand that consumers create. This problem can’t be placed solely (or even mostly) on the fisheries and working class people that do the work and we must also criticize policy:
Something is horribly wrong when a group of animals that has dominated the seas for sixty million years begins to falter and disappear within a decade, despite the existence of a law that contains both the words “conservation” and “management” in its title.
– Carl Safina, Where Have All the Fishes Gone?
Turns out that the synthetic fibres that come off in the washer can make their way into the ocean where it’s eaten (colourful! shiny!). These tiny fibres get to be a serious problem when bioaccumulated and magnified up the food chain, potentially to us let alone the larger fish, where plastics cause direct and indirect problems like retaining other toxins. The purchase and use of synthetic fibres (as opposed to wool, for example) are consistent with a desire for a minimization of animal suffering, but it’s worth examining how these decisions have indirect effects on other animals.
Shifting baselines results in an incremental “lowering of standards” as each new human generation redefines what is considered “natural” or “normal” based on their own personal experiences. Each new generation lacks an understanding of how the environment “used to be.” This lower standard is now the new baseline for the next generation.
– Wynn W. Cudmore, Declining Expectations – The Phenomenon of Shifting Baselines
As Lisa-ann Gershwin points out this behaviour is likely a generalized reaction that people experience, which seems reasonable anecdotally.
And since I haven’t done any stack posts recently, I pulled some related favorited articles from Instapaper:
- There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Now we’re facing a sixth. - Brad Plumer, The Washington Post
- The Disaster We’ve Wrought on the World’s Oceans May Be Irrevocable - Alex Renton, Newsweek
- Elegy for a Country’s Seasons - Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books
- B.S., Rednecks and Development - Shannon McPhail, The Cleanest Line
- The Age of Breathing Underwater - Chris Turner, The Walrus