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« Elsewhere | Main | Going Live »

June 21, 2007

Depletion

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This can't be good.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at June 21, 2007




Comments

Boy--Man is sure hard on the environment for everything else in the environment but him, isn't he? Wierd, in a way, that the cycle of all other living creatures hasn't sped up to keep pace with us, but instead just "dies out" in the face of us.

Posted by: annette on June 21, 2007 1:01 PM



Dang!

It's like this business with the bees dying out mysteriously. Seriously disturbing. I can't quite fathom journalism--how do they keep cranking out pointless articles on topics like the number of female executives in Hollywood and not focusing on stuff like this.

Hey, guys, we're like driving off the cliff, so maybe tuning the radio or arguing about the color of the upholstery isn't the most important thing on the agenda right now.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 21, 2007 1:14 PM



What, the global warming scare is already passe? We need another spread-the-ashes-and-pull-the-hair Mea Collective Culpa?

Posted by: Tatyana on June 21, 2007 1:30 PM



While I share your concern for the environment, Michael, I suggest a degree of skepticism.

CNN is not a very reliable source of information. As the Duke lacrosse case has repeatedly proven, the liberal press is not above fabricating.

In the same vein, a large portion of the press has taken the "global warming is indisputable scientific truth" stance. I read David Suzuki's website yesterday, and he actually insists that, when he is interviewed, no opponents of his views be allowed to speak... because the threat of global warming is so dire. A simple Google search will show you that there is scientific disagreement on several fronts. Some believe that climate change is a normal occurrence, others argue that it is not happening.

From long experience with radical leftists in Woodstock, I am actutely aware that there is always a hidden agenda behind the radical environmentalism... a desire to institute a demand economy in which they dictate to others what they may do and purchase. Every few years, the dire emergency that justifies this changes.

CNN is the most liberal cable news network. I'd withhold judgment. There is time to withhold judgment until we really know what's happening.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 21, 2007 2:12 PM



I blame myself. Because of my selfish concern about my health I've started eating more tuna and fewer hamburgers. I expect to see articles on the surplus of cattle any time now. Oh wait, cattle = methane = global warming. I blame myself.

Posted by: Alan on June 21, 2007 2:54 PM



Like Shouting Thomas, I'd recommend caution. It now looks like the bee story was blown out of proportion, and this might be as well. Any dissembling aside, most journalists know almost nothing about science, and generally misunderstand what they are told by scientists. Of course, it might be true, but most environmental scare stories over the last 40 years have either been exaggerated, or outright false. We'll see about this one...

Posted by: tschafer on June 21, 2007 3:30 PM



I don't get this. If this is true, why hasn't the price of tuna skyrocketed? It's still one of the cheapest sources of animal protein. Isn't tuna a "big fish"?

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 21, 2007 4:36 PM



The report says only 10% of big fish are left. The story restates that. What is there to misunderstand? If you care to disagree, then disagree with the study's findings, not the journalist in this case.

I mean come on, now we're politicizing tuna?

Posted by: the patriarch on June 21, 2007 6:19 PM



Annette -- You've got a green soul!

FvB -- I haven't followed the bees story closely. Has it been freaky? Funny the way the press doesn't have many people assigned to beats like this, isn't it? Meanwhile they assign hundreds of people to cover the (yawn) latest horse-race in D.C. ...

Tat, Alan -- Where is anyone asking for demonstrations of guilt?

ST -- I'm as wary as you are of the way political lefties can use eco-causes as a club, believe me! That said, there are lots of eco-people who aren't political at all -- they're eco partly because they love getting away from politics, and they often despise the people who are primarily political yet who use environmentalism as a general social-justice flag. In this case, I can't see any reason not to grant the study that's being reported some respect, not that I imagine it's the last word on anything. Even if it's off by 100%, though -- that still means big fish are down to 20% of what they were. That's at least potentially worrying. Populations don't tend to dwindle and dwindle forever, they tend to shrink and then at a certain point just collapse. And then the ecosystem the organism was embedded in has to rearrange itself, which it tends to do in unpredictable ways ... Anyway, I'd hate to wake up one day and discover that the big fish are finito.

Tschafer -- "Caution" for me would be a matter of not letting greed and technology lead to overfishing in the first place! If not for the fish, then for the fisherpeople. If I remember right, when the cod stocks off Newfoundland collapsed in the early '90s something like 40,000 people in Canada lost their jobs.

Lester -- Philosophers are always asking complicated questions ...

Patriarch -- I'd almost like it if I could detect some bias in the reporting!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 21, 2007 8:12 PM



A passage from Wikipedia's entry on Overfishing. Who knows, it may be politically biased! Still ...


A major international scientific study released in November 2006 in the journal Science found that about one-third of all fishing stocks worldwide have collapsed (with a collapse being defined as a decline to less than 10% of their maximum observed abundance), and that if current trends continue all fish stocks worldwide will collapse within fifty years.[2]

The FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2004 report estimates that in 2003, of the main fish stocks or groups of resources for which assessment information is available, "approximately one-quarter were overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion (16%, 7% and 1% respectively) and needed rebuilding."[3]

The threat of overfishing is not limited to the target species only. As trawlers resort to deeper and deeper waters to fill their nets, they have begun to threaten delicate deep-sea ecosystems and the fish that inhabit them, such as the coelacanth.[4] In the May 15, 2003 issue of the journal Nature, it is estimated that 10% of large predatory fish remain compared to levels before commercial fishing.[5] Many fisheries experts, however, consider this claim to be exaggerated with respect to tuna populations [6].
Graph showing unsustainable shark catch from 1950 to 2006. Overfishing of sharks has led to the upset of entire marine ecosystems.[1]
Graph showing unsustainable shark catch from 1950 to 2006. Overfishing of sharks has led to the upset of entire marine ecosystems.[1]

According to a brochure released by Aqua Bounty Farms, edible fish are endangered in 14 of the world's 16 major fishing areas[7], several of which have since outlawed commercial fishing.

From 1950 (18 million tonnes) to 1969 (56 million tonnes) fishfood production grew by about 5% each year; from 1969 onward production has raised 8% annually.[8] It is expected that this demand will continue to rise, and MariCulture Systems estimated in 2002 that, by 2010, seafood production would have to increase by over 15.5 million tonnes to meet the desire of Earth's growing population.[9] This is likely to further aggravate the problem of overfishing, unless aquaculture technology expands to meet the needs of human population.

Overfishing has depleted fish populations to the point that large scale commercial fishing, on average around the world, is not economically viable without government assistance. By the 1980s, economists estimated that for every $1 earned fishing, $1.77 had to be spent in catching and marketing the fish.[citation needed]Some species' stocks are so depleted that consumers are often unlikely to get what they think they are purchasing, due to a phenomenon called "species substitutions," where less desirable species are labeled and marketed under the names of more expensive ones. For example, genetic analysis shows that approximately 70% of fish sold as the highly-prized "red snapper" (Lutjanus campechanus) are other species.[10]

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 21, 2007 8:20 PM



I believe that overfishing has happened. In a schoolboy summer job I did some myself, though I didn't know it at the time. But I can recommend being at the helm of a trawler. Oh yes.

Posted by: dearieme on June 22, 2007 10:31 AM



At this point, I'm just wondering who we should invade to put a stop to this imminent threat. We must fight the tuna over there, or else we will be fighting them over here, and that's a scary prospect. I mean, have you seen how big those suckers get?

Posted by: the patriarch on June 22, 2007 10:59 AM



Here's a link to an excellent post by Clayton Cramer that questions the global warming hysteria and posits that wide fluctations in fish stocks are simply part of a natural cycle:

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 22, 2007 11:12 AM



Stages of denial, as learned from the global warming "skeptics":

1) There is no shortage of fish.
2) There is a shortage of fish, but it's not caused by us.
3) There is a shortage of fish and it may be caused in part by us, but really it's a good thing!

Posted by: JewishAtheist on June 22, 2007 11:21 AM



JewishAtheist,

I love the "denial" lingo. Subtly links skepticism about global warming with Holocaust denial. Who could be so evil?

My favorite global warming satire from The Onion, as supposedly spoken by Al Gore: "Obey Me or Die!"

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 22, 2007 12:55 PM



Subtly links skepticism about global warming with Holocaust denial.

For the record, the Holocaust hadn't crossed my mind when I used the word "denial." I was thinking more of the psychological use of the term.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on June 22, 2007 1:37 PM



The simple fact is that we over consume everything. That will catch up with us eventually.
There was a lovely photo essay recently of what a family eats in a week around the world. It was plainly obvious that a small western nation family eats a lot of junk and up to 4 times as much as a larger non western nation family. And what we are not over eating ourselves we are feeding to our pets.

Posted by: T.W on June 22, 2007 2:12 PM



ST -- It's too bad that the goody-goodies and breastbeaters have given the eco-thang such a bad name with so many people. I've been out of it for a while -- I had no idea that so many smart people had gotten fed up with environmentalism! I gotta look into that and find out how it happened.

Anyway, once you get beyond the obnoxious sorts who march at the front of the parade and embarrass everyone, the eco-world in fact has a lot of superfine, interesting, substantial people in it, including many non-political scientists. And eco-research and eco-thinking can be interesting and stimulating.

It's a little like the arts-and-entertainment worlds, come to think of it. If you knew the American arts through, say, the critics and administrators and NEA staffpeople, you'd think it was the biggest heap of shit you'd ever encountered. But if you know it more deeply than that, you discover all kinds of great people and good work -- club owners, underrecognized painters and builders and designers, bands and singers and performers ... The official arts class is often a terrible drag worthy of much ridicule. But at the same time it's quite amazing how rich and rewarding our cultural life can be, at least if your eyes are open to it and you know where to look.

But you don't have to buy the entire church-of-ecology litany to grant that there are some things worthy some concern (and many things worthy of interest). Bjorn Lomborg got embraced by the anti-eco crowd for his irreverence and for his questioning the litany. But in fact he's quite an eco-person himself. He's a gay Dane who likes bicycling, clean air, healthy oceans, etc., and he thinks many eco-matters need fairly urgent addressing. He took some potshots at the eco True Believers and pissed them off. But that doesn't mean he isn't eco himself.

Edward O. Wilson is another example. He has no party affiliation that I'm aware of -- and he certainly isn't driven by politics, but rather by decades of research into ants, island populations, etc. He's in fact an object of PC scorn and hatred because years ago he wrote the book "Sociobiology." And he probably isn't right about everything, god knows. Nonetheless, he's worth listening to and learning from. Here's a passage from an interview with him:

"If we continue at the current rate of deforestation and destruction of major ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs, where most of the biodiversity is concentrated, we will surely lose more than half of all the species of plants and animals on earth by the end of the 21st century."

I like eco-thinking myself less for the alarmist politics -- politics, sheesh, I hate politics -- than for the way it proposes taking the biological matrix we all share into account. It's a little like science-meets-Zen -- it can open the brain and the senses up a bit to the general interconnectedness of it all.

BTW, most of the non-political serious people I ran into in the eco-world were perfectly comfortable with the fact that species come and go, the climate has its own cycles, populations rise and fall, life is full of surprises, etc. They were interested in this; they were often studying it and trying to learn more about it. In my experience, it was mostly the political people and the hysterics who seemed to believe that there was one and only one way life could and should be and that any change was automatically a disaster.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 22, 2007 2:27 PM



T.W. - as I recall, the winner was a German family of 4 ($500) whose #1 weekly expense was beer. Don't think the father was sharing it with their rotweiler.
And have you noticed how much a family of stocky Mexicans consumed?

I think we, in the West, on average eat "normally". Compared to families of 6 to 10 in Butan and Cambodja, where they are plainly malnourished while spending $10 per week on their food. In the middle are the 3rd world countries, like that Mexican family - overweight and happy about it.

How can anybody conclude that we overconsume - would you like us to be striving for Butan conditions? Fat chance.

Posted by: Tat on June 22, 2007 2:49 PM



Unless one takes the position that anything not accepted as "objectively factual" by Fox News is lying propaganda by tree huggin' hippy commie feminist swine, then the current dramatic increase in the depletion and extinction species, both flora and fauna, is widely accepted by scientists and well documented.

In terms of Big Fish, mostly by their own actions, the fishing industry of New England has been negatively impacted at least as much as the Canadian fleet. Over the past fifty years small boats using fairly primitive gear gave way to big trawlers, draggers and factory ships with advanced SONAR, their ability to catch fish expanded until it surpassed the ability of the fish to restock. Since certain species were favored by the industry, the other species were "rearranged" in the ecosystem, again, some species gaining and others losing. And on it goes. Short term gains leading to long term disaster.

The longer we cling to the view that only the immediate wants, needs and desires of the human species matter and that the rest of the natural world and our descendants will just have to deal with it, the more likely it is we'll perpetuate these problems.

Posted by: Chris White on June 22, 2007 4:06 PM



Tat,
Obesity rates make it clear we do not eat normally. Brewing beer out of edible grain and potable water is the least effective use of those ingredients and all for a product that contributes zero nutritionally. A minority of the population consumes the majority of resources.
I'm from the maritimes I know all about declining fisheries. One time, in my childhood sea food was what the poor ate there was so much of it. Now it is an expensive luxury even when you live next to the source.

Posted by: T.W on June 22, 2007 6:10 PM



A minority of the population consumes the majority of resources.

Let's expropriate, yadayadayada.

Yawn.
Haven't you, lefties, learned anything from history?

Posted by: Tat on June 22, 2007 7:17 PM



One thing to be learned from history is that when the gap between the haves and have-nots gets wide enough and when the proportion of have-nots gets dramatically larger relative to the haves, then the excrement is likely to hit the oscillating device.

Only on a blog like 2blowhards would species depletions and extinctions become fodder for bashing the left ... because they are concerned about our future and call for changing our habits. We can't have that, can we? No sir, keep fishing until they're all gone, then we'll consider our next step. Who knows, maybe God will make it rain Cod and Haddock for forty days and solve our problem for us.

Posted by: Chris White on June 23, 2007 6:55 AM



I don't know how we've wound up in a left vs. right conversation myself. There are plenty of eco-freaks who are anything but conventional lefties -- and in my experience, most real eco-freaks (as opposed to "social-justice" people who use environmentalism as a handy club to bash capitalism with) flat-out dislike politics. They dig animals and trees and oceans partly because it's a way of getting away from politics. Anyway, among real eco-people there are plenty of Dems, but also plenty of Republicans, anarchists, free-marketers, hunters, fishermen, crunchies, cranks, and more.

I guess what I'm coming away from these eco-discussions thinking is that it's really amazing how many smart people have grown hostile to eco-thinking and eco-concerns. Very curious. I'm going to look into how that happened.

First hunch: The social-justice, Gore-Sierra-Club, eat-your-spinach, Hollywood-limousine-liberal, school-teachers'-union crowd somehow became the public face of environmentalism. And so anyone who dislikes them resents eco-concerns. But any further hunches are appreciated.

Good lord, people: hard-drinkin', gun-shootin', piety-hating, uber-crank Edward Abbey was a major eco-figure! He'd have disliked the "Inconvenient Truth" crowd as much as anyone.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 23, 2007 9:24 AM



MB: ..."many smart people have grown hostile to eco-thinking and eco-concerns. I'm going to look into how that happened."

Michael, the beginning of enviro-skepticism was the Alar scare of 1989, when the Natural Resources Defense Council, 60 Minutes, Phil Donahue and Meryl Streep informed all who would listen that US apple growers were poisoning their consumers.

Posted by: James M. on June 23, 2007 12:38 PM



The best thing for overfishing, as with any tragedy of the commons phenomenon, is of course property rights.

Here is a long dull postion paper from Cato about overfishing, and here is a long but slightly less-dull blogpost on the same subject from Knowledge Problem.

Here is more about free-market environmentalism in general from Wikipedia, and here is a nice readable FAQ about it from a free-market group called The Thoreau Institute - a promising name!

As a Jane-Jacobs sponteneous-order junky, Michael, I suspect you'll feel right at home.

...

Tat: "Haven't you, lefties, learned anything from history?"

Heh. You don't really need an answer to that one, do you?

Posted by: Brian on June 23, 2007 5:57 PM



How about putting the conserve back in conservative. My pre-Bush dictionary is clear, conservative- a cautious moderate who preserves.
Penny wise.

And not a finger in ears, stick up ass gluttonous parasite like some. Pound foolish.

Posted by: T.W on June 23, 2007 7:03 PM



Brian, I thought the question is rhetorical - but apparently Chris White took it at face value and supplied ample proof that the answer to it is "nothing".

Michael's love of spontaneous order is at best spotty.

Posted by: Tat on June 23, 2007 7:11 PM






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