Life Finds a Way
(Editor’s note: With rising sea temperatures, acidification, pollution and other negative human impacts, marine scientists, in general, give our planet’s coral reefs little chance of survival. Some predict as little as 30 years. In a nutshell the problem has arisen from the fact that there are just too many people on the earth, while the solution to this eminent threat relies on the impossible: Everyone stop consuming, stop driving cars, stop industry… TODAY!
Sound very dramatic but it’s true and this is the reason many scientists have thrown up their hands and are focusing their energy on other more solvable environmental problems. But naturalist and ecologists, Carl Safina sees a spark of hope for our underwater “rainforests”.
Below is part of Safina’s blog on the subject that first appeared in The Huffington Post and Okeanos.org.)
I can’t remember who dragged me to see the movie Jurassic Park, but one resonant line in that movie was worth the price of admission, this unforgettable sentence: “Life finds a way.” It popped out at me because it so economically summed up a truth behind all of nature’s stunning diversity and the continuity of the living adventure of Life on Earth.
Australian ecologist Roger Bradbury has recently asserted that coral reefs are doomed, living-dead, “zombie ecosystems” that will inevitably—and soon—utterly collapse under the multiple fatal blows of overfishing, pollution and the ocean acidification and warming resulting from the global buildup of carbon dioxide (See his New York Times op-ed “A World Without Coral Reefs”).
Bradbury says we should give up. Ant hope for reefs, he says, is a delusion. (Andy Revkin collected a few responses from scientist as his New York Times “Dot Earth” blog.)
Can that really be so? Certainly things die, lineages go extinct—and coral reefs are in a world of hurt. All true. Also true is the existence of heat-tolerant corals, corals that are regularly exposed to (and routinely survive) the extreme stress of finding themselves out in the tropical air at low tide, and many ocean organisms that live through large swings in pH through tidal cycles.
Yes, many coral reefs are degraded. Yes, it doesn’t look good. But sometimes living diversity supplies marginal adaptations that suddenly fit perfectly into new conditions. Someone (not Darwin) called it “survival of the fittest.” That’s what the phrase means; not survival of the strongest but of the ones who find themselves in the right place at the right time as conditions change to suddenly suit them. Look around; it works.