Monday, October 31, 2011

Two catalytic moments

I think it's reasonable to say that because of global warming, I was able to hang with David Orr.  Turns out that I should have still be in Belize but had to evacuate my class ("cut and run", in my vocab!) to avoid a hurricane that was building and bearing down on our remote caye in the Caribbean.  

But stepping back a moment, more and stronger hurricanes are expected because of global warming.  Why?  Because hurricanes form and strengthen over hot water and the Caribbean has been exceptionally hot recently.  Hurricanes are not to be messed with.  While NOAA does a wonderful job trying to predict their tracks, they're somewhat unpredictable and can be devastating (remember Katrina?).  A year before our class, the island we were on had a direct hit from a category 1 and this caused a lot of damage (in addition to washing plastic junk all over the island).  I was told that in 1961 a hurricane hit the island, cut it up and killed people.  Shape of things to come?  You betcha. 

I've already written about the second catalytic event: watching the reef bleach.  I still can't shake the image of swimming over a reasonably healthy coral reef one day and the next swimming through slimy water filled with zozanthellae.  Turns out that we didn't lose the whole reef but two weeks after the bleaching event, the corals that lost their zozanthellae, had not recovered.  Such damage may be cumulative.  Lose a bit this year.  A bit more next year.  Before you know it, no reef.  And this ratcheting down of the reef condition illustrates something called 'shifting baselines'.  

Shifting baselines are seen when we look at something now and use that as our reference for 'natural', 'healthy', or 'quality'. The trouble is if you go back far enough, what we see now is anything but natural, healthy or quality.

What can be done?  Help create that sustainable future I've been writing and blogging about.  Talk about catalytic events you've had.  And, consider sharing them here!

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