I have finally met my match. I’ve finally found someone more cynical than I am about the state of the environment and specifically our oceans – Jeremy Jackson, the world-renowned marine biologist.
Jackson, a lanky man with a ponytail and a head of red hair of an interesting hue, made two addresses at UCLA last week on the collapse of the world’s fisheries. He is one of the few ivory tower academics that speaks his mind in public about the state of the world. (Jared Diamond is another that comes to mind.)
Jackson’s message was clear. All of the world’s fisheries are collapsing or on the verge of collapse. Don’t look for any marine fish other than sardines or anchovies by the year 2050. We got into this mess of massive ichthyocide through overfishing, pollution and climate change. Not much hope for sound fisheries management with the tragedy of the commons in the world’s oceans, especially if the U.S. doesn’t lead the way. Marine Protected Areas in California and Australia are a good start.
Jackson had even less hope about our ability to stop the proliferation of dead zones caused by polluted runoff with fertilizer and animal waste from factory farming. As for climate change, his discussion of the impacts of acidification and sea level warming was terrifying. Potential collapses of shelled mollusk populations and calcium shelled phytoplankton are real due to the impacts of carbonic acid in the ocean.
Jackson could have closed there and half of the audience would have left the lectures contemplating slashing their wrists. Instead, like the Lorax before him, Jackson gave us hope. This time in the form of, you guessed it, President Obama. He expects that Obama will aggressively tackle the climate change and over-fishing crises, and his beliefs were strengthened by the appointments of scientists Steven Chu and Jane Lubchenco to head the Department of Energy and NOAA respectively.
That was a first for me. A scientist with new hope due to an elected politician. The world is changing. If scientists have faith in a new president and they continue to speak the truth about the state of the environment, the social and economic change needed to change the ending of this story may indeed prove possible.