Planning locally for a sustainable fishery and globally for a sustainable Earth

I wrote the following in response to a question about killing seals in order to allow fish stocks to recover.

The whole marine ecosystem evolved without humans in it.  Then we came along and began to alter it a few thousand years ago – then fifty years ago we began to obliterate and rearrange everything.

It was only a few years ago that we understood why Newfoundland cod has taken so long to even begin to recover. Reference 1 Cod Recovery in Newfoundland – NATURE

Only in the last ten years have we begun to understand how the ecosystem of the west coast of North America (and here long ago) with its mixture of kelp, otters, sea urchins and, whales worked. Reference 2 Ecology – ‘the sea otter whisperer’ Reference 3 James A. Estes. (2016) Serendipity, An Ecologist’s Quest to Understand Nature. University of California Press.

My instinct is that killing some seals might help fish stocks to recover. But since I don’t think we really have a clue how the whole system works I’m not sure how many. Whatever we do we should be cautious. See The Trickster in the Anthropocene. Reference 4 The Trickster in the Anthropocene

If I was able to dictate a recovery plan for the nations fisheries,  it would be something like this:

  • Reduce fishing
  • Design more efficient boats
  • Look for and plan ways to create sustainable livings from the sea
  • At a minimum Reforest the land along rivers, ideally the water sheds, leaving only land needed for grazing and agriculture cleared
  • Clean the beaches and sea of plastic
  • Enforce real marine protected areas
  • Limit industrialised salmon farming until it reforms

On a global scale much more is needed:

  • Treat the Earth and all its people as a single entity that belongs to everyone and no one
  • Reduce the population in all countries
  • Educate and empower women
  • Improve agriculture – (Think agro ecology / agro forestry which is already common in many parts of the world. Small farmers are feeding 80% of the population using 20% of the land except in most of the developed world!)
  • Plant trees
  • Generate all of our energy using renewable and zero carbon sources
  • Plan for migration
  • Plan ways to protect vulnerable areas from high humidity and temperature and from storms
  • Plan retreat from areas that will be flooded
  • Insulate houses
  • More – much more – public transport
  • Reassess infrastructure development to minimise environmental and energy cost
  • Introduce a crash program to develop the energy amplifier (safe nuclear power)
  • Architecture that minimises energy cost and use while maximising habitability
  • Slow down, travel less, use less and do so fairly
  • Understand that while we must try to create work we must regulate business to stop it from consuming the Earth’s resources and the future for short term profit.

If we don’t do all these things very soon everything collapses – no if no buts! The graph below shows the predictions of Jay Forester’s World model described in The Limits to Growth. This is probably the best general forecast for what will happen if we do not start working to avoid it. This will not be easy or cheap but I think a rich strange intact Earth is as aspiration worth hanging on to. Reference Limits to Growth Graph

The map of the world plotted alongside a graph of population against latitude and climate model results from Eun-Soon Im et al. 4 is an attempt to illustrate the most likely results of attempting to continue with business as usual. Reference graph of population Population Latitude

  •  Disarm – no long term civilisation is possible with so many weapons in use. The arms trade is directly responsible for the transfer (theft) of money from countries in the developing world to richer economies. What one author (Horatio Clare) describes as collaborative international larceny.

The total number of deaths in war since 1970 (50 years ago) is estimated as 18.5 million. The kleptocrats,  elected leaders and their misinformed and uninformed electorates who buy in to violence as a means to resolve issues are responsible.

The discrepancy between the money spent on war rather than investing in peace is enormous. Scilla Elworthy – the campaigner who has put a price on world peace | Radio Prague

Scilla Elworthy says in the article: “ It’s obscene that we now spend – take a deep breath – USD 1,686 billion [annually] on militarisation worldwide, while USD 10 or 11 billion would provide clean water and sanitation to every child on earth. …Also, what I discovered when I wrote this book The Business Plan for Peace… I learned and calculated carefully that to prevent war worldwide would cost only USD 2 billion.

We must dismantle all nuclear weapons or there will be a nuclear war either by accident or design. The worst case possible would be for all 4,037 global cities with populations over 100,000 to be targeted which would cause the immediate deaths of 2.1 billion people. In fact if cities outside Russia, Europe and the USA are not targeted then the result would be the deaths of the majority of the populations of these countries and the destruction of most of their industry. I think the death toll then would be about 700 million. Though these numbers are not much more than guesses and depend heavily on whether military or civilian infrastructure is targeted but must surely be in the right ball park.

I do not see how humanity can think itself an intelligent species while we allow this insanity to persist.


References and links to download the papers. 

1. Kenneth T. Frank, Brian Petrie, Jonathan A. D. Fisher & William C. Leggett. (2011) Transient dynamics of an altered large marine ecosystem. Letter to Nature. doi:10.1038/nature10285 (This paper describes why the population of Newfoundland cod has been so slow to recover following the crash of the fishery in 1992)     

 2. Jane Lubchenco. (2016) Ecology: The sea-otter whisperer, Nature, 533. pp. 318-319.

3. James A. Estes. (2016) Serendipity, An Ecologist’s Quest to Understand Nature. University of California Press.

4. Eun-Soon Im, Jeremy S. Pal, Elfatih A. B. Eltahir, 2017, Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia, Science Advances, 2 August 2017.