ISSN 1108-8931


Year 6 - Issue 62

Sponsored by: Zante Feast Holidays

Issue Highlights:

Todd Barber, Reef Ball Foundation

Eco Focus
Coral Reefs: bleachkrieg
Ecotourism in Bulgaria
Enrst Haeckel, Eco Maverick
Faster than Blight: Malaria

Member News
from Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Greece

Eco Crossword
The Coral Reef One

Plus for our Members
Jobs, Eco Projects & Finance, World News

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In this issue we learn from Todd Barber, the inventor and developer of an innovative artificial reef system that goes by the name of the "Reef Ball". Mr Barber in effect intervenes in nature, according to him at least, in a benevolent way. Intervening in nature is still taboo with a surprising large number of environmentalists, as generations of them have been brought up with the quasi-religious dogma that "nature knows best", "nature is god". But Ernst Haeckel, the maverick father of "Ecology", probably did not think so. We now know that humans, and some animals like the beaver, have been intervening in nature since time immemorial. The extinction of elephants in North America (10,000 BC) and of the Moa in New Zealand (c 1500 AD) long preceded modern industrial society and is associated with the "harmless" hunter-gatherers. A species eradication, in 1977, was deliberate and sponsored by the World Health Organisation: Smallpox (but don't worry, for our "security", the world's superpowers have kept some). When we fall ill, we do not let nature take its course, we all (apart perhaps from some weird sects) go to the doctor to try to cure us / prolong our life with artificial medications or even shiny new body parts. An artificial limb is not the real thing, however it is already as functional and even aesthetic. Why not so for artificial reefs?

Through literally millions of years of struggles, humans have emerged as the dominant species, but still not the smarter ones. We are still outsmarted by parasites such as the malaria one and legions of viri. We need to expand our abilities to manage nature without destroying it or altering it beyond recognition. We need to take risks, however wisely, openly and for the collective good of the planet, rather than for profits. To solve current environmental and health problems we may need another wave of inventions like the ones preceding the Industrial revolution: imagine a plastic-eating microbe, or an electricity generating plant (living plant) - if you think about it plants are solar batteries, transforming light into stored chemical energy. It is not realistic to expect that humanity will voluntarily (i.e. without destructive wars or cosmic events) retreat to an earlier stage of civilisation. In a way, technology is part of natural evolution, spacecrafts evolved from planes that evolved from birds, that evolved from dinosaurs. If we are unwise and treat nature arrogantly, such as the DDT wars of the 60s, nature soon turns the revolver back to us. We should never get overenthusiastic about new technology either, remember that in the early 20th century people would drink water with radiation, to improve their health ! Tradition is not more solid either: think twice before swimming in those health spas, the water is also bound to contain radiation...

Not all is bleak though. Scientists have already discovered that in nature there are no permanent "limits", only temporary ones. Although there are still famines, Malthus was wrong in believing it would never be possible to feed all of the world's population, it is now technically possible. (Not to mention that the world's population has peaked). It does not happen as politics, individual and collective human behaviour - has not evolved as fast as technology. Still, technology expands opportunities for all and thus, in theory at least, allows for gradually improving the status of the majority, without drastically threatening the dominant minority.

Antonis B. Petropoulos



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