Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Quiet before the storm

It's been a busy few weeks. I've met with many wise people who have generously shared ideas and insights, and a few not so wise.

From 26 Dec to 14 Jan I will be
in Zambia and Malawi, far from any reef and often out of range of electronic contact. I hope to consolidate thoughts and plans, and come back with a map that may help take this small ship through some rough seas ahead.

Please contact me by going to the profile on the right hand side of this page and following the e mail link.


Many people just don't get it when you say you're working on "coral reefs". It seems the two words don't set anything running through their minds, even though they may more or less understand them in an abstract sense.

So how do you write a book that people will pick up in, for example, an airport and actually read in preference to watching an inflight movie that delivers all the emotional and intellectual satisfaction of sniffing glue?

Coral Bones
will focus on the people who have or will live and die by coral reefs and all that goes with them. That means science, politics and economics. It also means amazing creation, insight, greed, conflict, death and destruction and - occasionally - hope.

Without experience of the stories by which people live there is not much hope for a better future. And many stories that "work" have a long history.

So, in addition to witnessing what's happening today, this investigation will dive into the history of science and exploration from the time of Charles Darwin and before. It will look at how people have perceived, felt about and used reefs, right back to ancient times.

In one of the oldest stories of all, Gilgamesh plunged beneath the sea to find the "plant" of life. Was it coral? And in a Melanesian creation story was it a coral grotto from which mankind emerged?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Campaigning for species, and ecosystems

Good luck to the Alliance for Zero Extinction with the new campaign.

But judging by a first quick look, the report from this formidable alliance scarcely touches on marine species and ecosystems. It looks as if tropical coral reefs - which could be the first ecosystem to be virtually eliminated by human action - don't get a mention.

Isn't it time to educate and campaign for ecoystems as a whole, as well as the species which are part of them (not to speak of the indigenous peoples who sometimes know the environments best)?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Endorsement from John Houghton

Sir John Houghton on Coral Bones:

"The threats posed climate change to the world's most vital ecosystems are grave and imminent. Caspar Henderson's investigation into the future of coral reefs - which are among the most wonderful, and may be the most vulnerable of all - is timely and important. I commend this work to your attention".

(In alignment with this and other warnings, the word at the recent meeting of Reef Conservation UK was that the bleaching this year in the Caribbean was worse than anything in 1998. And this is not an El Nino year).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Moving on

I've just returned to the UK from a short research trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. The journey was worthwhile because it allowed me to meet so many remarkable and people, including but by no means limited to Dr Makoto Omori at the Biorock workshop in Bali and my fellow panelists at IMES in Kuching (session 8): Michael Aw, Simon Christopher, Stuart Green, Michael Portelly and Carmel Travers.

These and many others (plus a visit to Batang Ai) are an inspiration for moving forward - including, in the near term, to the annual meeting of Reef Conservation UK in London on 10 Dec, where Kristian Teleki of ICRAN and others will be present.

In my public remarks at IMES I referred to David Suzuki's reminder to me earlier that morning about the need for stories of hope and for solutions. There were, I said, lots of grounds for both, notwithstanding a grim overall picture for coral reefs. My self-appointed task was first to to try to distinguish real from factitious hopes second to get to grips with those stories. The big picture meant nothing without the details. As Josef Stalin said: one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.