Why there are reasons to be optimistic about coral reefs
Let's not kid ourselves: Coral reefs are in serious danger. But numerous ambitious projects are underway with the goal of keeping these ecosystems alive.
- Human activity has made it a serious possibility that coral reefs might cease to exist on Earth.
- It's tempting to give into despair over this prospect, but assuming the game is over already doesn't reflect objective reality.
- There is an increasing amount of research and work going into keeping coral reefs alive. Coupled with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the next generation stands a chance of growing up in a world with coral reefs.
Globally, coral reefs are estimated to provide up to $9.9 trillion in value by providing fish, protecting coastlines against erosion, enabling tourism, and other services. They take up very little space in the ocean — just 0.1 percent — but they serve as the habitats for a quarter of all fish species.
But these extraordinarily valuable environments have been devastated by human activities like bottom trawling, marine pollution, and of course, climate change. Because of these threats, 27 percent of the world's coral cover has disappeared in the last three decades.
Pretty dismal, right? If we lose our coral reefs, millions of people will be faced with poverty and hunger as their primary food source and industry collapses. That scenario doesn't even consider the devastation reefs' disappearance would wreak on the global food chain, affecting every country on Earth.
Failing to preserve our coral reefs would be a catastrophe. But that doesn't mean we have to give in to despair. In fact, we're getting better and better at ensuring that coral reefs can survive.
How we're keeping coral reefs alive
During particularly hot spells, corals can't perform their part in the symbiotic relationship they have with the colorful algae that live within their tissues. In order to survive on the short-term, they expel these algae, which provide 90 percent of their energy needs, turning the corals bone white in an event call coral bleaching. Normally, events like this happened once every 27 years, but that has recently gotten down to once every 6 years and will continue to occur more frequently as the planet warms up.
But corals exist that seem to fare better under the increasingly hot, acidic, and low-oxygen oceans — so-called super corals. Mangroves, for instance, tend to have harsher environments than the wide-open ocean, but many super coral species thrive there. Assuming the Earth doesn't get too hot, we can transplant such corals to at-risk reefs to ensure that they and their ecosystems survive. What's more, researchers are actively trying to breed hybrid coral species with even more robust characteristics.
Even so, corals can take between 25 and 75 years to reach sexual maturity, time that we don't really have. Fortunately, a recent breakthrough technique enabled corals to grow 40 times faster than they do in the wild. This process, called microfragmentation, was discovered by accident when Dr. David Vaughn accidentally broke a coral into many small pieces, pieces which he discovered soon regrew at a rapid rate. Additionally, these corals actually grow together, rather than competing for space as natural corals typically do.
Working to restore dying reefs in this way, however, can be further improved. When reefs begin to die, their decline is often sped up by the flight of fish populations that perform a variety of beneficial tasks for coral reefs.
Recently, researchers discovered that fish can be tricked into sticking with a coral reef that's in need of their services by playing audio recordings of a healthy reef. Broadcasting the sound of a dying reef has been found to increase local diversity by 50 percent.
What can I do?
These represent just a snapshot of the research going into coral reef protection. It's important to take a sober, objective perspective when considering the future of the planet: that means both acknowledging the serious dangers we face as well as the good work we're doing to combat it.
Ultimately, however, these efforts only serve to slow the decline of coral reefs. The only solution to preserving coral reefs is a significant reduction in global carbon emissions; in fact, it has been estimated that we can say goodbye to our coral reefs unless we slash emissions to 45 percent of their 2010 levels by 2030.
It's a tall order, but we can reduce carbon emissions and buy time for coral reefs simultaneously. This will require massive global policy changes, but such changes are driven by individual actions. The Environmental Protection Agency has an excellent list of simple actions you can do that don't require any significant investment or lifestyle change here.
If you want to get more involved, you can join the Citizens' Climate Lobby. We typically think of lobbying as reserved for wealthy corporations, but it's an activity open to anybody. The Citizens' Climate Lobby trains and supports citizens across the world to contact and work with their representatives to influence climate policy. You can also support organizations dedicated to the protection of coral reefs, such as Dr. Vaughn's Plant a Million Corals campaign or the Coral Reef Alliance.
Climate change and coral reef degradation are large, global issues; they can seem impossible to address individually. This mindset, however, is misleading. We've already massively transformed the climate by accident through our individual actions; the reverse is just as possible.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.