A marine biologist warns that at “our ecological bank account is in overdraft.”
Sale, the assistant director of the Institute for Water, Environment, and Health at United Nations University, (Coral Reef Fishes, 2002, etc.), believes that we are facing an impending ecological catastrophe that can only be averted if a number of steps are taken simultaneously to reduce our ecological footprint. In his opinion, many well-meaning conservationists are unduly optimistic about what is required to prevent the occurrence of a catastrophic chain of events because they rely on an outdated model developed in the early 20th century. They are unaware of evidence that the earth is far less resilient and capable of self-regulation and repair than had been previously assumed—e.g., the exponentially increasing rate at which species are becoming extinct. Sale offers a number of examples of how piecemeal solutions sometimes do not work—e.g., the expectation that environmental regulations to protect species on the brink of extinction will be sufficient to guarantee their survival. Chronic overfishing of marine systems can dramatically affect the balance of an entire marine ecology, rendering it uninhabitable for the target fish, especially under conditions of pollution and climate change. The author believes that it is possible to save the planet while maintaining a high standard of living for the entire world's population, but only if specific measures are agreed to and implemented by all governments. His first—and likely most controversial—is a one-child-per-family policy implemented by a variety of incentives including free access to contraception and abortion and tax deductions for a first child only. He also proposes an expanded use of nuclear technology while we are transitioning to alternate energy, as well as the rapid integration of solar energy in the design and retrofitting of homes and highways.
Sale provides much food for thought in this provocative look at a hotly debated subject.