Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sharks and the Gold Standard

People always think that they are not the ones who will have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Even less do they ever truly consider what those consequences might actually be...

I was presenting on behalf of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society during the summer at the peak of Sea Shepherd's shark defence campaign, Op Requiem.  During my presentation I mentioned that the biomass of sharks left in the oceans compared with 20 years ago was estimated at no more than 2% of what it had been.  It is really hard to get a definitive reference for that figure but we can estimate the numbers being killed every year from Hong Kong shark fin auction records and it must be obvious to all that you cannot remove up to 100 million (yes I did say one hundred million) apex predators from the ocean EVERY year without having an impact.  Underwater studies where sharks have been removed consistently show new aquatic wastelands where previously there had been the most amazing and healthy biodiversity: biodiversity that produces most of the oxygen we breathe! (Google that one if you will, I used the terms - phytoplankton oxygen production - and the results give you a wide choice of scary considerations...)

During the Q & A session a chap who had earlier introduced himself as a financier and bullion dealer asked me if, "...[that] really mattered in the grand scheme of things?"

My response was to ask him what would happen if someone found a way to make gold disappear; not just steal it, actually remove it from the planet?  Reverse alchemy it from gold back to a base metal if you like.  What would be the result if, today, there was only 2% of the gold left in the World that had existed 20 years ago?

"Impossible!" he said, "Our entire economic system would collapse.  The World simply could not survive as we know it if that happened.  It would be a disaster.  Everything we know would have to change...."   I am quoting him accurately.  While he was saying this he visibly blanched.

So what is the result of removing an entire order of animal from the planet?  If you have read this far could I ask you to think about the consequences of that...