Friday, June 28, 2013

Lisa-ann Gershwin

From a Q & A at The Daily Beast with Lisa-ann Gershwin, author of Stung!:

What's your big idea?

Jellyfish, of all strange things, are turning out to be the unexpected and unwanted consequences of human impacts on our oceans. Jellyfish form large populations (called blooms) as a normal part of their life cycle, but our actions in the name of progress are giving them the perfect conditions to do more of it than probably ever before.

Who would have thought that the lowly jellyfish could cause so many problems, materializing almost completely out of left field as a major contender in changing ecosystems? Almost all of the things we are doing to intentionally or accidentally manipulate our ocean either directly favor jellyfish or put so much stress on other species that jellyfish are often the last man standing.

Fishing takes out the predators and competitors of jellies. Warmer water stimulates them to grow faster and breed more. Coastal construction gives them more places for their polyp stages to colonize. Reduced coastal oxygen gives them the competitive advantage compared to heavy breathers like fish and crustaceans. Pollution hurts fish and other species, but rarely affects jellyfish. And ships’ ballast water gives them a free ride to anywhere they haven’t been before.

While most people are aware of our impacts on the ocean—and indeed, on nature in general—most of us still see conservation as a moral issue or a conscience issue. “If I could afford to be more conscientious, I would be,” we might say. “But frankly, we were put on this earth to have dominion over nature, and it’s not my fault for being born human.” But the truth is...[read on]
Learn more about Stung! at the University of Chicago Press website, the Stinger Advisor webpage, and the Stung! Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Stung!.

--Marshal Zeringue