The Environmental Tipping Point


Just another beach about to be flooded by glacier melt? Or possibly a clue to how small changes can make big improvements in complex adaptive systems?

This marine sanctuary on Apo island is one of a bunch of success stories which have been studied to increase understanding about eco-tipping points--the ability of limited actions to stimulate feedback loops which result in a much larger change than that effected by the initial scope of action. Could Treehugger be an eco-tipper? (Answer after the fold...) The inhabitants of Apo island credit the action of a minority of families to stake out the stretch of beach with rotating guards to prevent fishing on the little remaining coral reef after unsustainable fishing techniques (dynamite, cyanide, coral beating to herd the fish into nets) destroyed the local eco-system and economy. The restoration of the fish in the sanctuary ultimately spilled over to the rest of the island, restoring the fishing base and attracting diver tourism which in turn brings in fees to establish garbage management and other programs.

But what can I do to save beaches in New York, San Francisco, Budapest, insert your city here_____, we hear you asking? Take a look at the New York City Gardens study about how the guerilla gardening inspiration of one person has triggered a movement spreading around to world to take back city space for growing vegetables or "city lungs", spurring community solidarity, improving mental health and property values.

Why not take a look today at the Eco Tipping Point website with lots more stories and a set of lessons learned. And (in all humility) how does Treehugger stand up? Well, we mobilize natural social processes (shopping and web surfing are the social fabric of our generation after all)...and there are few systems more democratic than blogging. Are we mobilizing you to carry forward the positive tip? Could you take action which would have ripple effects beyond what you can even imagine?