Destruction of the coral reef would make for a pretty nasty Finding Nemo 3... (photo from SBS comedy)
Picture this: you are sitting on the couch with your son or daughter, flipping through movies to rent for a night in. You smile as Finding Nemo flashes on the screen; it was your favorite movie as a kid. You watch your child’s face as the brightly colored and vibrant reef that serves as the animated marine life’s home swirls onto the screen for the first time. You remember how you felt watching this for the first time too. Breathlessly fascinated by the vivid life that teems on screen. You both laugh with Crush, the sea turtle. You both chant with Dory, “Just keep swimming!”
Then the movie ends and your child looks up at you. “Can we go see Nemo’s home?”
Do you have the heart to explain that all the coral reefs are dead?
RIP the Reef
While that last anecdote could be considered a dramatization, the harsh reality of our fading reefs, unfortunately, is not.
Coral reefs make up 0.2 % of the ocean and can only grow in shallow waters. Although already scarce, they support up to a quarter of all marine life. The same marine life that provides protein for us humans. Even the slightest temperature change, just a few degrees Fahrenheit, up or down, can completely throw off the delicate balance that the ecosystem of a coral reef thrives on.
Last year was the worst year for the reefs ever charted. Being that it was an El Nino year, the natural periodic heating of the pacific ocean, the temperature of the ocean got slightly warmer and some parts of the reef were severely damaged. Add the fact that we are causing the water to heat up due to manmade global warming and you have a recipe for disaster; mass bleaching along long strips of 1400 miles of coral reef!
“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia, “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”
The worst part is that the parts of the reefs already bleached will never be alive again. There are very few places left in this world that have healthy coral reefs, and there is only one way to prevent more damage. We need to take control of our actions and stop climate change. Global warming is because of us and it is taking the lives of the most beautiful and vivid natural wonders on planet Earth.
But why should this concern me? Many people have never seen the Great Barrier Reef in real life. I don’t even live near the water! Who cares?
Over 500 million people in 94 countries will care. Coral reefs have an annual economic value of 375 billion dollars. They support tourism and the fishing industry and they prevent coastlines from extreme flooding. The reefs are also an important source for pharmaceutical materials and medicine that can help fight illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and other medical issues. Dead reefs eliminate the possibility of medical advancements!
OH NO! how can I help?
There are simple switches that anybody can do that will prevent further coral bleaching. Stop wasting water to prevent runoff into oceans. Even cutting down that shower time by a few minutes each day will save gallons. Reduce pollution by walking or biking when possible, and carpool with friends! Another way to help is to spread the word. Raise awareness for our dying reefs by organizing clubs and fundraisers. Not only is this fun but it will make a big impact. Bake coral themed cupcakes, make posters, donate money to and spend time on organizations like Save Coral Reefs and Coral Reef Alliance where volunteers dedicate themselves towards saving the reefs. Education is also important! This editorial is a good start, but learning more about the problem first hand will increase the chances of a greater impact. Let's be the generation that stops reef bleaching!
So the next time you are flipping through old DVDs and you stumble upon Finding Nemo, don't just stuff it back into the drawer. Watch the movie and notice the incredible attention to detail, thanks to Disney. Observe and appreciate all of the life that thrives in a healthy coral reef ecosystem.
Because without it, the world would be a little less colorful.