WRITTEN BY: Sarah
It is our one world. And it's in our care. For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years,
one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope he realizes that that is the case.
For those who have had the experience of diving or snorkeling along a coral reef, there are no words to convey the absolute beauty found in this display of nature. There is so much to be said for this underwater world which we understand so little about, yet whose presence is unmistakably felt all around the globe.
Coral reefs are unique structures unlike anything else on this planet; they are formed by colonies of small organisms called polyps. When these soft organisms collect together, they secrete limestone skeletons for support and act together as one organism. Reefs are home to over 25% of the life in the ocean - millions of different types of organisms! Aside from serving as protection for many species of fish, plants, and animals, coral reefs also provide a natural barrier on beaches, breaking big waves that are headed for the shoreline.
Humans are the benefactors of healthy coral reef systems in many ways. Not only are they wonderful to observe recreationally and provide many jobs through tourism, but coral reefs serve as the basis of the food chain in the ocean, meaning that they feed the fish we eat. Additionally, coastal cities and towns are protected from some of the devastating effects of tsunamis and hurricanes because of these naturally occurring underwater formations.
It is unfortunate that over the last 60 years, the actions of humans have had adverse effects on these wonders of the sea. Climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, sedimentation, and pollution have devastated the coral reefs worldwide, already killing 50% of them. Last year alone, 30% of the Great Barrier Reef was lost due to bleaching caused by a rise in water temperature. The reefs are unable to adapt to the rapid warming of the water. Due to carbon emissions - mainly from the animal agriculture industry, the transportation system and the energy systems of the world - the ocean has absorbed over 90% of the carbon from the atmosphere produced by these emissions. Had the ocean not absorbed the heat, the average surface temperature on our planet would be 120 degrees Fahrenheit; a temperature that wouldn't sustain life on Earth as we know it.
The collapse of the coral reefs (predicted to occur as soon as 2048), excessive plastic pollution (soon to outnumber the number of fish in the ocean), and the awful practice of overfishing are an immediate threat to the survival of the oceans, humans, and the ecosystem of the Earth as a whole. Living in such a precarious time, we must know that we can all make a difference. The biggest difference we can make comes from what we choose to eat. Should you be concerned for the fate of the oceans and the millions of species that thrive there, the first and most immediate change we can make is abstaining from eating factory farmed meat, seafood, and conventionally grown produce. Reducing the demand on cheap food will lead to a decrease in (1) the killing of 6 million animals every hour for human consumption, (2) the 2.7 trillion creatures pulled from the ocean each year for human consumption, and (3) the dumping of massive amounts of toxic chemicals into our waterways.
There are also organizations such as The Coral Restoration Foundation and The Ocean Agency working hard to preserve these precious natural resources. Current projects are funded to research cross-breeding of existing corals (just as nature would do eventually) to find "super corals" that are able to thrive in the changing conditions of the ocean. The intervention of humans in these instances is an unobtrusive effort to help these systems evolve more quickly to adapt to the existing conditions. Programs like these are groundbreaking. Nothing like this has ever needed to be done before this time. The gallant effort of raising coral in nurseries and transplanting them to repopulate coral reefs is having, and will continue to have, astounding effects on the recovery of these great ecosystems.
In 2019 and beyond, we must all pay close attention to the role we are playing in the greater scheme of the planet. Our food choices affect much more than our own personal wellbeing; they affect the wellbeing of an entire world. Becoming aware of the situation is the first step to change, and once we see the truth, we can more wisely make decisions to foster the recovery of our planet. If you would like to become more involved in the efforts to save the reefs, please check out the documentary Chasing Coral (http://www.chasingcoral.com/) and consult with our references below!