For the past few weeks, the internet had been abuzz with news that the Great Barrier Reef had perished. Shared and retweeted continuously, the story was accompanied with words of caution and disappointment for mankind. Phrases such as, “how far are we willing to go” or “look what humanity has done” were typed by old friends and faces who from memory didn’t have a strong interest in Earth’s well-being.
A premature obituary for the reef authored by Rowan Jacobsen was posted on OutsideOnline and was massively scattered throughout the web within days. The obituary has raised some eyes from both environmental scientists and avid environmentalists, criticized for being inaccurate and causing unnecessary drama.
Luckily, the Great Barrier Reef is not dead. However, it is in critical condition and on the verge of death. The once great and majestic reef is dying. Located off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a 2,300 km-long natural treasure chest filled with more than 3,000 individual reef systems, 400 distinct coral species, over 1,500 species of tropical fish and more than 200 types of birds. There’s a longer list of what the natural marine park has to offer, but in short its sizeable diversity makes it a priceless jewel on this Earth.
Unfortunately, this grand masterpiece is suffering heavily. According to the Guardian, this is the fifth consecutive year that the Great Barrier Reef has received a D grade for health. For a while now, the reef has been affected by coral bleaching. Bleaching can be caused by anything that stresses the corals such as global warming. When water temperatures rise, coral release the algae sheltered in their tissues which turns the coral white, similar to the white hairs or wrinkles that people might get from their own sources of stress. Bleaching is not only a simple color loss. A lot of the algae that the coral harbor actually helps them photosynthesize and obtain nutrients for growth. Without them, coral and the species that rely on coral for shelter and food suffer immensely. A lot of species, even graceful manta rays and chill green turtles are affected by coral bleaching.
In other words, everyone needs to do their part to rejuvenate the sickly corals.
However, this is not something that can be done with occasional posts on social media with a 150-character outcry about mankind’s inability to be green. Saving the environment is not a fashion trend or some new millennial dance like the dab. It’s an actual issue with real, deleterious effects on every single person. The obituary agreeably could’ve been posted at a better time, but it did get people talking.
Science classes throughout the school teach the importance of the oceans, yet not many people actually do something to change it. It’s daunting when one sees the amount of destruction that is occurring across Earth’s ecosystems and it might even shy the bravest away from doing something about it. However, even the smallest steps such as decreasing one’s waste output can have a profound effect on the environment. Check out the Great Pacific Garbage patch. Yes, it’s disgusting and yes, it was and continues to be a group effort.
Being an activist for the environment cannot just be a week, month or even a yearlong fad. It has to be an active lifestyle that everyone must adopt. With 70 percent of the Earth being covered with ocean, it’s not surprising that most of the necessary resources such as food and oxygen come from the deep blue. Even if that is well-known, not many strides are being made to improve the quality of the giant ecosystem.
The journey to a cleaner Earth begins with knowledge. Know what one person can do to minimize one’s carbon footprint and waste output. From there, inspire others to make these small changes too. With the world’s population hitting nearly eight billion, who knows how much of a positive effect humankind can have on the environment if every single person transitioned to a greener lifestyle?
So, it’s great that people are outraged by this obituary. Keep posting the disapproval of man’s destruction on the environment. Keep sharing pictures of polar bears on melting ice caps and penguins with plastic necklaces. Keep tweeting about how devastating the future will be with disappearing ecosystems. Don’t stop there, however. Start learning about ways to better the environment and take strides towards those changes.