If half the Grand Canyon crumbled to nothing in less than three decades, would we stand up and pay attention? If Teddy and Abe’s heads eroded off Mount Rushmore would we step in to save George and Tom?
Sadly, that’s what is happening to one of the world’s great natural treasures.
A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows that in just the last 27 years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral. (Michael Conathan 2012)
Climate change is one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. It comes and goes in importance within our media landscape but it is always important to those it affects. While we heard about the devastating effects climate change and in particular, rising sea levels is having on small island states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu this week during the lecture and tutorial, what failed to be mentioned was something much closer to home. In fact, it is at home. Our Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest individual formation created by living organisms. As the largest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef includes over 900 islands, over 2,900 separate reefs, and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, the first coral reef ecosystem in the world to have this distinction. This recognition continues to highlight the international significance of the Reef, carrying an obligation and responsibility to protect and conserve its values for all future generations and to present its values to the world (Russell Reichelt 2009). So as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority states, as the reef is a wonder of the world, classifying it into such a category of importance and significance to maintain and protect it, when forces that are not in human control are impacting upon it, this is highly alarming.
While the harming of the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t necessarily directly affect people yet, some people’s livelihood depend on the resources the reef has to offer, for example fishing and tourism. As the back-bone of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem, corals play a critical role. They form habitats for thousands of species, all dependent on one another. Climate change has already impacted coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef as corals are highly vulnerable to its potential effects, therefore harming the whole ecosystem and food chain which exists in the reef.
Don’t get me wrong, what is happening to the communities on those low lying islands is horrible. What the Pacific Calling Partnership is doing is a huge step in the right direction by providing aid and solutions like possible relocation in the worst case scenario. With the overwhelming scientific evidence provided by the UN that climate change is due to human activities, we are not witnessing a balance of reporting within the media. Climate change is forever going to be an issue; it will continue to impact upon small communities, nations, ecosystems and numerous industries. And with the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep providing and supporting all of these things which our country relies on, I want to be a “voice for the voiceless” (Ward 2009) for our beautiful reef so that in decades, even centuries to come, everybody can have the chance to witness such a magnificent natural wonder of the world in all it’s glory.