On October 11th, Rowan Jacobsen wrote a stirring obituary mourning the death of The Great Barrier Reef, after existing for 25 million years. Over 90 percent of the corals have been “bleached” and died due to the environmental changes and abuse we have imposed upon it. By the end of the century, the remaining 10 percent of the reef will join the fallen 90 percent.
Jacobsen wrote about the importance and significance the Great Barrier Reef had on the world. “For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined. It harbored 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins.”
Jacobsen also reminded us in the obituary that the reef played a significant role for us humans. “To say the reef was an extremely active member of its community is an understatement. The surrounding ecological community wouldn’t have existed without it. Its generous spirit was immediately evident 60,000 years ago, when the first humans reached Australia from Asia during a time of much lower sea levels. At that time, the upper portions of the reef comprised limestone cliffs and innumerable caves lining a resource-rich coast.” The Great Barrier Reef ultimately made the coast of Australia habitable.
Jacobsen explains that environmental changes began to occur in the last few centuries, and due to warmer after temperatures, the corals began to become “bleached” and die. Even too much carbon from the air made the water more acidic, speeding up the reef’s death.
Despite numerous interventions throughout the last few decades from people concerned for the reef’s health, humanity never seemed to care enough about The Great Barrier Reef to step in and help it. Jacobsen sadly states that while “No one knows if a serious effort could have saved the reef, but it is clear that no such effort was made.” We did not even try. We sat back and let The Great Barrier Reef die.
We killed a 25 million year old organism, and we only have ourselves to blame. We saw the early signs of climate change and bleaching, yet decided that The Great Barrier Reef must not have been important enough. We did not realize its important role for the ecosystem and the ocean. We seemed to have forgotten that we ourselves are part of the same overall, earthly ecosystem-an ecosystem that now excludes The Great Barrier Reef.
While it is most likely too late now to save the Great Barrier Reef that we ultimately destroyed, maybe we can learn something from our mistakes. For example, our ice caps are melting and our bees are now listed as an endangered species. Due to climate change, we are destroying the ecosystem-the ecosystem that we, too, live in. We need to educate ourselves on these changes, and make smarter choices, whatever those choices may been for the situation, and help have the Earth and ecosystem we live in.
Read the entire obituray: http://www.outsideonline.com/2112086/obituary-great-barrier-reef-25-million-bc-2016
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Ocean Ark Alliance.