On the cover of The New York Times this past Sunday, there was an article (Michelle Innis, “Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists” Apr. 10, 2016) that describes how damage to the earth’s coral reefs has gotten considerably worse these past couple of years. According to the article, “scientists say the global bleaching is the result of an unusual confluence of events, each of which raised water temperatures already elevated by climate change.” This planet could now be experiencing the longest and worst mass bleaching event ever observed.
Why are coral reefs important? Well, for many reasons. But as the article points out, “coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem,” they provide “food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species,” and they also help maintain “fish stocks that feed more than one billion people.”
The article mentions several specific areas throughout the world, in particular, where coral reefs have been hard hit, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — about which, the article states: “In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists … found only four with no signs of bleaching.” Coral reefs do possess some capacity to recover, if not over-stressed, but C. Mark Eakin, the Coral Reef Watch coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland, predicts “we are going to lose a lot of the world’s reefs during this event.”
I’ll end this short post with this. Justin Marshall, the director of CoralWatch at Australia’s University of Queensland, is quoted in the article as stating that “this is a huge, looming planetary crisis, and we are sticking our heads in the sand about it.” True. But unfortunately, there are so many serious ecological crises all around the world about which we are sticking our heads in the sand. And more and more, crises such as this one are going to be bubbling up to the surface, to our consternation, because we continually drag our feet and do nothing. Substantive paradigm shift in the direction of ecocentrism is our only hope. But I never even see us really considering that as an option. This brings to mind a local all-news station’s tag line: “All news, all the time.” Except, for us (the human race), our tag-line would go something like this: “All anthropocentrism, all the time.”