Don’t ignore climate change

Lindsey Hecox

 Last week, an article declaring the death of the Great Barrier Reef made its way into the social media streams of thousands of people. Written in the form of a mock obituary, its author, Rowan Jacobsen, reported that the Reef had met its ultimate fate after a remarkable life of 25 million years. This alarming story came as a shock to many, even those who do not typically follow news regarding climate change and other pressing environmental issues.  

 While the story may have disrupted your peace of mind about our environment, scientists have explained that there isn’t much to worry about at this point in time. This ecosystem, located off the eastern coast of Australia, is the largest living organism on Earth. Measuring in at nearly 1,400 miles, it is hard to imagine the Great Barrier Reef has suddenly died without the slightest warning to the general public. While the reef has recently been under stress, it is not dead by any means.

 Kim Cobb, an expert on coral reefs at Georgia Tech, spoke out about the article that went viral, stating, “This is a fatalistic, doomsday approach to climate change that isn’t going to engage anyone and misinforms the public.” She went on to explain that there will be reefs alive and well for decades to come. Indeed, there are a number of dying reefs around the world that can be linked back to a number of causes. In particular, the mass coral bleaching is at fault. The effects of the bleaching have escalated recently due to prolonged elevation in ocean temperatures, as well as increased ocean acidification.

 It was reported that roughly a quarter of the Reef’s coral has died off as a result. While the damaging aftermath of coral bleaching likely affected a large portion of the Great Barrier Reef, there is still hope for a recovery. In similar instances, coral reefs studied in the past have proved resilient and were able to regenerate as if nothing had happened.

 “There is a lot we can do to minimize climate change
and we need to get going on that,” Cobb added. “To say reefs are finished and we can’t do anything about it isn’t the message we need going forward.”

 Rather than being persuaded by the misleading information plastered on the Facebook newsfeeds of myself and many others, we should all take a look at what can still be done to prevent this sort of fate for the Great Barrier Reef and innumerable other ecosystems around the world. If sharing an article to your Facebook page helped to take action against global warming, we would all be set, having contributed our fair share to the effort, and we would be able to sleep soundly knowing we did our part to save our planet. Sadly, this is not the case. In other words, if you found yourself feeling angry, even outraged, while reading about the so-called “death” of the Reef, it is up to you to take part in the preventative effort to keep this exaggeration from becoming a reality in years to come.

 Reducing pollution by recycling and limiting emission of fossil fuels by walking or riding a bike instead of driving your car are simple actions everyone can take to make a difference. It does not take a scientist to prevent environmental disasters, and these sorts of events cannot be avoided by the work of experts alone. This is why it is important to spread the word about how average people can help preserve the environment in their daily lives. Jacobsen’s article may not have been valid in the majority of its claims, but it did succeed in bringing this impending issue to the surface. With this newfound awareness, it is now the responsibility of all the inhabitants of our planet to make it a priority to allow the earth and its many ecosystems to thrive and live on for future generations, starting with the Great Barrier Reef.